Voice assistants can be extremely useful, setting timers, providing the day’s news and weather and even controlling your smart home devices for you. But did you know they can also act as a security guard for your home?
If you have an Amazon Echo smart speaker or smart display with Alexa built-in the Alexa Guard feature will listen for suspicious sounds in your home when you’re not around and alert you through the Alexa app.
Frustratingly, if you’re not in the US, you can’t use Guard just yet, but we did speak to Amazon and they told us “internationalization of all of our products and services is incredibly important”, and they are working hard to “make all of the features and devices available everywhere our customers want them,” so it sounds like it could be available globally in the near future)
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Right, so what is Alexa Guard?
Alexa Guard is a handy feature that sees Amazon’s voice assistant utilizes the far-field microphones in an Echo smart speaker or Echo smart display to listen for sounds such as breaking glass or a smoke detector after you’ve told Alexa you’re not going to be around by saying “Alexa, I’m leaving”.
If Alexa Guard hears anything, the voice assistant will send an alert to the Alexa app on your smartphone, flagging to you something untoward is happening. You can then listen to the audio clip, or start an Alexa Drop In, which allows you to listen to your Amazon Smart speaker live if you want to hear what’s going on in that room without returning home.
If you have a compatible smart home alarm including those from Ring and ADT, the alerts can even be forwarded to the alarm company so they can investigate.
If you have an Amazon smart display in the same room you could also use the Echo Show as a home security camera and view a live feed from the smart display’s camera from the Alexa app if you want to see what’s happening in your home. Alexa Guard can also switch on or any compatible smart lights to simulate occupancy and deter any would-be intruders, too.
Alexa Guard price: how expensive is it?
Amazon also offers Alexa Guard Plus, which costs $4.99 per month (about £3.50 / AU$6.50) or $49.99 per year (around £35 / AU$65), and builds on the standard version by listening for activity sounds such as footsteps as well as breaking glass and smoke alarms.
Alexa Guard Plus will also sound a siren if it detects a noise inside, or play the sound of dogs barking if any compatible home security cameras detect motion outside your home. This alone may not be worth paying for, but the feature we really think sets Alexa Guard Plus apart is the access to an emergency helpline that’s available 24/7 and can be called simply by saying “Alexa, call for help”. This will put you through to trained agents from your Echo smart speaker or smart display that can dispatch the relevant emergency service, for example, police, the fire department, or an ambulance.
This ensures the somewhat useful feature on your smart speaker or smart display is given a real boost into more a monitored alarm service, without needing sensors on every door and window, and a siren attached to an external wall, as a traditional system would require.
It’s worth noting that if you already subscribe to Ring Protect Pro – its security brand’s additional service for its smart alarm and home security cameras, which if you’re concerned about your home’s security and own these devices, then you probably are, Alexa Guard is included at no extra cost
How to turn on Alexa Guard
Alexa Guard is available on all Amazon Echo smart speakers and smart displays but is switched off by default. To enable the service, open the Alexa app on a smartphone. From the More menu in the far right-hand corner, select Settings and then scroll down and switch on Guard.
Once in this menu, you can also tweak a number of settings in Guard mode, including adding or removing smart lights that will be automatically illuminated if Guard detects suspicious sounds, and the ability to choose which Echo devices have Guard enabled.
Once set up, before you leave the house, say “Alexa, I’m leaving” to your Amazon Echo and Alexa Guard will be activated. Similarly, when you return home, say “Alexa, I’m home” and Guard mode will be deactivated.
What alternatives to Alexa Guard are available?
As we’ve already mentioned Alexa Guard is only available in the US. However, if you’re in the UK the free Alexa Skill called Burglar Deterrent can be set to automatically play sounds that simulate occupancy through your Amazon Echo. For example, the sound of dogs barking, a baby crying or general chatter. This can even be scheduled to start and stop at a set time every day using Alexa routines, or if your compatible video doorbell detects motion.
No matter where in the world you are, if you have a Ring video doorbell, it’s also possible to set your Amazon Echo speaker to automatically announce when motion is detected, or even play the sound of dogs barking in a bit to deter intruders.