These days, people are asking a lot more of the electronic devices in their homes. It’s not enough for speakers to simply play music today. We also want them to maintain our grocery list, tell us weather forecasts, and Google things for us when our hands are busy. Enter smart speakers: Powered by digital assistants like Alexa (Google Home) or Siri (Apple Homepod), they can do all of the above (and a whole lot more) based on simple voice commands. For those who don’t yet own a smart speaker, you may be wondering: What are the things smart speakers can do in your home?
With 147 million units being shipped in 2019 alone, smart speakers are becoming massively popular. For many, they’re serving as an entry point into the high-tech world of smart home devices. Here we’ll dive into what exactly makes a smart speaker so intelligent, and explain the many tasks they can perform for you. Once you understand the incredible range of things a smart speaker armed with a voice assistant can do, you’ll see why they’re booming. And before you know it, the phrase “Hey Google” may have wormed its way into your most-spoken phrases.
What is a smart speaker?
A smart speaker looks like a regular old speaker you’d use for playing music — except it’s equipped with a voice assistant to assist you with a plethora of tasks. Google Home speakers, for instance, have Google Assistant which is activated by speaking aloud the phrase “Hey Google.” Say “Hey Google, what’s the weather today?” and your smart speaker will tell you the day’s forecast.
The most popular brands of smart speakers including Google and Amazon (equipped with Alexa), but they’re also made by Bose, Sonos, and Apple. Prices range from about $40 for the entry-level Amazon Echo Dot or $49 for the Google Nest Mini to more than $300 for fancier models. In addition to streaming music and performing simple tasks like weather checks, Google searches and setting alarms, you can also use smart speakers for hands-free phone calls. Smart speakers can also control any other smart home devices in your home, such as smart light bulbs or smart plugs, making them voice activated.
What Are Things Smart Speakers Can Do in Your Home?
As we’ve mentioned, smart home speakers and their associated digital assistants can perform a massive list of daily tasks. Read on to learn what a smart speaker can do for you. Note that the exact commands you’ll need to use will vary depending on which smart speaker you own. Also, many of these voice-activated commands will also require first enabling a “Skill” if you have an Amazon Echo speaker. However, the following suggestions will get you started!
Send text messages
Need to send a text while your hands are busy? Just say, “Alexa, send a text message to Mom.” Once she responds, dictate what the text should say and say “send.” Easy as that!
Make and receive phone calls/video calls
Want to make a call or a video call without having to pick up your phone? Simply say “Hey Google, call my doctor” and your digital assistant will place the call.
Stream music over wifi or Bluetooth
The ability to play music from streaming services over your smart speaker is super convenient when you’re entertaining. Just say “Hey Siri, play Whitney Houston” and get ready to jam.
Change your TV channel or control the volume
If you have a smart TV, it can likely be configured to be controlled by your smart speaker. In that case, all you’ll need to say is something like “Alexa, change the channel to ESPN” or “Alexa, turn the TV down.”
Perform Google searches
Sometimes you have a burning question that’s just got to be answered. Whether it’s “When was the War of 1812?” or “When will the next round of stimulus checks be sent?”, your smart speaker can perform Google searches and even read the search results for you.
Give you news updates and headlines
Want to catch up on the news while you’re chopping vegetables for dinner? Say “OK Google, tell me the news” or get more specific and say “OK Google, play the news from CNN.” You can also ask for the news on a particular story, like “OK Google, hear headlines about Hurricane Ida.”
Maintain to-do & shopping lists
Never forget your grocery list at home again when your smart speaker is maintaining it for you. Just say “Hey Alexa, add broccoli to my shopping list.” Then, when you’re at the grocery store, access your list through the Alexa app on your smartphone.
Provide weather forecasts
Want to know if you should wear sandals or rain boots before leaving home? Just ask your smart speaker for today’s weather and it will read off the current temperature and weather conditions, as well as the upcoming forecast. This way, you’ll always have an umbrella when you need it.
Read traffic reports
Need to know what time you should leave for a destination, or what route to take? Try simply saying “Hey Google, how’s traffic going to work?” for a full report on traffic conditions.
