How to Use Alexa Routines
Alexa Routines gives you seamless, single command control of your smart home, in other words the kind of features you actually want from your smart home. Home automation sensors have truly come a very long way.
Rather than simply turning on and off devices, which has long been a feature of Groups within the Alexa app, Routines is more about how those devices act on your command. That means dimming some lights, changing the colour of others, or perhaps firing up your heating to a certain temperature.
Amazon has also added music, podcasts and radio to the mix too - so scenarios for your House automation systems are only really limited by your imagination.
Amazon has also recently made it easy to share Routines with your friends and family, using URLs that you can find in the Alexa app.
The obvious ideas for Routines are “movie time” and “bed time,” the latter of which could have genuine benefits for a good night’s sleep. Getting your bed time lighting and temperature set can aid a more restful sleep, which makes Alexa Routines not just fun, but great for your health.
But there is scope for a lot more fun and freedom with users able to pull in actions and reactions from a vast array of smart home devices, smart sensors and digital services.
A touch sensor switch also can be integrated with voice assistants to help you control your appliances intuitively, Home light switches have come a long way since then and can now be integrated with a smart door lock to help you create smart scenes that can basically automate your entire house. Touch switches for home are also one of the best ways to dip your toes in the home automation world.
Here's how to get started with Routines in Alexa.
Start a Routine
Home automation using Alexa is very straightforward. It’s simple to start an Alexa Routine: just head to the Alexa app, go to More and choose Routines.
A list of your current Routines will be listed, and Amazon will recommend a couple under Featured, just to get you started. Either tap one of these, or just hit the + in the top-right corner to start one from scratch.
The screen is simple, you'll see the following...
When this happens is essentially the short command you’re going to give Alexa. Press the + to add one and you can choose between a number of options.
If you chose Voice it means a Routine will initiate based on an Alexa voice command. You just have to type it in manually. Whatever you want to say, keep it natural and clear.
Smart Home-based Routines use smart sensors and device status to trigger an action. For example, a temperature is above or below a certain point, you can activate certain things - like a smart plug connected to your fan when it's too hot. Or, a smart lock is left unlocked late at night can have your smart lights flash.
Echo Buttons activate Routines when you, well, press an Echo Button - you can also use Flic 2 smart home buttons to trigger a routine, as well. And we don't need to explain schedules, right?
Sound Detection is a now option from within the Routines trigger selection, alongside Smart Home, Location, Voice and Schedule.
When the Echo and Echo Dot 4th-gen models arrived at the end of 2020, Amazon stated that improved noise detection would be added to the mix, to go with the detection of certain sounds, such as glass breaking or the sound of a smoke alarm that were available through the Alexa Guard feature.
The idea is that if your Alexa smart speaker detects a certain noise, it can be used as a trigger to start an Alexa Routine.
A person coughing or snoring, a dog barking and a baby crying were the first sounds launched and now we have water sounds and beeping appliance added to the mix.
These can be used for Routines such as turning on the smart lights in your bedroom blue if Alexa detects the sound of water running overnight in the kitchen, or having a smart plug switch of the tumble dryer if the cycle ends
These sound detectors are different to the noise detection within Alexa Guard, which is only active when a Guard system status is set to 'Away'.
With Guard you get a notification and a 10-second audio clip saved in the app, so you can listen in on the noise that was detected.
Sound Detection is much more useful for everyday scenarios though and is a great addition to the Routines setup.
Once you’ve selected how to trigger your Routine, it’s time to build it up. To do that just press the + next to Add action.
You can also integrate it with devices like the bluetooth light bulb. Which inturn integrates with other smart home devices like the smart touch switch. This can go on for as many smart devices you want.
Kamonk’s devices can also talk with other smart devices like the fingerprint door lock.
Alexa smart home actions
Once you have selected the conditions for your routine, it's then time to add all the actions. To do this just tap the + icon next to Add action. The actions you add to your Routine are the elements and smart home devices that will be controlled when you say your chosen command.
