Posey's Tips & Tricks

Cortana on the Road: A Real-Life Example

The virtual assistant is a lifesaver when traveling to a gig.

Over the last year or so I have mentioned several times in various articles that I use Cortana a lot when I travel. With Cortana being a key feature in Windows 10, I thought that I might take the opportunity to share with you some of the things that I use Cortana for. That way, when Windows 10 is released, you might be inspired to do some creative things with Cortana.

I travel for several different reasons and the ways in which I use Cortana vary depending on the type of travel that I am doing. For instance, my wife and I are heavily into adventure travel and I use Cortana differently for something like that than I would if I were traveling for business.

The vast majority of the travel that I do involves speaking at events that are put on by one of my clients. For these events, I usually have to get up at some insane hour, drive to the airport, fly to wherever the event is, give my speech, go to bed and wake up to fly home.

I usually start using Cortana the night before I travel. Although I have a standard alarm clock, I use my Windows Phone as a backup alarm on travel days. I simply give Cortana a verbal command such as "Can you wake me up at 3:00 a.m.?"

Once the alarm goes off and I have had a minute to wake up, I use Cortana to check my flight status. Cortana uses your e-mail to automatically detect flight reservations and to provide you with flight status information. This makes it really easy to check and see if the flight is on time before I leave home.

I have heard some people talk about using Cortana to get traffic information for their drive. I don't really do that sort of thing myself. When I have to go somewhere to speak, I am usually out the door by 3:30 or 4:00 a.m., so traffic isn't really an issue.

I do, however, use Cortana when I get to the airport. Cortana is great for reminding you of things, so I like to use Cortana to remind me where I parked. To do so, I will tell Cortana something like "Can you remind me tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. that I am parked in Lot 2, section U".

At that point, I usually go get checked in for my flight, and if all goes well I fly to my destination city and then catch a cab to the hotel.

I have a limited amount of time between the time that I arrive at the hotel and the time that I have to speak. Usually I'Il have a gap of a few hours, but not always. In any case, I need to use what little time I do have efficiently and Cortana helps with this.

There are three things that I always try to do before I speak. First, I try to get some lunch (breakfast is difficult because of dietary restrictions, so this is usually the first meal of the day). Second, I like to try to get a nap.  Third, I have to shower, iron my suit and get to the event. That's a lot to cram into a short window of time, but Cortana is very helpful.

As soon as I get to the hotel, I use my phone to get directions to the place where I am going to be speaking. A lot of times the venue is right next door, but sometimes it's across town. I need the directions so that I can figure out how much time I will have to leave myself for getting to the event and how much time I can use for my other objectives.

The second thing that I do is to use my phone to find a place to eat. Windows Phone has a feature called Local Scout that will show you up to 20 nearby restaurants with a single touch.  But if you want something more specific, then you can use Cortana. I have on occasion asked Cortana to show me highly rated Mexican restaurants within walking distance. If you stop and think about it, that's a three-part query (restaurant rating, restaurant type and distance), and yet Cortana can handle it.

If I'm lucky enough to be able to get a short nap after lunch then Cortana is my alarm clock. Similarly, I use Cortana to get me to the event (if I'm walking), and I use it to check on the status of my flight home. So as you can see, Cortana is a tremendous help when I travel. Sure, I could do everything that I need to do without Cortana, but Cortana helps me to be more efficient and makes traveling less stressful.  I am really looking forward to being able to use Cortana on the desktop.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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