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Are We Ready for Connected Cars?

2016 was the year when “smart” homes went mainstream.

We got used to living in a world where any device in your house that is connected to electricity can be placed on your home network and operated by voice commands or remote control.

Your home automation operates lighting, your home entertainment systems, security, and thermostat. Everything from cell phones to washing machines, Lamps to coffee makers. It’s all been “smartified”.

Last year everyone was talking about Alexa and her 6000 new skills. In 2017, If Uber’s latest move is any indication,  it seems like it’s the “Connected car’s” turn to shine.

Read more

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Predictions: What will be the hottest trends in IoT in 2017

2016 was huge for the ‘Internet of Things’ space.

What was once an obscure futuristic vision has gone mainstream and even affordable.

In 2014, the Internet of Things was just a phenomena to look out for. Now, only two years later, it seems like it is already here and it’s revolutionizing almost every area in our lives. Read more

Smart Home: How to Create Yours On a Budget

I’ve been wanting to create my smart home for quite a while, but I found myself frustrated with pricey and complicated home automation devices. Not only did I have to spend thousands of dollars but the devices did not communicate or were compatible with each other.

I knew I wasn’t going to give up on my smart home goals and I was determined to find a solution that would make my day to day more convenient. As the geek that I am, I decided to do some research.

I found that while the automated smart home market is packed with expensive devices, there is no compatibility between the systems. For example; If you have a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino, OpenHAB is a free open source home automation platform that works well with 150 different smart home products. However, although you’ll save some money, you’ll need to have some kind of programming experience and be willing to put in some time.

If you are not into programming or installing a few-thousand dollar system, the following options I found might be a better fit for you.They are not free, but reasonably priced, and they are easy to install as automated home devices.

Smart Plugs

Smart Plugs are a great way to get started, as they control the on and off switch of any power connected device, straight from the outlet. Once set up and plugged into a power outlet, you can control the devices connected to the Smart Plug remotely through a mobile app. Other features such as scheduling, energy monitoring and thermal sensor for automatic shut-off overheated devices, make it a worthy addition at this economical price.

D-Link Wireless Smart Plug

Available for iOS and Android

Price: $69.99

NOW Promo Price: $49.99

d-link

Tp-Link Wireless Smart Plug

Available for iOS, Android and Amazon Echo

Price: $29.99

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Smart Water Saver

BOA Waterpebble

BOA Waterpebble is a cheap gadget to help you reduce your daily water consumption. By memorizing your first shower, it indicates (with light signals) when you are showering beyond your benchmark. Every time you shower, it will encourage you to reduce showering time, helping you save money and the planet.

Price: $13.99 on Amazon

Smart Hub

A Smart Hub is a priority when getting started with your Smart Home. Control various functions around the house with a single application. You can also connect between devices – for example, turn on the coffee maker when your alarm clock goes off. How awesome is that?! Here are some excellent Smart Hub solutions:

Samsung SmartThings Hub

The SmartThings Hub lets you control and monitor your home, from a simple app, by enabling to connect various smart devices into one hub. You can receive notifications from your connected doors, lights, locks, electronics, wireless speakers and it even notifies on moisture levels, home intrusion, and extreme temperatures inside the house.

The SmartThings app is free and it is available for iOS, Android, Amazon Echo and Windows Phone.

Price: $24.98

Wink Hub

This fine-looking device and app connect multiple smart devices, allowing you to control them in one app. Wink Relay works with a very impressive list of smart devices, and recently the company announced it also integrates Uber, Fitbit and IFTTT protocol – very cool. Also, if that wasn’t enough, you can use the various Wink devices as Intercoms for room-to-room communication. Nice.

Price: $99.00 for the latest version

 

Smart Assistant

Echo Dot

Leading the home personal voice assistant market (on a budget) is Echo Dot. It is a hands-free, voice-controlled device that can control your smart home, connect to applications and services, be your music player and more. The Echo Dot pack includes several devices that are placed in rooms around the house and control it as a whole.

