Have you ever tried to set the volume setting on all Amazon Echo devices at once? It’s not a big issue if you only have one Alexa enabled speaker. I have five, and to lower the volume at night, then restore defaults in the morning, I would need 10 individual Routines as volume settings cannot be applied to all devices at once. If you add DND (Do Not Disturb) or Monday to Friday schedules to focus while you work from home, you might be looking into 20+ Routines just to control the volume settings across your devices.
Imposed Routine limits
Routines come with some silly design choices. You can control DND settings for all devices at once, but not volume. The volume can be set per group or per device. Unfortunately, each Amazon Echo device can be assigned to a single group. I tried to group all my speakers in “All Alexas” group to control it, but my smart speakers are already in groups named after the rooms they are in and I cannot create another one for my speakers.
In case you wonder why I don’t want to take the shortcut and apply DND settings instead of volume changes, DND disables notifications & Drop In calls – something we use often at home. Plus there is nothing more annoying asking Alexa a random query at 3 am just to get the response blasting back at the “day volume”.
In light of the latest court ruling against Google infringing on Sonos patent, the ability to control volume over a group is being suspended on Google Home devices. It’s possible that Alexa would face a similar future as well.
Should it happen, this NodeRED flow will combat that as well, allowing you to send multiple commands at the same time (which is not going to go away). I feel extra cheeky now, especially, the first time I shared this, I was told I’m re-creating already existing functionality locally. It turns out that you can’t take these functions for granted and I will end this paragraph with the proverbial:
I told you so
AlexaRemote2 to the rescue
This is how easy it is to manage all 5 Echo devices. I created a custom polices for all my Echo devices in less than 2 minutes. Currently, these are set to:
- Volume 4 on all devices at 7 am
- Volume 1 on all devices at 11 pm
- DND on all devices at 1 am
- DND off all devices at 7 am
- 9-5 Mon-Fri quiet times on Echo in the study
- 9-5 Mon-Fri less quiet times on Echo in the office
- voice triggers for DND and quiet times for all devices
Recreating these in Alexa app would take you ages if you have several devices. In addition to that, I could trigger the Echo in the study with a calendar entry instead of the set time. This way, Alexa would lower the volume only for specific calendar events.
In addition to this, I can set voice triggers to set Volume and DND settings on all devices. I can simply say “Alexa, silence all echoes” to set the volume on all devices to 1, or “Alexa, don’t disturb me” to apply DND across the rooms.
To make it happen, create a speaker group for all Echo devices. Unlike the regular groups, speaker groups let you include Amazon Echo speakers in multiple groups. AlexaRemote2 can take advantage of this list, to apply desired settings for you at once. Since AlexaRemote2 piggybacks on your Alexa account to make changes, I don’t understand why the app doesn’t give you these options.
Note: DND settings don’t work this way, but I suspect this is a bug. For now, you can use the Alexa app or trigger nodes for the individual devices. I have reported this on GitHub, Let’s hope this will get resolved quickly for the sake of the pretty looking flow.
If you want more information on how AlexaRemote2 works, I have a full guide here. Custom voice triggers are possible thanks to AlexaRemote2 as well – just take a look at this article to understand how it works in detail.
I realise, that I spent more time writing this article than it would have taken me to create all routines in the Alexa app, but moving forward, managing all this and introducing more sophisticated behaviour will be quicker! Plus, now you can take the advantage of this yourself too! If you use Alexa, you should also take a look at Alexa in NodeRED for device control and Alexa Notifications. Let me know what other policies you would like to see. Use this Reddit thread to leave me a comment.