New Video – 5 ANNOYING Hue & Alexa Integration Issues (& How To Fix Them)

Whilst I like controlling my Hue smart lights through Alexa, there are some annoying integration issues between the two, which I explore in more detail in my new YouTube video:

The timestamps of each issue in the video is:

  • 0:36 – issue 1 – bulb/room naming confusion
  • 3:56 – issue 2 – Alexa think there’s light bulb duplicates
  • 5:21 – issue 3 – Hue routines can’t be triggered in Alexa
  • 8:24 – issue 4 – no Alexa ‘color wheel’, so less color choice
  • 11:05 – issue 5 – Alexa has no scenes filter

Video Transcript

Hey YouTube, it’s Tristan from Smart Home Point here. I recently got Hue lighting set up in a few places around my house; I then integrated it with Alexa. Now overall I found the integration really good, but there are some frustrating points to it and the Hue skill on the Alexa platform currently has only 2.6 out of 5 stars so – there – well – it has 2.6 out of 5 stars, which isn’t great. There are some missing features, so I wanted to film this video to explain 5 issues and bugs and missing features that I have found with Hue and Alexa integration. Let’s take a look!

When I first started with setting up the Hue app, I set up all my rooms with names like ‘living room’ and ‘hallway’, but then if I look at the bulbs I also set them up with names like ‘living room’ and ‘hallway’ and ‘landing ‘ and ‘bedroom’. as you can see. And what that basically means is that the rooms and the bulbs have exactly the same name so when you then go to the Alexa app and you import everything – as we see here – once it’s all finished, we click on continue and you can see that ‘landing’ is listed twice, bedroom’s listed twice and it’s also says ten devices are discovered – and here you can see that this a lot of duplicates. And that’s because rooms and bulbs are actually imported as exactly the same thing in the Alexa app, so if we click on lights you can see bedroom’s there twice, landing’s there twice, living room is there twice, and this creates issues as we were about to see. “Put on my bedroom light”… “A few things share the name my ‘bedroom light’: which one did you want?”… “bedroom”.

Okay let’s look at how we fix this. What I actually had to do was go into the Hue app, and delete all my rooms, and I renamed my bulbs to things like ‘Near door E14’ and ‘Master sleep area E14’. In other words, things that I’m not gonna say. And then I given my rooms normal names such as ‘hallway’. What that meant was they no longer had any duplicates: my rooms were called one thing, and my bulbs are called something completely different. Then when you speak to an Echo device, there’s no longer any duplicates, so those rooms are sensible names. In terms of fixing things, though, I had to delete everything out of my Alexa app and to do this actually went on the web app instead. I’ll put the link in the description. The best way of doing this is go to smart home, and go to devices and as long as you haven’t got many other devices set up, at the bott… you can either forget all individually, or you can click on forget all and delete them all and that will wipe your Alexa app. Then… now that things are sensibly named, you go back to your Alexa app, you can re-import, it takes quite a while – it says 45 seconds, it could take a bit longer – but there you are, it’s now discovered the correct number of bulbs and the correct number of devices. What you see here is there’s no longer any duplicates. ‘Landing’ is only there once, bedroom’s only they once, and now everything’s set up, what this will mean is we no longer have duplicates and hence when we speak to our Echo device we shouldn’t have any issues. So there you are, again you can see that everything is only listed. Let’s get rid of that. So in ‘lights’, you can see ‘bedroom’ is only listed once, ‘living room’ is only listed once, ‘hallway’ only listed once. And then the bulb itself has a stupid name which you’re not likely to say, and that won’t confuse the Echo device of as a result. So now let’s have a look at how this works. “Alexa, turn the lights on in the bedroom” “Okay”, “Alexa turn the lights off in the bedroom”. “Okay”.

