2020 New Alexa Routines Features (locks, guard, custom actions)

If you’ve been using Alexa routines (not smartthings routines) to get partial integration between smartthings and third-party devices/skills that work with Alexa but not smartthings, Amazon has added some new features over the last couple of months that you might find helpful. So I thought we could use a quick roundup of the ones added in the second half of 2020.

The following are all available in the US, but may not have yet rolled out to other countries.

  1. Routine triggers.

A) In addition to sensors and Echo buttons, you can now use locks locking, unlocking or jamming as a trigger. :sunglasses:

B) you can also use arming or disarming guard as a trigger.

C) you can use setting any of the three ring security modes as a trigger. This is also available with some of the other approved security systems, such as ADT.

  1. Routine actions

A) if you choose guard as the action, you can arm it.

B) The newest feature is really big news: you can now add one “custom action“ as the last action for a routine. This let you type in anything that you would say to an echo device and it will be processed just as if you had said it. So this gives you full one way integration with anything that has an Alexa skill. (Hopefully in the future they will add the ability to have multiple custom actions or to chain them, but it’s not there yet.) :wink:

C) if you have a fire TV device, it will now show up in action, which is mostly useful if you want to pause it at the same time that you are changing light settings. But you may have other uses for it too.

  1. Other features

A. Amazon has added a bunch of pre-created routines for people to start with.

B. You can also now “share“ routines. I’m not quite sure what that’s for, but it’s there.

These new features are detailed on the new splashy splash page for routines:


Good job ! :+1:
But I don’t understand this utility …
It’s like to start another routine ?
Can you give me one example what would you use it?

I use it to automatically show our ring doorbell on a Echo show when it detects motion. You add “show doorbell” as the action (or whatever your camera name is) and it automatically shows up. This previously wasn’t possible.


Say you have a robot vacuum that has its own app with schedules, and its own Alexa integration. So if you say “Alexa, tell vacuum to clean Michael’s room” it starts a schedule to do that from the vacuum’s own app.

Now you could use the custom action to, for example, start that schedule every day at 4 pm but only if Michael is not home, an option that is not available in the vacuum’s own app. :sunglasses:

For another example, some people use Alexa with IFTTT. With a custom action, you could add “trigger my raspberry pi widget” to an Alexa routine, and automate the IFTTT request that way.

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@JDRoberts have you seen any of these new features mentioned in Amazon’s weekly “What’s new with Alexa” emails? They seem to focus mainly on content instead of smart home features.

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Not yet, but they just put up the new splash page a few days ago, and that’s the same way they’ve handled most rollouts, such as new accessibility features or Guard. First a blog or supportbase article to give the journalists and influencers time to explore it and write about it. Then a mention in the Alexa emails about six weeks later. The only exception To this pattern that I’ve seen have been holiday-linked features. But otherwise the blast emails do seem to trail behind the other announcements by a few weeks.

First release to the public :stuck_out_tongue:Then blog and publish.

I used the custom action to make voice controlling mySmartBlinds more user friendly. For example, you can create an Alexa Routine that is triggered by the phrase “Alexa, open the bedroom blinds”, and it will run a custom action that sends the more verbose command of “Tell my smart blinds to open the bedroom blinds.” I created a routine for every open and close blind combination in the house. I also created a few time scheduled routines to open and close specific blinds. (I trust Alexa to consistently fire routines at the desired time than the mysmartblinds cloud.)

The custom actions also provide a path for triggering mySmartBlinds commands from Smartthings events. You’ll have to do a bit of Rube Goldberging using a virtual switch that also reports as a sensor to Alexa.

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Just remember there’s a maximum of 99 Alexa routines per account… :wink:


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Good to know. I’m at 70 routines.

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The only thing that stinks with alexa routines is its inability to select multiple speakers to play voice.

Messaging > send announcement and you can choose specific echo devices to speak from.

You can have multiple speakers say the same thing, if that’s what you’re asking. But you do it by using announcements as the action in the routine . You can then select “all devices“ or individual echo devices to speak the announcement.


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I didnt know that @JDRoberts. I’m gonna change that over to.announcements. thank you.

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@JDRoberts @prjct92eh2 I revamped all my routines with alexa yesterday & even redid some automatons in smartthings & want to say thank you again. I keep running into 1 small problem & maybe you can help. I have 3 virtual switches created but everytime I create the 4th one, it says checking status so I then hit the switch to turn on or off & checking status is gone. It appears in alexa but when I hit the switch in smartthings the voice automation is bot working. I’m using the simulated alexa switch in smartthings devices. My 3 other switches work. Any help is appreciated.

Please start a new thread for this, it’s offtopic here. Thanks. :sunglasses:

I love this “custom” feature. I am using this as a replacement for Echo Speaks since SmartThings decided to (awfully) shut down the integration and that is sorely missed. I’m sure people were doing much more with ES, but my use case was to simply give different welcome messages when I came home.

I ended up using the “facts” Alexa skill and edited it for my purposes. I called that skill “home welcome”. Now, when I come home part of my webCoRE routine is to flip a virtual switch, which is in Alexa, and that switch triggers the “home welcome” routine which chooses from a random list of responses I’ve written. Did it today. Obv a work around from ES but works perfectly. You do have to have the virtual switch changed to (simulated Alexa switch) in the IDE so Alexa can see it. Want to say I did something before that, but I forget.

But very happy I can enable my use case again.

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With no ES anymore, I use it to say “I’m home” and it can turn off guard. Never understood why Alexa allows you to enable guard in a routine but not disable. This work around is just fine though.

This is standard in the security industry for residential products. Customers can automatically arm a system, but not automatically disarm it. The theory is that someone might accidentally disarm it and not realize that and that the risk to the household is much greater than if they accidentally arm it. Many of the off-the-shelf security systems work in exactly this way. You can set them up to automatically arm at a specific time of day, for example, but not to disarm. There are also quite a few with apps that will send you a notification to remind you to disarm, but won’t do it without your approval. I believe the industry term is “conscious disarming.“

So it’s not surprising that Amazon went this way, even if it is annoying. :wink:

Here’s a recent discussion from the simplisafe forum. You can see that people are very surprised that you can’t schedule an automatic disarm, but you can’t.

I do know that, however…Considering guard a security system is a bit of a stretch lol it’s like considering sthm a security system. It just isn’t the case