Tips from TechBoxz: Setting alarms with Alexa

alexaIn past articles, we have talked quite extensively about the four major Home Assistant options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. By way of other publications, friends, and family you are more than likely knowledgeable in the most common commands they use, like turning on your TV or a lamp just by asking them, but did you know they can also create and share shopping lists, add appointments to your calendar, change television channels and remind you of tasks in need of attention? All four can perform each request with varying success, but Alexa still holds a slight edge. Add to this Microsoft’s recent collaboration with Amazon, and Cortana may not be around very long.

Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased towards Alexa. When I first became interested in home automation, Alexa was the only game in town. Siri was great, but her real strength was running an iPhone. She just hasn’t grown beyond dialing numbers and taking notes. As the years rolled by, Siri, Cortana, and Home added more features, but I already had an investment in Alexa. I will expand coverage and write a proper review once I’ve purchased the hardware for a break down of Home, Cortana, and Siri’s personal assistant abilities. For now, I focus on Alexa.

Alexa can be voice activated from your phone, Fire TV or an Alexa enabled device like the Echo or other third party devices such as Sonos’s One. Alexa can be accessed using the Alexa App to delete old recordings, see expanded options and skill settings or change account information. Here is a brief rundown of one of those areas.

Open the Alexa App and follow the selections: HOME > REMINDERS & ALARMS>

From here, we can add and review the currently set Reminders, Alarms and Timers. Though they sound very similar each has their own unique function. Alarms are the most fully featured of the three. Once set, Alarms go off at a specific time, can be snoozed, can be set to re-occurring and will continue to sound until turned off. Reminders are very similar to your phone’s notification function. A Reminder will go off at a specific time, but unlike an alarm there isn’t a snooze option and the alert only sounds once before turning itself off. Personally, I don’t see a need for the notification feature as it’s just a limited version of an Alarm. Timers are also limited alarms but serve a purpose I now can’t live without, the ability to easily set multiple alerts at specific times that delete themselves after I’ve turned them off. For those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, imagine the ability to set five different timers, one for each item being prepared. I haven’t burned or overcooked anything since finding this option and my trusty LavaTools instant-read thermometer. Spouse Approval Factor = Ten plus.

When I started this article my goal was to impart some of the specific steps to find and use some of Alexa’s lesser-known features. I’ve underestimated the size and scope of that task. I now look at this as the introduction to a multi-part tutorial. If you have any questions or suggestions email eric@pabridges.com. See you next month.

Story by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges