Well, actually, I can turn the lights on or off, IF, I get out of my chair and walk to the wall switch, but who wants to do that in this day and age.
This last Christmas, my sister sent a present to me, an Amazon Echo. In case you have not seen the ads on TV or pop up on your Internet searches, Amazon Echo is a device that sits on a shelf in your home, connects to your WIFI and controls devices such as lights, HVAC, and other electrical appliances. All that you have to do is say, “Alexa, turn on my Living Room light” and Voilà, the light comes on.
To make this work, you need to buy what is called a smart WIFI plug that operates through your WIFI system. Once the Lamp is connected to the smart WIFI plug, you download the software to your Smartphone.
The plug that I chose is manufactured by TP-Link and their smartphone app is called Kasa (don’t ask me why—it just is).
Once the Kasa app is on your phone, it will locate the various TP-Link devices in your home. I have two plugs, and two wall switches installed. For security reasons, you need to connect each individual plug or switch to your WIFI with the WIFI password and give each one a separate name such as “Livingroom Light.” A little time consuming at first but it is for your own security. You can also by WIFI operated front door locks that operate the same way, and that is where the security really matters.
Now that you have the all of the plugs and switches connected to the app on your phone, you can then connect them to the Amazon Alexa app on your phone and start using voice commands to control each device.
Alexa is so good that she can hear me from any room of my single-story home.
When I was a kid, we used to have to walk, nine feet across Shag carpet, just to turn the dial that changed the channel on the TV.
Nowadays, in the world of remote control, you can turn on and off practically everything in your home with your Smartphone. And with the Amazon Alexa or the new Google Home, the control is totally by voice—except for today.
As the sun was setting this afternoon, I asked Alexa to turn on my Livingroom light. Unfortunately, Alexa could not “find the device” and the light did not come on. However, I am resourceful and simply opened the Kasa app on my phone, pressed the button for the Livingroom light and it responded nicely.
Not a total loss, but I had to actually pick up my phone, open an app and push a button—how lame is that?
The problem, as it turned out, is with the Amazon Cloud. Three days ago, on February 28, 2017, the Amazon Simple Storage Server (S3), started throwing errors into the system and disrupting thousands of customers throughout North America. It just so happens that on February 28, I was trying to put out a client newsletter and the mail service, Constant Contact, was having difficulties because of the S3 problem. Likewise, I received a notice from someone saying that their report would be delayed because the Emma newsletter service was having problems with their cloud server.
Once Amazon got their S3 Cloud service up and running, then the trickle-down effect began. Companies like Constant Contact had to go into their system and do whatever they needed to do to reconnect with S3.
But some of the fallout was delayed. The TP-Link software that I use to connect with Alexa, stopped working two days later, and after placing a call to customer support, I was told that the S3 problem caused it and that their engineers were working on a fix.
The point of this story is, we now live in a world where computers that once were the size of an entire single story home, are now thousands of times more powerful and fit in the palm of your hand. We can find answers to any question within seconds by searching Google or Bing. And now, we can control our lights, temperature, music, and just about everything else in our immediate environment with the sound of our voice. Except—when we lose the computer server that makes everything run.
In the future, we are looking at driverless cars, drones, and robots that will take us places, deliver things, and do our work. But, we had better have the know-how and be prepared to get up out of our chairs to manually flip a switch if something goes wrong with the “cloud.”