Price: $49.99

Smart Lighting

Replace traditional bulbs by simply unscrewing the old ones and replacing them with wireless LED bulbs. It is the easiest step in the process of creating an automated smart home. You might need a main smart home hub or you might simply be able to control it directly via Bluetooth from your smartphone or tablet. Here are various options to choose from:

GE Link

You don’t need a fat wallet to get your smart lights going. GE Link light bulbs are “a bright idea for your smart home.” You connect them through a hub to the Wink app on your smartphone or tablet and control them from wherever you are. You can control them individually or in groups and schedule or sync with other smart devices. Not only are they super affordable but they consume less power and last longer than regular bulbs. The app is available in Android and iOS apps.

Price: starting at $13.33

LIFX

These smart bulbs are also a great option for your light-tech home. LIFX pioneered the first Wi-Fi enabled, multi-colored LED that’s controllable via a smart device. It works with Nest and other smart home devices like IFTTT and Google App, providing a friendly experience without needing a hub or additional systems.

Price: Starting at $22.49

WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set

This starter pack provides an instant smart lighting system with two bulbs and the WeMo Link connector for the price of one. It is now half the price, and if you want to add some more later on, WeMo Link supports up to 50 bulbs and each the starting price of each is below $20.

Price: $99.99

NOW Promo Price: $49.99

Smart Security System

One of the main advantages of creating your smart home is monitoring your home security system by adding door and window sensors. A smart door-lock that unlocks from your smartphone and virtual keys that you can give to visitors. The price range for this sector is above all others for purchasing a complete system.

Kwikset Kevo Smart Door Lock

Kwikset’s Kevo was the first smart lock on the market and it still remains as my favorite option. You can unlock it by touch or, alternatively, with a key. It works with an apple watch and it is compatible with Nest. You can also pair it with your smartphone and email Kevo keys, via the Kevo app. You can also send keys to other users and deactivate them when they no longer need them. Additionally, you can monitor when each key is used and you can set up an alert to get notified every time someone enters.

Price: $139.98

EZVIZ Mini HD Security Camera

This is a great way to monitor your home without paying crazy amounts of money. The night vision camera starts recording when it detects motion and sends alerts to your smartphone or tablet. You can monitor your home even if you are away. The 720p HP video has a 130-degree view and multiple storage options. It is easy to set up and you can voice control it using Alexa with IFTTT. It comes with a free month trial for you to check it out first.

Price: $89.99

Smart Thermostat

Honeywell

Honeywell might not look as fancy shmancy as other thermostats on the market, but it works perfectly and it is as functional as every other. You can manage heating and cooling systems at anytime through its WiFi capabilities and adjust the thermostat’s schedule. You can set the perfect indoor temperature while viewing the outdoor temperature and humidity. It also displays a five day weather forecast and allows you to view and change humidifier settings. If you register a system at home and another one at your office, you can access multiple locations and upgrade to new features. Honeywell might not be as well-known as Nest, but it is an affordable and fully functional alternative.

Price: $84.68

Honeywell

Now to you

If you combine the total cost for creating a complete, affordable smart home, you will find that the value is less than $1,000.00. Your home will adjust to your daily patterns and help you keep calm when you are halfway around the world.

These options are an investment as they will help you save energy, save water, keep your house safe, monitor your children, and get the most out of your home.

If you take a look at the big picture, it is not expensive to get smart lighting, a smart thermostat, a smart security system, and more. You can start with these devices to make your life more convenient, and later on, expand on some smart luxuries. But I will warn you about one last thing – if you are on a low budget, be careful because these wonderful gadgets can become highly addictive and you WILL want to expand on your Smart Home!

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Top 20 Alexa Skills Everyone Should Know

Are you still trying to understand how you can get the most out of Alexa?

If you are – good!

Here’s why you should make sure you’ve added the crème de la crème Alexa skills to your account.

There are three things that have truly differentiated Alexa from every other voice assistant: The availability of Alexa’s Voice Service for other manufacturers

1. The availability of Alexa’s Voice Service for other manufacturers

The Alexa Voice Service developer program allows manufacturers to build their own Alexa devices just like Samsung built a refrigerator with Alexa’s Voice Service. In the near future, we will even have cars with Alexa incorporated.

