If like me you have Amazon Echo(s) you’re probably lured by home automation but don’t want to spend the serious £££ on the various expensive solutions. I had a few requirements that I wanted to set-up for as cheaply as possible to work with the Amazon Echo / Alexa:

  1. Turn various lamps on/off
  2. Turn the TV on/off
  3. Control the TV volume/mute
  4. Turn my set-top box on/off (I have a BT YouView box from the UK, but the same would apply to any Virgin/Sky/Tivo/Other set-top boxes)
  5. Turn my strip-lights on/off (glued to the back of the TV)
  6. Turn the kettle on/off
  7. Turn the iron on/off
  8. The list goes on

The answer? An IR & RF blaster/receiver, specifically the Broadlink RM Pro. I spent a total of £53 to do all of the above and more, no need to buy an expensive Logitech Harmony.

For instance I can now do the following:

  • “Alexa, turn on the TV”
  • “Alexa, turn on Netflix”

 

What you’ll need:

  1. Amazon Echo
  2. Broadlink RM Pro – Approx £20-£30 from Amazon, also available in the US. Make sure you get the newer model that is triangular in shape, the older model only supports IR – we want the one that does both IR and RF
  3. An android device that you can leave plugged in at home – any android device will do, I use an old Samsung Galaxy S3 phone. This will run an application and act as the bridge between the Broadlink RM Pro and the Amazon Echo.
  4. The android app “Broadlink RM Tasker Lite” – the app is a 7-day free trial after which it’s £2.99 at the time of writing.
  5. Some RF remote controlled power sockets – I bought I got a pack of 5 for £25 here. Note: You don’t need these if you only want to control your TV or other devices that are IR or RF! I use these sockets as a cheaper alternative to the Wemo/TP-Link/SmartThings switches to be able to turn on lamps, kettle, iron etc.

Set it all up:

Broadlink RM Pro

  1. Unbox and plugin the Broadlink RM Pro, and follow the user guide to connect it to your Wi-Fi network
  2. It’ll tell you to download the Broadlink iOS/Android app which allows you to control devices from your phone – you don’t actually need to do this. I still downloaded it to play with it, but to setup and control your devices via Alexa this is not needed
  3. That’s it.

Android Device

  1. Plug in your Android phone/tablet/whatever to the power
  2. Setup the Wi-Fi so that it never disconnects even when the device sleeps. This is very important. Configuring this will be different for every device, but here is a forum post that should explain how to do it – it’s pretty simple.
  3. You should also either set a static IP address for this android device, or login to your router and reserve the DHCP reservation so that it’s always assigned the same IP address. I’ll leave you to google how to do this.

RM Tasker Lite Android application

  1. On your android device, download the app “Broadlink RM Tasker Lite” from the Google Play store. This will give you a 7-day trial to make sure it all works before you spend the £2-3 it costs.
  2. Open the app
  3. Click on “Devices” and make sure it has automatically found your RM pro device – it should do this out of the box
  4. Scroll down and check the option “Alexa Bridge”, and enable “Autostart on boot”
  5. Now, scroll down to  “Alexa Device List” and click on it. You’ll be presented with an empty list and a blue button at the bottom “+ Add Alexa Device”. Click the button.
  6. Now it should be fairly self explanatory – name the device how you’d want to pronounce it to Alexa, e.g. “TV”, “Netflix”, “Volume”
  7. Now we need to teach it the correct remote control commands to do certain things, for this example we’ll be configuring the ability to turn the TV on/off
  8. It will allow you to set a command for the “ON” and  “OFF” functions
  9. Click on “ON”
  10. Name it something sensible like “TV power on/off”
  11. Click on “Learn new command”
  12. Select “Single device” (sp?)
  13. Now it’s in learning mode – get your TV remote control, point it at the Broadlink RM Pro device and press the power button. It should have learned the command.
  14. Click OK, go back and now click on the “OFF” command
  15. I’m assuming your TV remote control uses the same power button to turn it both on/off, so no need to teach it the same command – select the option to choose from the existing broadlink commands, and select the command that you just taught it “TV power on/off”, and click OK
  16. That’s it – you can click on “Test your code” to make sure it actually works and turns the TV on/off

Amazon Echo/Alexa

  1. Alexa needs to now discover the new “device” that you created in the RM Tasker Lite application, either speak to Alexa and say “Alexa, discover devices” or go into the Alexa app on your phone, goto Smart Home, and click on “Discover devices”.
  2. Wait 10-20 seconds and it should find the new device “TV”.
  3. Say “Alexa, turn the TV off” or “Alexa, turn the TV on” and it should work

That’s it

Fairly simple in the end. Using the same logic above, you can create an Alexa device through the RM Tasker Lite application to do pretty much anything with your IR/RF devices (as long as they have a remote control so that you can teach it the commands).

I setup my RF Remote Control Power Sockets using the same process – I plugged my kettle into one of the power sockets, through the RM Tasker Lite app named my Alexa device “Kettle”, taught it the remote control commands from my little RF remote control (came with the sockets), and voila, voice activated kettle (providing you fill up the water, and leave the kettle power switch “on”..)