Introducing ‘Custom Triggers for Routines’ for Alexa developers

Vivek Sarthi Sep 27, 2023
Alexa Skills

Today, Amazon announced the developer preview of 'Custom Triggers for Routines', which enables Alexa developers to onboard category-specific custom triggers (such as sound or person detection) to Alexa Routines.

Alexa Routines is a popular automation feature which enables customers to execute a sequence of actions based on a trigger. A routine consists of a ‘trigger’, which is an event that initiates a routine. For example, a customer can set up a Routine that turns on the lights, delivers the news briefing, and provides a weather update, everyday at say, 7 a.m., the trigger event. The specific time this sequence of actions plays out (such as weekdays at 7 a.m.) is the trigger event.  

Routines offers a range of triggers for customers to use, such as a voice command at a scheduled time, or when a customer is detected at a specific location. However, as customers have come to rely on Routines to simplify their busy lives, they frequently ask for more flexibility to add ambient events as triggers. Ambient events are not triggered explicitly by the customer, but include events such as sound detection and person detection. Examples of such routines include turning on the porch light at sunset, playing soothing sounds when a dog barks, or announcing a person is at the front door

Last year, Alexa launched Custom Tasks in Routines, which enabled Alexa developers to surface specific functionality from their skills as actions in Routines, allowing customers to pre-select a specific action supported by a skill while configuring their Routines — eliminating the need for a voice input during Routine execution. However, until now, developers did not have a way to trigger customers’ routines through category-specific events — events unique to a domain such as temperature dropping to a pre-defined threshold (for the weather category) or a sporting event such as the start or end of a game (for the sports category).

Now, Alexa developers can use 'Custom Triggers for Routines' to surface specific functionality from their skills as triggers in routines. This enables them to proactively engage with customers through category-specific signals and build deeper engagement. Custom triggers enable developers to unlock an additional layer of value through their services. Once onboarded, the custom triggers appear under the “When this happens” section in the Routines hub in the Alexa Mobile app. ‘Custom Triggers for Routines’ can be used by both non-device- (e.g. Alexa skills) and device-based Alexa developers (e.g. smart home devices or Bluetooth-enabled devices). 

“Up until now, Routines has provided Roborock users a great option to automate cleaning when paired with Alexa,” Richard Chang, Founder & CEO of Roborock. “Adding more triggers designed specifically for Roborock devices will allow users to enjoy more customization to the Routines they create. With new triggers such as maintenance reminders and a change in the robot’s cleaning status being implemented, users can take more timely action without the need to constantly monitor their devices. This enables Roborock customers to come up with more creative ways to automate their cleaning than ever before.”


Multiple partners are already using ‘Custom Triggers for Routines’ across a variety of use cases, a few examples of which are provided below:

Sports - Alexa Sports

The Alexa Sports team has onboarded three triggers related to key sporting moments - Game Start, Game End, and Halftime. Using these triggers, customers can initiate various routines such as getting a push notification from Alexa and an announcement on their Echo device(s), turning on the Fire TV, and then setting their Echo on Do Not Disturb mode when their favorite sports team is about to start a game. This experience also includes routines that turns off their Fire TV and lights automatically, some time after a game ends. 

Vehicles with Alexa Built-in

Customers already love using Alexa in their vehicles. To make Alexa more useful in the vehicle, we’ll be onboarding an “Engine Start” trigger, which customers will be able to use to create useful routines. For example, a customer can set-up a routine to be triggered at home on weekday mornings when their vehicle is turned on to start navigation to work, report weather and flash briefings, and play a favorite podcast on the in-vehicle infotainment system without having to think about it.

Echo Buds

The Amazon Echo Buds team is working to integrate device gestures (e.g. Triple Tap, Long Hold) as triggers with Routines. Using these triggers, customers will be able to set up Routines such as getting the outside temperature when they triple tap their Echo Buds, or pick up where they left off in their Audible audiobook with a simple press and hold (Long Hold) gesture.

Smart Home - Roborock

Previously, Roborock customers were able to automate their cleaning routines with Alexa using the Schedule feature, which automatically triggers Alexa-supported actions such as turning the robot vacuum on or off. Now, Roborock users have more device-based events to choose from when creating their routines using Alexa, including Maintenance Reminders (e.g. filter, main brush, or side brush reached their usage limit) and Cleaning State Changes (e.g. cleaning started or completed). For example, when the water tank filter has not been cleaned for a long time, it can be automatically added to the to-do list. Or, when cleaning is completed, Alexa can send a push notification, decrease the speaker volume, and dim the lights.

Weather - Big Sky

Big Sky is a popular Weather skill that customers use to get weather information such as Temperature, Humidity, and Air Quality. Right now, these experiences are reactive wherein Big Sky responds to customers’ requests for weather information. Using Custom Triggers for Routines, Big Sky will be able to proactively engage with customers. Currently, Big Sky is onboarding weather-based triggers such as Temperature Change, Wind Speed, and Chance of Precipitation, enabling customers to craft useful routines. For example, a customer can set up a routine, which turns on their air conditioner and sets it to the preferred temperature when outside temperature increases to a certain level.

Getting started with ‘Custom Triggers for Routines’ 

Developers can integrate triggers they have access to with Alexa Routines in three simple steps:

  1. Register your trigger(s): Provide the display information for your trigger. This is how your trigger will appear in Routines for Alexa customers. All the triggers onboarded by you will appear under your skill icon within the “When this happens” section of Routines. 

  2. Set up a Service Provider Interface (SPI): Set up an SPI to enable Alexa to notify you when a customer creates, updates, or deletes a routine using a trigger you onboarded. This step is required if your triggers are targeted to individual customers ( Unicast trigger events), but is optional for trigger events targeted to all customers (multicast trigger events)

  3. Publish trigger event(s) to Alexa: Integrate your service with trigger event publishing API, so you can publish trigger events to Alexa. Upon receipt, Alexa executes all routines crafted using that trigger. 

Please click the button below to be considered a participant in the developer preview. Currently, a skill is required to integrate custom triggers with Routines. The feature is currently available to developers who have a skill that supports English in United States and Canada.

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