Turn TV On/Off using Alexa

My wife is in a nursing home and she is using a TV they happen to have for loan. It’s a inexpensive Samsung TV which they have lost the original remote for it but does have a remote like hospitals, nursing homes, etc. provide that only provides the basic controls.

Their TV service is DirecTV but the kind limited to nursing homes where all TVs in the facility is fed from a central location… coax is just fed to each room for the TV.

She already has an Echo Dot so if I were to get her a Harmony Hub would she be able to use Alexa to control her TV… On/Off, Volume, Mute, and change channels?

It’s going to depend on the kind of remote that they are using. Does the remote itself have any information either on the back or in the battery compartment, even the FCC license number would be helpful if it has one.

Also, the Harmony will have to communicate with the echo and they will both have to be on the local Wi-Fi. Do you know if you can add Wi-Fi devices and have them work? If you bring a tablet into the room can you connect to the Wi-Fi?

1 Like

I’ll have to look when I visit tomorrow but I’m not thinking it has any information it’s the kind of remote that had a slick finish covering the buttons… but I will check. The maintenance guy brought in his spare Samsung remote one day so I could look at the TV’s menu and I always assumed I could get a cheap universal remote and program it to the TV if I wanted.

Yes she has her iPad and phone connected to their WiFi.

2 Likes

OK, from that description then, yes, I think a harmony hub should work with echo to turn the TV on and off. I just don’t know about the channel changes because of the institutional DIRECTV set up. But anything you could do with a universal remote in the room you should be able to do with the harmony. and the echo integration shouldn’t care, it just wants to talk to the harmony.

But I would buy it from someplace you can return it, just in case it doesn’t work. You never know with some of those institutional set ups.

Thanks JD I’ll go ahead and order one from Amazon and give it a try.

1 Like

You can set up particular channels through the Harmony software (ABC, CBS, NBC, etc.) It’ll let you do this the first time you set it up by creating “Scenes” with these channels. Once you exit out of that, though, you’ll have to redo it to add new or different channels, so make sure you know all the channels the first time.

Thanks mebejedi! If I download the MyHarmony software to my PC at my house and create an account for my wife will I be able to set everything up from my home? Or will I have to be at the nursing home while doing this?

As JD said it looks like I should be able control her TV with a Harmony Hub but I won’t know until I actually try it. I shouldn’t have to go out and buy a universal remote should I… shouldn’t I just be able to program everything from a PC?

Correct, you should not need another remote.

You might need to be at the nursing home to complete the Echo integration, I’m not sure. Do you have a smartphone? You can now set up Harmony with just the phone app, you no longer need a pc for setup. :sunglasses::iphone::tv:

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/hub

Also, Harmony now lets you have up to 50 favorite tv channels that do not have to be set up as scenes if all you want is to control them with Echo, and again you can change those just through the phone app. (That said, I’m still not 100% sure you’ll be able to change channels on the nursing home DirecTV feed by Echo, you’ll just have to try it.)

I guess the main point for this is that Harmony has its own integration with echo, you don’t Have to go through SmartThings, and that integration was updated about 18 months ago and is now quite good.

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/harmony-experience-with-amazon-alexa

Yeah we both have smart phones and iPads so guess I set up the Harmony Hub that way. I would think the Harmony setup would be fairly simple since I’m not changing inputs and have only one device (TV) but guess I’ll find out.

Changing channels would be sort of icing on the cake but being able to turn her TV On/Off, Volume, and Mute functions are pretty important… hopefully it will change channels though.

1 Like

I understand exactly. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with my story, but I am quadriparetic and getting voice control of the television was a really big deal for me. Prior to that in the morning my housemate would turn on the television to my preferred channel for the day, which usually ended up being ESPN, and then the TV would just stay on on that channel all day. It was a huge deal for me when I got relatively inexpensive voice control. :sunglasses:.

The updated Harmony/Alexa integration was a really big deal for me because it has volume control, which up until then had been possible but really tedious.

I would highly recommend doing it at the nursing home if at all possible, to make sure it works.

Also, the regular software will allow channel-changing and muting, but in order to turn volume up and down, there’s a second Harmony Alexa skill that has to be installed for that. IIRC, there was a skill with a red icon and another with a blue icon. I don’t recall which did what. I’ll go back and look at some point.

1 Like

The information is at the link I gave above. The blue skill is the newer one which includes volume control. :sunglasses:

https://support.myharmony.com/en-us/harmony-experience-with-amazon-alexa

1 Like

Yes JD I’m familiar with your story and the Harmony/Alexa integration has to be a godsend!

I just got back from the nursing home and her TV is a Samsung Samsung UN32EH4003FXZA
Version # CD08 although don’t know that it matters much but forgot to look at the remote. I ordered a Harmony Hub I should get tomorrow and then I’ll be heading back to see my wife on Friday… hopefully I can get the hub set up.

I have to confess that I have a Harmony Elite & Harmony Hub that I’ve had for years at my home but my friend set it up for me so I’ve never actually set one up so it’s all new to me that’s why I need help.

