Using Amazon Echo to communicate thousands of miles away

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.

CONNECTION ISSUES:

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’

FINAL THOUGHTS

Ensure your Echo’s have easy to remember names: e.g. Mother, Sarah, Regina so the phrase ‘Drop in on Mother’ is easily remembered.

 

 

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/amazon-alexa-drop-in,review-4534.html

 

How to get places

If you grew up in London, this part is easy. The MRT is like the tube…. except it’s clean, safe and on time. If you grew up in the USA, life without a car will take some getting used to. While the MRT trains are really good, they are supplemented by an excellent bus system.

There are MANY great apps for routing you between A and B. Because Singapore is small, the routes will mostly take less than an hour. Google Maps has updated it’s public transport options on its mobile app, and honestly, that’s all you need.

Most rides will cost less than $1.50 Singaporean, which is really cheap. Even the airport is accessible if you are on the East-West (green) line. For those who have urgent needs, Uber and its competitors are available. Most non-surge rates are between 6-14 Singaporean dollars.

Bank accounts

A bank account is the prerequisite to basic survival in Singapore.

There are a few selections to chose from. Some of the key factors are: What sort of ID do you have with you (when you first land, not a lot) and also where are the ATMs?

I ended up going with DBS as they had minimal paper requirements (passport and IPA letter). Expect the set up to take at least an hour, and to re-answer the same question multiple times. While they have a good number of ATMs in Singapore, you can also use the ATMs of their sister-bank POSB for free too.

You don’t need cash to set up the account and you can wire money from the US later. You can also set up a multi-currency account, where you have both USD (or another currency) and Singapore dollars. You can easily move money between the two via the website.