Everyone has access to a virtual assistant these days, since they’re integrated into a lot of devices around us, like phones, smart TVs, and laptops. These assistants—Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana, for instance—can help you connect all of your household devices and access them, often hands-free, with maximum ease and efficiency. Today, we’ll share with you Crown Computers’ Owner and CEO Sean Goss’ top six Alexa Features.

Before we proceed to the list, we should add a link to our previous post that addressed some security considerations for using any voice assistant software. Usually, in the cyber security world, whenever you’re gaining convenience, you’re trading privacy. Knowing what the conveniences are can help you make the right decision about what you do and don’t share with device and software companies. On to the list:

1) Use Alexa for small but tedious tasks like arithmetic
If you have an Alexa enabled device in your office, it might come in handy as a calculator. If you have a long list of numbers written out on a sheet of paper or another non-Ctrl+C format, you can ask Alexa to add them together, for instance. You can literally ask Alexa what is 5+19+27+63+41+89+92+107+214. If you need an average from a 40 item list, for instance, you could ask Alexa instead of reaching for your phone’s calculator. If you need something more complex, you can even find Skills (extensions for what Alexa can do) that allow you to do Calculus with Alexa.

2) Discover new features in the Alexa App
If you’re unsure of what Alexa is capable of, take a look at the Alexa App on your phone. The Alexa App helps you manage your devices and information, but it also shows you some possibilities for new ways to use Alexa enabled devices. Check out the “Things to Try” tab, or search the “Skills and Games” section to see if any of your other devices can integrate with Alexa.

3) Add photos to your Echo Show device to use it as a picture frame
If you’re interested in using your Echo device for video calling, watching video on a small screen, or as a picture frame, there’s the Echo Show line that does all of this. The Echo Show (5”, 8”, or 10”) can seamlessly help you access your Alexa, search recipes, or even brighten your day with a slideshow of your loved ones or cherished memories. Alexa devices use the Amazon Photos app to manage your photos, which features unlimited picture storage for Prime members.

4) Use Alexa for home automation tasks, like light switches and thermostats
If you have a few smart devices in your home, they can often be integrated with your Alexa app. Smart lights and smart thermostats are great ways to help increase your energy efficiency at home and are often easy to use with Alexa. Since Alexa knows where your devices are in the house, you can turn lights on or off exactly where you are in the house. You can also set up Routines (multiple simultaneous actions) for when you enter or exit a specific room of the house—with some devices, it can even automatically turn on a lamp when you enter.

5) Use Alexa to pipe music to the whole house
If you have Alexa enabled devices and speakers throughout the house, you can tell Alexa to play a song everywhere (using an app like Spotify). If you’ve got some cleaning to do around the house, for instance, you could play a radio station or a playlist and get your work done without interrupting your jams or a podcast you’re listening to.

6) Use Drop In to quickly and effectively communicate throughout the house
Drop In is a feature on Alexa devices that lets you quickly have a conversation with someone in another room. If you’d like to talk to someone in your kitchen (and have an Alexa device with a speaker and microphone there) you can simply tell Alexa to “Drop in on the kitchen.” You can also use Drop In for the whole house and have a group conversation. This feature could also be used for eavesdropping as well, although the devices typically have an LED indicator that lights up when Drop In is activated. Because of the ability to use the feature for spying, it is an optional feature that could be turned off for devices in parts of the house that you don’t want anyone dropping in on.

-Written by Derek Jeppsen on Behalf of Sean Goss and Crown Computers Team