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Doorbell

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Doorbell
« on: September 02, 2016, 12:09:10 am »
As I understand, this is not possible to do, but below is what I really want.

-- Small form factor unit, the size of a doorbell transformer
-- inputs would be 120v ac + doorbell switch terminals, just like the transformer
-- some way to pair with an alexa, one is fine, multiple would be better, perhaps using a phone and the alexa app, most likely via bluetooth
-- pairing would transfer wifi info and alexa serial/address info then confirm correct setup and compatibility
-- when doorbell button is pressed, device sends signal to alexa via wifi (this does not appear to be possible with the existing api)
-- alexa app allows selecting chime and volume, perhaps also a way to schedule silent mode
-- alexa app also can receive push notifications so your phone alerts with the same chime as alexa
-- voice control via alexa to enable/disable doorbell sleep for a specific period of time (baby just went down for a nap) after which doorbell automatically becomes functional again
-- price in the $20-$30 range

Then I could rip my doorbell and transformer off the wall and toss them.

Alexa could escalate volume and/or intensity based on number of presses of the doorbell or length of time doorbell is pressed, like force touch.  Or perhaps different chimes for single press vs double-press.

I know I can buy a fancy $200 webcam doorbell but I just don't want or need that level of fancy tech on the outside of my house.  I like my doorbell button, just hate my doorbell chime and the ugly transformer.  It also seems totally redundant once you have an alexa, it can do everything necessary if it just had a way to receive the input from the doorbell switch.


Re: Doorbell
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2016, 08:50:33 am »
As I understand, this is not possible to do

You understand correctly.  At least, it's not doable using the methods you propose.

but below is what I really want.

-- Small form factor unit, the size of a doorbell transformer
-- inputs would be 120v ac + doorbell switch terminals, just like the transformer
-- some way to pair with an alexa, one is fine, multiple would be better, perhaps using a phone and the alexa app, most likely via bluetooth
-- pairing would transfer wifi info and alexa serial/address info then confirm correct setup and compatibility

If the doorbell and Echo are already communicating via Bluetooth, why bother with WiFi as well?  Conversely, why bother with the Bluetooth connection if you're just going to switch over to WiFi (which you can't do anyway)?  And what do you mean by "alexa serial/address info"?

-- when doorbell button is pressed, device sends signal to alexa via wifi (this does not appear to be possible with the existing api)

Yeah, this is the biggest problem.  You cannot send unsolicited messages to your Echo via the Skills architecture.  You could send audio data via a Bluetooth connection, but that connection would need to be maintained constantly.

-- alexa app allows selecting chime and volume, perhaps also a way to schedule silent mode

You'd need to build those smarts into the doorbell and just use the Echo as a an audio rendering device, though that would then make it incapable of being used for that purpose by other things, like your phone or a tablet.

-- alexa app also can receive push notifications so your phone alerts with the same chime as alexa
-- voice control via alexa to enable/disable doorbell sleep for a specific period of time (baby just went down for a nap) after which doorbell automatically becomes functional again

That's possible, but you'd probably have to host your Alexa skill on your own server in order to pass instructions along to the doorbell.

-- price in the $20-$30 range

Build it all yourself and you could do it for close to that (ignoring any monetary value of your time and effort).  But that price range for an off-the-shelf product that does what you want?  That's funny.

Then I could rip my doorbell and transformer off the wall and toss them.

Alexa could escalate volume and/or intensity based on number of presses of the doorbell or length of time doorbell is pressed, like force touch.  Or perhaps different chimes for single press vs double-press.

I know I can buy a fancy $200 webcam doorbell but I just don't want or need that level of fancy tech on the outside of my house.  I like my doorbell button, just hate my doorbell chime and the ugly transformer.  It also seems totally redundant once you have an alexa, it can do everything necessary if it just had a way to receive the input from the doorbell switch.

The problem is that your Echo (or Dot, Tap, et al) is not a programmable (by you) general-purpose computing device or a smart device control hub.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 08:52:05 am by DParker »

Re: Doorbell
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2016, 09:06:50 am »
If the doorbell and Echo are already communicating via Bluetooth, why bother with WiFi as well?  Conversely, why bother with the Bluetooth connection if you're just going to switch over to WiFi (which you can't do anyway)?  And what do you mean by "alexa serial/address info"?

My thinking here was that some homes may have the doorbell transformer too far from the main alexa location to communicate via bluetooth.  The initial alexa setup (at least the method I used) involves connecting to alexa's wifi with a phone to transfer the home wifi connection info (sid and password).  It seems like bluetooth would be a more standard way of pairing to send/receive this info, then once wifi is established the device would know everything it needs to know to communicate with alexa (if this were possible.)  So, I was thinking bluetooth between device and phone then wifi thereafter, rather than bluetooth directly between device and alexa without any input or output device on either end making troubleshooting problems more difficult.


Yeah, this is the biggest problem.  You cannot send unsolicited messages to your Echo via the Skills architecture.  You could send audio data via a Bluetooth connection, but that connection would need to be maintained constantly.


I never thought about a bluetooth audio source, but I think the goes against the spirit of an event you don't expect to happen more than a few times a day at unexpected times.