2. Other companies’ products can be compatible without changing their product

If a manufacturer wants his product to be compatible with Alexa, all he needs to do is open up its cloud portal.

3. There is an open door for third-party app developers

In the Amazon world, these third-party apps are called Skills. They are what really makes Alexa special.

The Alexa Skill Kit  makes it is easy for anyone with basic programming knowledge to develop their own skills and add them to Alexa by following Amazon’s approval guidelines. The public can add any skill to their Alexa account and immediately make it work on every Alexa device they have at home.

As the Amazon Alexa director, Rob Pulciani said:

“Today, we have a vibrant community of tens of thousands of developers who are learning about the service, bringing useful and innovative skills to every aspect of Alexa customers’ lives, and introducing their own users to the magic and simplicity of hands-free, voice-driven interactions. We’re excited about the 1,000 skills that are already available, and can’t wait to see what developers create with the next ten thousand.”

We recently joined the party and created our own skill, News Feed, that allows Alexa users to make use of our audio repository by asking Alexa “What’s the latest on <topic>?” and getting instant, live reports from top newscasters.

As Alexa is getting smarter, so should you. With over 3,000 skills, it can be overwhelming to separate the remarkable skills from the throwaway ones. We’ve created a list of the top 20 every Alexa user should know:

1. SmartThings

Smart Home

If you are aiming for a smart home and are willing to get past the pricing issues, SmartThings is the best solution for integrating with Alexa. It allows you to control lights, security systems, thermostats, switches, dimmers and outlets with your voice.

You can control individual devices like “Alexa, turn on Living Room AC” or control SmartThings groups like “Alexa, turn on Bedroom Lights”.

2. Automatic

Connected Car

Automatic is a great first step if you want to communicate with your car. Once you have an Automatic adapter, you can ask Alexa where your car is parked, how much fuel you have left or how much you drove yesterday, the past week or even last year. It “Automatic-ally” turns your car into a smart car and makes you a better driver.

3. Find My Phone

Connected Phone

If you often misplace your phone, TrackR helps you find it even if it is on silent mode.

These are the steps to set it up:

  • Enable the Find My Phone skill by Trackr from your Alexa app or by saying “Alexa, enable the Find My Phone skill” and install on your device.
  • Launch the TrackR app and select “Add a new device” and then choose “Alexa Integration” and “Start Setup”.
  • Ask “Alexa, ask TrackR for my pin”
  • Enter the pin code into the TrackR app and click Submit.

Once your skill is integrated, you can ring your phone at full volume and find it in no time.

Echo has Skills - Now voice activated

4. Capital One

Business & Finance

Ask Alexa how much money you have, make credit card payments and keep up with your loans with Capital One. It is exclusive to Capital One members but if you connect your account, Alexa can tell you your current balance, last transactions and more.

You sign up with your Capital One username and password (which are kept completely private). Then, create a personal four-digit code. You have to give your security code before it can access your information.

5. Kids MD

Health & Fitness

This skill is powered by the Boston Children’s Hospital and provides detailed information about common ailments such as colds, fevers, or nosebleeds. Kids MD gives you information on medication dosing. It is for educational and informational purposes only as it doesn’t give individual medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment, but it is by far the best educational health skill in the Alexa app store.

6. 7-Minute Workout

Health & Fitness

A 7-minute workout is a great way to release stress and start your day full of energy. This small daily effort is scientifically proven to increase metabolism, improve energy, lower stress, and best of all, remove fat! Activate The 7-Minute Workout skill to know exactly which set of exercises will benefit you. You can track and resume existing workouts with simple commands.

7. FitBit

Health & Fitness

This skill is terrific if you want to get involved in the fitness world, especially if you already integrated the 7-Minute Workout skill. With FitBit you can ask Alexa to track your progress. Ask for your weight, steps taken, exercise goals, sleep tracking and more. A simple “Alexa, ask FitBit how I am doing today” is an easy way to help you achieve a healthier daily routine.

