Amazon Echo can replace your remote control, with a little help.
As nice as it would be for every television to include a simple local network access function, most TVs still rely on good old fashioned Infrared (IR) to receive commands. This isn’t the best news for someone looking to convert the living room into Smart Home 2.0, but there are some tools available that make this a little easier to deal with than you’d think.
The Harmony line from Logitech has been the best option for universal remotes for a long time, but recently the company has moved from baking all of those smarts into a better remote control to building a hub that controls way more than just the TV. On its own, Harmony Hub can give you the ability to control just about anything connected to your Wi-Fi network as well as anything you can control with IR in a single app. You can even build little scripts inside of Harmony, so a single button press turns on the TV, sets the input you want to be on, and can even be activated on a schedule. It’s an impressive setup, made all the more impressive when you add an Amazon Echo.
Starting your smart living room conversion is fairly easy. Set up your Harmony Hub anywhere that lets you mount the IR sensor pointed right at the television. It doesn’t have to be close, but if you want to set Harmony up with your entertainment center you can. After it is set up and connected to your network, you can add Harmony to Alexa just like any other skill.
- Open your Alexa App.
- Go to Home –> Skills.
- Search for Harmony.
- Select the blue icon that appears.
- Enable the Harmony Skill.
- Log in to Harmony from the Alexa app.
Once Alexa is connected to Harmony, you have the ability to turn the television on and off automatically. Just about everything else requires a little bit of extra work. Harmony is aware of what channels are available with your provider, but you can’t just ask for a specific channel out of the box unless your television is connected directly to cable. If you use an HD cable box that connects via HDMI, or something like a Tivo, you have to create actions in Harmony under the Smart TV settings.
Volume control isn’t available through Alexa because Harmony doesn’t have it set as an Action function. Alexa also doesn’t have the ability to switch inputs through Harmony without actions, but an IFTTT trigger can be set up to allow this. Harmony and Alexa absolutely can be better integrated, but right out of the box this is a great way to control your television with your voice.