FAQ: Can I trigger an Echo Action without Speaking to It?

WARNING - WARNING - WARNING

In late April 2020, Samsung released a new smartthings skill for Alexa. If you are using the previous skill and you disable it, you will not be able to go back to it. Instead, when you re-enable the skill, you will get the new one. And the new one can be glitchy.

As of July 2020, the big bug remaining for Alexa routines is that the new skill cannot see all of the child devices in smartthings. So some people have lost control of things like a Fibaro two dimmer and some fan controls.

Also, from time to time since April, sometimes for a couple of weeks at a time, the skill has just stopped working for some people. No predicting why or when it will get fixed again. There’s nothing that we as individual customers can do about it. It just gets fixed again eventually. When it breaks, it is broken for both virtual and physical sensors. You can see the sensor change, but the routine doesn’t trigger. This is clearly a smartthings issue since routines will still work for other platforms. So you can use this method, just be aware that it might suddenly stop working for a while. :disappointed_relieved:

Finally, the original skill allowed you to authorize individual smartthings-controlled devices for exposure to Alexa. The new skill exposes everything at all your locations at once. There have been many customer complaints about this for different reasons, and employees have said that they are looking into going back to the individual approval option, but that was back in the summer of 2020 and it hasn’t happened yet. The only way to remove individual smartthings -controlled devices from Alexa control is to go into the Alexa app and individually disable them.

See New SmartThings Alexa skill (2020) - #115 by JDRoberts for discussion of the glitches.

END WARNING

Breaking News!!! As of August 2018, a SmartThings-connected Contact or Motion Sensor can now trigger an Amazon echo routine if you live in the US, Canada, or the UK !!!

Amazon has now added the ability for some sensors to trigger an Amazon echo routine (not a smartthings routine), which does let you trigger other smart home devices which are not connected to SmartThings without having to speak an echo command! Or you can set it up so that your echo devices will speak a customized phrase, play a doorbell chime, or various other sound effects. :tada:

And even better, that contact sensor can be a virtual contact sensor. So you can set up the logic on the SmartThings side however you want, then use webcore to set the virtual contact sensor open or closed as you need it, and that will trigger the echo routine. Or you can use a custom DTH which is both a virtual contact sensor and a virtual switch, and then turning the switch on will mark the sensor as “opened.“ So then you don’t need webcore, you can just turn the switch on and off with the official smartlights feature. :sunglasses::bulb:

The setup using a physical contact sensor is very easy. The set up using a virtual contact sensor is more work, but may well be worth it.

This now works for US, Canada, and UK accounts. It is likely that more countries will be added in the future, just check your Alexa app to see what’s possible.

December 2020 Update

If you live in the United States, Amazon has now added the ability for a “custom action” as the last step in a routine. This allows you to have a routine do anything that you can speak to Alexa. This is a great way to add partial Integration with devices/skills that work with Alexa but not with smartthings. However, it is still only one way: you can have smartthings as the “if“ using the virtual Sensor method and the other device/skill as the “that“, but not the other way around for most items.

See the following How To article in the community-created wiki for details, including a DTH if you want to use the combined sensor/switch method.

(and in particular, if echo can see your sensor but the sensor will not trigger an echo routine, follow the steps in the how to article exactly and that will fix that problem. :sunglasses: )

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

We should also mention that as of November 10, 2018, Amazon echo buttons (two for $20, about the size of a deck of cards) can also trigger an echo routine. So you can press the button and have the echo routine turn on a virtual switch which then triggers pretty much anything you want in SmartThings. :rocket: The button won’t be visible to smartthings, but it’s a nice alternative means of control if you already have an echo in that room.

Also, as of November 2019, they have also added some sound effects options, including doorbell chimes, a dog barking, and sirens. Thanks to @fido for pointing that out in another thread!

And as of March 2021, Flic buttons are another physical button that can be used to trigger an Amazon routine. They don’t have a direct Integration with smartthings, but if you just want a parallel means of control, this is another option.

Flic buttons now trigger Alexa Routines (March 2021)

Old Information from prior to August 2018*

If this were a wiki entry, I would delete everything in this post from this point on. But because it’s part of a discussion thread, I’m going to leave the old information so that the comments in the remaining posts still make sense. But remember that as of August 28, the answer to this question is now yes, you can, using the Contact sensor method, as long as you are in the US or the UK.

If you are outside the regions where Amazon support this, then you would have to use the older method detailed below.


This question gets asked a lot, mostly because the echo can work with so many different devices, including many that don’t integrate directly with SmartThings. So many people would like to be able to turn on a virtual switch in SmartThings and have that cause echo to activate one of its own echo groups or echo routines.

Prior to August 2018, the only thing that you could do was pretty weird, but it does work, and some community members are using it.

What they did was set up an inexpensive android device right next to an echo device, and then automate that android device speaking a command that the echo will understand.

IMG_4845

This will work fine. It’s just a little strange to set up an automated speaker so you can avoid personally speaking to the echo. :upside_down_face: And of course it doesn’t solve those use cases were the reason you didn’t want to speak to the echo was because you wanted quiet.

If you have a device that can do text to speech (TTS) like a Sonos or some of the other DNLA speakers, you could also use that in the same way, and then the implementation is really simple, because there are already official features in SmartThings to cause a Sonos or similar device to speak a notification. Or use the community-created smartapp Big Talker.

IMG_4846

If you don’t already have this kind of speaker, again, you can just get an android device and use LANnouncer, although the technical set up for that one is much more complex. (LANnouncer can even be triggered by IFTTT recipes without having smartthings in the middle.)