8. Marvee

Safety

Marvee is a perfect care companion for those who have limited vision, mobility or typical aging challenges. It’s an easy way for them to communicate with family members, caregivers and loved ones. Make sure they know that you are ok while still having the independence we all need. Alexa uses the contacts you’ve specified on your linked Marvee app and sends out notifications by text, email or both with these simple commands:

“Alexa, tell Marvee I’m OK”

“Alexa, tell Marvee to check on me”

“Alexa, ask Marvee to have Alex call me”

“Alexa, ask Marvee for Family News”

9. Ask My Buddy

Safety

Ask My Buddy lets you send a text message, voice telephone call or an email alert message in case of an emergency. You can say “Alexa, ask My Buddy to alert [name of specific contact]” or “Alexa, ask My Buddy to alert everyone”.

You simply have to register the names and information for those you would like to alert in case of an emergency. It’s a great skill to feel safe even when living by yourself.

10. Domino’s Pizza

Food & Drink

Domino’s Pizza has made it possible for you to order a pizza without lifting a finger. Set up an Easy Order in your Domino’s Pizza Profile and say “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order” and you’ll have a full belly in no time. You can also track your order status and set up a list of favorites.

Amazon tap logo - up close

11. Campbell’s Kitchen

Food & Drink

If you’re running out of ideas for your daily menu, Campbell’s Kitchen is your skill. It gives you five new recipes every day. You just have to ask Alexa to open Campbell’s Kitchen and it will provide you with recipes that match your taste and time preferences.

These are some examples of possible commands for your new smart kitchen:

“Alexa, ask Campbell’s Kitchen what’s for dinner.”

“Alexa, ask Campbell’s Kitchen for a recipe.”

“Alexa, ask Campbell’s Kitchen for today’s top five recipes.”

12. The Bartender

Food & Drink

The Bartender is ideal for making your favorite cocktails and spicing up your skills as a party host. The recipes are easy and provide accurate instructions so you won’t mess up in the middle of the process. You can ask by name or by ingredient – for example:

“Alexa, ask the bartender, what’s in a Pisco Sour?”

“Alexa, ask the bartender, for a drink with thyme.”

“Alexa, ask the bartender to surprise me.”

Remember, it’s not for all ages but it sure is ideal for an older crowd.

Same goes for our next skill on the list!

13. My Somm

Food & Drink

Wait, you never took a wine course in Tuscany?!

Never mind, you can turn Alexa into your personal wine sommelier. MySomm will give you wine recommendations depending on what you are having for dinner. Are you having meat, camembert or the usual Sunday pepperoni pizza? Doesn’t matter, MySomm has a wine recommendation for every meal. So, if you’re a wine lover, Wine not? Just ask Alexa to ask “Wine Gal” and you’ll have the perfect wine matching your plate.

14. Earplay

Gaming & Entertainment

Earplay features interactive audio stories where you can become a part of the story with your voice. It features sound effects, acting drama, and interaction with the story’s characters which changes how the story unveils.  With the command “Alexa, start Earplay”, you’re able to begin your life as a secret agent. Keep in mind it requires parental guidance as not all stories are suitable for all ages.

15. Abra

Gaming & Entertainment

The old Akinator game is available on Alexa and it is the Abra skill. Choose a character, real or fictional and say “Alexa, start Akinator”. Alexa will ask you a set of questions you need to answer and you will be surprised how Alexa will almost always guess the character you are thinking of. The most intriguing part comes up with more challenging guesses.

16. The Wayne Investigation

Gaming & Entertainment

You can choose your own adventure in this Batman-themed mystery game by playing a detective that investigates the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Alexa guides you to navigate around the streets of Gotham and get to the bottom of the crime. Keep in mind parental guidance is suggested as the content might not be suitable for all ages.

17. Lyft

Travel & Transportation

Enable Lyft to request a car  and avoid the public transportation chaos. Your car will arrive in a few minutes and the fare will be automatically debited from your account. This skill tells you where your ride is, the fare for a specific commute and allows you to rate your driver. All you have to say is “Alexa, ask Lyft to request a ride”.

