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Kim's column

5 clever ways to use your Echo and Alexa that you’ll wish you knew sooner

When I’m cooking, it’s easy to say, “Alexa, remind me the cauliflower pizza is done in 15 minutes.” That’s one of the most useful and basic ways to use the Amazon-owned smart assistant.

The downside is that it can pick up conversations we’d rather it didn’t. Tap or click for steps to listen to and erase any errant recordings. I do this regularly. That’s not the only vital privacy step if you have an Echo or more at home. Tap or click here to ensure your smart speakers are locked down correctly.

Now, let’s jump into five smart ways Alexa can enhance your life.

1. Get an alert if glass breaks or an alarm goes off

Alexa Guard is like a pair of ears you leave at home. Your Echo device will listen for glass breaking, smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms. You’ll get an alert on your phone if these sounds are detected.

Alexa Guard can also automatically turn any connected smart lights on and off to make it look like you’re home. Handy!

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon in the bottom right, then Settings.
  • Tap Guard > Set up Sound Detection.
  • Toggle the alerts you want to activate, and tap Confirm.

To enable Alexa Guard, put it into Away mode by saying, “Alexa, I’m leaving.” Turn it off when you get home by saying, “I’m home.”

Pipe down! This Alexa trick solves one of the Echo’s most annoying problems.

2. Look in on your home when you’re away

The built-in screen gives you another helpful security feature if you have an Echo Show. You can turn on the camera from anywhere to ensure everything is OK at home.

With Drop In, you can pop in on your speaker or one owned by a friend or family member with authorized access. It’s an excellent way to say hello without picking up the phone.

To enable Drop In:

  • Open the Alexa app. Tap Devices.
  • Select Echo & Alexa, then select the device you want to use.
  • Tap the settings icon in the top right corner (it looks like a cog), then choose Communications.
  • Tap the toggle to enable Drop In and other communications.
  • Tap Drop In to customize who can Drop In. You can select My Household to limit this to only devices on your account.

You can now use the Alexa app to pop into your Echo devices. In the app, tap Communicate at the bottom of the screen, then Drop In. Choose the device you want from the list.

MORE ECHO USES: ‘Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor’ – How to use your Echo to get medical help

3. Check-in on older relatives

I get questions on my national radio show about the best way to stay in touch with far-away family or aging relatives.

Amazon’s Alexa Together service is something I often recommend. First, the caveat: It costs $19.99 per month or $199 per year. If you can stomach the price, it has some knockout features:

  • Customized alerts: Get a notification when your loved one uses Alexa for the first time during the day. It will also inform you if Alexa hasn’t been used by a predetermined time. This is like an automated wellness check.
  • Urgent response: If something goes wrong, the 24/7 Urgent Response function allows your loved one to contact trained professionals through hands-free access to get assistance.
  • Remote Assist: You can set up music services, manage shopping lists, or set reminders for your loved one from anywhere.
  • Fall detection: If a compatible device detects a fall, Alexa calls Urgent Response and notifies emergency contacts.

You can use this link for a six-month free trial. You’ll also need two Amazon accounts (one for you and one for your relative) and an Echo device in the home of the person you are caring for.

4. Make sure the doors are locked

It’s late, and you finally crawl into bed. You’re drifting off when you realize, “Oh no, I can’t remember locking the doors.” Instead of having to get up, ask Alexa or pull out your phone.

Of course, you can only do this if you have smart locks. Tap or click here for solid options starting under $100.

In most cases, you’ll need to add the Alexa skill created by your smart lock manufacturer. Once you do, it’s as simple as saying something like, “Alexa, lock the front door.”

5. Find your phone

Misplaced your phone? Usually, you’d ask someone to call your number so you can find it. What if you’re alone and don’t have access to another phone? Alexa can help.

  • Open the Alexa app and tap the More icon, then Skills & Games.
  • Search for Find my Phone and choose from the list of skills.
  • Tap the skill, then Launch to set it up.

Alexa isn’t the only way to find a lost phone. Here’s how to find your phone when it’s gone missing — even if the battery is dead.

PODCAST PICK: Tech Refresh: A special interview with me, Kim Komando

In this special episode of Tech Refresh, I sat down with Komando.com Content Director Allie to talk about my career in broadcasting, building a business, my family and the tragedy that shaped who I am today.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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