Sonos and home automation audio

After using the Sonos interface, I tend to think a lot of the issues are limitations with Sonos. We are trying to use Sonos not as Sonos originally expected.

I hope SmartThings is working with Sonos because I don’t think the development community as a whole can fix many of these issues. Strategically, I think it is in both company’s interest to have interfaces that address all home automation audio needs.

Sonos is a premium priced product and must address these needs or someone else will (UBI?).

The proof of concept phase has been addressed which has revealed home automation audio needs. The next phase is going to require Sonos to SmartThings defacto standard type work. Otherwise, one or the other needs to publish a home automation audio standard that the other then can interface. (Or this may be what Apple’s Smart Home ultimately addresses).

A hack just doesn’t address these needs and just frustrates the user community.

I’ve been using Ubi as my SmartHome Voice for a number of months now and I’m pretty happy with it. They just recently allowed for http request to be sent to your ubi along with data. I wrote a problem that when I say “good night” to Ubi, it launches a SmartApp on SmartThing that checks all my windows and doors and then tell me, by name, which doors or windows are left open.

We do have an engineer from SONOS who is working with us. Hopefully we can even help direct some of their roadmap :smile:


That’s great news, Ben!

Just out of curiosity, what are people trying to do with Sonos… I mean, other than play music of course.

Are you using it for announcements? If so how does it work? I seem to remember a discussion at one point about setting up an audio file for Sonos to play to announce certain events. Is this how it works? Is there any way to build a variable announcement?

What sort of announcements are you getting from Sonos?

As I mentioned above, I’ve got an Ubi which I like, but I also like to be aware of what options are out there.


I have a love/hate relationship with Sonos. I love the concept of the wireless Internet connected sound system. The logistics of whole home audio with wired speakers is just too much of a burden to pull off. With Sonos I have audio in many rooms including the home theatre (TV) with the Playbar. Though the sound is not as good as my old system it is good enough that I have tossed my old bulky receiver and speakers.

Anyway, for home automation audio to work, you need to hear it, thus it must be integrated with your home automation system. I like the idea of UBI which also includes the “ears” of home automation, yet right now it would compete with a home audio system. Can you hear one over the other?

Thus, like it or not, Sonos is the leader in whole home automation space, in my opinion. There still is an opening for others because of their high price (Apple?). Price or value is the hate part of the relationship. How many can afford Sonos as a whole house audio system?

So how should the whole house audio system be used with home automation?

Sonos can be used as a notification system. Instead or in addition to SMS and push notification, give the option of using the home audio.

When a smoke alarm goes off or moisture is detected, the home automation audio should indicate which room. In this alarm type message, the message should repeat until the alarm condition is cancelled. For example "Smoke in Kitchen, Smoke in Kitchen, …). And the volume needs to be increased to insure recognition. In fact, the home audio system can be used instead of an siren.

In an alarm case, it needs to broadcast to every room. Sonos has a “party mode” feature which may be the solution. And when the alarm or notification is finished, the home audio needs to return to what it was playing at the previous volume level. It can’t leave it in party mode and force the user to select each room audio channel.

For example, in the office, I may have Pandora, the family room home theatre, my wife her play list and other rooms nothing. Audio notifications would not be effective if we had to reconfigure each room after each notification. It should just resume to its previous state.

If there is motion by the front or back door, the home audio can announce which. When away, the dogs need to bark. And it could replace the door bell. Interrupting times when you are playing loud passages avoids missing visiters or deliveries.

Those with presence detection can be announced so those home can drop what they are doing to help unload or greet arrivals.

I have a couple of rooms with Sonos speakers near the ceiling. I would like to use a dimmer switch or minimote to control volume when the speaker (or the phone app) isn’t readily accessible.

In home theatre situation, I would prefer the source paused when a notification so nothing is missed.

When iBeacons or room presence is perfected, the audio needs to follow the individual from room to room if desired.

Reminders or other alarm clock type functions need to be able to use the home audio system. Maybe when your favorite show or sporting event is scheduled, you want it to switch the audio at a specific time. Audio sequences are needed so you can hear the weather and then music, for example.

Notification priority needs to be configurable so major alarms can interrupt minor alarms.

Sonos needs to be tweaked to prioritize some actions over others. It can’t take twenty seconds to go to party mode, for example. However, returning to the previous state quickly is not critical.

These are just some of the needs I see.

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I use the dogs when away like beckwith mentioned. If someone opens my storm door to test the real door, a multi on the storm door triggers my dogs to bark. If my internal motion goes off when “away” the sonos states that police are enroute.

I also use it for presence notifications, alarm notifications, weather announcements and mode change announcements.

I’m pretty happy with my sonos integration, but I don’t currently use any groupings or music playing instructions. The one thing that isn’t reliable is the volume change after notifications.

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Do you use a sound file then for these different alerts? Or can you type in a string of text that Sonos will then say?

On thing I really like about Ubi is the (new) ability to send a string to Ubi for it to say.

I don’t use a sound file other than the dogs, but it is an option. I type in the app exactly what I want it to say.

There are a few preset sound files like the dogs, but I really don’t like any of them.

Next question: Can you send variables to Sonos? For example, my one “Ubi” related SmartApp will “scrap” the device names from open doors or windows and feed that as a variable for Ubi to say.

