By Dan Moren
October 25, 2016 6:55 AM PT
Logitech brings some Harmony to the Amazon Echo
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
If you’ve been looking to control your home entertainment gear from your Amazon Echo without a bunch of cumbersome workarounds, good news: Logitech has officially released a Smart Home Skill for the Amazon Echo, letting you control all the devices connected to your Harmony Hub.
I set up a similar system a while back, using a combination of other services like IFTTT and Yonomi, but Logitech’s first-party integration definitely puts it in the reach of anybody with an Echo and a Harmony Hub who doesn’t want to muck around with nitty-gritty technical details.
Logitech’s integration mostly delivers what I could already do with those other services, but there are a couple of nice additions. For one thing, it gets rid of the “trigger” nomenclature imposed by IFTTT.1 Additionally, it lets you declare “friendly names” for your devices, so even if your Harmony Activity is “Watch Apple TV” you can just say “turn on Apple TV”, or you can use “turn on game console” or “turn on Xbox.” Other smart home devices that work with the Harmony Hub, like Hue lights, can also be triggered, though of course the Echo already has built-in control for those devices as well.
If you’re a Roku user, you can take things a step further by actually specifying certain apps, like saying “turn on Netflix”, and you’ll be automatically taken to that app. (It works for TV channels too, if you program an activity to go to a specific channel.) Unfortunately, that level of control isn’t available to devices like the Fire TV and Apple TV, which I believe still leverage Harmony Hub’s IR blasting features. That’s a bit of a bummer–I doubt Apple will make the Apple TV friendlier any time soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon built in some deeper control between the Echo and the Fire TV.
As it is, you can’t do much in terms of issuing other commands to your smart devices, such as changing the volume or muting, without jumping through some more elaborate hoops. This points to some of the limitations in both Echo’s smart home skills and what Logitech currently offers with the Harmony.
That said, I’m still eagerly awaiting the Echo’s integration with Sonos, a private beta of which is supposed to roll out this fall. Along with Google Home and rumors of Apple’s entry into the market, voice control of smart home features is really starting to heat up.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]
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