The latest gadget addition to my home is the Amazon Echo, a speaker that responds to voice commands similar to Siri and Cortana, but is completely hands-free. By default, the Echo goes by the name of Alexa. For example, she reads the day’s NPR news briefing if I say, “Alexa, what’s the news today? ” It responds to commands to play music, read the weather report, tell me how bad traffic is, set timers, and many others. Beware if you have toddlers at home, as my young sons have conspired with Alexa to add a number of toys to my shopping list.
The Echo is especially useful connected to other smart devices in my home. Paired with my Nest thermostat, the Echo can help me set the temperature without having to get out of my bed. With my WeMo switch, I can turn the light on by just saying, “Alexa, turn on the bedroom lamp.”
Guests to my home are amused by the magic show, but the benefits of these smart devices goes far beyond being able to show them off. For example, I can turn on the air conditioner a half-hour before coming home or have the lights turn off automatically when I leave. A smart home can conserve energy.
I am equally excited about today’s accounting software add-ons and apps that reduce data entry and gather all my documents in one place, as well as banking features like mobile deposit and autopay. Sadly, it’s not as easy to show off. For one, accounting documents contain personal information that someone might not want the rest of the world to see. Second, accounting apps can’t tell jokes like the Echo can.
Someday, I’d like to say, “Alexa, what were my sales yesterday and what bills do I have to pay? … and tell me in a Donald Duck voice.” Both my kids and I would certainly be impressed by that.