How an Amazon Echo Show and a Wifi Hub connected a family during lockdown

Mark from our Digital Team discusses what his first thought was when it was clear that the Covid-19 lockdown was upon us. He didn’t go rushing to the shops for hand sanitiser, toilet rolls, or pasta. His first task was to get his elderly in-laws some connectivity other than the humble telephone.

Introduction

My first confession, is that they do not have any significant sight loss (although Elsie does have glaucoma). The second confession is that I’ve been trying to get some technology into their house for literally years…

They simply didn’t think they needed a smart phone or a tablet, and didn’t want the hassle of getting broadband introduced into their home. Instead, they would call us to review products, companies, renew their drivers licence, transfer money and check lots and lots of things I’ve forgotten to mention.

The other thing worth mentioning, is that my wife pretty much calls them every night, which is lovely, but she literally has the same conversation with both of them separately. She’ll talk to Jim, they will pass the phone on to Elsie and the same conversation will pursue. It’s also, one on one. Yes I know they could probably put it on speaker, but that’s how simplistic their tech is!

So that’s the backdrop, now let’s talk about the solution…

The solution

I needed something simple, like really simple; with no passwords, no instructions and no training. For now, all we wanted was them to be able to call us, or we call them without lifting a finger. No typing whatsoever, just a verbal command. For now, we just wanted to install a video conferencing solution into their home, so we could see them, and they could see us and have a collective conversation.

My solution was to get an Amazon Echo Show coupled with a portable Wi-Fi hub. On writing this, the cheapest Echo Show starts at £80 from Amazon. I connected this to a pay as you go Vodafone Wi-Fi hub. I used a demonstration Echo Show model from the Henshaws digital tech room, and bought the portable Wi-Fi device from Argos – it cost a whopping £50 for 15GB over three months, but I went for it because I needed to get something into them quickly before the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in properly.

Image shows a small white electrical item.
An Amazon Echo Show device with Henshaws logo on the screen

Getting connected

Both devices were extremely easy to set up. I set up the Echo Show on my Amazon account, just to make things easy for them (I didn’t want them to have to do anything really!)

I set them up at my house, then went over to theirs (whilst observing social distancing) and literally just plugged them in. They turned on and just connected automatically, with no fuss, in and out within minutes. I did a test call to them so they got the idea whilst I was there.

Keeping in touch

Drop In

By setting the device up on my account, we could just ‘drop in’ on them. ‘Drop in’ allows you to call the device and it automatically enables the video and audio connection at the other end. For privacy, the video image is automatically blurred until the person moves closer to their camera. As I said before, we didn’t want them to have to do anything at this stage.

Shopping

Later on during lockdown, we explained that they could just ‘ask’ Alexa to ‘add’ something to their shopping list. We did a couple of tests on the process (“Alexa, add bananas to my shopping list” ) and they got to grips with it instantly. Because their Echo Show was on my account I got their list instantly, so they no longer had to write their items down and/or relay the shopping lists to us either.

Other stuff

They have now started getting more adventurous and asking Alexa to do all sorts of things! Henshaws have a simple list of Alexa commands (you can check it out here), so I sent them a copy so they could try them out, like asking for a news summary, then a joke, or hear what a penguin sounds like!

Image shows a young girl and a woman sat at a kitchen counter looking at a tablet device with two elderly people on the screen.

Conclusion

They love it and they are going to invest in this type of solution once the lockdown is over, as I have to take back the Echo Show demo kit (thank you Henshaws!) The biggest impact the device has had on all the family is the ability to see and/or hear the whole of the family at the same time. It is also much more interactive than the telephone can ever be.

If you are even half-interested in some kind of solution for you and/or your loved one, then do not hesitate to get in touch with our Digital Enablement Team by calling 0300 222 5555 or email info@henshaws.org.uk

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Sarah
Sarah is the Marketing Manager with responsibility for Community Services across Greater Manchester, and the Knowledge Village.