Amazon’s Alexa add music to their routines

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Using routines on smart home devices is pretty awesome as it is. Saying just one phrase and having loads of cool stuff happen at the same time? Makes you feel kind of like a wizard, or at least, pretty epic. So any updates of capabilities of routines on our Alexa devices is always going to be pretty exciting, and get this! These new updates can help you LEARN…! Or….just listen to more of those true crime podcasts you love. Amazon has finally added music to Alexa’s routine function, so you can now add any music from Spotify, Amazon music, Pandora (NOT Apple Music!) to your morning routine, including playlists which can also be set to shuffle. As well as this, you can of course add any of the podcasts from these streaming services (learn Italian in the am, or something funny to get you up on the right side of bed!) Usefully, you can also pre-set the volume for each routine, so you’re not blasting out the tunes at 6am, even if you had it on loud the night before. Google Assistant, of course, already has music as part of it’s routines function but these are only available in the U.S at the moment.

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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Beyond Tomorrow, The Future of Housing

Forget about flying cars, self tying shoelaces and hover boards, we know what the real future will look like and it’s ….. kind of already here?
Experts are predicting that in the next five years most of our homes will be completely run by smart technology, building on the success that products like the Amazon Echo have already had. Home automation systems will start doing more of the work for us, predicting what we need before we need it, essentially. So, at the moment we can build a routine by integrating a few tasks together, using one phase, such as ‘good morning’, to turn on the lights and play music. This is going to become even smoother in a few years, apparently, with our home devices getting used to our routine and being able to do things without us asking, like figuring out who’s home based on facial recognition and automatically beginning a routine for that particular person, like turning on the coffee machine and adjusting the heating. All without us saying a word. A.I will also be able to act as a personal assistant, adding information from emails or texts straight into our calendar and predicting, based on our habits, whether we’d like to hear about the traffic or the news before we leave the house. The interesting thing is, a lot of these actions we can do already with our home automation systems, like building a routine or asking about weather. The difference is in the prediction that our home automation systems will make it so easy for us by doing many of our daily requests automatically, fitting seamlessly into our lives. Experts have spoken of ‘Lifestyle benefits’ from these improvements, and it certainly seems like the future of home automation is going to take a lot of stress from our lives. I don’t know about you, but this seems more realistic (and helpful!) than a flying car.

Google Assist expanded routines

‘Google, I’m home.’ Only, our home’s in the wrong place.
Google have rolled out 6 routines, which users of Google Home to modify to their needs. The catch is it’s not actually available in Australia yet. It’s not just us that have update envy for once, in fact the new routines are only available in the U.S at the moment, leaving anyone who’s home is in a different place out of the updates. Since the announcement from Google at the end of last year that they’d be rolling out routines, we’ve been pretty excited. A set of pre-programmed actions that are activated by just a phrase? Sign us up! The six routines available include, Good Morning, I’m Home, or Bedtime, in which you can program your lights to turn off, turn your phone on silent and manage your thermostat if you so choose to. Google’s official line is that other countries can use ‘My Day’ in the time being, hearing our calendar, news briefing and weather report. For us poor Aussies, this feels a bit lacklustre, especially considering we can use routines on the rival Amazon Echo already. So, what’s the holdup, Google? Let’s hope they bring routines to our home automation down under soon!

NBN Co CEO resigns

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NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow has announced that come the end of 2018, he will be stepping down in his role, 2 years before the project is currently due to be completed. This latest high profile resignation follows chief corporate affairs officer Karina Keisler’s announcement that she’ll be leaving in the summer. Despite high praise for Malcom Turnbull, who said Morrow ‘turned the project around’, whilst the PM used the opportunity to take a dig at his political rivals, Morris leaves in a period of continuous turmoil for the company. Many customers have been disappointed at the speeds of their NBN, as they were much slower than advertised by partners like Telstra and Optus, the former of which already offered compensation to their customers at the end of last year. More recently the company have delayed the HFC cable rollout due to connection issues on the network, claiming to be focusing on a better quality for the customer, but it’s little consolation to see the new timetable delayed by months. Morrow himself has stated that customers are being left behind in the rollout and despite a positive outlook from the government, a 3rd CEO change in 4 years, coupled with ever altering plans from NBNCo, only adds to the lack of confidence from Australian consumers.