18. Kayak

Travel & Transportation

If you are the adventurous type, you can easily do research for a future trip using the Kayak skill. Say “Alexa, ask Kayak where I can go for $350” and get multiple destinations to see how far you can travel with your budget. You can also ask the price for a specific destination and get multiple options and price ranges. In addition, this hands-free trip planning skill gives you real-time flight status updates so you won’t be late to pick up your guests at the airport.

19. StubHub

Social

Discover the best local events going on this weekend just by asking Alexa. You can also find out what’s happening in another city and if it’s worth it, you can tell Alexa to ask Kayak how much is the flight to this destination 😉 .

20. Skill Finder

A Skill for Finding Skills

There are over 3000 skills in the Alexa app and within you will find some that are educational and interesting and others that are just fun and stupid. That’s why Amazon created SkillFinder and made it easier for you to discover new skills. Find out about the newest, top skills in different categories. Just say “Alexa, tell SkillFinder to give me the skill of the day” and keep your Alexa app up to date.

 

If we were to add skill number 21, which one should it be?

 

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The 7 Most Popular Uses of Alexa

Did you buy an Amazon Echo and now you find yourself asking “Alexa, what time is it?” or “Alexa, how’s the weather today?” over and over again? It’s time for you to take your relationship with Alexa to the next level with some new conversation topics.

If you’re still not sure whether you should buy an Amazon Echo or not, these 7 uses might help you make up your mind.

Read more

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The Complete Alexa Skill Glossary – Go from beginner to pro in under an hour

Are you new to the world of Alexa Skill development? This Alexa Skill Glossary is what you’ve been looking for.

Alexa is the voice service that powers Amazon Echo. It comes with some incredible capabilities straight out of the box, but you can also add new functions to it, called Skills (equivalent to apps on the smartphone).

To develop for Alexa, you can use the Alexa Skills Kit.

The kit helps you add new capabilities by creating either custom, home or flash briefing skills. In order for users to enjoy the new skills you’ve created, you can also describe the VUI by mapping the user’s speech input data and the intents the network service can handle.

Alexa Skills Kit will spice up your days with some grownup fun.

Alexa can play music, answer all questions about anything you would like to know, order a pizza, call a car from Uber, set your alarm, tell you the weather, remind you of your calendar notes and more.

With the combination of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples, the Alexa Skills Kit is also great for creating your Smart Home.

Sharpen your skills with the Alexa Skill Glossary

Sharpen your skills with the Alexa Skill Glossary Photo Credit: netguru.co/blog/voice-recognition-tools-review

Amazon Echo connects to smart home gadgets perfectly. Amazon Echo Dot is great if you want to expand on it and bring the voice commands to multiple rooms in your house.

If you’d like to get started with developing for Alexa, we’ve created a complete Alexa Skill Glossary to help you define how the users will experience the new capability you’ve created.

We will start with the basics and continue with the necessary terms you have to know in order to develop a new Skill.

Check out the Alexa Skill Glossary so you can follow up on the magic behind this wonderful tool:

The practical Alexa Skill Glossary

Speech Recognition Application

Speech Recognition Applications enable a device/computer to convert spoken words into written text to find the best matching word sequence.

A Speech-To-Text (STT) engine allows you to dictate a message and your device will send it as text.

A Text-To-Speech (TTS) engine will reproduce the sound of the written words.

Google Translate

Artificial Intelligence

A modern definition for AI is described as the study and design of a system that perceives its environment and is able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. These tasks include visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translations between languages.

In 1956 defined as “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.” by John McCarthy.

Is this how Alexa will look like in 2056?

Is this how Alexa will look like in 2056?

Network Service (SaaS)

Cloud-enabled service that delivers skills and takes requests from Alexa with an intent to give responses from text and speak back to the user.

Self-Service API (Application Program Interface)

A software platform through which developers organize access to data and business processes, and to enable web applications to interact with other applications. Self-service APIs allow developers to have access to a large range of features so they can evolve and customize their project. It is great for developers to have total control of their creations.

