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Mains networked voice-activated smart speaker

  [vote for,

It's astonishing how some humans can become not merely enamoured of but actually obsessively dependant on some technologies.

Not that there's anything wrong with being obsessive about technology, you understand, but you should at least make a minimal effort to understand how and why it works.

For example, it has been noted that an unrepresentative sample of one human female, with a well-developed propensity for issuing all commands vebally (often in a remarkably loud and shouty voice), now wants Alexa to work every damned thing in the house, irrespective of their unsuitability for automation; boiling the kettle, yes, dimming the lights, yes, even controlling the cooker hood extractor... but quite why anyone, having seen a contactless toilet flush control in commercial premises would want to add the same function in a domestic environment, using voice control, is a bit weird.

It does however seem reasonable that the internal garage lights should be voice controlled, since the only switch is by the side door and inconveniently placed, so once the main door has been closed (by remote control) it's relatively dark (particularly at night) and since some humans have very limited perception of their kinematic envelope, a lot of blundering into the other cars and motorbikes occurs, doing no end of expensive damage and causing frequent, painful self-inflicted personal injuries for which the owner of the aforementioned cars and motorbikes is unjustly but inevitably blamed.

Here ariseth a problem; the house 802.11g signal won't reach to the garage, even with an extender, thoughtfully provided with a high-gain external antenna, positioned as close as possible within the house.

It is of course possible to use a pair of mains netplugs to link the main router to another AP in the garage and then pair the speaker with that, but now there are three bits of expensive, breakable kit instead of one; four, if you count the wifi-aware light switch. And the usual tangle of wires, plus an additional 4-way outlet block. Bah.

It would all be so much simpler if there were a voice-activated smart speaker resembling a wall wart that could use both mains networking and 802.11 and also acted as a network extender. But they don't seem to exist...

8th of 7, Aug 24 2020

Carrots and night vision https://medium.com/...e-told-50ba5c94b4b0
[kdf, Aug 25 2020]

Powerline network adapter to WiFi extender https://www.netgear...spx?id=tcm:11-48741
Half or two thirds of the way there? [kdf, Aug 25 2020]

Netgear Orbi WiFi mesh smart speaker. https://www.netgear...uk/orbi/rbk50v.aspx
[kdf, Aug 25 2020]

Zyxel P660HWP http://www.zyxel.co...t_P660HWP_Final.pdf
Multi-talented [8th of 7, Aug 26 2020]

Alexa from Yesteryear https://tinyurl.com/y3pkl5n4
Solved... [RayfordSteele, Aug 31 2020]


       A complicated approach if all you want is to avoid stumbling around in a dark garage. Motion activated lights. Or some always on, low intensity guide-lights. Or a flashlight. Or eat more carrots (link).   

       Or an infrared vision implant.
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       // simplification
// reasonable
// combines a smart speaker, wall wart, mains networking, LAN, and wifi in lieu of a switch, motion sensor, night light, or underfilling the garage.

       Have a [+] provisional on an option for inexplicable green glowing machinery just below the surface of the device. Alternatively, perhaps just the antenna could be placed in the garage, connected via a piece of coax of the proper size and impedance. Failing that, perhaps a waveguide of the "cantenna" type.
sninctown, Aug 25 2020

       You're extending the complicated part of the system.
Extend the simple part instead: the microphone (& possibly the speakers). Shouldn't be too hard to pop the case, find the mike, & wire up an extension.
neutrinos_shadow, Aug 25 2020

       // all you want is to avoid stumbling around in a dark garage. //   

       We don't need to avoid stumbling around, because (a) we know where everything is positioned, (b) we have excellent low-light vision and can navigate perfectly well by ambient illumination but mostly (c) we have a good sense of our size and physical position of our limbs while in motion.   

       We also do not require glasses with the optical characteistics of classic Coca-Cola bottles to confer something resembling normal vision, nor do we sit in the vehicle for several minutes gathering up an inordinate quantity of useless clutter and stuffing it back into a handbag, until the light in the door opener/closer has timed out and switched off.   

       Simpler, cheaper and practical solutions such as a PIR-activated bulkhead light, carrying a flashlight, or changing the battery-backed emergency light for one with an "always on" function have all been rejected, seemingly on the grounds that they are practical, cheap and simple, and not voice activated.
8th of 7, Aug 25 2020

       X10 perhaps?
RayfordSteele, Aug 25 2020

       8th making a considerate accommodation for another person? Grudgingly and complaining - but still! Careful, old boy, people might think you’re almost human.
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       Voice activated light switches are a thing.
bs0u0155, Aug 25 2020

       Some good suggestions here if you’re building from scratch. But reread the original request - the woman’s existing expectation is built around Alexa. A new platform and command set is not what she wants, regardless of practicality.   

       I think the market for an all-in-one device is too small. I’d look for a better WiFi range extender, a mesh setup maybe. Even if the estate is a huge castle there has to be a way to get a signal out there.
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       Change the bulb in your garage door opener or if it is of the steampunk era, make it a relay.
wjt, Aug 25 2020

       8th, Netgear in USA (linked) offers a few powerline network extenders where one endpoint does provide a wifi extender. (checked though, doesn't seem to be available in UK). If anyone else makes a similar unit there, this would get WiFi out to the garage for your Alexa & smart appliances using only one electrical outlet in the garage.
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       It would be better, but not much better than the current [netplug (ethernet) repurposed wfi router (wifi) smart speaker] solution.   

