Harnessing “Alexa”

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by Liz Hamburg, founder CandooTech.com

Harnessing "Alexa"

I’ve had an Alexa Echo Dot in my kitchen for a while now and have been using it to listen to music and audio books, turn on CNN, add to my shopping list and check the weather. I’ve managed to sync it to my Spotify and Audible accounts. One day I was out of sponges and asked Alexa to re-order them. Next day, I had sponges!

At Candoo Tech, we have been setting up Alexa Dots for clients and programming reminders to take medicine, adding appointment reminders and even reminders to call their children! Here are some additional things that Alexa can do and some feedback on the newest version of Alexa Echo Show.

I’d been hearing about the Echo Show, (Alexa with a screen) from some of my friends and colleague working with assisted living facilities, so wanted to check it out for myself. I ordered an Echo Show 2nd generation on Amazon. It was priced at $229.99, but I got a family promo discount. It came with a free Philips Hue lightbulb that works with Alexa. My grand total was $175.

The Echo Show set up was fairly easy. I figured out how to add it to my existing Alexa App, so now I have the Echo Dot in the kitchen and the Echo Show in the living room.

First, I tried to set up the smart light bulb. It wasn’t easy. Philips kept telling me I needed a Philips Bridge. Turns out I didn’t since I had the Echo Show. Once I figured it out, it worked great! I was able to program several lights, create a setting for dimming them and turning them off either all at once or each individually. Now, I can walk in and ask Alexa to turn on the living room lights. Magic! This is a great feature for someone with mobility issues. Also nice to program lights in the bedroom so if someone gets up in the middle of the night, they can ask Alexa to turn on a light (you can even set it to turn on dimly if you don’t want to wake someone else up). The advantage of using the Show over the Echo here is you can control the dimness on the screen.

Changing Channels: One of my pet peeves is never remembering what channel certain stations are on. I found that Alexa pairs with my TV provider, Verizon Fios and now I can ask Alexa to turn to CNN or play a specific movie title.

Song Lyrics: I’ve been using my Alexa to play music for a while, but with the video screen, now I can sing along to the lyrics. This is a wonderful feature for anyone who loves to sing but can’t remember the words. The font is large enough for easy visibility.

Videos: If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch videos on the screen. You can also display photos and make video calls.

Shopping: I’ve already been using my Echo Dot to order products on Amazon, but with the video screen, you can scan bar codes and Alexa will show items and where to purchase them. Again, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can purchase directly from Amazon and have it delivered.

Nest: Alexa pairs with Nest and other smart home devices. Although it was easy to pair, I must say that the voice commands to control Nest—change the temperature or turn the air conditioner off and on, were not that easy to remember. If I said it wrong, Alexa didn’t respond.

Translation: This was one of the coolest features. For a language buff like me, it was fun to test out Alexa’s 50 languages that she translates into. For those who are trying to communicate with non-English speakers, this could be a life-saver. Just say, “Alexa, how do you say [Insert any phrase here] in [insert any language here] and she will speak it and display it in the language on the screen.

Overall, I found the Echo Show to be much more versatile than the Echo Dot. My biggest complaint with all of the Alexa devices is that you still need to learn how to say things very precisely. If you don’t say things in a specific way, Alexa may not understand what you are asking. This could be frustrating for many people.

Finally, I know a lot of people are concerned that Alexa is listening in on every conversation. According to Amazon, Alexa only listens after hearing the word “Alexa”. And, there is a way to change the settings so this information is not stored. I think the benefits outweigh the privacy risks for me.

For older adults, Alexa has some wonderful features that can really improve quality of life.

Liz Hamburg is the founder of Candoo Tech, providing in-home and remote tech support and training specifically designed for older adults. She s a high energy, entrepreneurial executive who is passionate about making an impact in the world. She has over 20 years of experience starting up and growing innovative organizations both in the U.S. and international markets. Learn more about Candoo Tech.

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