Sure, you use your smart speaker to play music and sometimes you ask it to give you the news or weather, but you may find yourself wondering:
What else can my smart speaker do?
Turns out, quite a lot. Your smart speaker — whether you have an Amazon or Google Home product — can help make your life a little easier in a myriad of ways, from helping you book your next big vacation to keeping you in touch with family members scattered across your house.
Here are 15 things you didn’t know your smart speaker could do (and how to start doing them asap!).
Google Home: Lock Your Doors
Your Google Home device can interact with a variety of smart home products on the market that are made by companies other than Google.
For example, there are many smart locks that work with Google Home, including the August Smart Lock that allows you to keep your existing deadbolt while using your Google Home device to remotely lock your door using only the power of your voice.
Google Home: Adjust Your Thermostat
Similarly, Google Home will work with thermostat devices that are made by other tech providers, like the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Thermostat E, which is the most popular option. Once you have one of these Nest products in your home, you can ask Google handy questions such as, “Hey Google, what’s the temperature inside?” or “Hey Google, what’s the temperature set to?”
Then, you can simply tell Google to make the temperature cooler or warmer, or you can ask Google to raise or lower the temperature by a certain number of degrees. Or, if you know exactly the temperature you want, you can ask Google to set an exact temperature.
Have multiple Nest thermostats? You can set the temperature in one room at a time. When you're done, you can also turn off the thermostat completely.
Google Home: Find Your Phone
Finding your phone with your Google Home device is incredibly easy.
If you have an Android device, your phone will need to be turned on, signed in to a Google account, connected to WiFi, visible on Google Play, with Location turned on and Find My Device turned on. If all of these boxes are ticked, all you’ll have to do is ask your Google Assistant to find or ring your phone. Even if your phone is set to silent or vibrate, Google Assistant will still make it ring.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’ll just want to make sure that it’s connected to WiFi and your Google account. Then, ask Google to find or ring your phone. (Unlike with Android devices, though, Google can’t make your iPhone or iPad ring if it’s set to silent mode.)
Google Home: Run the Vacuum
Time to clean up? Run your robotic vacuum with a little help from Google.
There are actually tons of different commands you can give Google for your robotic vacuum. Ask it to start vacuuming, pause vacuuming, resume vacuuming, stop completely, locate your vacuum or just clean one room only.
If you have a vacuum with mopping capabilities (like the Braava jet m series from iRobot), you can give similar commands for mopping as well as vacuuming.
If you have multiple robotic vacuums, you’ll just need to set a different name for each vacuum within your robotic vacuum app and connect the app to your Google account. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to give Google Home more specific commands using each vacuum’s name.
Google Home: Establish a Routine
Sometimes you want your Google Home to perform several different actions at once, without you needing to ask it a bunch of questions all in a row. When that’s the case, you want to use the routine feature available via the Google Assistant app.
Within the app’s Google Assistant menu, select Routines. You can set up routines for waking up, going to sleep, leaving your house, commuting to work, commuting home and coming home. Pick the routine you want to create.
From there, you’ll pick a trigger phrase. So, if you were making a waking up routine, you might make the trigger phrase, “Good morning, Google.”
Then, you’ll pick the multiple actions you want Google to perform when you say that one thing. This could be turning on the lights, adjusting the thermostat, switching your phone from silent to ringing, and then receiving a news update and a weather update, etc., all before you begin your day, and all it takes is that one phrase.
Google Home: Communicate with the Entire Household
Do multiple people in your household have Google Home devices? Then you can now broadcast messages to your entire household from wherever you might be.
So, if you’re in the kitchen, and you want to tell the kids and spouse that it’s time to leave, all you have to do is say, “Ok Google, broadcast it’s time to leave.” Then, Google will tell all the other members of your household this message via their individual Google Home devices. You can use this function with Google Assistant on your phone as well, in case you want to give people in your home a message while you’re out and about.
Google Home: Fall Asleep to White Noise
Google Home will help you fall asleep fast with its handy white noise feature. Just ask it to play ambient noise or white noise. You can get specific, too, asking for a range of sounds, from rain to rivers, fireplaces to fans.
Want the sound to play all night? Ask Google to loop the audio. If you want Google to only play the audio for a certain amount of time, you can set a timer for it to eventually turn off once you’re asleep. If you don’t specify what you want, the device will just play for an hour.
Google Home: Book a Trip
Google Home can also help you, well, get away from home. You can plan travel with a little assistance from the Google Assistant, including booking a hotel, searching flights and getting information about upcoming flights.