       Even the idea of activating the lighting using a phone app has been dismissed because "I can't find my phone in my bag in the dark".
8th of 7, Aug 25 2020

       Maybe you're approaching the problem from the wrong direction. Can you reprogram her instead of reconfiguring your network?
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       Netgear also offers a smart speaker as a node in a WiFi mesh system - with Alexa integration - and this one IS available in UK. Are you *SURE* you can't get a signal out there?
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       Oh, it could be gimmicked, with some coax and some SMA/SMB's and a couple of Yagi antennae ... but there's a working fix in place - albeit a kludgy one - and the whining has diminished to more acceptable, tho still non-zero, levels.   

       But why have to tinker, and have multiple devices, when a single wall wart could do the whole plug-and-play job ?
8th of 7, Aug 25 2020

       "why have to tinker, and have multiple devices, when a single wall wart could do the whole plug-and-play job"
-8th of 7, Aug 25 2020

       I think vendors see it is a very narrow use case. For most people, getting a WiFi signal out to the garage is comparatively easy. But you're not most people - It's your own fault for keeping such a large estate, with walls reinforced against nuclear detonations. Even so, Netgear and others offer solutions for different parts of this problem - but not enough demand to put all of those parts in one chassis.
kdf, Aug 25 2020

       It does seem neat to send the signal through the wiring since the device is already attached to the mains.   

       A quick read around the mains netwrk adapters suggests they've improved since I last checked, no idea about real- world performance though. Probably the clever thing to do would be for Netgear or whoever to make a wired/Wi Fi/Mains network combined router.
bs0u0155, Aug 25 2020

       Zyxel do make such a device; we have one. <link>   

       Thus it seems logical that the functionality of a smart speaker can be added to such a system.
8th of 7, Aug 25 2020

       Thinking about it, "Wi Fi" light switches would be much more suited to the mains networking. You could connect to the router via wiring and function as a Wi Fi Access point. Same with the networked light bulbs etc. It's all so obvious, what are Netgear doing? They should give me a job in product development.   

       Is putting data through power lines, and power over ethernet a case of convergent engineering?
bs0u0155, Aug 26 2020

       Motion lighting is cheap. Unless the server lab is going in the garage.
wjt, Aug 26 2020

       The server lab is a separate facility, though on the same site.   

       Part of the problem is that the domestic functionality has been piggybacked onto an extremely complex network topology that would probably be overkill for a major corporation, using a deliberate mixture of copper, fibre, mains networking, 802.11a, g and n, Bluetooth, HSCSD, 3G, 458Mhz telemetry band, 5.8Ghz closed beam microwave, 56kb dialup, 20mA current loop (for the ASR-33 teletype) and two cans linked by a piece of taut string.   

       All that's needed to round out the system is a heliograph, an Aldis lamp, and a set of semaphore flags.   

       Add in innumerable routers, switches, access points, and firewalls and it may become clear why the question "Why can't I get Netflix on my laptop any more ?" can be not entirely easy to answer ...   

       And yes, it DOES need to be that complicated. It's a research and design tool.
8th of 7, Aug 26 2020

       I think the problem is you don't have enough stuff. So add this to the collection... A servant to stand in the garage, taking orders from your housemate. She can call the servant Alexa if she wants. If human menials are no longer socially acceptable, acquire a redundant imp from Pratchett's estate.
kdf, Aug 26 2020

       [kdf], in centuries to come, humans will worship you as a God.   

       Yes, that would be the perfect solution.   

       // the problem is you don't have enough stuff //   

       Oh, we know.
8th of 7, Aug 26 2020

       //round out the system is a heliograph, an Aldis lamp, and a set of semaphore flags.//   

       Then there's the tricky long distance interface between pigeons and hill-top signal fires.
bs0u0155, Aug 26 2020

       "... humans will worship you as a God ..."
-8th of 7, Aug 26 2020

       Er, ... thanks, but ... I hope not. Look what happened to the rest of them. Gaiman's "American Gods" if you want to go dark, Bach's "Illusions" if you're in a lighter mood.
kdf, Aug 26 2020

       Or read Robert Graves' description of what happened to Gaius Caligula ....
8th of 7, Aug 26 2020

       I suppose when going completely crazy, this will allow the wall to talk back to either sooth or aggravate depending on how the system has been configured.
wjt, Aug 29 2020

       //It does however seem ...inevitably blamed. //   

       It's preposterous that any human in a wealthy society EVER has to bumble about in the dark in his own dwelling. Motion sensors have existed for decades. They're not expensive to buy and connecting them is trivial. Recognizing when the inhabitant is sleeping is a bit more difficult but still trivially within the realm of today's electronics. Recognizing when a large thing is moving in a room and turning on the light is likewise trivial. And the cost of electricity for lighting is ALSO trivial. People who turn off LCD lighting to "save electricity" are ignorant or pointlessly virtue signalling. You'll waste more power playing a 5 second snippet of video on the internet than leaving that LCD on for 30 minutes.*   

       *And before someone says it I'm not just talking about the local machine but all the upstream servers that have to process and push the data.
Voice, Aug 29 2020

       //LCD lighting//   

       I had a digital watch in the 1980s, with a LCD display, and a tiny incandescent bulb to one side that illuminated it when you pressed a wee button. Is that what you mean or are there more recent developments in LCD lighting technology that I am not aware of?
pocmloc, Aug 29 2020

       It's more likely to be a legacy "screen saver" on a pc...   

       // a large thing is moving in a room //   

       In some circumstances, speaking those words will result in a swift, violent, painful death...
8th of 7, Aug 29 2020

       <thinks to myself x> Must look up the latest on circadian rhythms.</x>
wjt, Aug 29 2020

       Is that when they all start chirping in synchrony ?
8th of 7, Aug 29 2020

       There is a rather obvious solution. Don't know if they made these in UK outlet service, but I'm presuming they do.   

RayfordSteele, Aug 31 2020


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