Controling Tv and others electronics with ALEXA

I am new to all this and would like to know what devices I need to buy to be able to control TV and other electronics with Amazon Echo ALEXA.
I know I will need the hub but what else?

thank you

Most likely you will need some kind of IR blaster, and exactly what commands you will have available will depend on the IR blaster you choose.

I like the harmony home hub remote. It has decent basic integration with SmartThings, and a new integration is in beta which the testers say expand the capabilities quite a bit. However, you don’t get voice volume control with this integration. Basically, it’s on, off, and switch from one input to another by voice, and then you use the regular handheld button remote (or the Harmony app) for everything else.

I am quadriparetic so voice control is very important to me. I use a combination of smartthings, the harmony home hub (as the IR blaster), IFTTT, and echo to give me natural language voice control for things like

Turn on the TV
Turn on the Roku
Turn on the DVD

Turn power off

Then I would have to use the handheld harmony remote or their tablet app if I wanted to adjust volume or use fast forward.

So it’s not total voice control but it is very nice. More discussion and examples in the following topic:

Because Harmony has its own iPad app, you can combine that with what is called “switch control” or with Apple’s voiceover so that you could get better hands-free control of every button on the Harmony remote. It does work, but it’s very tedious. It’s the way quads use touchscreens when their hands don’t work. But using those methods it can take you literally 10 minutes to change the volume.

So, the Amazon echo integration gives you really nice natural speech control for just turning the TV on and off, or switching to a different Device like a Roku or a DVD player. But at the present time there is no voice control for the adjustment buttons like volume control or fast forward.

So it all comes down to the exact use case you’re trying to solve.

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I have success using Echo --> SmartThings virtual switches (Television, Movie, SmartHub, PowerOff etc) --> Harmony Actions. I just say “Alexa, turn on movie” “Turn on Television” “Turn on silence” (that one is power off action) etc to control the Harmony actions. I have the virtual switches set to turn off after 1 minute so they will always be available to activate again.

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I handle it a little differently–I have each new activity turn off the switches for the other activity, similar to what Harmony does natively.

So when I say “Turn on cable,” it also triggers turning off the Roku and DVD virtual switches.

When I say “Turn on DVD,” it also triggers turning off the DVD and the Cable virtual switches.

And turning off Power also triggers turning off all the device virtual switches.

So each event horizon turns off all the things it isn’t when it turns on the thing it is. :wink:

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Any reason you use a virtual on/off switch w/auto off vs a virtual momentary switch? You would need to create double the switches (one for “on” and one for “off”), and then just use IFTTT to execute different Harmony actions based on which momentary switch is triggered. I don’t have Harmony (yet), so I am eager to hear about other’s setups and the logic behind it. Thanks!

I think it’s just a matter of personal taste as to whether you want to use two momentary switches or one binary switch where you trigger some events from on and some events from off. Either one can work.

Speaking just for myself, I hate writing documentation like “when the TV off switch is on” LOL! :wink: So I would rather just have a TV switch which is on when TV is on and off when the TV is off.

But a lot of people love momentary switches. You can use the momentary button tile device type which is already in the IDE as a virtual device without needing any additional code. It works fine with Echo, but as you mentioned, you need to have two of them if you want to have a event triggered for both “on” and “off”.

Also, the things screen starts to get pretty cluttered when you have two of a bunch of switches.

But again, just more personal style than anything else.

No reason other than the standard virtual switch is the device type I use. If I do the pain of migrating to Hub v2 I may take the chance to use a virtual momentary switch instead. Sounds like a good idea.

I’m not using IFTTT for the Harmony Action control. I’m able to control the Harmony actions with virtual switch on or off change. My Harmony actions were out of date so I went in and wiped out all my ST Harmony smartapps just this morning. Then reinstalled Harmony app so ST could see my new Harmony actions. For whatever reason it has been working this way for a long time. No need to add IFTTT in the middle in my case. I’m not on the Harmony beta either.