Tell you the current date and time
We all get a little disoriented from time to time, but don’t worry: Just say “Alexa, what day is it?” and she’ll set you straight.
Read Wikipedia entries
Need to know more about a famous person? Just say “Alexa, Wikipedia Natalie Portman” and your digital assistant will read you a brief synopsis of the Wikipedia page. If you want to hear more, say “Tell me more.”
Manage your calendar & set appointments
Once your calendar is synced with your digital assistant, you can use your smart speaker to set appointments or hear what’s on your schedule for a particular day. For example, you can say “Hey Google, schedule an event for me on Saturday at 7 pm” or “OK Google, when is my first appointment today?”
Mitigate your own forgetfulness by having your digital assistant remind you to do things. For example, you could say, “OK Google, remind me to check on the brownies in 10 minutes” or “Hey Siri, remind me to pick Billy up from school at 3:00.”
Serve as an alarm clock or timer
Use voice control to set a timer for dinner and you’ll never burn it again. Just say “Hey Alexa, set a timer for 25 minutes” and she’ll let you know when it’s done.
Read recipes aloud
Alexa can be your new sous chef thanks to voice commands. Smart speakers have a range of functions related to cooking and recipes, but one example is Alexa’s skill for Allrecipes, which is one of the biggest recipe websites. You can say “Alexa, ask Allrecipes for an easy salmon recipe” or “Alexa, ask Allrecipes what I can make with eggs and bread.”
Give measurement conversions
Who can remember how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? Alexa or Google Home can, and all you have to do is ask.
Set the oven temperature
If you have a smart oven that’s been linked to your smart speaker, you’ll be able to control it with voice commands. Simplify the cooking process by simply saying “Hey Google, set the oven to 450 degrees.”
Give nutrition information
If you’re on a weight loss journey and are watching what you eat, a smart speaker can help. Ask Alexam or Siri how many calories are in an apple and they’ll quickly come up with an answer for you.
Serve as an in-home intercom
If you have multiple Google Home speakers throughout your home, you can use them as an intercom system. Just say “OK Google, broadcast” and it will reply, “What’s the message?” Say your message and it will be played through all the Google Home speakers on your network, letting everyone in your family know that you’re leaving for the airport in five minutes, for instance.
Control your smart home devices
Smart speakers can control just about any kind of smart home device you may have, opening up a world of possibilities. For example, if you have a smart coffee maker, you can use your smart speaker to brew yourself a cup with a simple voice command.
Turn your lights on and off or dim them
Just got cozy on the couch to watch a movie and don’t want to get up? If you have smart lightbulbs in your home, you can dim your living room light just by saying “Hey Google, dim the living room lights.”
Adjust your smart thermostat
Feeling a little chilly? Say “Hey Siri, set the temperature to 74 degrees” and your digital assistant can adjust your smart thermostat.
Manage your smart sprinkler system
If you have a smart sprinkler system that’s compatible with your smart speaker, you can water your lawn just by saying a few words. The exact commands and functions will depend on which brand of smart sprinkler system you have.
Open or close your garage door
Got a smart garage door? Then you can use your smart speaker to open and close it at will, just by saying “Hey Google, close the garage door.”
Lock your smart deadbolt
If you have a smart lock on your door, you can make sure it’s secure using voice commands. For example, to lock a Nest x Yale Lock, you can say, “Hey Google, lock the back door.” However, note that you can’t use voice commands to unlock doors as a security precaution. (You wouldn’t want just anyone coming up to your door and telling it to unlock!)
Arm or trigger your home security system
You can use your smart speaker to arm your smart home security system. For example, an Amazon Echo speaker can be connected with a Ring Alarm and then you can arm the system by saying, “Alexa, arm Ring.”
As you can see, a smart speaker can perform a huge range of tasks that simplify everyday life. The suggestions we’ve given here really only begin to scratch the surface of what a smart speaker can do. With new functions and apps being rolled out seemingly every day, the possibilities seem endless. If you’re looking to make your home more “smart,” investing in a smart speaker is a great first step. They can interface with a huge variety of smart home devices, giving you easy control over everything from your sprinkler system to your coffee maker.