Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Taking Alexa for a Drive

Foval 300W.jpg
Like a lot of you, I have become a big fan of Amazon’s Echo Devices with the built in Alexa personal assistant.  I have become such a diehard, in fact, that I even went so far as to get an Echo Dot for my office.  It’s nice to have the device connected to my Bose Bluetooth speaker and simply tell Alexa what to play.
Lately though, I got to thinking that the place it would really make sense to have Alexa was in my vehicle.  I mean, it’s the ultimate hands-free device, right?
The problem was, my Chevy Tahoe is a 2009.  It has Bluetooth for a handsfree phone experience, but no Wifi like the newer models now have.  The workaround for that was my old Netgear hotspot that I used to use a lot while traveling.  Now with Wifi so ubiquitous, I don’t use it nearly as much as I used to.  So I configured Alexa to access the Netgear device and presto!  Alexa is online!
The second problem I faced was actually getting the Echo Dot running in the Tahoe.  The Echo Dot is pretty picky about its power needs and would not run via a USB micro cable connected to a power port in the vehicle.  No, I needed a full blown AC connection for that.  The workaround for that was this device pictured above.  This is the Foval 300W Power Inverter DC 12V to 110V AC Converter with 4.8A Dual USB Car Charger.    This nifty device plugs into a power port and then provides the AC power needed to power the Echo.
The Tahoe has a fairly good sized and deep console which even has a power port inside of it.  The electronics are all inside the console and the Alexa power cord snakes out of the lid.  The Dot itself sits on the console and is held in place with adhesive backed velcro so I can take it off the console when necessary.
I also paired Alexa with a Bluetooth converter I have plugged into the Aux port.  Since my Bluetooth in the Tahoe is fairly limited and will work for handsfree phone calls but does not work as Bluetooth headphones for my iPhone 6 Plus.  Hence the need for the Bluetooth converter.  The good news is now I just have to say, “Alexa, play Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes” and it all happens just like at my desk.
Just a little geeky DIY that I thought might be of interest for some of you.  If you have a newer vehicle with builtin Wifi and a 4G signal, you can forgo the hotspot & the Bluetooth converter as both of those items are making up for my out of date vehicle technology.  All you would need was the Focal unit above & a place to hide the Echo Dot.  The ultimate in handsfree is not that hard to create!

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