A couple of months ago, Harmony released an Alexa Skill that allowed you to start and stop activities on their line of Harmony smart remotes using your voice. Now they have released a second Alexa Skill with additional functionality. The two Alexa Skills can work together or independently. Read on for an explanation of why there are two skills and the advantages of each.
The first Harmony Alexa Skill is what is considered a “Smart Home” skill, while the new second Harmony Alexa Skill is a “regular” skill. The advantage of Smart Home Skills is they allow you to use more natural commands, like “turn on the TV,” because they tap into Alexa’s core functionality. The disadvantage of a Smart Home Skill, versus a regular Alexa Skill, is that it’s much more limited in their functionality. Essentially, they can only toggle between off and on states.
Regular Alexa Skills, on the other hand, can pretty much do whatever the developer chooses. However, the disadvantage is you must always use the invocation command before ever request, which in this case is “tell Harmony.” So, instead of saying “Alexa, turn on the TV” like you can with the Smart Home Skill, you would say “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV.“
The good news is both of the Harmony skills can be enabled at the same time. This allows you to start and stop activities using more natural language requests, while still being able to request more advanced actions using the “tell Harmony” syntax. If this seems too confusing, you can always choose to enable only the new skill, since it too can start and stop activities, but you’ll have to say “tell Harmony” before every request. As already mentioned, both skills can start and stop activities, but the new skill now allows you to change the volume, skip forward/backward, play/pause, and set a sleep timer.