The "Alexa" Blog - 6

In this sixth installment of The “Alexa” blog, we will take a look at “Smart Home” skills and the ability to send messages and make calls (including video calling) by voice command. These capabilities can provide Sunnyside residents entertainment, convenience, peace-of-mind, and most importantly, security.

Smart Home. What do we mean by "Smart Home?"  Smart Home is the term commonly used to define a residence that has appliances: lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems, that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely either by a time schedule or from a central communications device (in our discussion today, a "Voice Activated Device").

Since 2014 companies like Amazon, and more recently Google, Apple and Microsoft and others have been working internally and partnering with a number of developers to modernize and improve home devices and link them by Wi-Fi to Voice Activated Devices (now more commonly referred to as “Smart Speakers”), so that they can be operated by voice command. What could be “nattier” than being able to say, for example: “turn off the lights,” “turn on the coffee pot,” or “set the thermostat to 68 degrees” – and it happens? With the “Smart Speakers” that have a video screen embedded (i.e., Echo “Show”), one is able to pair with wireless security cameras and use them to either monitor who is at the front door or in a certain location within a residence. Owners of these devices are also able to make voice activated video calls (but more on calling below). I mean what we used to see only in science fiction movies such as “Star Trek” is now a reality! With the development of smart home devices and pairing them with a “Smart Speaker” the possibilities are endless as they are truly growing by the day.

Messaging and Calling. Alexa Calling and Messaging is a free service you can use to make calls to your contacts, and most mobile and landline numbers (in the United States, Canada, and Mexico). To sign up for Alexa Calling and Messaging all you need is: (1) an Amazon account, (2) a mobile phone number, and (3) the Alexa app (installed on a compatible iOS or Android phone). NOTE: Even though you need to enter your mobile phone number as part of signup, Alexa Calling and Messaging is separate from your mobile phone service. It does not use your plan (talk minutes, etc.) during calls or for sending texts, and doesn't show up on your mobile (smart phone) bill. With Alexa Calling and Messaging, you can make the following types of calls:

  • Alexa-to-Alexa Calling – Make and receive Alexa-to-Alexa calls between compatible “Echo” devices or the Alexa app. You can reach anyone from your smart phone’s contacts list who has a compatible device, who has also signed up for Alexa Calling and Messaging, and who is listed in your Alexa-to-Alexa contacts list in the Alexa app.
  • Mobile/Landline Calling – You can call most mobile or landline numbers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico from your compatible “Echo” devices. Use “Alexa” to reach supported numbers saved to your smart phone’s contacts list or say the number you want to call, and “Alexa” will dial it directly. Even though “Alexa” does not have the ability to call 911, imagine having the peace-of-mind during stressful situations, if all you had to do is say:

“Alexa, call the nurse.” “Alexa, call security.” “Alexa, call my son John…” and you are connected, INSTANTLY!

During a crisis individuals are able to call for "Help" without having to worry about finding their phones and trying to dial a number. The ability of “Alexa” to voice call for assistance during an emergency very well could be of major assistance to those individuals living by themselves. She might even aid in the saving of a life.

I think that may be enough food for thought today! We will be talking more about “Alexa” skills in the future. Until next time “Ciao”