To book a hotel, just say, “Book me a room at (hotel name) in (location) for (travel dates).”
To research flights, ask about flights to a potential place, including or not including your favorite airline. You can find available flights and flight prices.
If your Google Assistant, Google Account and Gmail are all connected and you used your Gmail account to receive your flight confirmation, then you can use your Google Home device to get information on upcoming flights and even use the device to check in to a flight.
Once you’re booked and about to leave on your trip, you can get recommendations for your trip by just saying, “Things to do in (city name).”
Alexa: Find Your Keys
If you have an Alexa-enabled device, there’s an entirely other realm of things you can do with the help of your smart speaker.
Alexa, for example, can help you find your keys. There are several ways to do this. For one, you can tell Alexa where you put something when you put it there, in case you think you might forget, and then she can tell you where it is if you can’t remember. Just say, “Alexa, remember I put...”
The other option is to use an RFID device, like the Tile Mate. Just put it on your keychain and enable Alexa to use the Tile device in your Alexa app. The next time you can’t find your keys, just ask Alexa to ask Tile to find your keys. Tile also makes similar devices to go in your wallet.
Alexa: Keep Your Pets Entertained
Alexa has a wide variety of pet-related skills. Ask Alexa to open “Relax My Dog” and she’ll play some music meant to soothe any stressed pup. Ask Alexa to open “Pet Buddy” and she’ll start producing some content that’s designed to keep your pet company and entertained while you’re at work or doing something else.
An Activity Mode within Pet Buddy will likewise keep your cat or dog entertained. There’s even a Sound Therapy mode within Pet Buddy that will introduce your pet to sounds that might typically scare them, and slowly help them become accustomed to the noise and overcome that fear.
Alexa: Quit a Bad Habit
Enable the Talk Me Down skill within the Alexa app and then, any time you’re tempted to indulge a bad habit, ask Alexa to talk you down. She’ll give you a pep talk with a lot of generic phrases, but some users say it’s nice to just have a voice there to tell them not to give up and that they’re better than their bad habit of choice.
Alexa: Wake Up to a Random Song
If you hate waking up to the same old song coming from your alarm on your phone every single day, then you may want to enable some of Alexa’s music and alarm features.
Alexa can work with a wide range of music services: Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, TuneIn and more. To set your default music service, just use the Alexa app and select the music service that you want to set as your default. From there, Alexa will pull music from that service any time you request it.
Then, when you set your alarm, just ask Alexa to play a certain genre, station, artist or playlist, and see what she comes up with in the morning.
Alexa: Order Dinner
Can’t be bothered to order dinner on your phone? Thankfully, a wide range of restaurants and food delivery services are now offering their own Alexa Skills that allow you to order your dinner (as well as other items) with just a few words.
You can order food from Domino’s, Sheetz, Starbucks, Panera, Chipotle and a range of individual and chain restaurants.
The process for ordering might change according to the restaurant you order from, but the most popular restaurants offer a pretty easy, streamlined service. For Domino’s, for example, all you have to do is say “Alexa, open Dominos” to start the process and then, from there, you can build a new order, re-order your last order or place whatever you have set as your Domino’s Easy Order.
Alexa: Learn About Local Businesses
Learn and connect with local businesses in your area. You can use Alexa to search for businesses in your neighborhood and learn their opening hours and phone numbers. A more recent feature, however, is Alexa’s ability to place a call to that local business on your behalf. All you have to do is simply ask Alexa.
Alexa: Make Your “Dumb” Devices Smarter
Lastly, your smart devices can now spread their intelligence to your “dumb” devices, too, making your entire household smart, no need to buy new gadgets required. It’s all thanks to smart plugs.
Smart plugs come with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities and many are compatible with Amazon products, meaning you can control them by speaking with Alexa. Just follow the directions on your smart plug to pair it with a smart device and then give it a name.
Usually you want to name the smart plug whatever it is you’ll be plugging into it, so you can request things like, “Alexa, turn on the lamp.” Alexa won’t actually be turning on the lamp, she’ll be turning on the plug, but you get the idea.
Use Your Smart Speaker to Make Your Life Easier
Whether it’s placing an order for dinner, booking a trip, turning on a lamp or keeping the pet entertained for a while, smart speakers can make your life easier. All you have to do is use them to their fullest potential.
You might also be interested in: How to Build a Smart Home with Alexa in 2020