Amazon echo recently added a ‘drop in’ feature. While many use this intercom type system to communicate with devices in different rooms in their same home, it has many other possibilities.
My elderly mother who lives thousands of miles away can communicate with me now free of charge, merely by using the phrase ‘Alexa, drop in on Johnny’.
Unfortunately, there were ‘challenges’ along the way. As there were many, it may be a good idea to document them to make the path easier for those that come after me.
Getting the Amazon echo set up was the most challenging of it all. Errors 7:3:0:0:1, 10:2:5:60:1, 10:2:5:6:1 and 10:2:17:5:1 all made my life hell. Alexa was also trying to communicate with a Virgin broadband hub. Countless hours were spent evaluating all of the above errors, and only imperfect understanding and/or solutions were found: US devices conflicting on UK/IRL channels, 2.4GHz/5GHz drama, DDOS issues, adding it to one SSID then back to the original. But the basic problem is simply: out of the box, the Amazon Echo system has old firmware. If you can get that to be updated, your problems will be solved.
Of course, to get the software to be updates, you have to get it on a wifi network. In my situation I glued one together using my macbook air wifi, an ethernet connection directly to an old airport extreme (using ethernet internet sharing). Then the Echo had an internet connection.
Another issue is there is no way to immediately force a software update on the Amazon echo. The closest thing to do, once it is online, is to hit the mute button, and leave it for several hours. Luckily this worked (see https://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#settings under the about section. Originally it was version 4086).
Once the firmware was updated it connected to the original Virgin Media hub without a problem.
ENABLING DROP IN:
As I’m buying this device for my elderly relative, who does not have an amazon account, I am registering both devices to my own account
There are two levels to this a) the device level and 2) the contacts level
Please use the Alexa app (for some reason the ‘Drop in functionality is not available at https://alexa.amazon.com currently). First log in, then goto settings. Sequentially go to settings, then select the device, then select the ‘Drop in” feature. You can select ‘only my household’ or ‘On’ depending if you want others to be able to call.
Drop in will still not work at this point, as you have to enable it for your own account. The best description is on Tom’s Guide. It describes “tap the speech bubble icon in the bottom center of the toolbar“. to get to your contacts. However, then select YOUR Profile at the top of the list. There you will see the toggle to enable ‘drop in’
Ensure your Echo’s have easy to remember names: e.g. Mother, Sarah, Regina so the phrase ‘Drop in on Mother’ is easily remembered.