SmartThings Community

Smartthings+Echo+Harmony Hub = Voice Controlled TV! (2016 version)

I haven’t seen this posted anywhere, so I thought I’d write up my experience.

I wanted to control my TV, set top box, receiver, etc with my Echo and I’m a bit paranoid about IFTTT. I saw that the new Samsung Smartthings hub is compatible with both Echo and with the Logitech Harmony Hub. Long story short, Alexa can now turn on my TV, receiver, set to the right input, and change channels! I also have two Philips Hue Bloom lights behind my TV and they can be set to different colors depending on the channel. (Syfy and HGTV simply MUST have different colors… obviously :P)

To do this, you set up “Activities” in the logitech harmony hub software. For example, if I want Alexa to be able to tune to HGTV, I create an HGTV activity in the harmony hub software. The activity will turn on the TV, set its input, set the receiver’s input, and turn on the set top box by default. You then edit the Start portion of the activity to add a command to the set top box to set the correct channel. I created separate activities for each channel that I wanted Alexa to tune to: HGTV, Syfy, BBC, CNN, etc. the activities are all identical except for that last step where you set the channel you want on the set top box.

Also, if you want to have your lights change when you change channels, the Harmony hub activity is the place to add it. It can control lots of different kinds of lights. I have it turn off my family room lights (Insteon) and change colors of my Hue lights depending on the channel… because… why not?!

One note of caution, when you set up your devices in the harmony hub, make sure to set the power defaults. By default the harmony hub wants to turn everything off when you change activities. I never want my set top box to go off, so I changed the power settings to be always on.

In the Smartthings software, you add a new entertainment device (buttons and remotes), and add the Harmony Hub. Once you enter your harmony credentials, it will let you chose which Activities you want to import as Smartthings Devices. It will add them as devices with the same name as the harmony activities, except it will add “[Harmony Activity]” to the end of the name. Rename the activities and delete the “[Harmony Activity]” from the name, otherwise Alexa will get confused later.

After the Harmony and the Smartthings hubs are set up, you can then link it in the Alexa app. You select Link to Smartthings hub in the smart home settings. After you enter your smartthings credentials into the alexa app, you will get a dropdown to chose which of your smartthings hubs to use, and then which smartthings devices (the ones you renamed above) you want Alexa to be able to control.

That’s it. Your echo can now turn on your TV and change channels. “Alexa, turn on HGTV” will turn on all of the devices and tune to the correct channel (or if everything is on, it just changes the channel). “Alexa, turn off HGTV” will turn off all of the devices. I also have harmony Activity called The TV, so I can say “Alexa, turn on/off the TV”

It’s working great so far!

The one thing that’s a pain in the butt, is that when you add new Harmony activities, you have to delete the devices from the Smartthings app, and unlink the Smartthings hub from the Echo, and then re-add/re-link everything. Also, sometimes Alexa will say “that device does not support that activity” when you turn the TV off, but it turns off fine.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to find a good solution for this for a while and I’m pleased with how this turned out. I hope this info will be of use!

  • Troy
19 Likes

Take IFTTT out of the picture. take a look at my original post on how to do it.

Yes, I used to use IFTTT and once Alexa integrated natively with SmartThings, the need for IFTTT is no longer there. It’s buried in that thread (although the title can be misleading).

Yes, I think that voice controlled TV and setting up a “movie scene” environment is one of the biggest “wow” factors to impress family and friends. Here is my setup below:


I have a MacMini computer in my setup and I used a solenoid connected to a switch to turn it on.

New to Smartthings, but I followed the steps to this and it is very inconsistent. Sometimes “Alexa” will respond with an Ok after the “turn on…” command and nothing will happen. Other time she will say the device is not found and it will still work, but again the majority of the time nothing happens. Any idea where I may be messing up here?

Just set this up today. Seems to be working well so far, but I do get an occasional voice feedback from Alexa that says something to the effect of the device can’t complete that action, or something of the like. The outcome is still correct, things on on and off as expected, but the feedback is weird. Anyone have any ideas?

So I’m running into a problem when I try to add the channel to the end of the activity. First I tried to have the activity begin on a certain channel, but because of favorites limitations in the harmony software (favorites are limited to a single activity) that doesn’t work. So then I tried adding steps to send the channel number at the end of the activity, i.e. for channel 803 send command “8”, then send command “0”, then send command “3” to my set top box (NVidia Shield). Either the harmony isn’t sending those commands or the STB isn’t receiving them, which is weird.

What’s more, it does work if I set the activity starting channel from my favorites, but then I’m limited to one channel due to the harmony limitations I mentioned above.