You'd need to build those smarts into the doorbell and just use the Echo as a an audio rendering device, though that would then make it incapable of being used for that purpose by other things, like your phone or a tablet.


I mean, yeah, if I just needed a speaker, a wall mount speaker where the old doorbell went would be cheap and work just fine.  The whole point of this concept is for integration and ease of management / control.  One less device to worry about, and re-use of an existing device which has all of the necessary hardware.


Build it all yourself and you could do it for close to that (ignoring any monetary value of your time and effort).  But that price range for an off-the-shelf product that does what you want?  That's funny.


You really think so?  Alexa is $150.  Adding a smart doorbell to it shouldn't really be more than $40 extra, perhaps $49 tops.  The hardware is minimal as I think you agree.  Think of the economy of scale if this were possible to do with the skills api.  It seems like an easy value-add for Amazon to consider.  Alexa is built for the home, most homes have a doorbell, most doorbells are dumb.  Perhaps I mis-judge the potential market here?

The problem is that your Echo (or Dot, Tap, et al) is not a programmable (by you) general-purpose computing device or a smart device control hub.

I'm not sure what you mean by this statement.  If alexa can control wifi switches throughout the house using verbal commands, why is it so outrageous to want it to also manage a simple doorbell? 

Re: Doorbell
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2016, 01:32:03 pm »
My thinking here was that some homes may have the doorbell transformer too far from the main alexa location to communicate via bluetooth.  The initial alexa setup (at least the method I used) involves connecting to alexa's wifi with a phone to transfer the home wifi connection info (sid and password).  It seems like bluetooth would be a more standard way of pairing to send/receive this info then once wifi is established the device would know everything it needs to know to communicate with alexa (if this were possible.)  So, I was thinking bluetooth between device and phone then wifi thereafter, rather than bluetooth directly between device and alexa without any input or output device on either end making troubleshooting problems more difficult.

There are more problems with this than I'm prepared to bother listing here.  Suffice it to say...



I never thought about a bluetooth audio source, but I think the goes against the spirit of an event you don't expect to happen more than a few times a day at unexpected times.

I don't see why, with the exception of precluding BT connections with other audio sources (which I agree is an issue if you actually use those other sources with your Echo), nor do I think there's any such "spirit" of an occasional event.  Such a connection would work, and it would not be at odds with anything in the BT standard nor the way it is intended to be used.

The problem is that your Echo (or Dot, Tap, et al) is not a programmable (by you) general-purpose computing device or a smart device control hub.

I'm not sure what you mean by this statement.  If alexa can control wifi switches throughout the house using verbal commands, why is it so outrageous to want it to also manage a simple doorbell?

Because your Echo doesn't control WiFi switches (nor any other "smart" items), at least not directly.  The integrations that exist between Alexa and those items are implemented via cloud-based interfaces provided by the smart appliance vendors.  Let's say, for example, that you have a Philips Hue bridge and some lights connected to it.  When you say to your Echo, "Alexa, turn on the hallway light" the following chain of events occurs:

  • Your spoken command is digitized and sent across the internet to an Amazon server, where it is converted into text and analyzed.  When the command is recognized as a command to turn on the device named "Hallway Light" the server, knowing that the device is a Philips Hue-controlled gizmo, converts the command into one that is recognized by the Philips Hue external API and sends it across the internet to a Philips server.
  • The Philips server then analyzes the command and converts into one that is recognized by the Hue bridge and then forwards that command across the internet to the bridge in your home.
  • Your bridge then analyzes THAT command and converts it into a ZigBee command (the protocol that Hue bulbs and many other HA devices use) and sends it to the bulb that is named "Hallway Light".
  • The light activates and sends a response back to the bridge indicating that it has received and implemented the command to turn itself on.
  • The bridge converts the ZigBee response from the bulb into a Hue Bridge "success" response and sends it across the internet to the Philips server.
  • The Philips server converts that response into an external API "success" response and sends it across the internet to the Amazon server.
  • The Amazon server converts that response into an "OK" response and sends it across the internet to your Echo.
  • Your Echo converts that response into audio data and says, "OK" to indicate that all went well.

It's kind of impressive that this all happens as quickly and reliably as it does, isn't it?  There are good reasons why things are done this way, but I'm not going to go into those details here.  The main point is that your Echo is in fact not directly controlling anything.  It is simply serving as a speech-to-text/text-to-speech command interface to cloud based systems that are actually doing the real work behind the scenes.  It is this architecture that you need to fit into in order to control anything via your Echo (or any other Alexa-based device).  There are several different ways to accomplish this, depending on what other home automation-oriented hardware/software you have or are willing to use, if any.  For instance, if you have a SmartThings hub you could write your own device handler to control a doorbell via WiFi (or ZigBee or Z-Wave) and then use the SmartThings/Alexa integration to issue commands and get feedback from it.

But the bottom line is that you can't use just your Echo to directly control a $20-$30 doorbell, because it's not a device controller hub, nor is it designed to be used as one.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2016, 06:49:24 pm by DParker »

Re: Doorbell
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2016, 06:37:46 pm »
what about video???   

Re: Doorbell
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2016, 06:51:24 pm »
what about video???

I think that's covered by this:

I know I can buy a fancy $200 webcam doorbell but I just don't want or need that level of fancy tech on the outside of my house.