This is possible with Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and Alexa

In this article we explain how the four most popular voice assistants (Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana and Alexa) work and we give three handy commands per assistant.

Tip 01: HomeKit

Siri is Apple's digital voice assistant that has been integrated into the iPhone since 2011. Later, the assistant also became available for the iPad, iPod and other Apple electronics such as the MacBook and HomePod speaker. Siri initially only worked in English, but has also been speaking and understanding Dutch for a few years now. The digital assistant is only available on Apple products and therefore does not work on Android, Windows and other operating systems. You activate the assistant by saying 'Hey Siri' to your device.

The handy thing about Siri is that you can use the assistant to control home automation with your voice. This works through the Home app on your iOS device. HomeKit-certified home automation products can be linked to the Home app. Then see which Siri commands you can use, because they obviously differ per product. Siri can, among other things, switch on and off smart sockets and lamps and operate the thermostat. It is also possible to open or lock a smart door lock. Keep in mind that cheaper home automation products from lesser-known brands usually don't have HomeKit support.

Tip 02: Shopping list

Shopping lists are very useful, but a paper scrap is really no longer possible these days. It can be done smarter, for example with Siri. In the Reminders app (iOS), create a list called Groceries and you can add products to the list with your voice. Say, for example, "Hey Siri, add a white loaf of bread and 500 grams of tomatoes to the grocery list." Are you walking into the store and want to see if you already have all the groceries in your basket? Then ask Siri to open the Groceries list in the Reminders app.

Turn the lights on and off by talking to your phone or speaker

Tip 03: Banking 3.0

Practically every bank has its own banking app, so that you can view your balance and send payment orders on your phone or tablet at all times. A growing number of payment/banking apps also let you do this via your voice, which on iOS devices is done via Siri. Say, for example, 'Hey Siri, make a payment request with Tikkie' and the assistant neatly asks who you want to ask for money, what amount it is and what the description is. And for banking apps such as ING's, ask 'Hey Siri, transfer money via Banking'. Siri then wants to know from you how much money you want to transfer and to whom.

Tip 04: Google Translate

The Google Assistant went through life for years as Google Now, and was renamed Assistant in 2016. At that time, the butler only spoke English, but since the summer of 2018 he has also been working in Dutch. Assistant works on Android devices, Chromebooks, supported smart speakers and smart TVs, among others. The Assistant app is also available on iOS devices, although the integration is not as complete (due to Apple's limitations) as it is on Android. You call up the digital help with 'Hey Google' or 'OK Google'.

The Assistant uses Google Translate, the most famous (and best?) digital translation service out there. Translate is seamlessly integrated into the Assistant, allowing you to hear and see numerous translations with simple commands. For example, ask 'Hey Google, translate I want to buy a pizza with pepperoni in German' and within a second the Assistant speaks the German translation. You also get that on your phone, and with the push of a button it reverberates again from your speaker. Such translations work in many (exotic) languages, which is very useful when you are travelling.

Tip 05: Operate home automation

Like many digital assistants, Google Assistant can also control your home automation via voice commands. Make sure that your smart products support the Assistant, make the connection via the relevant app and check the available commands. You can then operate the supported smarthome products hands-free. For example, ask your thermostat to turn up the heating or give your Hue lamps a cozy color. That goes via: 'Hey Google, make the lights orange'. It is also possible to control the lighting (also from other brands) in specific rooms in your house. For example, say "Hey Google, dim the lights in the bedroom" or "Hey Google, turn on the lights in the living room."

Google Translate can translate and pronounce words and sentences at your request

Tip 06: Music recognition

A few years ago, we massively used the Shazam app to identify unknown music. Nice, but nowadays it can be done faster and easier. Hear a song you don't know? Say "Hey Google, what song is this?" and the assistant will use your smartphone's (or other device's) microphone for music recognition. Usually you will receive an answer within a few seconds in the form of the title, the artist(s) and relevant information such as the release date and genres. Assistant also provides shortcuts to streaming services so that you can directly save the song.

Assistants on smart speakers

In an effort to introduce the smart assistant more and better in our daily lives, tech manufacturers are also making music speakers in which their assistant is integrated. Amazon had the scoop with its Echo four years ago, and now sells an arsenal of Echo models, including a version with a display. Other companies, such as Sonos, also offer speakers with the Alexa assistant. In 2016, Google released the Home, followed by variants with different dimensions and one with a display. Here too, other brands, including Sony and JBL, sell Google Assistant speakers. Apple sells the HomePod, the only speaker with Siri. Apple does not allow other manufacturers to integrate Siri into their speakers.

