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Your Smart Home just got more secure with Alexa Guard

Alexa, I’m leaving.”

OK — I’ll be on guard.

That’s the gist of Alexa Guard, a new feature from Amazon that lets your Echo devices keep an ear out for trouble when you’re away from home. If Alexa hears something after you’ve put her into Guard mode — a smoke alarm ringing or the sound of shattering glass, for instance — she’ll send you a notification. If you’re an ADT or Ring subscriber, she’ll notify your home security monitoring service, too.

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 is now rolling out to Amazon’s customer base in the US. I was able to turn the feature on in my own home over the weekend, and spent some time testing it out. Here are some early takeaways:

Yep, it works!

With far-field microphones in every Echo device, Alexa is already a pretty good listener. Alexa Guard puts those mics to use by listening for the sound of glass breaking or the sound of alarms when you aren’t home.

And, my early impression is that it works pretty well! I didn’t have a spare window to smash at my place, but I played a YouTube video of glass break sound effects near one of my Echo devices, and immediately received a notification on my phone that Alexa heard something that sounded like glass breaking. The same thing happened when I tested with the sound of a smoke alarm going off.

Home Automation Installation

 

Amazon’s algorithm doesn’t seem to be as advanced as that, but it’s still an additional layer of protection while you’re away. And when Alexa hears something, her notification offers the immediate option of using Drop In to listen through your Echo device. If you wanted, you could even broadcast yourself telling the potential intruder that you’re calling the police as a means of scaring them off.

Alexa can’t call 911

Still, as Amazon notes as you’re confirming setup in the Alexa app, “Alexa Guard is not a replacement for an alarm system or life safety devices. Amazon does not monitor Smart Alerts and cannot contact emergency services on your behalf.”

That last bit is really important. Say you’re out on vacation with Alexa Guard turned on. Your Echo device at home hears the sound of your smoke detector going off, and Alexa sends you a notification. Unfortunately, you’re playing in the hotel pool with the kids, and you miss the notification. Alexa won’t act on your behalf at this point the way a professional monitoring service would. It’s on you to see the notification and act accordingly.

That said, with Ring, Amazon says that users can request dispatch of emergency responders directly from the Ring app if they are subscribed to the Ring Protect Plus plan.

And if you’re using an Alexa-compatible home security system that she can already arm and disarm with voice commands, you’ll be able to set it so that happens automatically whenever you turn Guard mode on and off. And if you’re disarming your system, she’ll still ask you for a numerical PIN code before doing so. That’s a touch that saves you from needing to give two separate voice commands as you come and go. Just say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” when you’re walking out the door, then “Alexa, I’m home,” followed by your PIN code when you return.

Away Lighting is smart and simple

Along with listening for trouble, Alexa Guard will let the assistant toggle your smart lights on and off while you’re out to make it look like you’re home — and potentially deter any would-be burglars from attempting a break-in.

You can enable the feature with a single tap when you’re turning Alexa Guard on in the Alexa app for Android and iOS devices. Once you do, the app will list all of your smart lights and include them all in Away Lighting by default. If there are any you’d like left out, just uncheck them.

The feature asks for your zip code when you’re setting it up — Alexa uses that zip code to know what time sunset is in your area each night. Away Lighting will only run when it’s dark out.

From there, you should be all set. When Alexa Guard is active and set to Away mode, your lights will automatically cycle on and off. The feature worked well when I tested it, and was even smart enough to automate some lights in tandem where it made sense — “Bedroom Ceiling Light 1” and “Bedroom Ceiling Light 2,” for instance. I didn’t need to set that up; Alexa just figured it out.

I also appreciated that the Alexa app gives you a detailed rundown of Alexa’s automated moves during Away Lighting. That’s good for micro-managers (and, admittedly, for guinea pigs like me that want a closer look at what Alexa’s up to).

Cheers!