New To Alexa? What To Do With Your Smart Speaker Straight Out Of The Box

Over Christmas Briant Communications and Jacobs Steel, a local estate agent based in Worthing, teamed up to give away a Sonos Smart speaker to one of our Facebook followers. Jonathon won it and dropped by to collect it last week. While he was happy to have one, he quipped that he had no idea what to do with it.

And that’s a problem that a lot of emerging tech has to contend with. People fail to appreciate what brilliant things their gadgets can do and so never get the full benefit of owning such handy home devices. I’m sure we’ve all watched over a colleague’s shoulder as they struggle to do something on their computer or phone because they didn’t know there was an easy way. (Years ago I had a colleague who would copy email addresses for contact by hand and then type them into the address field because he didn’t know you could copy & paste.) There must be any number of things we all do every day that those in the know would find baffling or incredibly timewasting, so how do you get the most from your smart speaker straight out of the box?

Start By Putting All Your Apps In One Place

If you’re just entering the world of home automation it’s unlikely you’ll have very many internet enabled devices sitting waiting for a hub to connect them all together. Rather you’ll be getting a smart speaker and adding peripheral items later.

The easiest way to get started with the Sonos Smart Speaker is to download the app to your phone or computer. Once it’s installed you can use the phone to connect your speaker to your various accounts for services you’re going to be using. Because Sonos works with Amazon’s Alexa we recommend that you use an Amazon account to manage all your apps and services. This makes security easy to manage and makes it fast and efficient to find the things you’re going to need to make life with Alexa fun.

Because it’s a speaker it makes sense that the first thing that you’re going to use it for is playing music. Use your Amazon account to get the Spotify, iPlayer, podcast and radio apps and, once synched, you can tell it “Alexa, play music” or “Alexa, play me a song by [your favourite artist]” and the device will play from your account. If you don’t already use services such as Spotify you’ll need to sign up and enter a few details in order to teach it your personal preferences, such as your taste in music, your preference for types of podcast et cetera so it plays the kind of thing you’ll want to hear.

Ask Alexa Anything, We Always Do!

You can use it for a vast range of other things too. If we in the office are unsure of a spelling or definition of a word we’ll ask Alexa. If we want directions to an address, check the traffic, or need to find a postcode we just ask Alexa.

Use Alexa to make calls. If you need to make a hands free call, if you lose your mobile and want to prank it, all you need to do is tell Alexa to call it. This means synchronising your contacts with Alexa, which isn’t something we recommend without caution. It’s not unheard of for Alexa to send data or make calls to contacts because it hears you talking about them in conversation and thinks it was a command. So be very judicious with the contacts you import and keep it household and emergency contacts only, just in case!

You can ask Alexa to become a timer or alarm clock. If you’ve asked it to give you a recipe you can just tell it to tell you when the cooking time has elapsed and it will. You can use it to remind you to do things too. Use it to remind you of birthdays, that you need to take medication, that the car needs an MOT.

Smart Home Technology Is About Fun And Entertainment As Well As Practical Functions

Ask it to tell you a joke. Sometimes they’re brilliant, some will leave you scratching your head, but it never won’t be entertaining. Because a lot of what Alexa can do depends on machine learning and there are a lot of geeks out there who love this kind of stuff, you can ask it things based on celebrations and events. Ask it “Alexa, how many days to Halloween” and it will tell you how long you have to get your costume ready. Naturally this option also exists for personal events you’ve scheduled. For example, “How long until we leave for our holiday” will give you an accurate schedule, so long as it’s in your calendar.

You can also play a number of interactive games with Alexa. If you like quizzes, trivia, decision tree and adventure games you’ll enjoy spending hours playing with Alexa. If you like murder mysteries you can implant yourself into a radio drama where you’re investigating a suspicious death. If you’re a batman fan you could find yourself solving the Wayne murders.

More family friendly adventure games include The Magic Door. You’re on an island and princesses, witches and enchanted monkeys all need your help! The SpongeBob Challenge is a great memory game where your kids are working at Krusty Krab and have to remember customer orders, no matter how weird or wonderful! But if these games don’t grab you, ask Alexa what she recommends, it’s what she’s there for after all.

Once You Get Started There’s No Stopping You

Once you get used to having Alexa in your home you’ll find you want to explore what can happen when you start adding other devices to your home network. Start with lightbulbs which can be turned off, on, dimmed and even change the colour, all by voice command and you’ll start to grasp what a labour saving revolution you’ve started! Start synchronising all your other electronic devices such as TVs, CCTV, kitchen appliances, and your heating and you’ll be amazed how simple it is to take control of your home.

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