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    node-red-contrib-virtual-smart-home

    2.13.1 • Public • Published

    Virtual Smart Home (VSH)

    A Node-RED node that represents a virtual device which can be controlled via Amazon Alexa. Requires the 'virtual smart home' skill to be enabled for your Amazon account.

    Availability

    The virtual smart home skill is available in the Amazon skill stores in the following locales:

    Highlights

    • supports a growing set of device types
      • Blinds
      • Color Changing Light Bulb
      • Contact Sensor
      • Dimmable Light Bulb
      • Dimmer Switch
      • Entertainment Device
      • Fan
      • Garage Door Opener (en-US locale only)
      • Lock
      • Motion Sensor
      • Plug
      • Switch
      • Scene
      • Temperature Sensor
      • Thermostat
    • no separate account needed. Just link your existing Amazon account.
    • new virtual devices can simply be dragged onto the Node-RED canvas and will proactively be discovered by Alexa. No need to ask Alexa to discover devices.
    • devices removed from the Node-RED canvas will also be removed from Alexa. Orphaned devices can also be manually removed from Alexa via the Node-RED editor.
    • changes made to virtual device types and names will immediately be picked up by Alexa.
    • local state changes of devices (e.g. thermostat values) get synchronized with Alexa
    • secure communication with the IoT cloud through individually provisioned certificates

    What it does

    The node gets invoked through Amazon Alexa (either via a voice command or via the Alexa app) and outputs a msg object containing the updated device state as payload. For example, when you say "Alexa, dim the kitchen light to 50 percent", the following msg object will be emitted:

    {
      "topic": "home/kitchen/lights",
      "payload": {
        "brightness": 50,
        "powerState": "ON",
        "source": "alexa",
        "directive": "SetBrightness",
        "name": "kitchen light",
        "type": "DIMMABLE_LIGHT_BULB"
      }
    }

    The node also accepts inbound messages that can be used to inform Alexa about local device changes, which will then be reflected in the Alexa app. If the passthrough option is enabled, this will also trigger an outbound message, just like when the node gets invoked via Alexa. In this case payload.source is set to device instead of alexa. If the inbound message has a topic attribute, its value will be present in the outbound msg instead of the topic configured in the editor.

    Please ensure that your setup does not send too many messages to Alexa. Othewise you risk getting your account blocked.

    Setup instructions

    • In the Alexa app:
      1. Search the skill store for the virtual smart home skill
      2. Enable the 'virtual smart home' skill
      3. Complete the account linking process by logging in with your Amazon account credentials.
    • In Node-RED:
      1. Install the node-red-contrib-virtual-smart-home module
      2. Place a virtual device node onto the canvas and connect it to a debug node
      3. Double click on the virtual device node to enter a name and select a device type. Once set up you can use this name to control the device via Alexa.
      4. Configure a new vsh-connection by clicking the pen icon. (Only needed once for each Amazon account)
      5. Follow the instructions to complete the account linking process. Make sure you use the same Amazon account credentials as above!
      6. Deploy your Node-RED flow. This will trigger your virtual device to be discovered by Alexa. You should even get a push notification via the Alexa app (if notifications are enabled).
      7. You should now be able to control your virtual device with your voice, e.g. by saying "Alexa, turn xxx on". Inspect the output of the connected debug node and consult the docs in order to do something useful.
      8. Once you remove virtual devices from the canvas (and redeploy your flows), those devices will also be removed from Alexa.

    Docs

    Detailed docs are shipped as part of the Node-RED package and available through the 'help' panel.

    Examples

    Example flows that illustrate the payload structure and voice invocation phrases can be imported from the Node-RED import menu (Import > Examples > node-red-contrib-virtual-smart-home). They can also be found in the examples folder.

    Share the Love

    I dedicated endless hours to this project and really hope it adds value for you! Nothing is more rewarding to me than your feedback. So if you are a happy user, please

    • rate the 'virtual smart home' skill on the Alexa skill store
    • rate the 'virtual smart home' Node-RED package
    • mention this package in your next blog post / podcast / YouTube
    • donate a few bucks to help cover the infrastructure costs.

    THANK YOU!

    Changelog

    New versions of VSH are frequently released and it is generally recommended to always run the latest version. The Changelog is published in the Releases section on GitHub.

    Version 2.x.x - BREAKING CHANGE

    With the release of version 2.0.0 all earlier versions will be deprecated and no longer work. Please update to the latest version of VSH!

    What's new in version 2?

    Previously the state of virtual devices (e.g. the brightness of a lamp) was kept in a shadow database at the backend. When the backend skill received a directive (e.g. "Alexa, dim the kitchen light to 50 percent") the shadow database would immediately get updated and the client would receive a notification by being subscribed to shadow changes. With version 2, all state is exclusively stored on the client and incoming directives from Alexa are simply forwared to the client. You can inspect the raw directive content received by examining the new rawDirective property of outbound msg objects. This change will lead to a cost reduction in running the VSH backend as well as allow for more direct feedback when a virtual device is offline.

