Since the dawn of smart home technology, smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo devices have become a must-have. They are at the epicentre of the smart home revolution and help users to seamlessly link most of their products and make their lives easier.
Contrary to the name smart speaker, there’s a lot more to them than just playing music. There are dozens of practical ways in which they can be a lifesaver, from helping you get to work on time to getting you to sleep at night.
If you’re new to smart home tech and smart speakers, you can get a feel for how they work by asking Alexa (the Amazon Echo’s built-in voice assistant) questions for yourself with the interactive experience below and understand how useful they are.
1. Being late for work
If you’re the sort of person who’s always in danger of arriving at work a few minutes late, the Amazon Echo has your back. For example, you can ask, “Alexa, what’s the traffic like?” to get an update based on your home and work address. Alexa can also tell you about train and tube delays. If you’re really late, you can even hail a cab direct from your Echo device, using the transportation skills on offer.
2. Forgetting that morning meeting
Prone to forgetting important appointments? Alexa can help you keep track of your to-do list, reading out a list of upcoming tasks if you say, “Alexa, what’s on my to-do list.” To add something to your to-do list, just say, “Alexa, make a note,” or “Alexa add ‘call mum’ to my to-do list.”
3. Running out of milk (and other essentials)
Alexa can help you keep track of essentials in your house, storing your shopping list so you remember to buy milk (and other stuff) when you need it. If you’ve run out, just say, “Alexa, add milk to my shopping list”. You can see what’s on your shopping list in the Alexa app. If you are an Ocado shopper, you can also say, “ask Ocado to add milk to my cart” ad it will be added to your weekly top up.
4. Losing your phone
Alongside smart speakers, smartphones are pretty essential in modern life. Everyone has experienced the sheer panic that washes over you when you realise you don’t know where your phone is. If you have an Amazon Echo, you can use the “mobile phone finder” skill so that it can help you find it. Say, “Alexa, find my phone” and your phone will ring.
5. Needing a recipe
We’ve all had that moment when you just can’t think of what to cook or what you want to eat. The Amazon Echo is there for you in these moments. You can ask the Amazon Echo for recipes for the ingredients you have (or can easily get) and she’ll give you inspiration and tell you everything you need to know to get started.
6. Burning your dinner
It’s pretty devastating when the would-be-Michelin-star dinner you’ve been slaving over for a couple of hours comes out burned. Even if you’re cooking several things at once, you can set separate timers using the Amazon Echo, so you can ensure your food doesn’t come out overdone. To set a timer, you can simply say, ‘Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes’, and Alexa will tell you when it’s ready.
If all else fails, Alexa can help you order take-away (like Domino’s Pizza) instead.
7. Getting the family to come down for dinner
It can be difficult to get the whole family in one place to eat a meal, and nobody wants to stand by the stairs yelling until everyone appears. Just say, “Alexa, announce that it’s dinnertime”, and every compatible Echo device in the house will make a ringing noise, then say (in your voice), “It’s dinnertime.”
8. Choosing which film to watch
These days, it’s pretty easy to fall into a black hole of endless entertainment options. Scrolling through TV shows and films trying to find something to watch can be draining. Thankfully, the Amazon Echo can help solve this modern problem. If you enable the ‘UKTVGuide skill’, you can ask, “Alexa, what’s on TV tonight” and she will let you know the schedule. She can also help you pick a good film to watch. To find out any film’s rating on IMDB, just ask, “Alexa, what’s the IMDB rating for Frozen” and Alexa will tell you the film’s marks out of ten.
9. Losing your TV remote
Forget the frustrating days of digging around among the cushions for a missing remote. With an Amazon Echo, you can control your TV just using your voice. Some modern TVs can seamlessly link with your smart speaker. So, when you want to pause a film or skip to the next episode of your binge-watching stint, there’s no need to scrabble around for the remote, just ask Alexa to do it.
10. Not being able to sleep
We’ve all been there. Tossing and turning in bed, throwing worried looks at the clock and working out how many hours sleep you’d get if you fell asleep RIGHT NOW. Luckily, if you can’t sleep, there’s a few Alexa skills which can help. Just say, “Alexa, help me sleep” and she’ll give you a few options that can help. For example, one skill offers the gentle sound of a campfire to soothe you into nodding off.
11. Forgetting to take the bins out
There are few feelings more irritating than realising that the bin men have been, and you failed once again to leave the bin in the right place. Alexa, can help set reminders to make sure that you don’t forget. Just say, “Alexa, remind me to take the bins out,” and then name a time.