MAKE YOUR D SMART


A couple of years ago, Amazon introduced the Echo. The Echo is a “smart” device that opens many great capabilities just by talking to it. Around my house, the Echo has become the hub of my home automation system allowing me control and monitoring of the HVAC, lights, garage and front doors and security cameras. Echo can give me news briefings, play a song by title, artist or a playlist of songs, and also play almost any radio station or podcast. It can read a book or article to me and even play games with the grandkids. All just by my talking to it. And, it adds more than convenience. It adds simplicity. It is much easier for my wife to tell the Echo “Watch the last episode of Deadliest Catch, watch Fox or watch War for the Planet of the Apes” than it is for her to try to figure out which button to push on the Home Theater system.

Smaller (and much cheaper) versions of the original Amazon Echo – the Dot, Tap, and Wand – have joined the Echo lineup. Recently, the Amazon Show joined the Echo family. It incorporates a video display which works great with my video doorbell or for video chats with family and friends.

However, the Dot is what this article is all about. It is only $50 ($40 on sale) and, it is USB powered. Coupled with its small size(about the same size as a hockey puck), it can go anywhere. And, it can do everything the original Echo can do. When it came out I had to have one. Then, I had to have another one. And another one…until I had four of them, which just goes to show how useful it is. Having Dots scattered throughout the house allows its use as an intercom and the ability to play music throughout the house. It was so much handier than having to carry a smartphone to turn on lights, answer the doorbell, or listen to something.

And then it struck me. In the D, we use our phone to listen to Old Time Radio shows, podcasts and several stations scattered around the country while driving or stopped. What a hassle it is to set this up, adjust the volume and change the program selection on the cell phone, especially when driving. I could just put a Dot in the D just talk to it. Much simpler and safer. I now have two Dots in my D, one in the bedroom and one on the dash.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

  1. You will obviously need an Echo Dot and a way to power it. It comes with an AC adapter, but you can also plug it into a cell phone cigar lighter plug or into your computer or charging station.
  2. You will need an Internet connection. I tether via WIFI to my smartphone, but the ATT Mobley hotspot is a good alternative if you need to tether more than a couple devices at the same time.
  3. (Optional) Although the Dot has a decent speaker, you may want to connect the Dot to an external speaker. The Dot has a 3.5mm audio jack and it also has Bluetooth. If your D's radio doesn't have Bluetooth, does it have an audio input jack? If not, the easiest way to connect an external speaker is to use a stand-alone Bluetooth speaker.

Now that you have everything, you just have to connect the Dot with your WIFI, pair the Dot with your Bluetooth device (or use the audio jack to connect to your D’s radio or the Dot's internal speaker). Use your cell add free Alexa “skills” to your Dot to play radio stations, songs, podcasts, etc and you are good to go. As of 7/1/2017, there are over 12,000 skills available to do almost anything you need. Fortunately, the skills are aggregated by function and you can also search. I use the TuneIn, iHeart and AnyPod, Kindle and Pandora skills along with various skills for specific radio shows (Gunsmoke, Dragnet, etc). Just search for whatever you want to do and you can probably find a skill for it.

This is SO convenient that I added a Dot to my toad! It takes the Dot about half a minute to boot up and auto-connect via Bluetooth to the radio in the toad. By the time we are all buckled up and ready to go, so is the Dot. Nothing required on my part.

Now my D and my toad are “smart”!