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Control Hue Lights with Alexa

Well, you already can turn them on and off and dim them with Alexa. But this Alexa program gives you much more control: change colors, recall scenes, save scenes, set timers, turn on dynamic effects (color loops and alerts) and, of course, turn them on and off and dim them.

Demo here:

Since Amazon does not give 3rd party developers a way to access your local network, we need a bit of a workaround. This skill has two components:

  1. An Amazon Alexa Lambda function -- thanks to Matt Kruse -- on AWS that just passes the Alexa request onto...
  2. A server on your local network that does have access your Hue Bridge.

To deploy the Lambda function, you'll need to set up a developer account at the developer portal.

For information on how to set up the Lambda function, look at the instructions here.

(In particular, follow the steps under "Creating a Lambda Function for an Alexa Skill")

Add your code as Node.js. Just copy and paste lambda_passthrough.js in the code editor.

Then in the Amazon developer portal, you'll need to create a new skill.

  1. For "Name" pick anything you want.
  2. For "Invocation Name" pick anything you want. This is the name you'll use to open the skill (e.g., "Alexa, tell house lighting to....")
  3. For "Version Number"...anything. How about 0.0.1?
  4. For "Endpoint" select 'Lambda ARN' and point it to your Lambda function by filling in the field with the proper resource name. Just go to your Lambda Function in the AWS Console. The ARN will look something like this: arn:aws:lambda:us-east-1:123456789805:function:my_function
  5. On the next page fill in the interaction model, custom slot values, and utterance samples by copying and pasting the info from intent_schema.txt, sample_utterances.txt and custom_slots.txt onto the appropriate form fields.

Now, for the custom slot values "LIGHTS" and "SCENES" substitute in the appropriate values for your lights and scenes. For lights, single bulbs should be indicated by 'light' (e.g, "kitchen light") and groups with 'lights' (e.g., "living room lights.)


You can only recall scene names you can speak. Many apps store scenes on the bridge with alphanumeric codes, and then provide user friendly names in the app. Unfortunately, Alexa can't get at those scenes. However, you can create scenes with Alexa friendly names within the skill. Just set up the lights how you like and say, "Alexa, tell [invocation name] to save scene as [name]. Then, add 'name' as a SCENE custom slot value.

The program require ruby 2.0 or above, and two gems: sinatra and hue_switch.

To install ruby, I suggest using RVM. Instructions are here. After rvm is installed, install a recent version of ruby:

rvm install 2.2.0 --disable-binary

Place all files in the same directory. And then type

gem install sinatra

to install the sinatra web server. Then

bundle install

to install the needed gems. If you don't already have bundler installed (and you get errors on the last step) you might need to

gem install bundler

and the repeat the last step. Finally,

ruby app.rb

to start the server on port 4567.

Almost done!

You need some way to expose the server to the internets. I like to use an ngrok tunnel. Download the appropriate version of the program and start it up like this:

./ngrok http 4567

Andd you can add a bit of security by requiring basic auth credentials

./ngrok http -auth="username:password" 4567

(For a bit more security, uncomment the application id check on line 15 of lights.rb and plug in the application id of your skill from the developer's portal.)

If using ngrok, you'll end up looking at something like this, which is the public IP address of the tunnel to your local server.

Forwarding -> localhost:4567

Finally, head back to the lambda function on aws and replace the application_id and url with the application_id of your skill (found in the developer portal) and the ip address of your server (e.g., the ip address of your ngrok tunnel.) So, line 9 (or so) of the Lambda function might look something like this:


(If you end up using this alot, it would probably make sense to pay ngrok $5 and get a reserved address for you tunnel. That way you won't have to change the lambda function everytime you restart the ngrok tunnel.)

If you've added some basic auth to the tunnel, use the following format to specify the route to your local server in the lambda function:

Before you can use the skill, you'll need to give it access to your Hue bridge. Press the link button on your bridge and launch the skill (within, I think, 20 seconds or so.) If you don't do this step, Alexa will remind you.

At this point the skill should be available to you. You can say things like:

"Alexa, tell [whatever invocation name you chose] to turn the kitchen lights blue."

"Alexa, tell...set the floor light to saturation ten and brightness five"

"Alexa, tell...change the table light to the color relax"

"Alexa, tell...turn off the bedroom lights in 5 minutes"

"Alexa, tell...turn on the lights at eight forty five p.m.""Alexa, tell...set dinner scene in one hour"

"Alexa, tell...start color loop on the bedside light"

"Alexa, tell...start long alert on the kitchen lights in forty five seconds"

"Alexa, tell...stop alert"

You can use the "flash" command instead of "long alert." (It's just easier to say.) It's also helpful for using your lights as a timer:

"Alexa, flash the lights in five minutes."