Over the last few weeks I have playing around various smart home components and what other project could there be this time of year other than control of festive lights. There are lots of ways of controlling lights with home automation but my little project is nice and cheap and has the components have plenty of other uses so it’s not just about controlling lights. Also one of the benefits of using voice control over the Smart Plug app is that anyone can control the lights without needing access to the specific app.
My starting points Amazon Dot for the voice control using the D-Link Smart Plugs I reviewed a few weeks ago, as I already had one it seemed to make sense but if I was starting from scratch I would use a TP-Link Smart Plug as Amazon Alexa works with these plugs out of the box which isn’t the case for the D-Link plugs so if you have a TP-Link plug you don’t have to go through the sets below as you should be able to scan for devices directly from the Alexa app (see Richard’s review). Like I said the D-link plug (another others) don’t natively support Alexa (if you are in the UK) hence the need for a guide.
The reason I used an Amazon Dot is that it’s a simple and cheap (£34) way of getting started and it also has the potential to control many other devices as well as being able to use it for shopping, news and music playback.
As The D-Link Smart Plugs don’t work directly with Amazon Alexa there are a couple of steps you need to do. The plugs work with the IFTTT service (If This Then That) and as of last week in the UK so does Alexa so you can use IFTTT to link the two systems. So once you have setup your D-Link Plugs (or any other plug that supports IFTTT) head over to IFTTT.com, create an account (or sign in to your existing account) and link your D-Link account to IFTTT. On the web site search for D-Link Smart Plug, click on Connect and then enter your D-Link credentials.
Once you have authorized your account it means you can control the Smart Plugs via an IFTTT applet, so next link your Amazon account to IFTTT.
Search for Amazon (this is restricted to UK or US at the moment) and click Connect. You then enter your Amazon details and authorise IFTTT to access your Amazon Alexa account.
Once you have done this you can create an applet to turn on and off the lights from Alexa via voice, so from the My Applets section of the site click on New Applet.
First you select your trigger so click on the plus and search form Amazon Alexa. You can then select IFTTT to use a phrase trigger, click on “Say a specific phrase”
Here you can pick a phrase to turn the light on, so you could say “tree lights on” or just “tree on”
Type in your phase and click on Create trigger.
Next click on that and you enter select an action. So search for your Smart Plug provider which in my case is D-Link Smart Plug and click on the service and then select an action which in this case is Turn On
If you have more than one Smart Plug you can pick which one you want to control. The names of the plug are taken from how you set them up in the D-Link app.
Click Create action to finish off the setup. You should then be able to say “Alexa trigger..” and then whatever your trigger phrase is for e.g. “Alexa trigger tree lights on”.
I also created a “tree lights off” action and setup on and off actions for my light up Reindeer (who doesn’t want a voice controlled reindeer!).
Once the setup is complete the trigger phrase should work for anybody in your home and the far-field microphone in the Dot means you don’t have to be close to the device for it to work. The setup works really well and the whole family can control the lights now. Plus you get all the features of Amazon’s Dot/Echo as well.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.