How to Set Location-Based Reminders in Windows Phone 8.1

In this Ask the Admin, I’ll show you how to set up location-based reminders in Windows Phone 8.1 using Cortana.

Getting things done and organizing tasks is one of the toughest challenges in modern life, especially with so many distractions providing the perfect excuse to procrastinate for as long as possible. The problem with to-do-list apps and reminders is that they are time based. ‘Remind me to buy dog food at 10am on Monday’ is only useful if you happen to be at the store at 10am on Monday morning and not sitting in front of a screen in the office.

As a result, time-based reminders get dismissed until they become annoying enough to be ignored entirely. Something much more useful would be: ‘Remind me to buy dog food when I’m next at the store.’

Windows Phone 8.1 Cortana

The Cortana voice assistant found in Windows Phone 8.1 can help you keep tabs on your location-based events. (Image: Microsoft)

Cortana to the rescue

The Cortana personal assistant app in Windows Phone 8.1 enables location-based reminders. At the time of writing, Cortana is only available in the US, but is expected to roll out to other major markets by the end of 2014.

Geo-fencing and Maps

Cortana uses two technologies to enable location-based reminders. The first is places using the built-in Maps application. I would recommend that you mark as your home, work and any other places where you get things done on a regular basis as favorites, such as the local mall or store, to save having to search for them when setting up reminders.

Secondly, Cortana uses geo-fencing to determine when you move from one location to another. This is not quite the same as simply determining your current location using GPS, as we often do with the Maps app, but detects when you arrive to or depart from a place.

Create a reminder in Cortana

It’s easy to create location-based reminders using Cortana. In the instructions below, I show you how to set up reminders manually, and then using speech recognition.

  • Press the search button on the bottom right of the phone to launch Cortana.
  • In Cortana, click the notebook icon (three small bars) in the top right.
  • Select remind me from the available options.
  • Click the + icon at the bottom of the remind me screen.
  • In the new reminder window, type a title and any required details for the reminder before clicking next.
  • In the CHOOSE REMINDER TYPE window, click location.
  • In the SET LOCATION REMINDER window, type an address, place, or the name of a favorite in the Where box and select it from the results.
  • Select arrive or depart as appropriate under Remind me when I and click done.

The new reminder will now appear on the remind me screen, and Cortana will alert you when you get near to the place set in the reminder.

Set up reminders using voice

Now let’s tell Cortana to do the same thing using speech recognition. For this to work, you will need at least one favorite marked in the default Maps application. In this example, store is already set up in the Maps app.

  • Click and hold the search button on the bottom right of the phone to start Cortana with speech recognition enabled.
  • Now speak to Cortana to set up the reminder: ‘Remind me to buy dog food.’
  • Cortana will then ask you when, reply: ‘When I get to the store.’
  • Cortana will then confirm the configured reminder and ask you if it ‘sounds good’ and reply with ‘Yes.’ You will now see the configured reminder displayed on the screen.

In principle, you can tell Cortana ‘Remind me to buy dog food when I get to the store’ in one go, but I prefer to do it in sections to make sure each part is understood.