Alexa Can Power On Your Sleeping Smart Home Devices

Last Friday Amazon announced the release of their Wake-on-LAN Controller, allowing customers to use Alexa to power on smart devices which have gone into low power mode and cannot be woken up via the cloud. To access the Wake-on-LAN Controller, users can say “Alexa, turn on my TV” when their TV has gone into low-power mode. This change allows Amazon to provide a consistent customer experience without requiring device makers to make hardware changes, or requiring customers to make adjustments to their Echo device.

Device makers can integrate the Wake-on-LAN controller interface in their existing smart home Alexa skill. VIZIO, LG, and Hisense will be among the first device makers to deliver this new capability in select devices over the next several months. Once the feature is available, customers can enable the Alexa skill for their supported device and use their Echo device to ask Alexa to turn on their TV.

How it Works

Typically, users of smart home devices have not been able to power on devices in low power mode with voice commands, because it requires cloud access. But the Wake-on-LAN Controller does not use the cloud. Instead, the new feature sends a command over Wi-Fi or ethernet to the target device via its MAC address. The special command is a Wake-on-LAN (WoL) packet referred to in the developer documentation as a “Turn on Directive.” The Turn on Directive allows a device to be woken from sleep immediately. There is no need to update the Alexa skill associated with the entertainment device. More details are available here.

Only the Latest in a Series of Tools for Alexa Partners

Providing a tool for device makers is yet another extension of the ‘Alexa everywhere’ strategy. It also highlights the technical intricacies of enabling Alexa support for a wide variety of devices and use cases.

Announced in September and released in November, Amazon’s New Release Notifications in addition to the Music Skills API brought new capabilities to developers. The Music Skills API allows for the creation of a catalog of music to be published as a skill, and the New Release Notifications allows consumers to be notified when an artist has released new music.

Amazon also introduced Alexa recommendations earlier this year as a method to facilitate skill discovery. In May, Amazon introduced Canfulfillintentrequest which are keyword and phrase tags that developers can add to make their skills easier for Alexa to find when responding to generic requests by users. In October, Amazon added Alexa skill activation metrics to the developer dashboard. It’s been a busy year.

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