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Home HQ- An Aussie Smart Home Kit

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Alice Towndrow
Article Author

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A Watered down smart home from Origin Energy.

Origin have just announced plans for a ‘budget’ smart home kit, but is it really all that? At just $199 and including a smart bulb, plugs and motion sensors, it does seem like the perfect, economical, way to get into the smart home game. Yet, despite novel ways to save energy and keep your home secure, like checking the lights are off or receiving an alert if the door is opened, it comes across as a slightly underwhelming version of a smart kit.

When you take into consideration the ‘smarter’ older siblings in this scenario, Google Home, Amazon Echo or Nest, the market leaders are more versatile and simply better value for money, in that the family home will be ever evolving with the technology. Choosing one of the brand leaders for your smart home will also ensure compatibility with more partners, giving you more choice over what you buy and how much you pay. The Origin kit, on the other hand, is a wolf in sheep’s clothing in terms of smart technology. A smart home should be customisable to the family’s needs and wants and offer a wealth of choice when it comes to expanding on the household’s smart products. Origin Energy’s starter kit, as yet, doesn’t offer this.

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How to make your Australian Amazon Alexa work with all alexa skills

As mentioned in the last article, many Aussie Alexa Users were frustrated when the AUS Alexa App and Software rolled out, claiming there were not enough skills or that their previous settings and smart home devices are no longer compatible. Well, FEAR NO MORE!

After speaking to a member of the Alexa team last week, I was given this VERY simple how-to guide. By following the steps below, you can successfully make your Amazon Echo Device compatible with your favourite brands and back to the USA software and app. With the added bonus of it recognising you are in Australia and not having to jump through a million hoops just to get the app on your phone.

This guide will work for all Australian marketplace compatible Alexa devices (such as any Alexa device sold on Amazon.com.au)Australian Skills and the Australian English language setting are NOT SUPPORTED on:

  •     Amazon Echo (1st Generation – bought before 2017)
  •     Echo Dot (1st Generation- bought before 2017)
  •     Echo Show
  •     Echo Spot
  •     Amazon Tap
IMPORTANT!!! *If you migrate an Alexa device to Australian from another country, you won't have access to digital content purchased from unsupported services, such as Amazon Music*

This guide will work whether or not your device is already active and registered, brand new, bought in Australia with Australian software, or bought previously from the American (or other countries) marketplace unactivated or activated.  if you had previously had a working American Amazon Alexa device and it lost all your setting and smart home features when the Australian software rolled out, this can get back your old account and settings and will let you pick u with your home automation and Alexa skills where you left them.

FOR PREVIOUSLY ACTIVATED DEVICES

To Complete the next steps you MUST have an Australian Amazon Account AND American Amazon account. The Echo device you wish to change should be already on your Australian account. ( this also works to move other countries Alexa to Australia,  just in reverse)

  1. Log into the Amazon marketplace your device is registered to and hover over my account menu, in the drop-down select 'Manage Your Content and Devices' link
  2. Go to the My Devices tab in the Manage Your Content and Devices, and find the device you wish to change and choose to deregister your device.
  3. then you just simply register the device again using the Alexa app, logging out of the olde account and back into the desired countries marketplace account, and then select your country's default language.

FOR NEW DEVICES

Now, this is REALLY easy part…. just change your country settings to your local Amazon website to get access to content and features on your Echo device.

You can change your country settings by visiting Manage Your Content and Devices and following these steps: To migrate your account to Amazon.com (or any other desired country including back to australia when the skils are availble), please follow the steps mentioned below.

  1. Visit the Manage Your Content and Devices page on Amazon.com.au (http://www.amazon.com.au/mycd)
  2. Select the Settings tab.
  3. Under the Country Settings heading you will see text stating

“You are currently linked to shopping on Amazon.com.au. Click here to learn more about other Amazon sites you are eligible to shop on based on your country of residence.”