VUI (Voice User Interface)

An interface between a user and a system which utilizes the recognition of spoken words or voice commands to initiate a service and enable automated suitable responses.

Unlike voice response systems, VUIs accept continuous speech rather that short phrases only.

There are some important factors to be taken into account since users usually expect some emotional involvement when speaking to a voice user interface.

Skill

Built-in abilities and capabilities of Alexa – such as playing music, notifying on the latest news or telling you the weather – given by developers. It includes the code and the configuration provided on the developer portal. There are three types of skills that can be built:

Custom Skills

A custom skill is a flexible, yet complex skill with a custom interaction model provided by developers. For custom skills, the developer should define three things:

Intents: requests the skill can handle.

Ex. Order food delivery.

Interaction Model: the words users may say to make intents.

Ex. “Order spicy tuna roll”.

Invocation Name: The name Alexa uses to identify the skill.

Ex. Food delivery.

Smart Home Skills

A skill that controls smart home devices such as lights and thermostats. For smart home skills, the developer should define:

Skill Adapter: The code that makes the skill respond to a particular directive.

Ex. Decreases the temperature when the user requests “decrease the temperature by 3 degrees”.

The device directives and words a user may use to request those directives are supported by the API.

Flash Briefing Skills

The way to provide content for a customer’s flash briefing. For a Flash Briefing Skill, the developer must define:

The name, description & images for a flash briefing skill and one or more content feeds for a flash briefing skill.

The API defines the words users may use to make those requests.

Ex. “Tell me the weather.”

Interaction Model

An interaction model is an abstract definition of the interaction that will take place between your API and the applications that use it (similar to a graphical user interface in a traditional app). Instead of pressing buttons, users make requests by voice.

This video by Ronnie Mitra for further guidance on how to build an Interaction Model and for an introduction of an interaction based design philosophy:

Intent

The action that fulfills the user’s spoken request. There are three types:

Ex. Horoscope

Full Intent

A spoken request in which the user expresses everything that is required to complete their request, all at once.

Ex. “Alexa ask Elle.com for today’s horoscope for virgo.”

Partial Intent

A spoken request in which the user expresses just partial information of what is required to complete their request.

Ex. “Alexa ask Elle.com for the horoscope.”

No Intent

A spoken request with minimal information.

Ex. “Alexa talk to Elle Magazine.”

Slot

The optional arguments in an intent.

Ex.  A “sign” is a possible slot for the “Horoscope” intent. When the intent has been sent, the slot “sign” can carry the value Virgo, Cancer, Pisces, etc… when the intent is sent.

Speech Input Data

The set of mapped values added for any custom slots supported by the developer’s skill and a list of sample utterances or common statements that invoke the intents.

Prompt

A voice response that should be directed to the user to ask for more information.

Ex.

User: “Alexa, talk to Elle.com”.

Prompt: “You can ask for today’s fashion trends or your horoscope. What will it be?”

Now to you

Are there any basic terms we left out? Please add them in the comments.

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Siri VS Google Now VS Cortana VS Alexa – Who Wins The Assistant War?

How did we get to discuss Siri vs google? It seems like within months we went from trying to understand how Siri works to asking Alexa to turn on the lights when we get home.

Alexa, Siri, Google Now and Cortana all walked elegantly into our lives changing our daily habits. And there is more yet to come.

While being similar but also very different, each one of those VA’s has its own perks and drawbacks.

They all do sorta different things, but kinda the same way and they all have a similar purpose but perform with a slightly different approach… Confused yet?

It’s time to make some sense of this mess and put things in order.

We decided to evaluate and compare the 4 popular assistants based on different needs and categories  so you can decide – Which of the four leading personal assistants of the 2016 AI world performs best: Siri vs Google Now vs Cortana vs Alexa.

Game On!

Siri VS Google Now VS Cortana VS Alexa

Speech Recognition

All voice-recognition systems are designed to recognize your speech patterns and personal accent as you use them on a daily basis.

Siri

Siri is great at understanding natural language. It responds to different ways of phrasing the same questions. Further than words, Siri’s “personality” identifies meaning and is the most natural assistant when using common language.

