Alexa reminders set and played on Sonos One

  • 3 September 2019
  • 7 replies
  • 112 views

I'm fairly new to the world of Sonos, having had a Play 1 for nine months and having been impressed enough by its capabilities to buy a Sonos One. I'm also a committed Amazon Alexa person. I have an Echo and three Dots.

I decided to buy a Sonos One rather than a second Play 1 as a replacement for the Amazon Echo in my kitchen, believing (mistakenly as it turns out) that this would mean using the Sonos One alone rather than a Play 1 plus an Echo or a Dot.

I was unaware that the abilities of the Alexa enabled Sonos fall short of those with which a dedicated Alexa device is endowed. One such shortcoming was revealed when I asked the Sonos One to set a daily Alexa reminder to prompt me to check the temperature of my stored hot water. The Sonos One responded to my voice request in exactly the same way as an Echo and I expected to be reminded by a spoken message every day at the time set. I think, on the first occasion, that the Sonos One spoke the reminder, but on every subsequent occasion all I got was the same Echo tone which sounds at the end of a timer or an alarm.

After much fiddling about with reminders spoken and accepted by the Sonos One, reminders typed into my Windows pc and various adjustments to grouped Alexa and Sonos devices, I contacted Sonos support on Messenger and promptly received this reply:

"This feature (customizing notifications) is not available on the Sonos Alexa enabled speakers. Certain features are not available on 3rd party devices that have Alexa integrations (like our speakers) and will only be available for Amazon Echo devices."

Knowing, from my experience of having the Sonos One announce my customized notification on at least one occasion, I was less than convinced by this reply. So, as a last resort I decided to type a reminder into to the Amazon Alexa mobile app on my iPhone and, voila, Sonos One announced the reminder exactly as I had set it. I have repeated the exercise on half a dozen occasions today as an experiment and each time, Sonos One responded with a spoken customized reminder.

I would be interested to know if anyone else has experienced this and if anyone has found a way of achieving the same result in a less cumbersome way.

I would also be interested to know why Sonos support seems to be unaware that "customizing notifications" is achievable on Sonos One even if it has to be approached differently from the way it is done on a dedicated Alex device.

7 replies

As an update to my post yesterday, I'm saddened to have to report that Alexa on my Sonos One has lost her reminder voice and has reverted to playing a completed timer tone rather than vocalising the content of the reminder.

All is not lost however, since when the tone plays on Sonos Alexa, a tone also plays on my phone and a notification banner appears displaying the content of the reminder.

The assertion by Sonos support that vocalised reminders from Alexa on Sonos One is not supported is still difficult to accept since Alexa can and still occasionally will speak the content of the reminder rather than just play a tone.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me to see if I can find a workaround. Maybe IFTTT will have something to offer.

Wish me luck. I suspect I'll need it!
This caused by Sonos not calling the Alexa Voice Service properly; the feature is called "Named Timers/Reminders" in the SetAlert directive (https://developer.amazon.com/docs/alexa-voice-service/enable-named-timers-and-reminders.html).

The
code:
SetAlert
directive has been extended to support named timers and reminders. This change allows Alexa to send parameters to your client with instructions for sequenced playback of audio files and text-to-speech (TTS).

So it's Sonos fault, not Amazon.

Hey Sonos here's another idea to make your products more appealing... make the AVS skill open source w/ a monthly cadence, zero cost to you, and happy customers.
Hi JHome,

Thanks for the info.

I've had a look at the link and from an amateur's perspective and I can sort of understand what it's saying.

Presumably, there's nothing the end user can do to change the way Sonos behaves in response to a set reminder request from Alexa and that it's something for the Sonos development team to sort out if and when they are motivated, or persuaded to do so.

Is there any way the community could apply pressure to make this more likely to happen?
I'm not sure the Sonos listens to its customers or has some kind of feedback mechanism.
Judging by their financial performance it looks like they just don't care, so I REALLY think they should open source some of their efforts, look how well Microsoft started doing when they went more open source.
I only bought the 2 x Sonos Ones for an Alexa w/ better audio for my bathroom, I have a lot of premium audio gear that streams well... so I feel duped by their poor implementation of the Alexa Voice Service.
Sadly, talking to me about "open source" only rings one bell which reminds me that Linux is something which is in the category of open source software. I presume the term implies that the developer, in this case Sonos, should make their software programs available to third parties to modify and re-present to Sonos for implementation. I confess that I was unaware Microsoft had benefitted from this approach.

On a more practical level, the other thing I don't understand is why, on the one hand, Sonos would tell me that customized reminders are not supported whilst, on the other, Alexa on Sonos One is capable of delivering customized reminders, albeit intermingled with rather more instances when the reminder is delivered as a tone, not spoken. Is this likely to be related to the speed of the Sonos One Gen 1 processor, the configuration of my home network or the standby state of the Sonos One Alexa when the reminder is delivered, or is it just a random event which occurs because the Sonos software is buggy?
Open Source means you make you code available for free under various licenses and allow people to contribute. Essentially the company trades IP (Intellectual Property) for free developers (if there are any interested).
Since their Alexa skill has literally $0 IP value, they trade nothing for free developers. All successful companies open source a lot of their efforts. Pretty much everything running the internet is open source, bcos you would have to be pretty stupid to go w/ proprietary stuff knowing the company will die bcos you can't compete with free.
https://www.techrepublic.com/article/whats-really-behind-microsofts-love-of-open-source/

This very page use preactjs which is a fork of react.js... all open source., I bet Sonos use some open source libraries.

Btw; the amount of time required to PROPERLY implement the AVS is a fraction of the time it takes fielding Alexa related issues.
Felt I should post another update about my experience with Alexa reminders on Sonos One.

Three things have happened since my last post.

First, I had a power cut which caused everything to re-boot.
Second, I changed the channel on my router from 13 to 11.
Third, I updated my Sonos controller to the recent version.

Which, if any of these are the reason for it, I don't know and whether things will remain as they are or will revert to their former state, only time will tell but, for the moment, Alexa seems to have found her voice and is announcing my reminders in the spoken word rather than as a tone.

Everything remains crossed!!

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