Configuring Alexa Account Info (eRVin v0.6x and up)

This post will describe how to configure Alexa capability in eRVinOS v0.6x and newer using Virtual Smart Home an Alexa skill that interfaces with eRVin. The configuration involves installing the skill in the Alexa app, then linking the skill by entering your Amazon account info into the appropriate Alexa “nodes” in eRVin via node-red. This is a one time task, that when complete, will provide reliable integration between Alexa and your RV lights (and down the road for other things like shades, awnings, locks, etc).

Skills and Connections:

  1. First you will need to connect to node-red so you can access the Alexa nodes, see this post for how to do that, then come back here.
  2. Now go to your Alexa account and install the Virtual Smart Home Skill. this is probably easiest done from a Smartphone:
    1. Open the Alexa app, click More and then Skills & Games:

    2. Click the search icon then type in Virtual Smart Home, the first result as shown below is the one you want, make sure the icon is as shown:

    3. Go ahead and click on the Virtual Smart Home skill, then tap the Enable To Use button:
  3. OK we are done installing the skill, now go back to your Mac/PC connected to Node-Red and switch to the Alexa Virtual Tab at the top of the screen:
  4. This screen shows a list of blue Virtual Smart Home “nodes” each of which represents an Alexa controllable device. Notice that some of the blue “nodes” are dimmed (lighter blue) and some are not (darker blue). The dimmed nodes are disabled nodes because they do not apply to the configuration file you have installed. This will vary by year/brand/model/floorplan. You will only be working on the enabled or un-dimmed nodes. Also note the red triangle present on each node, this means it is not configured, or is not configured correctly – the red triangle will disappear when you finish this procedure and all has been configured properly. Let’s begin by double clicking on the first non-dimmed node closest to the top of the list (in the case of the image below it’s Aquahot Burner instance #6):
  5. In the window that opens we are looking for the Connection field as shown below. The box will say Add new connection… Just to be sure there are no existing connections, click the down arrow to the right side of this box, you should not see anything except Add new connection… (If you do, click [here] for how to clear it).
  6. OK, so lets add a new connection! Click the pencil icon to the right of the Connection box, this will open a new window. Under name, type your Amazon account name (check your Amazon account settings to verify) [Note, not sure this needs to be the exact Amazon ID, please provide feedback in the Comments section at the end of this post regarding your experience]. In a few seconds, the Account linking box will appear with a unique access code. In that box, note the steps listed 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 in gray circles – next you are going to follow those steps:
  7. But first I would suggest highlighting the unique code and copying it to the clipboard. Then under Step 1 in the screen image above, click the amazon link. This will open up a new browser window and ask you to log into your Amazon account, go ahead and log in (If you don’t have an Amazon account you will need to create one first):
  8. Next you should get a screen like shown below where you can enter the unique code:

  9. In the above image I have already pasted in the unique code, so go ahead and do that too, then hit the Continue button. Next you will get a verification screen like this:

  10. Click Allow, which should result in a Success screen like this:

  11. Great! Now go back to Node-Red, the screen there should have also updated and filled in with your email and a “Thing ID”, now Click the red Add button:

  12. That will return you to the screen below, next you can go ahead and click the red Done button.

    Note: before you tap Done, now is your chance to change the Alexa verbal command you would like to use for this device. In this case it’s “Aquahot Burner” which makes sense – “Alexa turn on the Aquahot Burner”, but if for some reason you want to change it to “Make me toasty baby”, feel free. Simply type what you want the spoken Alexa command to be in the Name field. Again tho, be very careful not to change any of the other fields in this window.

  13. So now you should be back to the Alexa Virtual “flow” screen. Go ahead and configure the next non-dimmed node, in this case Aquahot Electric instance #7. Double click to open it, select the configured connection (email address) by clicking the down arrow in the Connection box, then click Done.

    By the way, the Donate screen in this window is for the author of Alexa Virtual Smart Home, it has nothing to do with me. I do suggest tho if you find all this beneficial to send the guy a contribution.

  14. Now you have two nodes configured, note in the image below that the red triangle is gone and there is now a blue dot. The absence of the red triangle means the configuration is valid. The blue dot means the configuration is changed but not saved.

  15. Node-Red requires a “Deploy” to fully recognize the changes. So lets try that now so you know how it works. There’s a big red Deploy button in the upper right corner, go ahead and click it:

  16. At this point, since there are still several unconfigured Alexa nodes, you will get a warning indicating improperly configured nodes like shown below, in this case including “33 more” (your number will vary). Go ahead and click the red Confirm Deploy button. You should get a success notification. When the screen comes back the blue dots should be gone meaning all changes for those nodes have been properly saved. [As a technical note, it is the Deploy process that tells Alexa to “discover” the new nodes, so no action is needed on the Alexa side to make them active.]

  17. Now comes the fun part! Well not really, but it only takes a few minutes. Now go ahead and set the configuration for all the rest of the non-dimmed Alexa Virtual nodes, just like you did the first two. It’s perfectly fine if you want to do a Deploy every few nodes, after every node, or wait until they are all configured. When they are all done you should have a result something like the partial screen shown below. Red triangles on the dimmed nodes only and no blue dots:

  18. When you are done, make sure you’ve done the final Deploy (if the Deploy button isn’t red you are good to go), then you can just close the browser window. You won’t need to do this again – that is unless the configuration is updated, but I’m working on a solution for that.

Start Talking to Alexa!

At this point you should be able to start issuing Alexa voice commands! Discover devices in Alexa is usually not needed with Virtual Smart Home, so go ahead and experiment, you can say things like:

  • “Alexa, turn on the sink light to 100”
  • “Alexa, set the sink light to 45 percent”
  • “Alexa, turn off the sink light”
  • “Alexa, brighten the sink light”

Also check out your Alexa app, all your RV lights should be there under Devices, look under Lights, Switches or All Devices. When you change a light to on, off or change the brightness in the Alexa app, it should be reflected in the eRVin dashboard and vice versa (note there may be a slight delay with status updates between the two.)

The real power of Alexa is when you start using Groups and Routines. For example our coach has 5 separate accent lights (living room, bedroom, rear bath, mid bath and ceiling). At night we like to turn them all on to the lowest possible dim level. In Alexa we can assign all five to a “Group” called Accent Lights and turn them all on with a single command! We can say for example “Alexa, set the Accent lights to 50%” and they will all go to 50%. A Routine is similar but each light can have an independent brightness setting and you can mix types of devices. A routine can even include groups. For more about groups and routines see here.

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