If you’ve owned any Amazon Echo products and used them to control your smart home devices, you’re very familiar with setting up groups in the Alexa app. If you’re new to the Alexa world you may not be as familiar with groups, but suffice it to say they are at the heart of Alexa home automation.
Over the weekend, Amazon rolled out new Alexa functionality. One of those new abilities is Room Awareness. This means you can now add your Echo device to a group with other devices in the same room, giving Alexa the ability to know what devices are nearby. The main advantage here is that you no longer need to know the name of the group associated with your devices, or the names of those particular devices.
If you happen to have an Echo in your kitchen, and your connected kitchen lights were in a group called “Kitchen Lights,” you would normally have said “Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights” even if you were standing in the kitchen at the time. With Room Awareness, after adding your kitchen Echo to your Kitchen Lights group, you would simply be able to say “Alexa, turn on the lights” and Alexa would know that since you are telling the kitchen Echo to turn on the lights, you mean the kitchen lights.
At this time, not all devices that can connect to Alexa are working with this feature. It is working flawlessly with my Hue lights, but doesn’t work with my Insteon lights at all. I also tried to set up routines with my Insteon lights and the app told me they were not yet supported. I’m sure all Alexa enabled devices will be supported soon.
How to set up Alexa Room Awareness
Step 1: Open the Alexa app and tap Smart Home
Step 2: Tap the Groups tab in the header
Step 3: Tap Add Group or select an existing group from your list
Step 3a: For a new group only, select Smart Home Group and give your group a name
Step 4: Add the Echo in that room to the group. Make sure any other connected devices (such as lights, thermostats, speakers, etc) in that room are also added to the group.
Step 5: Save your group
To test this, try standing in a room where you have just created an Alexa-Enabled group and say “Alexa, turn on the lights.” If the command works, you are all set. If not, it’s possible that you set up the group correctly, but your device isn’t currently supported. I am confident that Amazon will support all Alexa compatible devices in the coming weeks.