I think I’m going to jump back in with the Harmony setup. @JDRoberts There are a lot of threads on this and I’ve read most of the content in them, however, since many things have changed over the life of this integration with SmartThings would you mind verifying my understanding?

I believe I can order the Harmony Hub only, which includes includes an IR blaster, to accomplish ST integration. I would need to use an Android/iOS app for my remote control unless I get the ~$30 Harmony remote also. Then I would use virtual switches (either momentary or otherwise, per your discussion a few messages up).

I’m not clear whether the SmartApp required for this integration is generally available yet. Another thread seemed to indicate that it was in private beta. If I buy the Harmony hub right now would I actually be able to use it?

I was able to hook harmony home activities to a virtual switch that Alexa could control. “Alexa turn TV on/off” “Alexa turn movie on/off” now works, but there is no control over channel, navigation, or volume.

If thinking about using the Harmony unit for media control, I would strongly suggest going ahead and getting the package with the normal remote. The iphone/android app is fine when running, but can be a little bit slow to start up and it’s far less straight forward for any guests that may visit your home. It also has the ability to control switches and dimmers with native buttons. (one remote, instead of needing to use a phone or minimote)

I only used available features in the non-beta version for this. It seems that the newer version will have even more features and improve upon this basic integration.

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It’s true that you don’t need the physical button remote that harmony makes for smartthings integration, but it’s a really nice universal remote and I would also recommend getting it unless you’re one of those people who is fine doing everything on a tablet and you don’t expect to ever have any visitors using the system.

My housemate is the one that got the harmony home for us because he wanted a universal remote anyway, and it said smartthings on the box. He just wanted to be able to toggle the lights from the universal remote and it works great for that.

He frequently has friends over for gaming, and the Harmony remote just sits on the table and anyone can use it. So we like it as a physical remote for that function but you’re right, you don’t have to have it.

I need other hand, as @jr0 points out, at the present time smartthings can only start or end harmony activities. It can’t control volume, use the fast forward, or any other of the small buttons. You can set up an activity that starts a specific channel, but that works best if you just have a couple of favorites, it doesn’t let you go up or down easily.

So it’s not complete voice control. But it’s still nice. And hopefully we’ll get further integration in the future.

As far as any necessary smart apps, the one that’s currently available for general release is all you need to make Alexa voice work, to use SmartThings sensors to trigger harmony activities, and to be able to toggle a few individual devices from the harmony home universal remote.

What you can’t do right now, but is apparently very much improved in the closed beta, is do something in smartthings and have that directly operates harmony-controlled devices.

Just wanted to mention I started a project topic detailing my Alexa/smart things/IFTTT/harmony set up for voice control of turning the TV on and off.

As a quad, I try to have as much voice control as possible, but I haven’t felt justified in buying the $1500 voice IR units, and most of them don’t work very well anyway. They keep thinking the TV dialogue are voice commands.

Xfinity gave me a "voice remote " which is now available to their general customer base, but it’s the kind where you have to push the microphone button and hold it down while you are speaking. And it basically only substitutes for things where you would be trying to type text, like searches. But it works great for that. Saying “find days of future past” is a lot easier than doing that one letter at a time. Interestingly, the part it doesn’t do is the part that’s easy to do with harmony: change inputs from the Cable to Roku or the DVD player, or turn the whole thing off. The reason they make you hold down a microphone button instead of having an awake word, is that always listening uses a huge amount of battery power. Same reason Apple only as Siri always awake when the power is plugged into the phone or tablet.

I can also push a physical button on the harmony universal remote, which is how I do volume changes, but it’s physically quite awkward for me, and tiring.

So I personally use voice with echo to start a harmony activity, including turning everything on and off and changing inputs, I use the Xfinity voice remote for searches, and I use the harmony physical universal remote for volume changes.

For physically able people I think the nicest thing about the voice is that since you are launching a harmony activity, you’re doing the equivalent of a whole bunch of buttons at once if you want. Basically a scene. You can turn on the TV and the Roku, change the input channel to the Roku, select a specific Roku channel to start with, to some of the lights off, and some of the lights to 50%, etc. all with one voice command like “Alexa, turn on movie scene.” And of course for people like me with limited hand function, every button press saved means a lot.