Both of these are based on the same idea: you are going to automate when the second device speaks a specific phrase, and then echo will react to that phrase being spoken just as it would to a person saying it.

So there you have it. You set up automation to tell your second speaker device to say a specific phrase when a specific event happened, and then your echo responds to that just as it would to person saying the same phrase.

that’s the only method that was available until August 2018. But now you can use to contact sensor method instead.

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Thanks for this @JDRoberts! I do use the Amazon Fire Tablets in conjunction with Echo Devices to trigger music and feedback for certain ST Events. It works well! Actually quite well.

I use LANnouncer and the TTS voice synthesizer for the Amazon Fire Tablets is actually quite pleasing. Having a Fire Tablets connected to the Echo Devices also offers visual feedback for the Echo Devices.

Finally, when you add Action Tiles to the equation, you get a whole lot of bang for buck!

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Nice write-up. Here’s one very specific question which I’m not sure I’ve heard covered yet.

Let’s say you have a Sonos speaker which has the Echo device built in to it. Can you use one of those to “talk to itself”? In other words, can it speak and listen at the same time?

I believe the maker channel has been renamed/replaced with the Webhooks service. More info on using Notify Me with IFTTT can be found here: http://www.thomptronics.com/notify-me#IFTTT

Is there a way to make a web request in SmartThings without IFTTT? If there is, SmartThings could use Notify Me without the IFTTT “middleman.”

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Yes, as @Darwin points out below, you can do it with WebCore.

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You should be able to use a WebCore “make a web request” task as an action directly:

URL (value): https://api.notifymyecho.com/v1/NotifyMe?notification=Hello%20World!&accessCode=ACCESS_CODE

Method (value): GET

Content Type (value): FORM

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Thanks! I will need to look into this one.

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Hi Ron,
I am looking to setup things similar to what you describe in your post. I am hoping to enable a switch in smartthings (virtual?) to send a custom phrase to an Android device with lannouncer. This device would be positioned such that it is in earshot of a dedicated Echo I have hardwired to a computer running Airfoil. The Alexa routine I currently have configured (works when I speak to the Echo) sets an airfoil speaker to a specific volume and launches a specific Pandora station. I was successful in setting up lannouncer and can play a siren sound on the device from smartthings. I’m stuck as to where to go from here in regards to sending a specific phrase to lannouncer via smartthings. Is there a specific smartapp I’m missing? Any help or direction would be appreciated!
-Dave

I use webCoRE for pretty much all of my rules…well any new rules.

Here’s an example of TTS using webCoRE.

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Thanks for sharing the example. I’ve heard of webCoRE but don’t know much about it. Time to learn!

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Webcore has its own forum, there Will be lots of people there to help you. :sunglasses:

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Ron…thanks for following up with this example! I am hoping to tie a virtual switch within Smartthings (and eventually Action Tiles) to an almost identical Piston. I successfully installed WebCoRE last night and will hopefully have time later this week to try things out. The possibilities seem endless with WebCoRE! Thanks again for taking the time to share this information.

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Are you using anything in addition to Lannouncer (ie Big Talker) to enable text to speech in your setup? I created an identical piston to the simple example you provided. The only change I had to make was to set ttsdevice 'Unknown Device 7" to the Lannouncer device in my setup. The piston appears to execute without any issues. However, no speech can be heard coming from my tablet running Lannouncer. I used CURL to send the same command on one of my computers and received the response “LANNOUNCER: OK” indicating, I believe, that my Lannouncer configuration is correct. One other thing I did notice is that under the settings for audio volumes in Lannouncer, the item “Volume Setting for Text To Speech” is greyed out. The documentation for Lannouncer is fairly detailed but I cannot seem to find any specific information about this particular setting. Have you or others ever come across this issue?

Only using LANnouncer on Fire Tablets and a couple of other off branded tablets. The only thing I really change is the setting Enable GCM. (Don’t know if this matters but I remember having issues at first so I always click it)

Make sure that LANnouncer is running in the background.

Am I correct in understanding that to-date it’s still not possible to have a Alexa routine run by itself from ST? Alexa has routines that allows me to make custom TTS announcements, but unless I actually schedule it to run or speak to trigger it, then it just won’t play. So I have a wifi speaker which works with TTS and I am able to get webCoRE to speak custom TTS . So I’m thinking maybe if i put a echo dot and this speaker next to each other, housed in some enclosure to prevent sound escaping and then put it somewhere like the loft on low volume and then trigger alexa routines by the TTS wifi speaker speaking to the echo do, will that work? Only concern would be the potential of heat buildup if i place the devices inside a enclosure to sound-proof it.

Sorry, the first post in this thread was pretty confusing, but I have now edited it and it should make more sense.

The very good news is that as of August 2018, you can indeed have an Alexa routine run based on an event occurring in SmartThings. It’s just that the only events that it recognizes are motion sensors and contact sensors. But it will work with a virtual contact sensor. Please see the first post in this thread now that it has been edited and I think everything will be clear. :sunglasses:

Sorry am I missing something? When i load the Alexa app and go to Routines to create a new routine, under the when this happens am I supposed to be able to select a contact sensor? because all I can seem to select is Voice or Schedule

Please read the discussion thread linked to in the first post. There are some quirks in getting everything set up, and if you read through that thread it will explain The details. ( this is a clickable link)

So it seems maybe it isn’t available in the UK yet. That’s a real shame. This feature is soo overdue and now it’s here, how long do we in the UK have to wait? Why are Amazon so slow at rolling things out outside of USA?

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