Control your TV (and other devices) with Alexa

Logitech recently updated their Alexa skill to simplify voice commands, instead of saying "Alexa, Ask Harmony to Turn on the TV" you say Alexa, Turn on the TV. This is great and I love the Harmony remotes but I've had a similar setup running for a few weeks now, and much cheaper.

My solution uses a Broadlink RM Mini 3 wifi enabled IR remote. For less than 1/5th the price of a Logitech Harmony Hub in Australia, you can achieve a surprising amount of automation with devices that have an IR receiver. You'll also need an Android device, perhaps a phone, or a TV box. You could potentially run this setup off of an Android emulator like Andy or KOPLAYER but I haven't tried that, so you're mileage may vary. The last piece of the setup is Broadlink RM Plugin from the Google Play store.

You'll need to setup the Broadlink RM Mini to connect to your home wifi (using the official e-Control APP. Don't configure any devices or remotes in this app).

Once setup, Broadlink RM Plugin should be able to see your RM Mini 3 on the network this is where the fun begins. This app allows you to open an HTTP bridge and if you have enough time, you could create a skill with custom intents to have Alexa respond to any phrase you’d like.

Or, enable the Alexa bridge and have your devices become available to Alexa.

Like the Logitech Harmony app, you can control a single command or chain multiple IR device commands together to create complex macros. e.g. I have a command set for "Kids TV". ON saying, Alexa, turn on Kids TV, my TV is switched on, the app waits for 21 seconds to allow the TV to connect to my wifi, sends the SmartHub command, waits 1 second, send the "Right" direction command and "Select" to launch Plex. This gives me enough time to fetch the TV remote from under the couch to play my kids' favourite "Paw Patrol" episode. And when the episode is over, say "Alex, turn off TV" and boom! no more running from the kitchen to turn off TV before the next episode auto plays. I have a more complex macro setup for my Xbox to launch the Foxtel app, watch TV and a few simple ones to mute Sonos or go to a certain TV channel.

This is one of my very few setups where the WAF is extremely high, no complex commands to remember, unlike my Sonos & Alexa integration, which I’m the only one who uses in our household.

There's only one downside so far that I've found, the commands aren't customisable, so to mute/unmute my speakers, I have to say Alexa, turn on mute or Alexa, turn off mute.

I've been thinking of getting the Broadlink remote with IR/RF which perhaps I could use for controlling the garage door with voice commands & geolocation using IFTTT or through Tasker. e.g. when I enter a geolocation, open the garage door, or if my phone connects to my home wifi, open the garage door.

Creating an Alexa skill for tracking chores

My son loves talking to Amazon Echo, and now he can ask Alexa what his chores are.

This is still in the test phase, not in the Skills store yet. The roadmap I'm working on -

  • Adding/Tracking chores through a mobile app
  • Adding chores through Echo
  • Marking chores as done through Echo
  • Notifications to mobile app when chores marked done
  • Reminders when chores missed
  • Gamification - Stars & Achievements for completing chores, linked to a goal/reward
An Intro to Product Management

An Intro to Product Management

As a someone who is passionate about products that solve problems, I love to talk about the need for Product Management, especially for digital products and agile software development. This is a deck that I have created and use to introduce the concepts of Product Management to anyone who is interested. This also acts as a great jumping off point to go deeper into about making customers the core of product decisions, how to validate ideas, create value propositions, UX & CX.

Product Pricing - Is freemium right for you?

Product Pricing - Is freemium right for you?

Freemium is a pricing model wherein a product is offered in mostly two variants – free and premium.

The freemium pricing model is usually opted for by technology companies where in they are able to unbundle the product features and offer differential pricing policies.

Strength of the freemium model is that it offers a low barrier to entry for the customers and gives you the ability to scale up by attracting users to try the service/product. This helps that build a user base, a percentage of which will convert to the premium ‘paying’ tier.

It is customer friendly. Instead of customers getting time limited trials, they can continue using the product and can upgrade when they require more features.

Freemium can also be more effective that advertising spend. Advertising may get users to your but if the price is not right, they may not sign up. So instead, the same spend can be attributed to maintain free users on the product.

On the flipside, Freemium can be a failure too. It relies on getting free users converted to paid users, if that does not happen, or the conversion rate is lower that what the service can sustain, it may cause a company to spend more that they’re earning and eventually go out of business.

It also relies very heavily on a low cost base, e.g. if the cost of running a service is negligible regardless the number of users. E.g. 100 free users vs 10000 free users will not make the cost running the service 100x.

It can work well if the product has a high switching cost, e.g. moving your playlists from Spotify to Apple Music. It’s possible not but easy and that’s what keeps users there.

In the long run, freemium can be a successful pricing model if the product or service on offer has these attributes –

  • It has a low cost of running, replicating the product doesn’t mean replicating costs same fold.
  • The product has a very large potential market
  • An increasing number of users see value in upgrading to the paid model
  • Can monetise free users by collecting user insights or displaying advertisement.

This however holds true for digital products and services. A physical product cannot sustain a freemium model as the cost of production and giving the product away for free is prohibitive. Even with product samples, the business will have to limit the amount that a customer can get access to.

The Digital Standard

The Digital Standard

Finally, there's a digital privacy and security standard, a benchmark that most digital products should follow. It covers things like best build practices, what should a good password look like, encryption and known exploit resistance. This looks like a great reference for any product team to ensure that their product is secure and cares about their user's privacy.

The standard is being voluntarily created, and it's insane to think that this hasn't been put together earlier.

The Digital Standard