Alexa’s Most Useful Skills

By Tracey Dowdy

Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa streams your music, controls your smart gadgets, and can order items from Amazon. It will even integrate with IFTTT (a website that allows devices that don’t automatically communicate to connect with one another) so you can ask Alexa to start your Roomba, brew a cup of coffee with your WeMo coffee maker, or lock your doors at night, and she’ll turn off your Hue lights, make sure your Garageio closes your garage door, and mute your Android phone.

These are some of Alexa’s handiest, but sometimes overlooked skills.

  • Alexa’s most convenient skill is that she can find the skills for you. Simply say, “Alexa, open Skill Finder,” or “Alexa, tell Skill Finder to give me the skill of the day.” She can also tell you about the newest skills and the top skills in Alexa’s catalog.
  • You can place an order at one of the last ten Starbucks locations you’ve visited in person through the Starbucks Reorder  Once enabled, you’ll need to link your account and have previously placed a mobile order with the Starbucks app on your Android or iOS device. The skill allows you to check your account balance and switch between your last five mobile orders.
  • If the “feels like” temperature is more important to you than the actual temperature, try Feels Like to hear the wind chill any time the temperature is less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and heat index whenever it’s over 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Did you know you can order pizza through Alexa? You can place your Domino’s Easy Order by enabling the skill and saying, “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order.” Or, if Pizza Hut is more up your alley, enable the skill and say “Alexa, tell Pizza Hut to place an order.” You can browse and order from a select menu, saved favorite or repeat a past order.
  • Automatica connected car adapter that plugs into your vehicle’s on-board diagnostic port and pairs with your phone over Bluetooth – will sync your vehicle with your Amazon Echo to monitor gas mileage, maintenance issues, and access the vehicle’s GPS location. For instance, say, “Alexa — ask Automatic what’s my fuel level?” to check your gas gauge.
  • Connect your Logitech Harmony hub-based remote to start and stop Harmony, change the channel, control volume, or start/pause/stop streaming content. For example, say “Alexa, turn on the TV” to power on your TV, AV receiver and cable box and set them all to the correct input.
  • One of my personal favorites is the Uber Say, “Alexa, ask Uberto get me a car” or “Alexa, ask Uber for a ride” and an UberX will be there in minutes. If you need a different car type, say things like “Alexa, ask Uber to order an Uber Black.”
  • The Lyft skill goes one step further by allowing you to ask for pricing. Say, “Alexa, ask Lyft how much a Lyft Plus from home to work costs.”
  • If you’ve managed to stick to your New Year’s resolutions and you’re watching your food intake, use the Track by Nutritionix skill, to record your meals snacks, or drinks, or ask for your food’s calorie count. Say, “Alexa, tell Food Tracker to log four ounces of peanuts” or “Alexa, ask Food Tracker how many calories are in a half cup of tuna salad.”

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

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