Did any of that make sense? Could you clarify exactly how you added the channel commands to the end of the activity?

Thanks!

Trey

When you ass steps to the start sequence in the harmony app there is a box to enter the channel number instead of adding a step for each number

Thanks for the excellent write up. I was able to follow your steps and get it working with harmony, SmartThings and Alexa,
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I found that I don’t need to unlink/relink to add new activities so I Guess that’s been fixed, but there is still the issue of Alexa sometimes saying the command won’t work

I’m interested in how you got your tv to turn off as I could not create that kind of activity until I convinced harmony support to add PwrOn and PwrOff commands to my account

Thanks again for your write up

Frank

Same here. I have also connected my Echo+Smartthings+Harmony after much trial and error. I did it the hard way though. I figured out how to do it on my own, before I read this thread. Like the other posts, the only issue I have is that sometimes Alexis will say she has a problems connecting with the smarttings hub after she successfully turns everything on. One other issue I found was she was not able to understand “Alexis turn on Directv” After much frustration I realized that my pronunciation of Directv was misunderstood. The fix was changing DirecTV to “Smart TV” After that I haven’t had any issues. The other thing I’ve discovered is that she’s better at turning on and off my devices then my Harmony remote. She hasn’t failed me once, other then her error message. My harmony remote on the other hand is more finicky. The last peace of the puzzle I have not completed yet is being able to get Alexis to change channels.

Quick Question why is that when I turn on a activity by the remote control it doesn’t show that it’s on in ST app ?

i have the same issue, Alexa successfully turns on my activities but then gives an error message. anyone have a workaround?

Yup same problem

I have a similar setup using an. ivee instead of an echo. It gives an error sometimes also but works anyway. Maybe someday echo will be able to link directly to harmony. I actually use my harmony app to control everything because the devices update from hue properly. So i have virtual switches in smartthings for room lighting scenes being controlled by harmony.

Now this is not by any means a permanent solution but I did find better consistency by creating virtual buttons and adding harmony activies mixed with some smarthings actions to turn on when a virtual button is used. Echo thinks it is a switch so it doesn’t have a problem.
Here is a link to create virtual switch:


The only problem with this is the polling. If you turn on the TV with echo but turn it off through a remote smarthings still believes the switch is on. So you would have to manually turn the switch off via mobile app to be able to use the virtual switch.
Now if someone can build a virtual button that can link it’s on/off status with a smarthings added harmony activity, then we may be able have a winner.

I successfully created refresh rules for my harmony activities using rule machine. I have 18 harmony activities. And what was happening was when I executed the refresh command, and watching in the api, it was throwing an error because execution time took too long.

So I made six refresh rules in RM. each rule refreshes 3 harmony activities. Each rule is triggered by a motion sensor. Each rule is delayed by 5 seconds longer than the previous one. So rule #1 refreshes the first three activities, then rule # 2 refreshes the next three activities with a delay of 5 seconds, rule #3 refreshes activities the next three activities with a delay of 10 seconds. Then rule #4 refreshes the next three activities with a delay of 15 seconds And so on. I’ve had no errors in API. Even walking by the motion sensor 10 times in one minute. Everything plays out OK. And refresh is fine.

Ok, so I’ve had my Harmony, ST, and Echo working for awhile now. For some reason yesterday, my Hue lights went crazy in ST. By crazy I mean the Hue Connect smartapp duplicated itself with the old IP address for the hub, and all the lights came back with old names. This cause my Echo to get confused, and it’s just been a hell of a night removing my lights from all the smartapps and getting everything reinstalled. I’m currently working on getting my Hue bulbs back on my Harmony Home controller, but only my bedroom lights, which are Hue Lux, are showing up when I connect ST through the Logitech app. How can I get my regular Hue bulbs back in through ST? I don’t want to connect straight to the Hue hub because of the polling issues. Also because if I try to use Echo to turn them on or off after using the remote, ST won’t trigger because it’ll already think they’re on or off.

Suggestions?

I have an issue now with all of my hue connected lights being duplicated in the Echo app, even though I “forget” the duplicates in the app, they reappear again.

Whats the best solution to avoid the repeat?

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Hi Trey, did you ever find a solution for this? I’m having the same issue regardless of what method I try. If I select the startup channel of “507”, it only sends the command “5” to the set top box. Even if I try to set the initial channel by “adding a step” to the activity, I get the same results. This has to either be a bug or something isn’t working right in the timing. 5+ hours in and I can’t figure it out. Any luck on your end?