Gift Idea: DIY Smart Picture Frame For Grandparents

Gifting Your SmartHome Skills
Hopefully if you’ve been reading this Home Automation Secrets Newsletter, you’ve developed some Ninja Powers implementing or upgrading your smart home.

But have no fear, even home automation newbies might appreciate the quick tip I have for you this week.

Combining my interest with smarthome gadgets and the holiday season, I’ve come with a novel twist on the all but forgotten smart picture frames.

The Classics
The smart picture frame has actually been around for over 10 years or more.

It’s a small flat panel computer screen with a processor and memory inside. Some of them can take removable memory cards and some also have Wi-Fi or cellar Internet connections.

They are designed to do one thing – display a set of digital photographs constantly rotating between them.

Unlike a regular picture frame, the images displayed in a smart frame can either be manually updated by changing the memory card, or automatically through the Internet.

”Set It And Forget It”
With all due respect to Ron Popeil, the prolific gadget inventor and original informercial star, the genius marketing phrase he coined fits the smart picture frame perfectly.

Just configure it, load it with photos, and then send it your loved one. They simply plug it in and voilà – a never ending photo slide show.

It’s the perfect gift for Grandparents and other non-tech savvy people.

Easy to share photos of your little ones without them having the hassle of using a computer or even an iPad to login and then navigate email or Facebook.

Every Product Has It’s Price
As a special one-function product, smart picture frames are not cheap. They can range in price from $150 to several hundred dollars or more.

Not too bad, but remember, they are a single function device. Simple to use, but not expandable, not usable for anything else.

Call Me Crazy or Brilliant
I just got an email from Amazon promoting their existing, but relatively unknown, photo cloud service.

Suddenly I had a lightbulb moment – why not use the Amazon Echo Show devices as smart picture frames?

They have everything needed – a flat panel screen, an Internet connection, and even a simple voice interface.

The kicker is they cost much less than the specialized smart picture frames and can do so much more.

The key is they are practically loss-leaders for Amazon as they sell them for not much more over cost because they want you as an Amazon customer.

It’s Child’s Play For Us Smart Home Geeks
I did some experimentation and sure enough, it is totally straightforward and works without any special hacks or kludgy behind-the-back tricks.

Here’s what makes it work:

The Amazon Echo Show has a configuration option to display your uploaded photographs on a rotating basis on the home screen. It will still have a small clock in the corner, but that’s not an issue for me.

Buy one of the Amazon Echo Show devices – they come in multiple screen sizes:

Echo Show 5 – Compact smart display
Echo Show 8 – HD 8 inch smart display
Echo Show 10 (2nd Generation)– Large 10.1 inch smart display

And then this is the most important step: Configure it for your Amazon account even though you are going to send (or bring it) to Grandma/Grandpa and install it in their home.

You will probably have to set it up on their Wi-Fi connection for them, so either deliver it in person or arrange to hand-hold getting it working on their Wi-Fi.

Now install the Amazon photo app on your smartphone or tablet. Don’t allow it to automatically backup your photos or upload anything.

Just upload only the photos you want displayed into the Amazon cloud. You can keep it simple or create multiple folders to organize them.

Configure the Echo Show to not use the default background and instead to display what they call “personal photos” from the uploaded photos.

You could disable all the other Alexa features by sliding the privacy switch (or disassembling the cover and disabling it internally), but why bother?

You might just find Grandma/Grandpa enjoying music and asking Alexa questions.

Just be sure and disable “voice ordering” or at least make sure you have a secret PIN code so they can’t inadvertently or intentionally start ordering stuff on your account.

If you want more security, just sign-up for a new free Amazon account and register the device to that account. You’ll just have to remember to login to that account when you upload photos, but not a bad trade-off for better security.

What Do You Think?
Is this a good idea or crazy?


Automation technologist and problem solver

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