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Alexa Guard goes live, let your echo lovers listen to problems



"Alexa, I'm leaving."

" OK – I want to be on guard. "

It is featured by Alexa Guard a new feature from Amazon that allows the echo devices to keep an ear out of trouble when you are away from home. If Alexa hears something after you've put her into Guard mode – a smoke alarm call or the sound of splitting glass, for example – she will send you a notification. If you are an ADT or Ring subscriber, she will also notify your home security monitoring service.

Another feature: If you want, Alexa will cycle your smart lights on and off while you're away to make it look like you're home.

First announced back in September Alexa Guard now runs to Amazon's customer base in the United States. I was able to turn on the function in my own home this weekend and spent some time trying it out. Here are some early takeaways:

In the Guard mode, Alexa sent me quick alerts when I played the sound of a broken glass or an alarm that went off.


Screenshots of Ry Crist / CNET

Yes, it works!

With long-field microphones in each Echo device, Alexa is already a pretty good listener. Alexa Guard puts these microphones into use by listening to the noise of glass fractures or the sound of alarms when you're not home.

The episode of the Alexa app gives you a timeline of events you come and go ̵

1; along with the ability to play sound of potential concerns.


Screenshot of Ry Crist / CNET

And my first impression is that it works quite well! I did not have a spare window to smash on me, but I played a YouTube video of sound effects in a glass breaker near one of my echo devices, and immediately a message on my phone was that Alexa heard something that sounded like glass fracture. The same thing happened when I tested the sound of a smoke alarm that went off.

Note that some other security providers offer ways to listen to issues as well. In some cases, the hardware may be more refined than what Alexa offers. For example, SimpliSafe offers an optional glass breaker as part of the system's offerings. That sensor would not burn in my tests when I played sound effects – I actually had to cut a glass to trigger it (SimpliSafe says that it can distinguish between the sound of a window being broken and the sound of someone loses a plate).

Amazon's algorithm does not seem to be as advanced as it, but there is still an additional layer of protection while away. And when Alexa hears something, tell her the immediate option of using Drop In to listen through your echo device. If you want, you can even send yourself and tell potential invaders that you call the police as a means to scare them off.

If you secure your home with a professional monitoring service via Ring or ADT, Alexa will send any smart alerts or broken glass alerts to them as well.


Screenshot of Ry Crist / CNET

Alexa can not call 911

However, as Amazon notes confirm the Alexa app app, the Alexa Guard is not a substitute for an alarm system or life security device. Amazon does not monitor Smart Alerts and can not contact emergency services at your behalf. "

The last bit is very important. Say you're on vacation with Alexa Guard turned on. Your echo device at home hears the sound of your smoke detector, and Alexa sends you a notification. Unfortunately you play in the hotel's pool with the kids and you miss the message. Alexa will not act on your behalf at this time as a professional monitoring service would. It is up to you to see the notice and act accordingly.

That said, if you subscribe to a professional home surveillance service via Ring or ADT, Alexa will send these Smart Alerts to them. If these vendors are authorized to call for help on your behalf based on sensor data such, then that's what they should do.

And if you're using an Alexa-enabled home security system ($ 48 on Amazon) that she can already arm and disarm with voice commands, you can set it automatically when you turn on and off the alarm mode . It's a touch that saves you from having to give two separate voice commands when you exit the door. Just say, "Alexa, I'm leaving."

Away Lighting is smart and simple

You can use the Alexa app to see a list of lights Alexa turned on and off during Away Lighting. Please note that grouped lights like my "Bedroom Ceiling Lamp" were automatically held together without having to do anything.


Screenshot of Ry Crist / CNET

Along with listening for trouble, Alexa Guard assistants will switch your smart lights on and off while looking out to make it look like you're home – and potentially deter any burglaries from trying a pause -i.

You can enable the single-click feature when you enable Alexa Guard on the Alexa app for Android and iOS devices. When you do, the app will list all your bright lights and include all of them in Away Lighting by default. If there is something you want to have left out, remove them.

The function asks for your zip code when you set it up – Alexa uses this zip code to know what time sunset is in your area every night. Exit light will only run when it is dark.

From there you should be done. When Alexa Guard is active and set to Away mode, your lights will automatically turn on and off. The function worked well when I tested it and was even smart enough to automate some tandem lamps where it was sensible – for example, "Bedroom ceiling light 1" and "Bedroom ceiling light 2". I did not have to put it up; Alexa just found it.

I appreciated that the Alexa app gives you a detailed review of Alexa's automated features under Away Lighting. It's good for microcontrollers (and by the way for guinea pigs like me who want a closer look at what Alexa is up to).

The only hiccups I experienced: a smart plugin that the Alexa app read like a light. It was an object from a recent review where I had connected it to a room heater, and since the Alexa app read it as a light and not a plug, Alexa included it as standard in Away Lighting. It's obviously not good – you do not want the room heater to automatically turn on and off while away from home.

I reported this issue to Amazon, and the company says it is being addressed. Ideally, the certification process for "Works with Alexa" objects should have issues like these before the integration goes live, especially now that Alexa wants to turn things on and off on our behalf.

It does not & # 39; I work with every echo

I have a pair of Echo devices in my home – one first genre Echo in the living room, one other genre Echo Dot in my bedroom and one first-generation Echo Plus which I picked up on sale a while back to serve as a hub for cheap Zigbee smart bulbs. I keep the one in the bathroom for the shower-time singalons.

But when I activated Alexa Guard, my echo and echo tips did not come together for the trip. Echo Plus Echo Plus Echo Plus Echo Plus Echo Item and Echo Dot and Echo Input . Amazon says, "We will support multiple Echo devices when the feature is generally available," so maybe older genes Echo and Echo Dot hardware will be brought on board sometime soon.

It's not immediately clear to me why it would not be possible at a technical level, but I have asked Amazon for clarification and will update this place when I hear back. Perhaps the retail giant will crush their Alexa users to replace their existing Echo devices with new ones – it seems quite stingy to me, especially given the Amazon mantra that "Alexa is always getting smarter." The place has always been that you buy an echo device, so reap the benefits of new features like Amazon develops them.

There is room for the Guard to grow

It is clear that Amazon sees significant potential for Alexa in the DIY home security category. The company already owns the smart security camera brand Blink ; in early 2018, bought it the popular video doorbell bootup as well. Shortly after, it began offering Alexa-Central Home Security Packages as bundled DIY systems with an echo-dot for voice protection and decoupling. Just recently, the Alexa team has added new software support for things like motion detectors and security keys.

In short, there is a terrible lot of movement here – and a lot of competition too. Aside from established home security players and the many DIY security launches we've seen in recent years, Google already offers app-enabled, DIY security via Nest Secure and Apple offers many security minded automation through Apple HomeKit . None of them exploit the microphones that do the Siri or Google Assistant work, though. Amazon is out front here, at least in that regard.

Together with bringing existing Echo hardware into the board, I expect Amazon to take advantage of the soon released Echo Auto . That the echo device in your car will track when you get there – automatically putting Alexa into your home mode when you park in the driveway seems like a natural fit. I would also like to see Amazon do more to make cameras play. I use a pair of Blink cameras in my place that I picked up on Black Friday – right now, they do not affect Alexa Guard at all.

We will at least keep an eye on the feature as it completes, and as Amazon continues to improve it. Of all early indications, it looks like a good start.


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