One of the core features of Amazon’s Alexa Assistant is called routines. Routines are, in their simplest way, automated instructions for Alexa to perform specific tasks. Routines can be configured to occur at a specific time each day or on specific days of the week. They can also be triggered when you say a specific voice command, when you reject an alarm, or when a smart home device such as a video doorbell is activated.
A simple example of an Alex routine is how the assistant can be programmed to read the day’s news headlines and weather forecasts at a specific time each morning, or when you turn off your morning alarm.
When I first set up Alexa for myself back in 2018, I configured the virtual assistant to say good morning at. Guardian plus a status report for the London Underground. Alexa then turns on our bedroom when I pull myself out of bed. Downstairs, my desk lamp is also on.
This just scratches the surface of what Alexa is capable of with routines. The limit depends on how many smart devices you have in your home that the assistant can communicate with. Fill the house with Philips Hue bulbs, a Nest-smart thermostat and a connected coffee machine, and Alexa will take care of your morning routine for you.
Another routine could be seeing Alexa turn off everything and turn off the heating when you say ‘Alexa, bedtime’ or dim the lights and close the blinds when you say “Alexa, it’s movie night”.
How to Create Alexa Routines
Creating your first Alexa routine is simple and only takes a few minutes in the Alexa app. To get started, follow these instructions:
- Open the Alexa smartphone app
- Tap More in the lower right corner
- Touch Routines
- Tap the + icon in the upper right corner
Creating a routine with the Alexa appGearBrain
On this page you will be asked to give the routine a name (such as good morning), choose what happens to trigger the routine. This can be a schedule, a voice command, an echo button press, or an action from another smart home device. After this, press the ‘add action’ button and select what will happen when the routine begins. You can add more actions and decide the order in which they should appear.
One of the actions, called Wait, allows you to divide the routine into sections at intervals. For example, you can set Alexa to turn on the light in the bedroom and then wait five minutes before reading the headlines and the weather forecast. Alexa could then be programmed to wait 20 minutes (while you have a shower, for example) and then turn on the desk lights and fire up the coffee machine. The time between each segment of the routine can be set to anywhere from five seconds to 55 minutes.
Creating a routine with the Alexa appGearBrain
If you do not like the idea of Alexa talking to you at 7, it’s fine. You can just choose smart home actions like turning on lights and other devices – there is no need to get her talking at all.
Once you have created a routine (or more), you can test them by pressing the blue play button, seen in the last screenshot of the image above. To edit a routine, just tap it on the same screen in the Alexa app. To delete it, tap the routine and then tap the three-dot icon in the upper right corner and tap Delete Routine.
The Alexa app allows you to create as many routines as you want. We seem to have one to turn things on in the morning, one to turn everything off at night and several to quickly adjust multiple lights at once is the most useful. But there are plenty of opportunities for creativity here, just like with other smart home automation platforms like IFTTT (If This, So That) and the routine feature of Google Home. Apple’s Home app has a similar Siri-controlled system called Automations.
Smart lighting management with routines used to be pretty basic, but Amazon has improved things over the years. You can now have Alexa set your lights the way you want. For example, I use Philips Hue lighting and can make Alexa choose from the scenes I already have in the Hue app, including default settings and scenes I have created myself. The only control missing in the Alexa routine system here is to adjust light over time so that light cannot be set to gradually switch using a routine.
Get Alexa to talk and even say what you want
Routines can also make Alexa talk. There are several standard phrases to choose from, such as ‘good morning’ as well as a set of rather hefty jokes and compliments and ways of saying that the assistant is happy that you are home. This is all quite gimmicky, but it can be fun if you have kids at home.
It is also possible to write a message that Alexa can say. For example, I once set up a routine where Alexa would ask me to answer the door when a ringing video doorbell rang. It’s certainly not necessary, but my housemates found it amusing.
Of course, the strength and usefulness of routines depends on how many smart home appliances you have and how much of their operation you want to automate. We look forward to creating more complex routines as our smart homes expand.
Check out GearBrain, our smart home compatibility check to see the other compatible products that work with Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.
GearBrain shows Alexa and Google Assistant running Philips Hue Go