Not every business owner can afford to hire a personal assistant. Fortunately, your Android smartphone can pick up some of the slack. Built into most Android phones is Google Now, a personal assistant program that is designed to know what you need before you ask for it. The service works by monitoring your calendar, email inbox, Web searches and more, then pushing relevant news and alerts to you as they’re detected. Google Now can also perform actions based on voice commands, and answer spoken queries.
There are a variety of ways to access Google Now, which is available only on smartphones running Android version 4.1 and up, but the method varies depending on which phone you own – click here for a full breakdown of the various methods. After accessing the service, you can view alerts or tap the microphone to issue a voice command.
The beauty of the service is that you don't have to access Google Now at all to use it – just set it up, then wait for alerts to appear in your phone's notification tray. If you've never used Google Now, read on for eight ways it can boost your productivity.
Accidents and road construction can extend your daily commute and make you late for work. Google Now can help remedy this problem with automated commute notifications, alerting you to traffic delays before you leave for work in the morning, or head home in the evening. That way you can notify employees or family members, or take an alternate route. To use this feature, scroll to the bottom of Google Now and tap the magic wand icon, then tap "Places" to set your home and work location. Over time, relevant alerts will automatically appear in your notification tray.
Google Now automatically checks for meetings and other appointments you've entered into your smartphone's calendar. When an appointment nears, the service will automatically send you an alert. It even includes an estimated travel time, so you never misjudge how long a trip will take. And if there are traffic delays, the service will notify you of that too, so you can leave for your destination early and never be late to a meeting again.
If following the stock market is an important part of your workday, Google Now can streamline the process. Your Google Now feed will automatically display the hourly performance of up to 10 different stocks. The service will show stocks that you already follow through Google Finance, or you can specify individual stocks you want to see when you access Google Now.
Severe weather can really hinder your business plans. It can extend travel times, slow sales or cause your flight to be delayed. Google Now offers automated weather alerts to ensure you’ll never be caught off guard by the weather. To enable weather updates, scroll to the bottom of Google Now and tap the magic wand icon. Tap "Everything else," then tap "Interested in weather updates for your location?" and select "Yes."
Tell Google Now exactly what you want using voice commands; just tap the microphone icon at the top of your Google Now feed. The functionality lets you speak to perform Web searches, set an alarm or calendar appointment, or navigate to a specific location using Google Maps. You can also respond to an email, send a text message, or dial for a hands-free phone call. Click here for a list of supported voice commands. You can also ask Google Now specific questions, such as "What’s today's forecast?" and the service will speak the answer back to you.
Staying on top of industry news is a key part of running a great business. But digging through the news each day to find the stories that are most relevant to you can be daunting. That's where Google Now comes in; the service pulls in news stories based on your past Web searches and browsing history. When you access Google Now, those stories automatically populate the main feed. If you see a story you want to hear more about, tap the three dots at the top corner of the news item, then select "Yes" when it asks you if you are interested in future updates for that story. Google Now is different from other news readers because it automatically tailors itself to your interests, and shows you stories you want to see before you even search for them.
Most calendar applications can handle simple reminders. Just enter an appointment at a specified time and wait for an alert as the date approaches. Google Now also lets you set reminders, with an added bonus: the service can use your phone's built-in GPS sensor to remind you when you're near a specific location. If you need to mail a package, for example, but keep forgetting every time you're near the post office, just set a reminder and enter the post office address as the location. To do this, open Google Now, scroll to the bottom, and tap the icon that the icon that looks like a hand with a piece of string tied around one finger.
Hotel and car rental reservations are a must on any business trip. But digging through your email to find information about your reservation is hassle. Google Now can automatically locate that data and present it to you in a clear, concise format; just check Google Now on the date of your reservation to see it. And if you have flight plans, the service will automatically display information such as departure and landing times, as well as any delays that occur.