Welcome back to The Weekly Echo, the column all about Alexa and the Amazon Echo. This week, we’ll take a look at how Alexa can get just a little bit confused at times, especially when we set things up in a way that makes perfect sense to us but creates a hint of ambiguity for her.
The Alexa update
This is a big one, as Alexa is now integrated with Yelp for local searches. To get started, you just need to go into the Amazon Alexa app, select your device, and then add your address. From there, you can ask Alexa things like “Alexa, find me a nearby Chinese restaurant” when you’re craving sesame chicken. Or, if you need to know when the drug store closes, you can ask, “Alexa, what are the hours for a nearby pharmacy.” Within the Amazon Alexa app, you can even view details like star ratings, phone numbers, and links to the Yelp listings.
Reader Brad Wegrzyn has learned that sometimes, smart home device naming schemes that make perfect sense to us just confuse the daylights out of Alexa. He writes:
I named my bulbs on the Hue bridge according to where they were. Living Room TV Light, Living Room Ceiling Light, Living Room Couch Light, Kitchen Sink Light, Kitchen Oven Light, etc. I had Echo discover the connected devices which she did perfectly. I then created groups on my Amazon Alexa app of Kitchen Lights, Living Room Lights and All Lights.
This is where things got a bit wonky. Brad would say, “Alexa, turn on my Kitchen Lights.” Alexa would say “Okay,” but nothing would happen. Controlling individual lights would only work about half the time. That’s when Brad realized that every device and every group had the word “light” in it. He also realized that he had duplicate names in many of the groups and devices.
After changing his naming scheme to eliminate the use of the word “light,” making sure not to duplicate room names, either, and everything suddenly started working again.
It seems odd that Alexa wouldn’t know the difference between “Living Room Ceiling Light” and “Living Room Lights,” but I’ve noticed similar problems with my own setup. After renaming devices and groups to eliminate redundancy, everything works just as smoothly as it should.
Have an Alexa tip or story of your own? Share it in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe I’ll share your story in an upcoming column.