It has taken me two weeks to get my Amazon Echo + SmartThings + Harmony Home Control to work properly. It’s been painful, but I’m LOVING the results! I have also installed/configured SmartTiles. So, from ANY browser/device, I can not only see what’s happening at home, but also control it!
I didn’t create momentary buttons/switches. Instead, I created “normal” virtual switches (aka Simulated Switches.) I then leveraged the Logitech Harmony Trigger “smart-app” to fire based on these switches being turned “on.” This Trigger then kicks-off the respective “Activity” on the Harmony hub.
Side note: Initially, I couldn’t get my Harmony hub to be discovered by SmartThings. The “issue” = I had a “ghost” hub entry in MyHamony. This was causing somewhat of a naming conflict with SmartThings (e.g. two hubs, with the same IP address?..) Once I deleted the ghost entry, everything paired-up perfectly. How did the ghost entry occur in the first place? Reason: Initially, my laptop was broken. So, I installed the MyHarmony app on my wife’s laptop, and configured the Harmony hub/remote/keyboard. When my laptop was finally revived, I installed the MyHarmony app onto my laptop, and then tried to change/update my Harmony hub. Instead of just seeing/changing the EXISTING hub, it created a whole-NEW hub within the MyHarmony app. Again, I just deleted the unused/ghost hub, and everything installed “business as usual,” thereafter.
What I then did, was set-up “home automation” device events within the Harmony activities. These “control” the status of the “virtual/simulated switches.” e.g. When the TV is turned off, it then turns-off the SmartThings switch, too (via the Exit Event.) My media server is hooked-up to the TV, too. And, I also have an activity that launches a smart-app (Plex) on the TV. So, no matter which activity I run – my “switches” reflect an ACCRUATE status (on when on, and off when off.)
The only thing that I had to do “special,” was create a unique “all off” switch. I simply created a simulated switch named “Entertainment Center.” So, if/when I want to truly turn things off, I just say, “Alexa, turn off the entertainment center.”
“Alexa, turn on the TV.”
“Alexa, turn on Plex.”
“Alexa, turn on Merlin.” (That’s the name of my PC media server.)
I can say any of the above when things are off, or on.
If I’m watching TV, I can then say, “Alexa, turn on Merlin” – and the screen will change to HDMI-2, and my PC will use the TV as a monitor. Similarly, my Harmony keyboard “changes modes,” too (and indeed WORKS with the PC!)
But, I can NOT say:
“Alexa, turn off TV.”
“Alexa, turn Merlin.” nor
"Alexa, turn off Plex."
Instead, I just say, “Alex, turn off entertainment center.”
On top of all that, I’ve ALSO added most of our channel-changing operations into the same set-up.
So, we can say,
“Alexa, turn on ESPN.”
“Alexa, turn on TNT.”
“Alexa, turn on Bravo.”
Again, I have Smart-Tiles for ALL of this. So, I can not only see if someone’s watching TV in our home, but I can ALSO see what channel they are watching!
As we change from one channel, to the next – the “active” channel switch/tile is illuminated as “on” – and the old/previous channel then goes dim/grey. Similarly all of these channel-changing events are now “logged” as “events” in SmartThings and SmartTiles.
Since I want the Echo (Alexa) to be as conversational as possible – especially for guests – I added “groups” within Alexa, to create “alias” names.
e.g. “Disney” is the name of my Disney switch.
So, WE would typically say, “Alexa, turn on Disney” – and she will (optionally turn on the TV-related stuff) and then tune to the Disney channel.
But, I have added the following “groups:” within Alexa:
Each one of these groups only has one single device/switch (the “Disney” switch.)
So, if guests say, “Alexa, turn on the Disney Channel” – she will indeed switch to “Disney.”
This is especially true for long-name alias. WE say “TBS.” But, we have no idea how our visitors/guests will say it? They might say “Turner?” Or, “Turner Network?” or, “Turner Broadcasting” or “Turner Channel” or “Turner Broadcasting Station” or, incorrectly “Turner Broadcasting System.” So, I have aliases (groups) for ALL of these.
Yup, with DIRECT and hundreds of channels, it’s a LOT of devices, and even MORE “groups” within Alexa. But, we’re enjoying the results! We can be in the kitchen with something playing in the living room. If we don’t like what comes on next (while we are cooking, with dirty hands, etc.) we can just say, “Alexa, turn on _______.” – and then watch/hear something different.
Again, all of this WORKS if you also use the Harmony app on the SmartPhone, or if you manually kick it from within the SmartThings app, or via automated routines (e.g. HLN comes on automatically with the living room lights every morning when I activate the motion detector in the hallway – Monday thru Friday - between 6am and 8am PST.)
All of this also WORKS if I change the statuses via SmartTiles, too.
Sure, I wish cable/satellite companies would “get on the bandwagon” and make their devices “Alexa-compliant” – so we don’t have to use/configure all of these “middle-man” devices/scripts. PLUS, I don’t really adjust “button” types of events via Alexa. Thus, no volume control, no “guide,” no “exit,” no “select.” no directional arrows, no PageUp/Down, no “menu,” etc. After all, who wants to say, “Alexa, turn on the Guide. Alexa, turn on the down arrow. Alexa, turn on the down arrow. Alexa, turn on the right arrow. Alexa, turn on the right arrow. Alexa, turn on Select.” <— That’s just too unnatural, and too much gobbledygook!
Anyway, we wish you luck!!! It takes the patience of a saint to get all this figured out.