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Alexa gets home security through software update

Amazon’s Echo smart speaker has received an update that turns it into a security system, writes BRYAN TURNER.

Among many other software updates, Amazon has updated its Echo smart speaker with a home security feature called Guard. The device listens out for the sound of glass-breaking, heavy knocking, smoke detectors, and other alarm sounds to notify the user about what’s happening at home, remotely from the Alexa app.

The feature, which started off in September as invite-only, is now rolling out to Alexa devices in the US. The free feature update will not be enabled by default and users will have to enable the Guard in their Alexa apps.

It works through Amazon’s ever-expanding network of sounds, which it records through the Alexa devices to make it better at its listening job. In the pilot of the project, Amazon trained Alexa’s Lex service to recognise several variations of how alarms sound, how glass sounds when it breaks, and how other objects, like wooden doors, sound when they break. 

These sounds are then sent back to the user for playback on their Alexa app to identify if the glass breaking was a window or a naughty cat pushing a mug off a table. Users that own an Alexa device with a camera will be able to see what’s happening remotely through the app.

Smart homes can also be controlled through the Guard functionality. Amazon can map a routine of when a user’s lights are switched on and off at different times of the day, so users can be away from home while the lights within their homes can be switched on and off at normal-seeming times.

To enable Guard, open the Alexa app, go to settings and then tap Guard. Follow the setup process and that’s it. While Alexa is very smart, users will still need to notify it that they are leaving with the “Alexa, I’m leaving” command that arms the system.

The Guard functionality can also be integrated with alarm systems from Ring and ADT. Both systems will arm themselves with the “Alexa, I’m leaving” command.

While Guard is a useful security tool, Amazon does not intend to it to be a primary security system. The functionality cannot contact emergency services, like the police or fire department, in case of an emergency, and user intervention is always required through the Alexa app.

For more information about the service, visit Amazon’s FAQ here for more information.

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