  1. I got my wife an Echo Dot with Clock for Xmas that she has at the nursing home but I set it up using my Amazon account. When I create a Harmony account in her name will I also need to need to change the Echo Dot from my account to her own Amazon account or will it matter?

  2. Guess we’re not sure yet whether her institutional DIRECTV set up is going to let me change channels until we try. JD says you no longer have to create scenes for your channels so where in the setup do I enter her TV channels… is this done in the Harmony setup or Alexa setup?

  1. i’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think it will matter on one. You will just need to sign in to the Harmony account from the Alexa account when you set up the skill. But for both skills it can be a completely different email address. There are a few devices where they have to be the same, though, it just depends how the developer set it up.

  2. it’s in the harmony set up, for “favorite channels.“ You can have up to 50 of these and essentially they automatically create their own activities. But I think @mebejedi is right and if you want to add more after the initial set up you have to create an activity for each new one. So it’s a lot easier in the initial set up.

The only thing is I just don’t know how this is going to work with the DIRECTV feed, if the harmony will be able to find those channels or not.

Normally when you have DIRECTV you set up the Harmony to communicate to the streaming device, not the tv. Just like a cable feed where you set up to control the cable box and the TV always stays on channel 3.

But in this case you don’t have the feed controller in the same room so I just don’t quite know how it all works.

The good news is that if a universal remote would work, then it’s doing it by actually changing the TV channels, so the harmony should be fine.

When you go to set it up, you will need to know what channel number each channel is on. So you need to know if ABC is channel 7 or channel 11 or channel 182 or whatever. That’s why it might be easier to set it up at the nursing home.

Thanks guess I’ll find out in a few days.

I think she only had like 30 or 35 channels so that will fall well within the parameters.

The more I think about it, it’s very possible the Harmony Hub won’t switch the DirecTV channels. I bet the remote my wife is using is a DirecTV remote one which I’ve never seen before as I do have DirecTV at home. I mentioned the maintenance guy let me use a Samsung remote awhile back to get into the TV’s menu but don’t think I actually changed channels just remembered that. Heck the remote might even be RF never tested that out.

Oh well I just have to live within the institutional DIRECTV set up and it’s limitations.

No, it will. I can tell Alexa to change to channel 100 and she will. The “Scenes” allow you to name the channels (ABC, CBS, etc). Both ways will work, but the scenes have to be set up in the initial setup.

I’m not sure, either, but I would assume the worst, which is why you should do it in person. You might have to create an Amazon account for her, but it’s free, so no biggie. If so, you might want to set it up for Drop-in calling as well.

I’m not sure it’s even possible afterwards, and if it is, it’s a pain in the ass, so find your channel numbers ahead of time. Also, one possible problem you might face (I did with my new Roku Smart TV) is that I can’t designate my DirecTV as the channel-changer in its activity, so I have to use my DirecTV remote to pause shows. It’s not a huge deal to me (yet), so I haven’t bothered to figure it out, but if her TV has Roku built in, then make sure the pause works. If it doesn’t, let me know and I’ll try to solve it on my end.

1 Like

But you live in a single-family residence and have the DIRECTV controller in the same room as the TV, right? In a case, it works just like a cable box and harmony sends the channel request to the DIRECTV controller, not to the TV itself. The TV remains on channel 3 or channel for the whole time. It’s the DIRECTV controller which is changing its channels.

The difference in this thread is that his wife lives in a nursing home which has a centralized DIRECTV feed and send it to each room. Those work differently. It doesn’t mean every room has the same channel, it doesn’t, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that harmony can get a message to the DIRECTV controller, either. That’s what he’s just going to have to try and see. This is a specialty of DIRECTV, and they actually have several different configurations. so I just don’t know how it’s going to work.

https://www.directv.com/forbusiness/learn/hospitals

Interesting. And if the remote is working by RF, then he might really be out of luck, channel-wise.

Does everyone have to watch the same channel at the same time?

Exactly. But DirecTV Has multiple “institutional” offerings, so he’s just going have to try it and see.

In some configurations, there is an in room “receiver“ which is like a cable set top box. In that case, he will have to set up the Harmony to control that box as well as control the tv. It may still be doable, but it’s hard to say ahead of time.

In other configurations, there is no in room “receiver,“ and those can get pretty complicated.

Hopefully it will be one of the simple ones.

No everyone doesn’t have to watch the same channel at the same time. A few months ago they got their TV from a local cable provider who I think got it through Cox Cable. The local provider no longer became an option so the nursing home opted for this DirecTV institutional setup for nursing homes, hospitals, etc.

The residents got to vote on 30 or 35 channels that they could all agree on and it’s actually not too bad of a package. There is no receiver or cable located in the rooms just a coax feed to each TV.

I would love to see the setup but as far as I know all the equipment is located in a single room in the basement of the nursing home.

1 Like

© 2019 SmartThings, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

SmartThings; SmartApps®; Physical Graph; Hello, Home; and Hello, Smart Home are all trademarks of the SmartThings, Inc.