  1. Select the link to see the available options.
  2. Click the “Learn about transferring your Kindle account to Amazon.com” link.
  3. If you're happy to return to Amazon.com, select the “Transfer your Kindle account to Amazon.com” button and follow the on-screen instructions.

You can migrate back to Amazon.com.au whenever you wish just repeat this process to the Australian website.

If you get stuck or are confused, or unsure of anything above, you can ask questions in the comments below, contact us via web-form, or on Facebook.   Alternatively, you can contact the Amazon support team.

Enjoy getting your 'Smart Home & Automation Skills' back.

Samsung’s ongoing fight to make bixby relevant

Fridges, Phones and Televisions. Samsung are sprinkling a bit of BIXBY into the recipe for all there new big tech items.

At the CES 2018 convention in Las Vegas, Samsung has announced that the 2018 range of televisions will include their smart assistant BIXBY, to allow home connectivity and smart home interaction. This is to go hand in hand with Samsung SmartThings technology platform.

In regards to televisions and SmartThings, Samsung have been working on an app for easy setup and lets the TV serve as the hub to control SmartThings smart home devices, as well as the BIXBY voice assistant into the already “smart” televisions, which is going against the grain with most mainstream TV manufacturers teaming up with google or amazon for their smart assistant. Samsung is of course sticking to their own. which has yet to show anything promising.

Alongside TV’s and phones. Samsung has injected BIXBY into their smart fridges which while this isn’t new, the smart fridge now has added functionality int he SmartThings app allowing bixby voice control in the fridge and the ability to control the houses smart things devices, as well as keep an eye on whats in your fridge. it has been mentioned that Samsung are looking to increase the functionality of screen mirroring already available in the smart fridge, to include phone mirroring too.

Speaking of smart things devices. washing machines, yep Samsung has that too. the newest of which they claim is now smart things compatible. (but no bixby … yet)

it is questionable what on the list of available technology and features will be working in Australia, as down under is yet to be graced with SmartThings line of tech.

To read more about the gadgets and electronics to be featured at CES 2018 CLICK HERE

Airlines think not Everything should be “SMART”

If you own “smart luggage”, be warned. In a recent statement to news company CNN – American Airlines wrote that the batteries “pose a risk when they are placed in the cargo hold of an aircraft.” Other major airliners around the globe agree, Qantas and Virgin Australia are among the airline companies who are recently banning all luggage with non removable batteries from the cabin and luggage hold.

Dangerous Goods Board decided to restrict the carriage of smart luggage on passenger aircraft operated by its 275 member airlines around the world. The restriction will come into effect on 15 January 2018.

Any smart bag to fly as checked baggage, the battery must be removed and carried in the passenger cabin.

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Telco forced to refund customers

Two of Australia’s major telcos have refunded customers on the NBN “Boosted” Speed plans. Following a Watchdog investigation for false advertising on speeds capable on NBN Connections, the ACCC reported they are  providing more detailed guidance concerning  implementation principles for advertising the speeds of retail fixed-line broadband plans.

After Investigations the ACCC has forced opts to refund customers on FTTN Connections after it was discovered almost 50%  of Optus FTTN consumers on a 100/40 Mbps plan could not receive promised speeds, and 21% of that would not even receive speeds HALF that which was promised.

Telstra actually prompted the investagtion by coming clean that they had broken consumer law by promoting NBN speeds that it was not capable of delivering- Offering refunds to 42,000+ customers.

If you are not receiving promised speeds on a telco “boosted” plan, know your rights. You can read more from the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission HERE or if you are being kept in the dark by your telco you can submit a complaint with the Telecommunications ombudsman HERE

But if you are experiencing service dropouts on a HFC connection, or Cable broadband connection, your telco might not be able to help you. NBN.co are currently backpedalling on the HFC connections and blaming everyone else but themselves for the HFC connection failing, Especially concerning interruptions to current broadband (non-nbn) connections. Facts point to the government funded company being aware of potential interruptions to HFC connections further down the line back in 2016. At the time of realising this NBN.co were “not aware of the state of the Telstra HFC connection” and were not aware of the “optimisation” (repair) the network needed. NBN.co are now blaming lack of information and a risky judgement call as the reason for the pull of over 370,000 current HFC connection and ceasing the roll out of new HFC connection. The decision to halt all HFC connections and roll-out will result in an average delay of between six to nine months for millions of households looking to sign up,

