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Echo can Control TV, Set top box, Receiver with Smartthings Hub + Harmony Hub

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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

I followed your directions and yes, indeed, I can control my TV via Alexa. I set up about 40 different Activities on the Harmony Hub. Linked Harmony to The Smartthings Hub. The activities are set up in Smartthings as "things" (deleted [Harmony Activity]). When linked to Amazon Echo, Alexa discovered the devices.

The only issue I am having is that after nearly every voice command to Alexa, after the command is completed Alexa says the device does not support the command. But the command was executed flawlessly. It doesn't happen every time. Alexa will say "Okay" sometimes. But the error response happens way too often so I doubt I will use Alexa to change TV channels since she will annoy me with her erroneous response comment more times than not.

I did email Amazon Echo support about the issue. Hopefully, Echo techs will resolve the glitch. Once the glitch is resolved, using Alexa to turn the TV (and AV system) on and off, change channels, turn on the blu-ray player, turn on Hulu, You Tube, Vudu (all on the Roku) will be a pleasure.

Would you mind listing the steps of what devices get plugged into the smartthings hub? Does the harmony hub get plugged into the smart things outlet? Do you need to purchase separate outlets for the tv, cable box, receiver, roku? Or can those remain plugged in to their current powerstrip?

Thanks in advance :)
-maria

I followed your directions and yes, indeed, I can control my TV via Alexa. I set up about 40 different Activities on the Harmony Hub. Linked Harmony to The Smartthings Hub. The activities are set up in Smartthings as "things" (deleted [Harmony Activity]). When linked to Amazon Echo, Alexa discovered the devices.

The only issue I am having is that after nearly every voice command to Alexa, after the command is completed Alexa says the device does not support the command. But the command was executed flawlessly. It doesn't happen every time. Alexa will say "Okay" sometimes. But the error response happens way too often so I doubt I will use Alexa to change TV channels since she will annoy me with her erroneous response comment more times than not.

I did email Amazon Echo support about the issue. Hopefully, Echo techs will resolve the glitch. Once the glitch is resolved, using Alexa to turn the TV (and AV system) on and off, change channels, turn on the blu-ray player, turn on Hulu, You Tube, Vudu (all on the Roku) will be a pleasure.

I set this up last night and am noticing the same thing - This device does not support this command, not sure whats causing it. It is odd that sometimes it responds with OK but either way its working.

I also can't seem to get it to change channels consistently.  So far I just set it up with 2 different channels to try it out. If the TV is off and I say "turn on MSG" - it'll do that.  If the TV is off and I say "Turn on ESPN" - it'll do that.  But, if the TV is on to any channel and I say "Change channel to ESPN" - nothing, same as if I say "turn on ESPN" - when the TV is already on.  Am I saying the wrong command or is there something else I need to set up so that I can change channels.   

This is all awesome.   I noticed in your description you didn't mention anything about changing volume, muting, or maneuvering through menus of devices using voice.   Is it possible?   I can't see how I can make each "arrow up" or "enter" or "volume up" activity.   

Thanks for any assistance!

I'm going to be getting a Harmony Hub & Smartthings Hub this week and plan on setting up my media center for voice control, any word if Amazon has resolved the issue with Alexa saying she can't comply and then it works anyway?
Thanks,
Dave

A few more questions - is there a way to turn everything off with voice?   I know harmony remote has  button for that, but its not an activity that I know of.    Also still hoping for any progress on "in activity" stuff, like volume control, fast forward, pause, navigation, etc...    Any input would be greatly appreciated!   Thanks, Brad

If the harmony hub is controlling the tv

what function does the smart things hub perform?



Offline kevb

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The Echo doesn't communicate directly with the Harmony Hub (as of now, at least). You need a "middleman": Smartthings Hub, IFTTT, Hue emulator, etc. Echo ->> middleman ->> Harmony Hub.

I am feeling pretty stupid, but I can't seem to figure out how to edit out the [Harmony Activity] part of the description, and Alexa treats me like I am speaking Martian when I ask her to do any of these activities.

Can any of you guys give me a push in the right direction?

Milo

Am I missing something here? (Probably!)

But I do not need a "Middleman" like a Smarthings hub.  My harmony hub can get addressed directly via the harmony channel using IFTTT.  Maybe that's the "Middleman" in my case.

Regardless, the biggest limitation seems the same.  You can trigger "Activities" but that's it.  That means that you cannot say things freeform like "Alex, Trigger change channel to 512" unless you have a preplanned activity fully built out to trigger a channel change to 512.  If you want to go to channel 511 or 513 or 664, you have to create an activity for each of these things.  It doesn't recognize numbers as variables, only whole activities.

It is a significant limitation.  You can't do truly freeform voice control of all buttons without a zillion "Activities".  You can't say "Alex, Trigger channel 5...1...2".  You would have to build an activity which sends a "5", then build an activity which sens a "1", and then build an activity which send a "2".  THEN, you would have to activate each activity in order.... "Alexa, trigger number 5"..."Alexa, trigger number 1"..."Alexa, trigger number 2".  And all of that would have to happen before the timeout occurs on your Cable/FIOS/Satellite box.  That is not happening, folks, even if you were willing to go through all the verbal gymnastics!

You can still get a LOT of use using activities however.  I have powerup, source selections, play/pause, and several favorite channels working.  Nice but not the direct low level control many users might be looking for.

Jim

Offline kevb

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Yes, IFTTT is your middleman. I used to use it, and have activities set up for just my most watched channels. I didn't bother with volume or anything, although I did set an activity for "Pause tv" and "resume playing" on my Tivo if I need a break. It's convenient using Alexa to control the tv when the tv is on, but I'm doing something else. If I'm just watching tv, I'd rather use a remote.

My biggest glitch is that every time Alexa switches channels, she turns off my TV. The TV is no where in the Harmony channel activities. Just the setbox which is set to never turn off. I can not figure out why she is turning off the TV after she changes channels. Anyone with advice would be much appreciated.

*** Update

Turns out there is a glitch with LG TV that causes them to shut off with too much IR remote activity. However, after playing around for a long time, I did figure out a work around. I redid all my channel activities and added both the TV and setbox devices to them. Then did all the normal steps from before with the addition of a final step where I add an "exit" command to the LG TV. It doesn't do anything, but it seems to work as a distraction and the LG TV does not turn off. Weird little work around for this glitch, but whatever works!
« Last Edit: May 25, 2016, 02:40:39 am by ChristiFarmer »

My biggest glitch is that every time Alexa switches channels, she turns off my TV. The TV is no where in the Harmony channel activities. Just the setbox which is set to never turn off. I can not figure out why she is turning off the TV after she changes channels. Anyone with advice would be much appreciated.
Settings in your Logitech software..  By default when switching activities it turns off the current one (devices in it), you need to disable that.

Cheers,
Alex


Offline jwlv

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My biggest glitch is that every time Alexa switches channels, she turns off my TV. The TV is no where in the Harmony channel activities. Just the setbox which is set to never turn off. I can not figure out why she is turning off the TV after she changes channels. Anyone with advice would be much appreciated.

Do you have an LG TV?  I have an LG TV that would power on/off if I press a bunch of buttons on any IR remote quickly.