(Start of second issue) “Please turn on my bedroom light”… “A few things share the name ‘my bedroom light’: which one did you want?”… “Uhh, my bedroom light”. “Okay”. “Turn-off bedroom light”. “Okay”. “Turn on bedroom light”. “Okay”. “Please turn off my bedroom light”. “A few things share their name ‘my bedroom light’: which one did you want?”. “Bedroom light”. “Okay”. Right, so as you’ve seen you have to be a bit careful with how you speak to your Echo device. I tend to find that if I use words like ‘please’ and ‘my’, then Amazon’s Alexa will get a little bit confused and think that you’re talking about a duplicate bulb, even when you’re not. So just be careful in how you speak to your Echo device, be a bit more direct and say things like ‘turn on bedroom light’ or ‘turn on landing light’, instead of saying things like ‘please turn on my bedroom light’. As long as you’re careful in how you speak to your device, and you use the correct, direct words it should work fine as long as you haven’t got any duplicate bulbs or duplicate room names, as we looked at in issue 1.

My third issue with the integration between Hue and Alexa is that in the Hue app, you’ve got routines down here and you can do a variety things. For example, you can say to wake up slowly and this happens by your light – in your bedroom – slowly turning on, coming brighter and brighter so as to give you a natural – sort of – wake up feeling. This is a really nice – sort of – feature of Hue bulbs. You can also have a very similar thing called ‘go to sleep’, which will slowly turn the lights off to slowly prepare your body for a good night’s sleep. Now the issue with that is if you set this up in the your Hue app, although it works well, you can’t then trigger these routines – or manage these routines – in your Alexa app (mumbles) why’s it say no internet connection? So if you wanted to take the routine you’ve just set up here, and build that into a routine from your Alexa app, you can’t do that. So in other words, if you click up here, enter routine name, when this happens if you go to ‘smart home’, you can’t trigger it from Hue app – from your Hue bulbs – they just don’t appear. A good thing with Alexa is you can trigger it from sometimes other things such as a Ring camera or Ring doorbell. In this case you can’t say trigger it based on a routine from your Hue app. What that means is you’re a little bit limited because if you create some more complex routines here, you can’t end up building them into Alexa, and as a result your integration isn’t quite as good because you can’t control everything through both.

The solution to this is instead of using the routines from your Hue app, as we looked at before, do as much as you possibly can in the Alexa app by going to the settings up here, clicking on routines on the left in the middle, and as we looked at before clicking the plus button and creating a routine here. This is because Alexa is more of a ‘Smart Hub’. It’ll have more devices connected to it. Obviously it won’t just be your Hue bulbs, it’ll be Ring cameras and all your Echo devices, so as a result of that the routines you build can be a lot more all-encompassing than if you try and do things from the Hue app, where it’s not going to have detected as many devices. One caveat of this is you can import ZigBee based devices [in Hue], while most Echo devices cannot. Obviously the Echo Plus can, but all the other Echo devices can’t, so if you’ve got a lot of ZigBee based smart devices then you are a little bit stuck. You either need to go out and buy the Echo Plus which has a ZigBee chip, or you need to – sort of – have some routine set up in the Hue app, and some setup in your Alexa app – which is then a little bit of a pain. But that will be a solution to this problem.

My fourth concern with the integration between Hue and Alexa is that if we go into one of our lightbulbs, this is a white ambient light bulb, and we go to the color wheel, you’ve got quite a lot different choice of color. In fact it’s hundreds or even thousands of different choices available to you, and obviously you can do sort of a warm yellow, and do a cool white – or anything in between. That’s a complete white, that’s a very small yellow, that’s very small blue etc. And you’ve got quite a lot of fine grain control here, and if you’ve got a color Hue bulb the situation is even better with the color picker you’ve got. It’ll enable you to choose some 16 million different colors, which is obviously quite a lot of variety. My concern with the integration with Alexa is that you just don’t have that level of choice. For example, if we go to devices down here, which I’ve just done, and then go to lights. If we go into the same light – which is the living room one – then all I can really do is go down to color here, “set”, and literally on white ambience I’ve got five choices. that’s it. I’ve got warm white, soft white, white, daylight white and cool white. Which… at least I can choose something, but it’s not really ideal and certainly if you’ve got a Hue color bulb, then on the Alexa app I think you’ve got a choice of 123 different colors you can choose down here in the Alexa app, which again isn’t great when the Hue app is actually giving you 16 million different color choices. I don’t know why the Alexa doesn’t have a color wheel, but right now it doesn’t.