    FAQ

    1. Q: Which voice commands can I use to control my devices with Alexa?

      A: Take a look at the example flows which you can import from the Node-RED import menu (Import > Examples > node-red-contrib-virtual-smart-home).

      Here are some of the most often used commands:

      • Alexa, switch on / off DEVICE-NAME
      • Alexa, set DEVICE-NAME to X percent
      • Alexa, set DEVICE-NAME to Warm white / Soft white / Daylight white / Cool white / Red / Crimson / Salmon / Orange / Gold / Yellow / Green / Turquoise / Cyan / Sky blue / Blue / Purple / Magenta / Pink / Lavendar
      • Alexa, open / close DEVICE-NAME
    2. Q: How can I control devices in a specific room?

      A: You can create rooms in the Alexa app and assign your devices to them. Create a room which groups together an Alexa device (e.g. Echo) and some virtual lights. You can then control all those lights simply by speaking "Alexa, switch off the light" into the Alexa device.

    3. Q: Why do my devices suddenly fail to connect and show up as 'offline'?

      A: If your device was not connected to the VSH backend for more than 30 days its certificate will be revoked. You can fix that by deleting the old connection, creating a new one and linking your virtual devices to the new one. All your devices should then get re-discovered by Alexa.

      Another reason could be that you are using an outdated version of VSH. Please update to the latest version (e.g using the Node-RED palette manager).

    4. Q: Why do some of my devices show up as duplicates in the Alexa app?

      A: Your duplicate devices might belong to a vsh-connection that no longer exists. You can delete them manually on the connection page where they probably show up with a shaded background, indicating they belong to another vsh-connection.

    5. Q: I deleted a virtual device but Alexa keeps rediscovering it!

      A: You probably deleted the device in the Alexa app instead of Node-RED. Open the connection page which lists all known devices and click the trash icon next to the device you want to delete.

    6. Q: Why does VSH not work offline?

      A: Alexa lives in the cloud. When you ask Alexa to control one of your devices, your voice is sent to Amazon servers for processing. Amazon's servers then try to make sense of what you said and which skill to invoke. If you said "Alexa, dim the kitchen light to fifty percent!", Alexa will realize that 'kitchen light' belongs to the VSH skill and invoke the VSH backend with a 'directive' containing the command that was understood (e.g. 'SetBrightness'). The VSH skill backend then sends a message to your connected virtual device which triggers an outgoing msg object with the device state for you to make use of. This requires your VSH devices to be online.

    7. Q: What do you do with my data?

      A: The VSH backend only stores metadata about your configured devices needed for VSH to function and your basic profile information provided by Amazon when you enabled the skill. Neither your Amazon password nor your voice prompts or your location is ever shared with VSH. I also have no interest in analyzing your usage patterns although this would technically be possible.

    8. Q: Where can I see what data is being sent to / received from the backend?

      A: Activate the Debug option on the connection page and observe the output logged to stdout.

    9. Q: Can I run my own backend?

      A: Yes! Check out the backend repository and follow the instructions precisely. Keep in mind that it might be cheaper to keep using the official backend and donate some money so that I can keep the system up for you.

    10. Q: Is there a way to persist the state of devices across restarts of Node-RED?

      A: Yes! The device state is stored as 'context' provided by Node-RED, which is kept in memory by default. You can easily change that by adding this snippet to your Node-RED's settings.js file:

      contextStorage: {
        default: {
          module: "localfilesystem",
        },
      },
    11. Q: Can you add feature X, please?

      A: I'm always eager to hear your ideas! Please file a ticket.

    12. Q: Where can I ask a question that hasn't been addressed yet?

      A: Check out existing issues on GitHub or file a new ticket.

    Terms of Use

    This package comes without any warranty. Use it, enjoy it, but all at your own risk. If you are satisfied with this project, please contribute your share for the backend infrastructure via donation. Thank you!

    NOTE

    The permitted use of the VSH package is limited to human-triggered interactions with Alexa and infrequent synronizations of device states (e.g. for sensor data, such as thermostat). Any setup that leads to excessive data traffic between the VSH client and its backend is strictly forbidden and will lead to permanent blocking of the user's account.

    Devices that have not been online for 30 days will be permanently deleted without prior warning. Their certificates will be invalidated and can no longer be used to connect virtual devices.

    Accounts without any activity for 60 days will also be deleted and can no longer be used to control virtual devices.

    Install

    npm i node-red-contrib-virtual-smart-home

    DownloadsWeekly Downloads

    142

    Version

    2.13.1

    License

    MIT

    Unpacked Size

    178 kB

    Total Files

    33

    Last publish

    Collaborators

    • cornelius.suermann