On the other hand, you need to be very close to your phone when you talk to Siri and it has to be your voice. Siri will have trouble understanding you otherwise.

Google Now

Google Now was the most successful out of all when it comes to coping with a wide range of accents but, it’s still missing Siri’s “personality” and the ability to cope with natural language.

Cortana

Besides the fact that you can also type to Cortana, its voice recognition is similar to Siri’s as it identifies meaning and not just words. It has some different approaches compared to Siri for the same questions, and even though it hasn’t been around for so long, it is a viable competitor and works surprisingly well.

Alexa

Alexa is always attentive for its name. It has the most impressive microphone (and speaker) technology that can pick up phrases and commands in a normal voice from across the room. Echo’s speaker technology can hear any voice from wherever.

This can sometimes be a drawback as it may react to other voices coming from the television.

Range of Capabilities

Siri

Siri is great for on-the-go purposes and therefore, it accurately gives you directions while you’re in the car. It is useful when you don’t want to pick up the device and need to send out a specific message from your phone. Other capabilities include searching the web, making calls, opening apps, setting up calendar events and alarms, looking up directions in Apple Maps and so on…

If you ask Siri for the news, it will give you a bunch of links but will not read the news out loud. Same goes if you want to buy something – Siri will give you the link where you can make your purchase but will not buy it for you.

Apple improved the knowledge for storing your personal data to have a more personalized service in the iOS 9 but there is still room for improvements in this aspect.

Google Now

Google Now is the star when it comes to handling your personal life. It has a collection of personal data making your daily commute, your interests and your schedule so easy to control. This information is used for the “predictive cards” feature, which displays your interests before you even ask. It is the best system to anticipate your needs and proactively assist you.

Google Now will tell you the weather, give you directions to common places you visit, remind you about scheduled events, give you updates depending on your interests, play music and so on… You can also ask for information from your Google accounts.

Cortana

Cortana is great with location-based reminders like “Remind me to call Dad when I get home.” It is also quick when it comes to searching the internet for information – however, when it comes to simple questions like “What day is it?”, it might get confused.

You can also make calls, send text messages, search the web, schedule calendar events, ask for the weather and give you information about places you frequently visit.

Like Google Now, Cortana uses your information and things you are interested in on its “notebook” feature in order to anticipate and provide you with information you might find useful.

As a mixture of both Siri and OK Google, you can either talk to Cortana for something you need or train it to anticipate information about your interests and life. You can also set hours when you don’t want to be disturbed.

Alexa

The power of Alexa is made for creating your Smart Home. It is amazing for handling home devices, buying things online – like adding items to your Amazon Shopping Cart or placing an order of your supermarket weekly shopping list when you run out of food. It is also useful for making reminders, playing music, adjusting the thermostat or turning off/on the lights. Also, if you ask Alexa for the news, it will read its “flash” news briefings out loud.

When it comes to sending out a personal message, you must have a specific calling app, otherwise, it is unable to do so. Since its best purpose is for home devices, Alexa can give you travel estimates but you need to enter the mobile app in your current location.

Working With Third-Party Apps

Siri

Siri cannot interact with most of the third party apps. It plays apple music but it can’t ask for an Uber or play Spotify. It is limited to work only with other Apple apps even though it works effectively.

Apple integrated seven types of apps (Ride booking, Messaging, Photo and video, Payment apps, VoIP calling, Workouts and CarPlay) for iOS 10.0, but says more will be coming in the future.

Google Now

Google Now is also working with a variety of third-party apps where you are able to add to-do-lists on Trello or play some music on Youtube or Pandora. Depending on the type of phone you have, you may have to activate Google Now from within the main Google search app.

The iOS version of the Google app is limited as it is primarily for web searching rather than being an all-round digital assistant.

Cortana

Cortana is great when working with other apps on Windows devices and efficiently creates emails, reminders or notes.

Currently, only a few third-party apps can successfully integrate with Cortana but, as time passes, we should see more development in this aspect.

Alexa

Alexa is great with third party apps reaching up to over 130 applications. You can ask for a car from Uber, play music on Spotify and even buy things online.

