FAQ: Alexa Voice Commands to turn a ST routine/scene off? (SmartThings Classic)

I configured a new SmartThings hub this morning and have paired it up with Alexa. I created two new routines, Christmas Lights Off and Christmas Lights On from within the SmartThings App. I couldn’t get Alexa to run the commands until I figured i had to say "Alexa Turn On (then the Routine name).

For example “Alexa, turn on Christmas lights off”. This command is a bit confusing and my kids were laughing at me saying why turn on when you want to turn something off. Am I doing something wrong?

If I say “Alexa, Christmas lights on” or “Alexa, Christmas lights off” Alexa responds with “a few things share that name, which one did you want?”

What am I doing wrong?

What actions does your routine perform?

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You’re not doing anything wrong: scenes and routines can only be turned on, not off, in many home automation systems, including Alexa.

There are two different approaches for handling this. In the first one, you will just change the phrase that you say. In the second one, you will change the trigger for the routine.

1) find a good “turn on” phrase

So the challenge for this method is to find a phrase that you will be comfortable saying after “echo, turn on…”. You can change the name of the routine in SmartThings or you can just put it into an echo group with the name that you want to say.

At our house, we use

Shut down

Quiet time

Bedtime

Midnight

Blackout.

So “echo, turn on Bedtime” turns on a single pathway of lights from the living room to the bedroom, and turns off all of the audio video equipment any other lights.

“Echo, turn on blackout” turns off everything, etc.

We’ve also found that we prefer the “trigger blackout” phrasing available through IFTTT for some things, but that’s a personal decision.

This option is easy to set up, but may still not feel quite natural.

2) create a virtual switch you can turn off, and have that switch turning off be the trigger for your routine

This next option is less intuitive when you go to set it up, but it will give you much more natural phrasing.

What you are going to do here is create a virtual Switch. And then you create a routine so that when you turn the switch off your routine will run.

The set up instructions for this option are going to be harder to follow because of The extra step of having a virtual switch. But you’ll end up with an easier phrase to say.

Create a virtual switch with the name that you want to turn off.

This can be the same as the name that you want to turn on, although we are going to activate two different routines. So let’s just call it “Christmas lights.”

Now for your routine that turns on your Christmas lights, have it automatically activate when the switch “Christmas lights” turns On. (This will be one of the options you can pick when you are creating the routine)

Then have a second routine that turns off your Christmas lights and have it automatically activate when the switch “Christmas lights” turns off.

You can name the two routines anything you want because you’re not going to say those names to echo. You are just going to say the switch name. You may even want to give them your routine names something very distinct from the switch name, so if you call the switch “Christmas lights” you might want to call the routines “holiday decor turns on” and “holiday decor turns off” or something like that.

So one virtual switch, two states (on or off) and two routines in SmartThings. One to turn on the lights that activates when the virtual switch is turned on, and one to turn off the lights when the virtual switch is turned off.

Now for echo, all you have to do is say “Echo, turn on Christmas lights” and the routine that runs when your switch comes on will run and the lights will come on.

And then say “Echo, turn off Christmas lights” and the routine that runs when the virtual switch goes off a run and the lights will go off

Very important: note that with this method you are not activating the actual routines or scenes through echo. You are turning a virtual switch on and off and that switch changing state is triggering SmartThings routines ( which can include SmartThings scenes if you like). Also because Echo thinks it is just turning the switch on and off, you can include options in the smartthings routine that would not normally be available for echo control, like arming smart home monitor or locking the front door.

This is one of the situations were having smartthings involved gives you more options than just trying to use the built-in echo functions.

So this method should do exactly what you want, it’s just more work to set up because of the need for virtual switches. :sunglasses::level_slider:

here’s the FAQ for creating a virtual switch in case you haven’t done that before.

If you need any help with the actual set up, others will have to help you since I cannot use the app at the present time.

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If you go with how you are doing it now, just rename the Routines to

Christmas Time = On
Bah Humbug = Off

Alexa, turn on “Christmas Time or Bah Humbug”

If you want to do it another way that works more naturally, then:

  1. Create a virtual switch in SmartThings as @JDRoberts specified above
  2. Have two Routines in SmartThings:
  • XMAS LIGHTS OFF -Trigger when virtual switch turns off
  • XMAS LIGHTS ON - Trigger when virtual switch turns on
  1. Go into Alexa and create two new Routines
  • 1st Routine when you say " Alexa, Turn on Christmas Lights"
  • Select the Virtual Device you created and set that to On
  • Save it
  • 2nd Routine when you say “Alexa, Turn off Christmas Lights”
  • Select the Virtual Device you created and set that to Off
  • Save it

Now wait up to 1 minute so she can store it.

Now you have your natural way of telling her to turn the lights on or off.

The XMAS LIGHTS ON and OFF Routines do not need to be in Alexa. They will run from ST when the Virtual Switch is turned On/Off from Alexa.

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You can also do it directly as a Group in Alexa. - Even add non ST wifi plugs.

Yeah it depends on if you want scenes or groups/rooms. It also helps if all your devices don’t have ‘lights’ in their name.
If you want some things on and some off, go with a scene. Use a unique name so Alexa doesn’t get confused. If she still has trouble, a virtual switch or an IFTTT recipe that triggers a scene is an alternative.
Everything else though is easier to just do a room/group in the echo app. I have our different zones in the house set up plus one called ‘everything’. Makes it easy to shut it all down.

Wow, what a wealth of information. Thank you all for some great tips, I truly appreciate it.

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you such a genius. I finally find a way to trigger " automation off". I have a new question. do you have any solution for auto light off ? I DON’T like to use motion sensor for this, such as no motion detect then… because Some time I lying on bed in the room but do not want the light off, and some time I want the light off but if I move the light turn on. the motion sensor only focus on motion which is no good, any idea for that?

I don’t think the device handler for telepathy/mind reading has been written yet.

Seriously how would Smartthings know what trigger to use for auto light off when you’re lying in bed?

This is a very common challenge. See the following topic:

Best logic to automate bedroom lights

Note that using Alexa Routines can eliminate the need for virtual switches and SmartThings routines - so long as you don’t mind maintaining the Routine’s actions from within the Alexa app. Just create an Alexa Routine that runs when you say “Alexa, It’s Christmas Time”, and have it turn on all of the ST Switches you want turned on; ditto for “Alexa, Bah Humbug!” turning things off. You can even have Alexza give you back a contextually correct response (you say: “Alexa, Bah Humbug” (…lights shut off…) Alexa says “I know, right?”)

You can get pretty creative with this, like turning on Hue Scenes, or SmartThings Routines (just have each routine include a virtual switch as one of its triggers - then have the Goodnight! Routine turn off the Good Morning/Goodbye virtual switches, etc.). I have the “Alexa, Goodnight” command turn on the Goodnight! virtual switch, which is mirrored across my SmartThings Hub and 4 Hubitat Hubs using HubConnect - and each one closes down/locks/shuts off its respective devices and Apps/Actions…like magic!)

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