One sort of solution to this is if you go back to devices, you go into scenes and in there any scenes you’ve got set up on your Hue app – such as any of these or any of you’ve created yourself – you can choose them here. So I could say I want ‘Arctic aura’ in the living room, and that will then play, or I could end up enabling that and choosing that for that particular light, and then that particular color for that particular scene will play on my Hue bulb in my living rooom. And that does work well, but it’s not exactly ideal because there’s a lot of options here which I’ll look at in a second – that’s another concern I’ve got – it’s not really ideal.

My fifth concern with the Alexa integration is that if we – and the Hue app – go into one of the bulbs, you’ve got a few options up here. If we click on the middle one, it takes us to the different scenes that are available to us. So, for example, we have one called ‘Savannah sunset’ and that’s a particular type of color which is sort of a cool white, you’ve got ‘Artic aura’ which is sort of a warmer blue. So you’ve got a few different options. Now this is really cool and you can say to your Echo device that you want to play a particular scene in a particular room, and that does work really well, but if you’re trying to manage things in the Alexa app, then things aren’t quite as good because… sorry I went too fast then… in devices we got the scenes tab, and these get imported from the Hue app. And under scenes we’ve literally got an absolute massive list. What we’ve literally got is for every single type of scene – whether it’s Savannah Sunset or Spring Blossom or anything else – you’ve got one of those for every single room or for every single bulb you’ve imported, and as a result you’ve got absolutely tons of these. Now this isn’t ideal because it’s hard to actually keep track. There’s no filter, there’s no icon to search or to filter: is literally just a gigantic list and I’ve literally only got four white ambience bulbs set up and imported, and then a white bulb which brings in – I think – three different scenes. So I’ve only got – I haven’t actually got that many scenes – but yeah, I’ve got this massive list already. Now if I actually had 50 Hue bulbs, this list would be completely unmanageable and unfortunately if you’re trying to create a routine in Alexa, unfortunately the same thing is true. You don’t get any filter even here, so you’ll say add new, we’ll go down to smart home and you’ll say want to control the scene. And again, you’ve just got this absolutely massive list. At least in this case – at least – it’s alphabetically sorted, which is at least positive even then it’s not grouped by bulb, so obviously you’ve got ‘Artic aura’ for the living room up here, and then down here you’ll have other options for your living room. This is not even grouped by bulb, it’s literally just a big list based on the scene name, and again if you have a lot of Hue bulbs this will become rapidly unmanageable compared to the Hue app where all your scenes are in a single place for a single room, and as a result it’s a lot easier to – sort of – manage exactly what you want to do for a particular bulb. Hopefully this is something Alexa can improve in the future, just by adding a filter or a search mechanism.

In terms of how to solve this problem, as you can probably guess, unfortunately right now there isn’t a solution, and that’s because when you work on a routine you just got a big list of stuff, and equally under here you’ve got a big list of stuff. Now if… obviously the whole point of a scene is the you choose a particular color. Now if under the routines you were able to choose… (mumbles) sorry, wrong thing… if you’re able to choose a particular color, then that would be great, but in this case you can’t – as per issue four. You’re just left with a handful of colors, in this case five on a white ambience bulb or 123 colors on a Hue color bulb, and as a result of this you can’t even rely on choosing a color in lieu of choosing a scene. So if you want to choose a particular scene, you have to unfortunately manage it via the unwielding list that we’ve seen here, which will keep growing in size and complexity for every new Hue bulb you add unfortunately.

Okay, right that wraps up this video. I’ve covered five issues I personally have with you and Alexa integration. If you have similar issues or further issues beyond the five I spoke, about please let me know down in the comments. If you like this video, please click the thumbs up button, and don’t forget to subscribe. Thank you!

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions about this article, please leave a comment below. Please note that all comments go into a moderation queue (to prevent blog spam). Your comment will be manually reviewed and approved by Tristan in less than a week. Thanks!

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