@beckwith, That’s a real issue re:competing sound devices. If you play music a lot you could easily miss is Ubi is saying something. Having Sonos pause when an announcement comes through is a nice feature.

For me and my family it isn’t a huge issue. We don’t listen to music all that much. I suppose it would be possible to device a SmartApp such that it paused Sonos, sent a text string to Ubi, then restarted Sonos, but (unless you want to be able to do voice commands through Ubi) that seems overtly complex to have two systems that overlap abilities like that.

Not that I know. What variables were you thinking of using, temperature, time, sports scores?

Well, like in my example above I run a program that when I say: “Goodnight” to Ubi, it runs an app in SmartThings that checks selected doors and windows. If any are open, the program grabs the device name(s) and attaches them to an http request which makes Ubi speak them so after saying goodnight to Ubi, Ubi then might say back to me:

Hold on, you have left the Kitchen Window, the Den Window, and the Garage Door open.

On the Ubi side, I have it setup that when the specific HTTP request is made Ubi is supposed to say this:

hold on, you have left {variable} open.

The names of which ever devices are open are passed to Ubi in the request.

@chrisb you could do this with a custom smartapp, but not with any of the provided labs apps.

Gotcha… well, I’m definitely doing it with a SmartApp now myself… that’s not a canned app for Ubi.

So… from what I’m getting both Sonos and Ubi can:

BOTH: Provide alerts based on triggers withing the SmartThings universe. Both can do some advanced things with some custom SmartApp work in terms of “reading back” the status of things. Both can act as the voice of your SmartHome.

Ubi: can also ask as ears for your smarthome, providing a method of giving voice commands. (Ubi also provides voice commands for simple internet searches such as forecast or quick facts.)

Sonos: can also play high quality audio files and can pause music when an alert/notification comes in to make sure you hear it. (Sonos also provide high quality play back of music)

Hola! I’m about 1 week into my ST setup and I’m currently looking at the Sonos Play:1, but even after reading this and a couple other threads I can’t tell if it will do what I need it to do. Here’s the use cases I currently have:

  1. Act as a siren for when the alarm is triggered
  2. Announce when a smoke or carbon monoxide detector goes off, indicating which one went off
  3. Chirp whenever an alarmed window or door is opened
  4. A few other simple messages to play when certain actions are triggered

Basically, I want to use it as my speaker for SmartThings interactions. The auto-playing of music seems gimmicky, mostly because i can’t think of a practical use case. It seems that the Sonos can be a speaker for some things, but not others. I know it’s still early in it’s integration with ST.

Can anyone tell me if those use cases, particularly 1-3 are viable with a Sonos Play:1 before I spend $200 on a speaker that will solely be used as a home automation speaker?

Thanks for any advice you can provide.


From my experience, you can set up SmartThings to do the four things you are asking. However, at this time I wouldn’t expect reliability. Your simple case of ONLY using Sonos as a SmartThings voice may be more successful than I have found using with multi-room music and home theatre.

Some issues that come to mind are:

Problems when Sonos events trigger at the same time; one never occurs or sometimes none.

As an alarm, you want it to repeat the alarm or message until exiting the alarm state. I haven’t seen a solution for this.

Sometimes there is a delay which probably would make the door and window chirp ineffective.

I have had two smoke alarm situations, and neither time was I able to hear the Sonos over the smoke alarm and the FortrezZ siren that also triggered. It probably would work if the Sonos speaker was in a different room than the alarm. But then that gets to issues with concurrent and multi-room Sonos issues.

My understanding is that Sonos and SmarThings are working together on a certified solution (current is in labs). However, I suspect both parties will have to make changes for Sonos to address home automation needs. There is potential here but for now it is hit or miss.

For me, it has been worth it, but the price still is hard to swallow.

That is my experience anyway.

Thanks for the feedback. This is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. I think I’m going to give the Play 1 a shot and see what kind of response I get. I’m not really interested in Sonos for music only because I’m so invested in the Apple ecosystem (which works perfectly for my needs) and have an old-school multi-zone system on my first floor and deck already anyway.

If this handles chimes and announcements without significant delay, I’m sure I’ll figure other IFTTT type of uses for it.

I’ll report back on my success or failure. Wish me luck :smile:

So I picked up a PLAY:1 and the SmartLabs Application for Weather alerting. I have it run at a preset time every morning as part of the alarm clock and it tells me the forecast, etc, for the day as well as current conditions.

But I’m having a problem playing anything else. If I select the “Player Afterwards” option, it doesn’t give me anything to select. If I use the SmartLabs Application to play a sound or give an alert, when I go to select the alert, again, it is blank. How do I preload my content here? I can see it all on the Sonos Controller.

Is it because I’m running the Beta 5.1 ?

@greg mentioned a sound file for dogs barking and having it be able to speak whatever text you type in, but I cannot seem to make that work. Any suggestions?

To get your songs or sounds to show up in the app you have to add them to your queue and let them play all the way through on the sonos. I recently had issue with this not working, it is working for me now though.

for the dogs or custom text to speech make sure you are using the “sonos notify with sound” app, not the “sonos mood music app”

So they don’t need to remain paused in the queue @greg ? It is just enough that they are added and allowed to play all the way through to completion?

This seems more like a workaround than a real solution. We should be able to access the music sources, etc. How do I switch to a radio station if most of those are streams and will never finish playing to completion exactly?