Getting the Most Out of Your Home Assistants

Getting the Most Out of Your Home Assistants

Before public use of the internet, the best “smart assistants” were calendars and planners. Today, the term refers to software-enabled devices that simplify tasks around the home.

Also known as virtual assistants, smart devices like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home can perform a wide variety of tasks using your Wi-Fi internet connection. They can turn lights on and off; control your thermostat; make phone calls; and even brew your morning coffee (though you’ll still have to add the grounds yourself).

“There are apps to control or notify lots of different things,” says Golden West Software Engineer Andy Thompson. “I have Alexa connected with my lights in a couple of rooms, and I’ve used it for recipe substitutions. It can suggest a replacement ingredient if you’re out of something, which is kind of nice.”

Those applications are merely the tip of the iceberg.

What Can Your Home Assistants Do?

Virtual assistants have been around a long time. Radio Rex, released in 1911, was a voice-activated toy dog that would come when its name was called. Early technology was primitive, but companies like IBM and Bell Labs continued to experiment with digital speech recognition. Apple’s Siri ushered in the modern age of digital virtual assistants in 2011 — one hundred years after Radio Rex made his debut. Amazon’s Alexa was introduced in 2014, further popularizing the technology.

Smart assistants are installed in a wide variety of devices including phones, tablets, speakers, plugs, watches, and thermostats. Most are voice-activated, while others work via text or images.

Examples of tasks your home assistant can do include:

  • Give you voice control. Speech recognition allows you to control your smart device with voice commands, which is especially helpful if you’re multitasking.
  • Set timers and alarms. There’s no need to fumble around with kitchen timers and alarms or rely on your memory for important dates; just ask your smart assistant to do these things for you.
  • Provide information. If you want the latest news, sports scores, or weather forecast — or need to convert quarts to gallons, figure out the mileage between Minneapolis and Chicago, or learn the Best Picture winner in 1987 (it was “Platoon”) — just ask.
  • Entertain you. Connect your smart device to streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music for a virtual jukebox that doesn’t require quarters. You can also listen to radio stations, podcasts, and audio books.
  • Make phone calls. Connecting your smart assistant to your contacts book will enable you to make and receive telephone calls, even if your phone is in another room or has slipped behind the sofa cushions again.
  • Automate your home. Your smart assistant can act as a control hub for other connected smart devices such as lights, thermostats, and appliances.
Location is Everything

Your smart assistant needs to know where you live in order to do many of these things for you. This is known as geolocation. To respect your privacy, Golden West doesn’t provide geolocation information to third party services or devices. The device will select a location based off a Golden West IP address, but this may be inaccurate. To correct any errors and program your geolocation manually, visit our website at for links to set up a variety of devices. If you still have questions, contact Golden West at 1-855-888-7777.

Golden West does not endorse any products or services in this article that it does not provide.

Sources: Some information for this article was provided by online articles from, CNET, Computer World,, and Wikipedia.


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