Turns out the Best Buy has the hub plus remote for $109 right now so I got them both. This is a fun ST weekend between this project and the new Samsung speakers (though I’m not impressed with that integration so far but have other reasons to use the speakers anyway).


Cool, that’s a good price!

I also wanted to mention for people looking into these solutions because someone they know has limited hand function, that my occupational therapist had previously recommended the harmony home because it’s a very lightweight remote and it has a textured back unlike the slick back of most universal remotes. She said if you’re the kind of person like me who will drop something in the attempt to pick it up, that the textured back makes a big difference. And I have found that to be true. :sunglasses:

Also, someone with limited hand function may prefer, as I do, to do anything requiring a screen with an actual tablet. That’s because I have some accessibility options on the tablet that I don’t have on the handheld remote. So I got the version of the remote that doesn’t have the screen (you can see the picture in my previous post). Then if I need it, I use the harmony app on the iPad that is mounted on my wheelchair.

I just mention all this for anyone finding this topic because they’re trying to solve the problem for a friend or family member. Sometimes these little details aren’t obvious to the person who doesn’t have the challenges.

So my previous “basket of remotes” had one remote for the television, one remote for the cable set-top box, one remote for the Roku, one remote for the DVD player. And some of them, like the Roku remote, were very difficult for me to use. And I dropped the cable remote all the time, which is why we hadn’t transferred the television functions to that.

Now I have the echo sitting over on a shelf across the room for voice control, the harmony home universal remote (Which everybody uses), and the Xfinity voice remote, which I only use if I want to do a voice search for a particular movie title. I also have the harmony app as one of the apps on my iPad, but I hardly ever use it unless I’m actually changing the harmony set up.

So I went from four remotes which I used every day (all of which were very difficult to use, and all of which I dropped frequently) to one universal remote and one microphone remote which I use maybe once a week when I want to search by title.

Big improvement! But the voice is the best part. :smile:

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I went through the virtual switch vs momentary tile configs last night and settled on the momentary switch since it was a pain to put in the logic which would keep the Harmony device states synchronized with the real device states. However, I wasn’t happy with “Turn on Exit” or similar unnatural commands so I made a virtual switch (not momentary tile) for the power off command and every time I ask for one of my “turn on” activities (DirecTV, Chromecast, or Miracast) it turns on the “TV” virtual switch, which isn’t tied to any event. Then I can say “Turn off the TV” and it all goes off.

There might be a better way to do this but it’s working well for me.


Sounds good! I expect there will be a lot of variations depending on what feels natural to different people and exactly how the home theater is set up for each person. and what synch issues they want to solve.

I’ve added your variation to the discussion under the project topic. I’m sure it will be popular. :sunglasses:

It’s a bit expensive, but I’ve found that a benefit of the Sonos Playbar is that it allows you to send discrete volume commands. Through the amazon-echo-ha-hub and EventGhost I am now able to say “Alexa, set the TV to 20%” and the Sonos Playbar volume will adjust accordingly.

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If anyone here is more familiar with virtual switches, I’m having one small problem. On and off work perfectly as long as the TV is always turned on and off with alexa. If you get the items out of sync, it no longer works correctly. Scenario today: Turned on TV with Alexa. Someone else turned off with remote. The virtual switch was left in the wrong state, so Alexa would not turn the tv back on. A quick toggle of the virtual switch and everything is ok again, but that’s not very elegant. Anyone solve this one yet?

This is discussed at length in the project topic. Two different methods are detailed there for solving the synch issue. :sunglasses:

I’m not using IFTTT, but I’ll go check it out. Thanks

With my devices, turning the virtual switch off within the Harmony end activity action seems to ensure that the state of the virtual switch is correct. (not send it into a loop as I was originally concerned it would) I’ll need to test this out some more and watch the logs. I’ll post back after a few iterations. I’ve turned the TV on and off more than enough for one night. :slight_smile: