I’m currently working on Hive’s voice integrations (Alexa and Google Assistant) — enabling users to control smart home devices, by voice.

In this article, I’m going to cover some of the things we’ve done to optimise our Node.js Lambda for Alexa, with the main aim to reduce our response latency.

Most of these could easily apply to other Node.js projects.

High-level project overview

  • We have a smart home Alexa skill (with some added custom intents — known as a multi-capability skill).
  • Users can control smart thermostats, lights, switches, scenes, and (soon) security systems.
  • We have ~400k linked Alexa users.
  • All of our code…

I’m currently working on a project where we have an Alexa smart home skill. Recently, we added a custom voice interaction model to this skill to handle some intents that aren’t supported in the Smart Home API.

At the moment, we’re only supporting English on the custom side of things, but I knew there was some room to improve how we’re handling this — I wanted to simplify things so that:

  • Responses were no longer stored as hard-coded strings in code.
  • There was a way for non-developers to easily contribute, edit and update responses.
  • We had a solution that easily…

Yesterday morning, instead of heading to the Sage offices for work, I headed to the Jury’s Inn hotel in the centre of Newcastle, for the Alexa Skills 201 workshop. As usual, my fellow developers, Carl Cheel and Lee Gilmore were keeping me company.

The workshop was hosted by Amazon Alexa’s Andrea Muttoni (Technical Evangelist, Alexa Skills Kit), with help from Jamie Grossman (Alexa Developer Advocate). It was designed to be an advanced workshop with some time to get more hands-on with the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).

The day features an in-depth training course on building skills with the Alexa Skills…

On 8 November 2017, myself and some other Sage colleagues made a trip to London, to attend the #MDBE17 (MongoDB Europe ’17) conference. It was my first time in attendance, and I was really looking forward to it.

Also, since we use MongoDB on a number of projects at Sage, including on the team that I’m part of, I was also hoping to learn some new things that might benefit us.

Anyway… Here’s some of my highlights and key takeaways from the event!

On 3 July 2017, I took part in Dynamo North East’s first hackathon event, as part of their #D17 conference at Durham University.

“Dynamo is a volunteer led group set up with the core mission to ‘Grow the North East IT Economy’ through collaboration, innovation, skills. We are a voice for the sector regionally and nationally and we generate ‘noise’ to promote the region as a hotspot for IT/digital business.”

Before the event

Before the event, we were split in to four teams. Each team was mixed, and included people from local employers like Sage (where I work as a developer), DWP, HMRC…

Che Armstrong

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