Echo vs smartapps for grouping lights


(Pete) #1

Hi all- I’ve been using my ST hub mostly for a shlage lock until yesterday when I received my shipment of 12 sengled bulbs. I got them installed and detected by ST easily enough, and that’s when I began scratching my head- confused as to why there is no easy place to group bulbs to turn them on/off… I’ve searched around and seen various tips to add smartapps, virtual switches, etc… I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it to dig into that, rather than just to do my light grouping in the alexa app which is extremely easy. I’ve already set up my son’s room this way and it’s working fine, including dimming…

The plus side to getting this achieved in the ST app is to have all my controls in one app of course… If I’m able to achieve this in the app, will alexa even pick up this activity from ST, or will I still have to have them grouped in the alexa app for voice control anyways? I tried the ST support chat, as well as the 800 support line, and although they were very pleasant and friendly, couldn’t help me with this request.

Thanks for any info, and please point me in the right direction for any updated how to’s, faqs etc on how to get this grouping done in ST with the least fuss as possible. Thanks!


#2

No question that smartthings makes it harder than it should be. I don’t know why. They used to have a grouping option back in the first version of the hub, but it went away in the fall of 2015 and it’s never been replaced.

It is easy to put bulbs and switches and outlets all together for simple on/off. If that’s all you need, you can use the official smart lighting feature. There’s an FAQ on that in the community – created wiki. You won’t need any virtual devices because you’re going to set the lights up to follow the same one, so just turning on the one you pick to be the Master light will turn them all on.

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=How_to_Group_Lights_Together

But if you want them to dim together or to change color together as a group then you have to use custom code. Again, I don’t know why. I’m tired today so I’m going to leave it other people to explain the various options for that. There are quite a few of them and they do work well, they just aren’t easy to find.

Echo groups, in contrast, are simple and easily discoverable. The problem is they only work for the voice command you issue through Alexa. If that’s all you want, then just use those. But if you want to be able to push a button on a physical remote or use a “magic cube” or have a motion sensor trigger a particular grouping, then you need to use smartthings, and then you need to start exploring the various options.

I wish I had a better answer, but it’s just not a feature that smartthings has prioritized. :disappointed_relieved:


#3

If you create a virtual switch in ST and create a Smart Lighting rules or a Routine or a webCoRE Piston to turn on and off all of these lights together then you have your automation in SmartThings.

Then from Alexa to add voice control, create two Routines in Alexa.

“Alexa - Turn off All Lights” and this turns the virtual switch off in SmartThings and when that switch turns off, the Automation that you created in SmartThings will turn off all lights.

Create a 2nd routine that turns the switch on “Alexa - Turn all lights on”

This is one way you can go about this and you don’t need to create a group of lights anywhere.

I’m going to assume that you dont want all 12 bulbs on and off at the same time so you will scale your routines for specific sets of lights.


(Pete) #4

Thanks for the link. I came across that wiki last night but I feel like something is missing from it- or I perhaps I was just missing something. I didn’t see anything in the app about selecting a “master” bulb, nor did I know what to select at the next step “how do you want to trigger the action”… If I selected active/inactive, then it wanted me to specify acceleration sensors, etc… I don’t feel like that wiki explains everything as far as just setting up a group to turn on/off together- maybe you can help me figure it out or tell me what I’m missing, thanks!

Also- you actually can “push button on/off” groups on the alexa app… I don’t know if it was recently added, but I can tell her, or open the app and see/control that group including pushing on or off, but I see your point about not being able to use with other automations and remotes.

To the 2nd post- I’ll be distributing these bulbs into bedrooms, so while I might want the ability to shut all the lights off, it’s more important to control these by room… I’m trying to understand what the difference is between what you’re describing and just creating 2 routines for each room (on and off). That’s really what I’m trying to avoid is having to create 2 separate “on” and “off” functions for every room I’m setting up. I’d just like to be able to toggle the rooms/groups with ST app, while also being able to do the same with echo voice control.


(John) #5

Used TrendSetter. It’s a SmartApp that you setup once. Then you go into the SmartApp and create a group. The groups you can create a specific to their capabilities. (i.e. switch, dimmer, color lights and power meter). But they are all groups of real switches/bulbs with similar functions. One the group is created than it acts as a group even if you individually change one light the status of the group changes. The groups look like any other “things” to Alexa and can be used as such.


#6

I think what was missing from the wiki article was the fact that the system will consider anything a “switch” which can turn on and off, so that includes a bulb, a pocket socket, an in wall receptacle: any of those can be the master “switch.”

We have updated the wiki article to more clearly explain that and added two additional screenshots, so see if it makes more sense now. :sunglasses:

http://thingsthataresmart.wiki/index.php?title=How_to_Group_Lights_Together


(Pete) #7

Thanks all for the tips. The updated wiki made a lot more sense and I was able to get it working… I was also messing around with routines and was able to set up the same time of behavior in routines (master with other lights following)- the main difference seems to be that I have to create 2 routines for on/off, where as the smartlights has the option to do both in one. I’m still going to play around with trendsetter when I get a chance and see if it’s a little more “graceful”…

Also need to see about having a light turn on multiple schedules in a day without having to create multiple routines for each bulb/bulbs… i.e. Turn patio lights on from 6-8 am, and again at 6-11 pm… Maybe the functionality is there, but if it is I haven’t found yet… I love all the capabilities in ST, but man it seems like some fundamental stuff for the lighting is really lacking…