Harmony releases second Alexa Skill with additional functionality

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.

  1. Omar Mata says:

    Oh man Im gonna love this thanks Eli!!

  2. Ujn Hunter says:

    Thanks. The biggest hurdle was learning the commands. “Alexa, turn on NBC Sports” is harder to remember than “Alexa, watch NBC Sports” which is what I kept saying… so… “turn on” not “watch” even though I wanted to “watch”. ;) Very confusing at first. Glad you can keep both enabled, because It took so long to learn the original commands.

  3. Itzme says:

    Santa has a hub coming my way. Before this news I was planning on returning it, but now I cant wait to try it. I’m looking to get hands free DVR and AVR commands for when I’m cooking in the kitchen but watching the tv in the adjacent room.

    • Christopher Loughrey says:

      It works perfectly!

    • Chris Lemon says:

      You aren’t going to get individual device commands with this skill yet, besides the ones cited in the article. I had to set up a separate home automation server with a spare Raspberry Pi to make that happen.

  4. Christopher Loughrey says:

    I don’t understand why they haven’t released the first skill in the UK as it works perfectly with UK TV services etc.

  5. Chris Lemon says:

    Yet they still can’t do the one thing that everyone REALLY wants, which is to fire individual device button presses.

    • Chris Lemon says:

      (That said, at least it remembers configurations so you don’t have to reconfigure the new skill, and if they ever DO add the right functionality, it will be easy to extend it. I will say changing channels with it seems to be more reliable than changing channels with the Xbox One.)

  6. Eric says:

    Is it possible to trigger different Harmony hubs with one skill and another hub with the other skill? Currently this limits my configuration. It would be nice make the house work and not a location.

  7. Richard says:

    “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.”

    This can’t be totally true. I have the iDevices smart home skill installed and not only can I say, “Alexa turn off the bedroom lights”, I can also say “Alex, dim the bedroom lights to 40%”, and the lights will be dimmed. Therefore, the smart home skill can certainly do much more than turn things on and off.

    So the question is what is the real problem with the old skill such that it cannot be fixed ? With this new skill, while I can increase and decrease the volume, I can increase and decrease it by a certain amount, just like I can dim the lights by a certain percentage with the iDevices Skill. On my TV, when I tell harmony to increase the volume, by default, it does so in 16 steps. However, I can also say “Alexa, tell harmony to increase the volume by 5”, and the volume will increase by 5 units. This is the same as dimming lights by percentages with the iDevice skill.

    So, I’m still not seeing the need for this new skill. There must have been another reason why the old skill was not good enough and they had to write a new skill. But the explanation of just doing on and off isn’t the answer. Even thermostats that use the smart home skill can increase and decrease the temperature by percentages.

  8. gdroid666 says:

    didn’t realize this haermony skill was so limited , just got my dot and i have set up the anymote skill ,i do not have an anymote device so i am just using my rooted fire tablet with the app and only controlling wifi devices
    i am looking into making my own anymote device out of an rpi zero
    all i really need to is to figure out if i can get an IR emmitter led connected to the GPIO pins to register as a built in IR blaster when running android on the pi so that anymote will detect it ,just add an OTG and bluetooth dongle and it is good to go or just solder the dongle on with no OTG

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