On a recent Internet of Things Podcast, we took a voicemail from Brian on our podcast hotline. His mother is an assisted living facility and doesn’t always hear her phone ring so he’s looking for a solution to that problem. Brian asked if there’s some type of device he could connect to his mother’s television that would display text on the screen when her phone rings or when he texts her. We don’t know of one but we do have some alternative suggestions that could work just as well.
It helps that Brian’s mother is already familiar with Amazon Alexa. When living at home, she used Alexa to voice control lights that shouldn’t reach, for example. So our thought is to incorporate that familiarity with Alexa in this situation. Even though the assisted living facility provides and controls the wireless network, Brian’s mother should be able to get an Echo device connected.
Assuming that’s the case, a few notification options are available for when Brian calls his mom. The first would be to install a smart bulb near the television, since his mom watches TV most of the time. Alexa works with a number of bulbs that use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee and our suggestion is to use a Bluetooth bulb in this case. That would eliminate the need to set up a second device on the managed Wi-Fi network.
We’d suggest a Philips Hue bulb because it does work with Bluetooth and provides the option in the future to add a Hue Bridge for Zigbee usage. A basic white Hue smart bulb costs around $16 but if Brian wanted to really grab his mom’s attention, a colored bulb might be the better, and more expensive, option. Expect to pay around $50 for a color Hue bulb, although you can sometimes find them on sale for around $40.
This method wouldn’t be automated, however. Brian would need to be on the same account as his mom’s Echo device. Then he would have to use his Alexa app to light up or flash the bulb.
Although Brian said his mom’s hearing isn’t great, he could also use his own Echo or Alexa app to “drop in” and speak to his mother through her Echo. Again, he would need to be on the Amazon Alexa account for his mom’s device.
But this way, he could reach out to her through voice and her Echo would light up as a signal. From there, he could just continue the conversation or tell his mom to pick up the phone as he calls her.
A third option would be for Brian to subscribe to the Amazon Together service, which is $19.99 per month. This service is precisely for the type of situation Brian’s mom is in. It allows caregivers or family members a way to provide remote care and monitor people through an Echo. It may be overkill for this particular situation, but Brian could remotely light up the “I’m trying to call you” bulb without being on the same Amazon Alexa account as his mother.
Although Brian’s mom has an iPhone, there is a simple solution for those with Android phones. Courtesy of one of our podcast listeners, Matt, we found out about the Notifications for Android TV app in the Google Play Store. This app can push any or all photo notifications to an Android TV from an Android phone.
To hear Brian’s question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things Podcast below:
JD Roberts says
Since Brian’s mom already has an iPhone, would she be interested in an Apple Watch? That way she would get a vibration notification on her wrist when a call came in, she could see who it was from, and if it’s a text, she could see the text. If she doesn’t want to use the watch to actually answer the call, she would still know to call her son back from her phone. It would also work no matter where she was, not just when she was watching TV.
This has the advantage of not having to worry about the assisted living facility’s rules about what devices can be added to its network. (Just as one example, they may not allow the use of the “drop in“ Alexa feature.)
Brian Brown says
Thanks. Good idea about the Apple Watch.
BTW found this as a possible solution too but comes with subscription costs.
Robert A. Collesano says
I’d like to do something similar as the person wanting his mom to know her phone is ringing. I have a separate office space independent from my home but it’s nearly attached to my home. My home and my office are covered by an Asus ZenWiFi 6 mesh system. Sometimes I’m in my office and my AT&T Android Samsung Z Fold 4 cell phone is charging in the house or vice a versa I’m in the house and my cell is charging in my office. We have both Alexa and Google Assistant devices about. Is there anyway that I can know that my phone is ringing when I am not in the same room and answer it when I am a distance from my actual cell phone? Better yet can I also generate a call somehow via my cell phone when I’m in a different room? I have a windows 10 PC, a Samsung Tablet and a Samsung Chromebook plus a Samsung watch using the wear OS system.
I have no smart home devices going on as I am also trying to figure out how to get started w. that. Not sure if I need some type of Hub like Matter first or just go out and buy some plugs and bulbs to get started?