Taking Cloud Computing to the Next Level with Voice Control

Today’s guest blog post is written by Christy Warren, Educational Development Manager, PatronManager. 

“Alexa, make me a cup of coffee.” OK, maybe she’s not that savvy … yet.  

If you’re not familiar with Alexa, “she” is made and distributed by Amazon. You talk to Alexa using one of several devices you can purchase and connect to your home’s internet service. These devices are the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, Echo Show, and Echo Look. Alexa, and many other competitors*, are taking cloud computing to the next level. Not only are we storing more data on centralized servers (the cloud) that we can access anywhere on many devices, but now we can also control and receive that data verbally. Hal and Jarvis are real!

Sure, there are many novelty uses for Alexa (and the others), such as asking Alexa to tell a joke or to play a certain genre of music. But there are also some serious uses that can help you manage your life at home or in the office.  

Here’s one I use a lot: “Alexa, ask Our Groceries to add bread to the shopping list.” Alexa connects to certain apps through what is termed a “skill.” I already use an app called Our Groceries to keep my grocery shopping organized. My household shares this app, so anyone can add items to it and whoever goes to the store sees the most up-to-date list, which is already cloud functionality. Before, I needed to have my mobile device nearby to add the item to the list. However, when I’m in the kitchen and I notice we’re out of something, but my hands are occupied or messy, I can now just tell Alexa to add it for me. Done! And my phone doesn’t need to be anywhere near, because Alexa is connected directly to my Wi-Fi and not routed through another device.   

So, how could this apply to your office? One simple idea: Use a cloud-based list-building app to track office supplies. After all, even without voice control, the cloud allows all of your employees to access the app online, and they can add their needs to the list. If you wanted to add voice control (completely optional), people could just speak the items that they see are missing from the supply cabinet. Either way, when the office manager places the monthly supply order, he or she can review the list and order away.  

There are other skills for Alexa that could be useful for individual employees as well. One called Quick Events connects Alexa to your primary Google Calendar, so you can verbally add, delete, or check on appointments. Two other skills, Priority Board and Task Master, enable you to manage tasks and to-do lists, keeping you on track — which is great for the project managers on your team. In addition, there are goal-setting skills, meditation skills, and so much more.  

Beyond apps and skills, voice-controlled hardware that controls the physical space around you is popping up like crazy as well. While many of these items are being marketed as “smart home” devices, they can easily be used in offices as well. Smart light switches: “Alexa, turn off the lights” when you’re running out of the office in a hurry. Smart thermostats: “Alexa, turn up the heat” when you see a client put on a sweater during an important sales meeting. Smart outlets: “Alexa, start the coffee maker.”  

Wait. So, she can make me a cup of coffee … Oh, this just keeps getting better.  

*This post is by no means a commercial for Amazon or its products. I just happened to receive an Echo Dot as a gift last year, so that’s what started this adventure. If you want information about this or similar devices, such as Google Home from Google, Siri from Apple, and Cortana from Microsoft, this fellow blogger gives a good description.

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