Alexa Skills

Data Hub

61izta2aslAre you a Raspberry Pi or Arduino enthusiast? Do you love building your own projects and IoT experiments? Love using sensors in your projects and wish there were a way you could TALK with them, instead of being limited to your phone or computer? Wish you could use Alexa to talk with them, but don’t want to spend 100s of hours figuring out how to make your own skill?

Look no further! Our new Data Hub skill was just released today and is here to help!  We built Data Hub specifically for you, the experimenter! It seamlessly allows you to talk to all your projects using Alexa!

First, you simply assign different trigger phrases, which you will say when using Data Hub.  For each trigger phrase, you also assign your URL, to which Data Hub will invisibly browse when you say that trigger phrase.  It will then speak plain text your URL produces, right on your Alexa.  All this is done quickly and seamlessly!

If you have many similar trigger phrases, you can instead assign Slot Variables, for cases when you want to feed a single option out of a set.  The matching variable will be sent in your URL as part of the Query String, either in plain-text of as an integer index.

It seems everyone it experimenting with sensors and gadgets now.  Raspberry Pi and Arduino gave everyone simple access.  Data Hub lets you talk to your projects anywhere you have an Alexa!

In building this skill, we were very excited to integrate a web-based interface to an Alexa skill, which allows you to enter your trigger phrases and URLs, because there would be no way to accurately record these by voice through Alexa.  We learned a lot doing this and are very proud of the final result!

In addition, we really enjoyed adding some extensive features to this skill, such as:

  • The ability to get Emails for every trigger heard which include what it thought it heard, which trigger it matched, how confident the match was, and what URL it went to,
  • The ability to customize your own threshold.  This is useful, if alexa isn’t hearing your trigger phrase ever (you should lower the threshold), or if she is matching other similar phrases often (raise the threshold)
  • Extensive error checking on the URL, which is reported back to you, in cases when your device is non-responsive (times out) or provides malformed HTTP responses.

 

EXAMPLES

If you don’t yet have your gadget running yet, you can try entering these demo URLs into the DataHub control panel with some simply trigger phrases (maybe “Demo”):

Then when you say their trigger phrases, you will hear their content, as the Alexa DataHub Skill goes out to them, pulls their data, and speaks it to you.

Of course, your content would be dynamically created real-time by your Raspberry Pi, Arduino, gadget, or other device.  These are just examples to show what COULD be spoken to you.

If you want to share your live URLs, feel free to enter them in the Comments section at the bottom of this page.  I’m sure others would enjoy trying our your live URLs!!!

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • IP ADDRESSES: You will want to add Port Forwarding in your router so that outside Internet traffic can reach your devices.  Then, you can enter your home IP into the DataHub URL.  For example: http://24.101.153.264/myDevice.py.Or, if your ISP changes your IP frequently, you may want to use no-ip.com or some other dynamic DNS services to keep track of your changing IP and associate it with a static domain name.  Then, your URL would be something like:  http://my-name.no-ip.info/myDevice.cgi.

  • THRESHOLD: The default threshold of 0.55 generally works very well, and you likely won’t ever need to change it.  However, you are experiments, as are we, and you might have some fun with this one!  It is used to determine whether a head phrase should be accepted as the trigger.  This is important because both (a) Alexa doesn’t always hear everything exactly as you say it and (b) you may have similar trigger phrases.For example, if you were to set the threshold to 1.00, then a PERFECT 100% match would be necessary to fire off your trigger phrase.  If you said “furnace status” and Alexa thought you said “furnace stats”, it wouldn’t trigger!Likewise, if you were to set the threshold to 0.00, then ANYTHING would match and you would always get the first trigger you had entered.If you are finding that the phrases you are saying are either triggering incorrect entries OR not triggering anything, try turning on Email Monitoring (below) to see exactly what Alexa thought she heard and what the confidence level was.  Then you can use these values to adjust the Threshold as you see fit.

  • EMAIL:  If you enter your Email address, you will get an Email from Data Hub every time you make a spoken request to the skill, even if a trigger match wasn’t found.  Included in the Email is:
    • the date/time stamp of the request,
    • the exact words heard by alexa,
    • the verbal response alexa said to you,
    • the closes trigger your phrase matched,
    • the confidence of the match, and
    • your current threshold.You can then use this information to see what/how different triggers are matching, and adjust the threshold, if you like.  You might also like to use it as a logging mechanism.  Perhaps, for regular use, you will want to turn of the Emails.

If you have any other questions about Data Hub, please contact us.  We would love to hear from you!

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