How to set up and use ​Alexa Routines for a smarter home

Make your home work your way with one single Alexa command

How to set up and use ​Alexa Routines

Alexa Routines gives you seamless, single command control of your home, in other words the kind of features you actually want from a smart home.

Rather than simply turn 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 also added new abilities back in April when it added music, podcasts and radio to the mix.

Essential reading: Complete guide to Amazon Alexa

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.

Here's how to start your Routines in Alexa.

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How to set up and use Alexa Routines for a smarter home

Start a Routine

It’s simple to start an Alexa Routine: just head to the Alexa app (see above), go to the menu 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 to start one from scratch.

The screen is simple, with two options:

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. There's vocal Alexa commands, timed Routines, device-based Routines, geolocation-based routines and Echo Button-based Routines.

If you chose a command, you just have to type it in manually. Whatever you want to say, keep it natural. Device-based Routines will use your new Echo Plus' temperature sensor. So when the temperature is above or below a certain temperature, you can activate certain things - like a smart plug connected to your fan when it's too hot.

Geolocation will use your phone's location to trigger events when you arrive or leave certain locations, including your home and work. This is pretty huge because you can have certain actions trigger when you arrive some place. For instance, you can activate your lights when you come home. Or maybe Alexa reads off your calendar when you get to work.

Echo Buttons activate Routines when you, well, press an Echo Button.

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.

How to set up and use Alexa Routines for a smarter home

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 that will be controlled when you say your chosen command. We’re going to go through 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 what you can do:

Lights

Smart lights can be added to your Routine – and it’s not just on/off control. You can set the brightness, hue, tone and colour of compatible smart bulbs.

Thermostats

At present you can control heating zones within your home, but this is simply an on/off setting, which will refer to the default temperature in Smart Home listing. It’s not possible to select bespoke temperatures for the Routine, for example.

Plugs

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.

Speakers/music

As part of a recent update, 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.

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


How to set up and use Alexa Routines for a smarter home

Other types of Alexa action

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.



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