We’re going to go through some of the possibilities quickly below, but it’s worth noting that you don’t have to build these up from scratch. If you have specific Groups or Scenes set up in the Alexa app, you can shortcut to run these.
"Alexa, Bedtime" for example could be turning off the existing downstairs lights group, and then turning on the lights in your bedroom, but to 50% brightness. If you’re wanting to build this up device by device, this is an example what you can do.
Smart lights can be added to your Routine – and it’s not just on/off control. You can set the brightness, hue, tone and color of compatible smart bulbs.
Thermostats and smart heating
Smart home solutions have come a long way. You can control heating zones within your home, either with an on/off setting, which will refer to the default temperature in Smart Home listing or selecting select bespoke temperatures for the Routine, if your smart heating brand supports this.
You can opt to have smart plugs turned on/off from within your Routine, handy for things like lamps (without smart bulbs), games consoles, kettles and more.
You can now add music, podcasts and radio into a Routine. That's a big part of making improved wake up and bed time recipes.
Robot vacuum cleaners
A great night time routine could get your robot cleaner doing its business while you sleep.
Another great idea is to use a smart humidity sensor trigger the power of a connected smart air purifier or dehumidifier. Alexa smart home solutions are capable of doing so much more.
Delaying steps with the 'Wait' option
You can also add in a 'wait option', which lets you add a block of time between steps - so you could have the alarm wake you up at 7am for example, with your favorite radio station, but then delay the lights coming on, and the kettle firing up, until 7.15am.
Adding various instructions
Sometimes (often when device makers haven't sorted device status for their connected tech) your smart home devices don't work natively with Alexa. Or you want to do something that's not listed in the native options for your device.
The good news here is there is now a Customized option where you use Alexa's typing feature to literally spell out what you want the digital assistant to do.
For example, you could have a step in a routine that has a specific instruction for a connected device such as "Alexa, ask Somfy to arm the alarm".
The big caveat here is that these complex instructions have to be the last action in a routine.
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As well as triggering smart home devices you can also add in features to Alexa Routines such as those listed below:
News – You can have Alexa read you your flash briefing, which is made up of news skills. It’s like getting a personalised news bullet-in to your tastes.
Weather – Get Alexa to read you the weather, probably best as part of a wake-up Routine. Remember, these can be timed to go off with your alarm, and if you get your coffee machine hooked up to a smart plug, you’re onto a winner.
Calendar - Alexa will go over your calendar, whether it's today or tomorrow. You can also set it up to tell you the next event on your docket.
Messaging - No, Alexa isn't going to text for you. Instead, you can get Alexa to send you a notification via the Alexa app or send an announcement via Echo devices.
Traffic – Get a traffic report for your commute in. Again, best as part of a morning Routine.
Music - Alexa will play a song of your choice, which is great for when you need a certain song to get you in the mood for something. For instance, you could say "Alexa, pump me up" and have that link to Eye of the Tiger. You'll be able to choose the playing song from a number of music services, like Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Amazon Music.
Alexa says – This is slightly weird, but you can get Alexa to say a phrase as part of a Routine. Choices include saying ‘goodnight’ or ‘good morning’, eight different happy birthday messages and a bunch of compliments, that are frankly bizarre.
Sharing your Alexa Routines with URLs
In September 2020 Amazon made it possible to share your Alexa Routines; allowing you to create URLs for your custom Routines and then share them with your contacts.
For example, say you've got a morning Routine, whereby your "Alexa, I''m awake" voice command opens your smart blinds, turns on a couple of lights, starts up your favorite morning playlist s and disarms your smart security system - you can just go into the Alexa app and grab a shareable URL for that Routine, to save your friends and family having to start building it from scratch.
To get the shareable URL, go to Routines in the Alexa app, tap the desired Routine and select if you want to share by text, email, or social media.
When they receive the URL, they will be taken through some on-screen instructions in the Alexa app and will see some fields in yellow text, where they have to select what device they want a step of the Routine to take place on.