Health IS Technology Blog

Alexa, What Can You Do?

“Those that recognize the inevitability of change stand to benefit the most from it,” Author and Businessman, Jay Samit.

Alexa, What Are Your Skills?

Perhaps, one of the most popular tech tools of the year is the Amazon Echo aka Alexa. Alexa is an artificially intelligent, voice assistant that can play music, read real-time updates on news, weather, to-do lists, and access the web for information on just about anything you ask about using nothing more than your voice. Voice assistants such as, Alexa along with Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri, are fast becoming common technology staples as laptops and tablets were before them. Just consider findings from a company named MindMeld, after they commissioned research on 1,800 adult smartphone users in the U.S., “The company found that there has been a big uptick in voice assistant and voice search usage, with 60 percent saying that they had started using these tools in the past 12 months,” (SearchEngineLand). They go on to report that up to “55% of voice assistant users use assistants regularly (daily or weekly), indicating not only mainstream adoption, but also greater engagement of users with voice assistants,” (PRNewswire).

What’s perhaps even more interesting comes from today’s tech heavyweight, Google. “Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that 20 percent of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches. The range of virtual assistants, such as Siri, Cortana, Google Voice Search/Now, Viv, Amazon Alexa, and now, Google Home, are collectively training people to search using their voices and to become more ‘conversational’ with search and mobile devices. In addition, those queries will become more transactional over time as virtual assistants permit bookings and conversions using voice,” (SearchEngineLand).

Check out some of the most commonly used skills people are enjoying on Alexa today, below.

Top Enabled Alexa Skills

  • Thrive Global: Offers an 8 minute guided meditation for stress-relief
  • Ambient Noise: Listen to small ocean waves for focus or rest and relaxation
  • The Magic Door: An interactive storytelling adventure with riddles, and more
  • 7-Minute Workout: Guides you through a set of exercises designed to increase metabolism, improve energy, lower stress, etc.

Other Useful Alexa Skills

  • Uber or Lyft: Get quotes on and order transportation
  • Capital One: Check your credit card balance and pay bills using a pin code
  • Automatic: Check fuel levels, miles driven over specified times, and find your car
  • Ask My Buddy: If you’ve fallen or need help, you can ask Alexa to alert specific family and friends
  • KidsMD: Get detailed data on common ailments such as colds, fevers, or nosebleeds from Boston Children’s Hospital

Interesting Questions to Ask Alexa

  • Alexa can you sing? She does
  • Alexa what’s 70 factorial? Prepare for a very long answer
  • Alexa what’s the mass of the sun? Another lengthy response
  • Alexa what are the three laws of robotics? She’s got these all covered, too!


Alexa, To What Devices Can You Connect?

There’s no shortage of smart tech that you can connect to modern voice assistants in order to start building an A.I. supportive and smart tech powered environment at home or in the office. Here is a list of some of the most popular smart tech that is already designed to play nice with Alexa for your convenience:


Alexa, What Is Your Potential?

Can you imagine a day in a smart environment? You could use your voice assistant to program your bedroom lights to slowly turn on in lieu of an alarm. Then, ask for quick reports on anything from what’s in your bank account and business news to weather and traffic conditions, before calling for a timely Uber or Lyft to the office. If you opt to connect it with other devices, you can preset it to warm the house before you awaken; turn lights on or off as you enter and exit rooms; wake your kids and remind them of their to-do lists; start brewing the coffee; open the garage doors; and activate the proper security system as you leave. All in a single digital morning.

Alexa Powered Smart Building

Alexa Powered Smart Building

The next big question is, how are are organizations using or planning to take advantage of devices like Alexa? In the case of companies like FinancialForce, business leaders are finding ways to use these devices to streamline business processes which would typically require a chain of common actions (e.g. access program, type username, type password, navigate through specific sections, review data) to get insights and execute work faster. “The potential for businesses of any size to have a digital assistant that can immediately find and report crucial information, as well as slicing and dicing the data according to user commands is incredibly exciting,” said Chief Technology Officer of FinancialForce Andy Fawcett,” (ITPro).

Further, on college campuses both in the U.S. and around the world, Alexa is popping up in dorm rooms and apartments alongside such staples as e-Readers and laptops. This has been further encouraged through a competition for college students called the Alexa Prize. The goal for students is to team-up to find ways to create an Alexa skill that enhances its conversational AI. In layman’s terms, enabling Alexa to have a relatively natural conversation that lasts at least 20 minutes. The winning team will be awarded $100,000 and their university will earn a $1,000,000 research grant. It will be interesting to see where this technology takes us. Regardless, one thing is clear. Smart technology is becoming more intelligent and growing in popularity. We may be on the cusp of a brave new digital wave.

Happy Computing!