(I’d hate to see the state of the Optus network now, considering NBN.co had already dropped the Optus HFC network claiming it was “not fully fit for purpose”)

Basically NBN.co is admitting what we already knew, they have screwed up the new network, and the old network in one big tax dollars black hole. Pulling the HFC connection will ultimately lead to more wasted money, and time. If your resident falls into the HFC / old broadband connection, and are experiencing poor service, refer to the link above and let the Telecommunications Ombudsman know.

And if you are not receiving speeds promised by your Telco, let them know first, and after they have “fixed” it then go check out the ACCC website.

Stacey Friswell
Article Author

Underwhelmed by Amazon Australia

Soooo…. This is awkward. Remember all that hype that was around in the news about a week or two ago… YEAH sorry about that. All broken promises.

It sounded amazing did it not? Amazon Australia- no longer did we have to drive to shops, deal with horrid car-parks (thanks Westfeild), deal with screaming kids and angry parents, just to get overcharged for a tech item that is almost sold out. That as usual half the choices are not available because the item had been all over Youtube and the internet for months now, and Australian stores are only JUST stocking it. If your anything like me, you probably HATE dealing with shopping centres (like who even decided to put a 50-100 stores in one building and not expect chaos… insane if you ask me).

I love online shopping because of this, but in today’s market, I like saving money even more. But when you live in Australia, sometimes your just thankful that the brand decided to release to the Australian market. (unlike Samsung, Amazon Technology, most of Nest, most of the 2017 range from madebygoogle – i can keep going but i am sure you get my point). When Amazon Announced they would hit Australia with an online marketplace much like the US Site, that would also include product they would stock in their own fulfilment centre, myself and practically half of Australia started jumping up and down, some out of joy (like my fellow online shoppers), and some out of anger and/or fear (like Gerry Harvey and other retail company owners).

What a Load Of ****! All Hype and no follow through is all we got.

If you live under a rock or haven’t caught on to the message in this article so far, Amazon Australia Dropped today, and it did not live up to expectations.

Firstly it was leaked that Amazon was planning to launch for Black Friday (which is a US Thanksgiving shopping tradition and is only just picking up steam in Australia recently). When news leaked the week of about a inner circle testing the store with a soft launch Amazon.com.au page hits went through the roof,  many people tweeting about how excited they were that they were constantly refreshing the page ready for a surprise launch, or a change of any sort to the site. Some Twitter users even admitting to refreshing the page while at work. Over the next few days that hype almost took a turn to hysteria, as even more Twitter users took to the internet to find out what they were doing wrong

‘Its been 2 days, its been Black Friday both in Australia, and the States. What else are they waiting for?’

Well turns out there was a GST error on the store front, even though Amazon had already been set up to operate in Australia for some time now with the eBooks, and fire tablets already available for purchase for a couple years now, in a fully functional online store.

They told us they would be cheaper, LOTS CHEAPER! – Some items would be 30% cheaper. They told us they would revolutionise Australian shopping. Everything we could ever need in one place, accessed from our very own homes (so long as the NBN isnt Down), with millions of products across 20 categories.

Well as Aussies do best we took to the internet to voice our opinions ( some of the most popular ones can be seen above), with the majority of users complaining that the prices are not cheap, in fact a lot of listed and stocked items are cheaper to go to your local JB-Hifi or Officeworks. Even Amazons Own Products…. like the Kindle e-reader, made by Amazon, that was initially listed for cheaper at Officeworks- Amazon then scrambled to adjust its prices, bringing its Kindle Paperwhite down $20 to $159 to match the cheaper price.

 

We expect this is just the start for the worldwide eCommerce giant, as they have committed to bringing Amazon Alexa smart assistant products to Australia in the year coming.