Alexa, the personification of Amazon’s still odd Echo canister, isn’t exactly a household name compared to the likes of Siri or even Cortana, but it’s slowly getting there. Amazon is slowly but surely not only expanding support for its voice-controlled assistant, it has even expanded the devices that bear it. Then, there are the numerous hobbyist hacks and experiments that make Echo a tad more interesting. Like this almost convoluted a certain Jryanishere used to, in the end, get Alexa to start up his GM car at his (verbal) command.
It isn’t a direct connection between Echo and the GM car, mind you. A couple of pieces are needed to make this work, aside from the Amazon Echo itself, inside your car or, if you want to “pre-heat” your car, inside your house, a Raspberry Pi, a very specific OBD-II OBDLink MX Bluetooth, and a computer able to run the related scripts. For the software, the current implementation made use of Samsung’s SmartThings platform, though Jryanishere expressed his dismay about the service eventually.
In a nutshell, Jryanishere commands Alexa to start his car, which in turn triggers the SmartThings script that flips on a virtual switch. In the process, a Bluetooth command is sent over to the OBD-II receiver, via the Raspberry Pi, to start the car without any key inserted. As mentioned, its convoluted and roundabout way to remotely start a car. The gist of it is narrated below.
Those interested in the full story, Jryanishere provides a very detailed account, including some expensive missteps over at his blog. Be warned, the whole saga is split into 6 long parts. Last week, Amazon released some instructions on how to create a Echo-like device using a Raspberry Pi. Jryanishere doesn’t mention it, but maybe he could have skipped a few steps and pieces in the chain with that. Still, the $100 OBDLink Bluietooth would have still been a requirement.
So why go through all that? Hackers do what they do for fun, learning, or the challenge of it. It does show some of the possible functionality that Alexa might still be missing on. Then again, Jryanishere could a car with Ford SYNC and be done with it.