How to use the Amazon Echo and a Logitech Harmony to put on your TV shows
Many people would like the
Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
to be able to put a TV show or movie on for them with a verbal request.
Well, I’m able to do part of that…but it is a multi-step set up. Not a terribly complicated set up, but there are several parts to it.
Here’s the effect I have:
I can say, “Alexa, trigger watch Fire TV”, and it will turn on the TV if necessary, and switch the input to put me on my
Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)
Similarly, I can say, “Alexa trigger watch regular TV” or “Alexa, trigger turn off the TV”.
I could set it up to go to a specific channel on a verbal request (“Alexa, trigger watch channel 3”) and, with a lot more complication, get it to go to a particular app or even TV show on Hulu on the Fire TV. That’s ambitious, though…I haven’t set it up myself yet, but other people have and I’ll link to how.
Here’s how it works.
- I make a verbal request to the Echo
- The Echo sends the request to IFTTT (If This Then That)
- IFTTT sends an instruction to our Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)
- The Harmony sends instructions to our devices…the TV, the Fire TV, whatever is necessary
It can take a few seconds to execute it…fewer than ten, I’d say. It would probably take me that long to get the necessary remotes and do it myself.
However, it does take set up for the Harmony and IFTTT.
The first thing is to set up the Harmony.
At the time of writing, the
Logitech Harmony Home Control – 8 Devices (White) (at AmazonSmile*)
is $107.53 at the time of writing in the USA.
It has two pieces.
One is a hub…the brains of the operation.
The second is a universal remote.
Even without involving the verbal commands through the Echo, this was good for us. The one remote literally replaced four other remotes for us.
You are going to set it up with a SmartPhone app (so, obviously, you’ll need a SmartPhone).
You need the app from Logitech:
Harmony app at Google Play for Android devices
Harmony app at iTunes for iPhones and iPads
Now, note that although the (now discontinued) Fire Phone (which is the SmartPhone I use) is an Amazon device, and we are going to use another Amazon device (the Echo) in this sequence, the Amazon Appstore doesn’t have the Harmony app. I got it at
Amazon allows us to install apps from outside sources…naturally, we take responsibility for the app when we do that, since Amazon hasn’t vetted it. I’m careful about which ones I choose, but I felt okay with this one and it has been working for me.
After you have the Harmony app connected to your network, you are going to set up your devices. Then (and I didn’t understand this at first), you also set up activities to work with your devices.
There was a bit of a learning curve to this.
One of the most important things was for me to tell it that some devices, like the Fire TV, should never be powered off. Otherwise, it wanted to turn off the Tivo, for example, when I was done watching it…meaning it couldn’t record programs.
When you add a device, you’ll get to choose from a number of options, including an Entertainment Device (which is what we are using in this process).
You put in the manufacturer name and the model number.
These are the basic steps for creating an activity:
- New activity from the activities screen
- Enter a name and. choose an icon
- Select the device(s) involved. That’s why you need to set up the devices first. For example, you might be picking your Fire TV and your TV set
- You have it turn on the proper devices, and set the right input (for example, our Fire TV is on HDMI 3 for us)
- If you want to do more than that, you are going to edit the activity. Tap the Edit activities on the activities screen, then click the menu on that activity (three lines)
- You can choose to add steps, you are going to EDIT ENTERTAINMENT DEVICES
- That’s where you can add a step
- You will then select a device, followed by selecting COMMAND
- The command might be a command on the remote (like DirectionDown or Exit) or it might be a channel, depending on your device. My TV has a channel option, but my Fire TV doesn’t (it doesn’t have channels…it has apps)
- In order to get to, say, Netflix, you would use the commands to use Search to find Netflix. You can’t just use the directions to get to the Netflix app, because it moves around depending on what you’ve used recently. Here is a post where someone worked it out: https://forums.logitech.com/t5/Harmony-Hub-Based-Remotes/Hamony-Smart-Control-and-Fire-TV-Any-direct-Netflix-workaround/td-p/1381318. Hypothetically, you could do the same kind of search to locate a specific show after opening Hulu or Netflix…you’d have to arrow to search, then arrow in the right show. Clearly, this would be a lot of work
Once you have the activities set up and working on your Harmony, it gets easier. 🙂
You need to go to
IFTTT (If This Then That)
and set up a free account.
You have to register both your Echo and your Harmony.
Next, you’ll create a recipe, but this is easy.
You’ll go to My Recipes, and Create a Recipe.
Click the underlined THIS.
Your trigger channel is Amazon Alexa. You’ll be saying something to the Echo (which has Alexa on it) to make something happen.
Choose a Trigger = “Say a specific phrase”.
You don’t need to put in “Alexa,” and it needs to be all in lower case (no capital letters).
Click the underlined THAT (the “THIS” has changed to an Alexa symbol).
The channel you want is “Harmony”…you may find it easier to type that into the search box at the top, since there are so many channels!
You can then choose to start an activity, and pick from the list. Note: my “Turn off the TV” uses the choice to “end an activity” rather than to start one.
Then you are going to click to create the recipe.
Now we are ready!
When you want to use it, you’ll say to the Echo, “Alexa, trigger [whatever phrase you created].”
I do find it very convenient to be able to tell it to turn off the TV when I’m going out, or to turn on the TV and put it to a 24-hour news channel I’ve chosen when I come home.
I will say, it isn’t perfect.
First, this set up does take a lot of effort…and that might include trial and error.
Second, it seems to have a hard time waking up in the morning…that’s the Harmony hub, not the Echo (which works very well). I may have to give it a specific command a few times before it works.
Third, if someone uses a different remote or a button on the TV (for example), it gets out of sync. It’s not that hard to fix, but it’s a bit bothersome.
Like most home automation, it’s imperfect…but still cool. 🙂
One other note: I fully expect that the Echo will eventually be connected to the Fire TV in such a way as to let us just tell it to put on Netflix and it will…but I don’t know when that might be.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.