As mentioned in Techcrunch’s article, “After all, the Alexa app doesn’t even refer to its list of third-party software as “apps”, rather referring to these add-ons as “skills” instead – meaning, things that expand the functionality of the Alexa-powered Echo speaker.”

Siri VS Google Now VS Cortana VS Alexa - Who's the winner?

Siri VS Google Now VS Cortana VS Alexa – Who’s the winner?

Switching On When Needed

Siri

In order to activate Siri, you can press and hold the Home button of the iOS device you are using or leave the always-on option activated in order for the system to know that whenever you say “Hey, Siri”, it is the start of a new command. When your phone battery drops down below 20%, Siri turns off automatically.

There is an option that allows you to train Siri to respond only to your voice. This way, the system will not activate itself with other voices like the television.

Google Now

To activate Google Now, you tap a microphone on the screen. As all other systems, you can also activate an always-on option which serves as an indicator for your digital assistant to listen for the phrase “OK Google” as the request for a new command.

“OK Google” can also be trained to react to a certain trusted voice.

Cortana

To activate Cortana, you tap a microphone icon on the screen. Like Siri, when your phone battery drops down below 20%, it is turned off automatically.

Additional to a personal voice training option, Cortana also includes an option that allows it to activate “to anyone” in case you are sharing the device with other members.

Alexa

Amazon Echo/Echo Dot will listen to “Alexa” for activation as long as it’s turned on. Moreover, there is also an option to turn its microphone off.

Alexa Assistant sometimes reacts to voices it shouldn’t (like the television) because of the advanced Echo microphone technology.

Smart Home vs On-The-Go

Siri

Siri is great for on-the-go as it is available on multiple portable devices. Apple is still working on making the use of Siri at home more effective.

Google Now

Google Now is convenient for on-the-go. It is has a great hands-free accessibility to your mobile device, as Siri. However, Google Assistant, which is integrated into Google Home, is suspected to merge with Google Now in the near future.

Cortana

As a combination of both OK Google and Siri, Cortana is great for on-the-go purposes. Moreover, Microsoft’s goal is to reach smart homes as Windows 10 will work with a wider range of devices and appliances in 2017.

Alexa

Alexa is not a device you purchase for “on-the-go” services. The software is ideal and the most useful when creating your Smart Home.

Device Itself

Siri

Siri is available on iDevices which allow it to be accessible everywhere. In your tablet, phone and even in your wrist. Apple is making an effort to make it work better as a smart home device.

Google Now

Google Now works on Android, iOS, and PCs, though its hardware-controlling capabilities are limited on iOS.

Cortana

Cortana is available on Windows 10 desktop OS as well as Windows 10 Mobile, which Microsoft expects to be on 1 billion devices in two to three years. It is expected to be available also on Android and iOS in the future.

Alexa

Alexa is available on Amazon Echo and Echo Dot which is great if you want to set it for your home, home devices and later on expand it to other rooms with the Echo Dot.

In conclusion…

So in the Siri VS Google Now VS Cortana VS Alexa wars, who wins?

We’ve compared all four digital assistants – Siri, that has been around for a while, Cortana which is new to the game yet a viable competitor, Google Now, currently in a significant development stage and Alexa, a prominent technology for smart homes.

At the moment, even though they have the same technology, Alexa is in a different game. As a device with top performance for the smart home, it works great with third party applications and Amazon Echo’s speaker/microphone technology is exceptional.

Siri, Google Now and Cortana on the other hand, have a similar purpose leaning towards a more  “on-the-go” use.

Siri’s “personality” and ability to understand natural language makes the experience the most smooth and unique out of the three. However, Google Now’s personalized assistance automatically keeps your daily schedule updated with an amazing proactiveness. Cortana is the most flexible as it mixes Siri’s “personality” with Google Now’s proactiveness, but it is in its earliest stage and has a lot of room for improvement.

All three of them are working on developing improvements for smart home purposes and third party application services while Alexa is working on their “on-the-go”capabilities for delivering better assistance outside of your home.