Microsoft does let other manufacturers use the Cortana assistant, but there is little interest in it. At the moment you can only buy speakers with Alexa and Google Assistant in the Netherlands.

Tip 07: Find files

Microsoft's Cortana Assistant made its debut on Windows Phone 8.1 four years ago. Later, Cortana came to more platforms, including Android and iOS. Of course, the assistant also works on Microsoft's Windows 10 for computers. The digital help does not yet speak Dutch: you have to speak in English and receive an answer in that language. In fact, if you want to use Cortana in Windows 10, the operating system must also be set to the English language and region. Activate Cortana by saying "Hey Cortana" to your device.

Searching for a file on your computer (or connected memory carrier) can sometimes be quite a task. Because what's the name of that folder again, and when did I create or move that file? Cortana can help you on that Windows 10 computer. You ask the assistant to search for files in a specific period. For example, say "Hey Cortana, find me movies from December 2016" or "Hey Cortana, find documents from last month". The assistant uses the Windows search function and then shows you relevant results.

Tip 08: Search more specifically

This tip builds on the previous one and once again uses Cortana on your Windows 10 PC. Make sure that the assistant is set up correctly and you can search for specific documents, photos, videos and other files with the right commands. If you know (part of) the file name, use 'Hey Cortana, find all documents called Tips&Trucs 2018' to find all files with the name 'Tips&Trucs 2018'. Handy, although the command works less well with a difficult and/or typical Dutch file name. After all, Cortana doesn't understand Dutch.

Cortana doesn't work in Dutch, so you have to give your commands in English

Tip 09: Memories

Any digital assistant can create reminders, and Cortana is no exception. Since the butler only works in English, you must create your reminder in that language. That's a minus compared to Siri and Google Assistant, but for those who don't mind, Cortana is a good reminder. Ask 'Hey Cortana, remind me to clean my office next Monday' or say 'Hey Cortana, remind me to congratulate Martijn with his new job when he texts or calls me'. The reminder function works with locations, times and people.

Tip 10: Alexa's capabilities

Alexa is Amazon's digital voice assistant and came out four years ago for Amazon's first smart speaker. In the years since, Alexa has also become available for other devices, including Windows 10, Android, and smart speakers from select companies. Alexa also works on iOS, albeit in a limited way – Apple is limiting the assistant because it prefers users to choose Siri. You start Alexa by saying "Alexa".

Do you have a Fitbit wearable to track your health? Then you will check your stats on the device itself or in the Fitbit app, but did you know that there is also a third (hands-free) option? Alexa also works with Fitbit. If you have a smart speaker with Alexa integrated or the Alexa app on your device, search for the Fitbit skill in the Alexa app. Install the skill and log in to create the Fitbit pairing.

You then ask 'Alexa, ask Fitbit, followed by your command. For example, say “Alexa, ask Fitbit how much I weigh” or “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I slept last night.”

Tip 11: Operate Plex Server

Plex is a popular media server software service for (more professional) home use. You can store photos, music and videos on Plex, and you can easily stream all of this to all your connected devices. This can be done via your computer or the Plex app, but the service also supports an Alexa skill. Install the Plex skill via the Alexa app, link the services and you can now control Plex with your voice. Some useful commands are 'Alexa, ask Plex to play (enter your favorite series, movie or photo album here)' and 'Alexa, ask Plex to change my player to (the device you want to watch on)'.

Lost your phone? Ask the Echo speaker to make it ring

Tip 12: Find your smartphone

There is a good chance that you have lost your smartphone. Often it is just somewhere in the house, in the car or at the office, but you can find it (quickly) again. Fortunately, you have handy gadgets for this, for example the Tile. This bluetooth tracker can be connected to your smartphone, and also has an Alexa skill (download it via the Alexa app). If you've lost your phone, ask Alexa (on an Echo speaker or other preset device) to find your device. "Alexa, ask Tile to find my phone" and your smartphone makes a loud noise, even when it's on silent. If you want to know the last known location of your device, ask 'Alexa, ask Tile to locate my phone'. This command also works with the Google Assistant, where you have to replace 'Alexa' with 'Hey Google'.

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