How Alexa Can Help Secure Your Home and Property
You likely have an idea of what digital assistants can do. Alexa, Google Assistant, and others can order food, activate your smart vacuum to clean up after the kids, and even start your coffee in the morning. But if you’re looking for something that goes beyond simple conveniences, they can also help keep you safe—Alexa and other digital assistants work with security devices in any corner of your home. Here’s what you need to know about using Alexa, or any smart assistant, with security in mind.
What Is Amazon Alexa?
Amazon Alexa and other artificial intelligence (AI) assistants go by several names: digital assistants, smart home hubs, and smart home assistants.
Acting as a personal assistant to the home, Alexa helps you manage connected devices like thermostats, speakers, locks, cameras, doorbells, lightbulbs, etc. Once you install and activate your smart devices, you use one device to control many. And the more devices you own, the more you’ll want to have a single gadget as a central control hub.
This management is even more simplified as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod are also voice-activated speakers. State the appropriate command and the devices act to accomplish that task. They play music, share the latest traffic reports, lock the doors, turn the lights on or off, and activate your security system. The devices accomplish these tasks through what Amazon and Apple call “skills,” while Google uses a different term, “actions.”
What Are the Pros and Cons of Security?
If you aren’t quite ready to dive into skills, no worries. You should feel confident about knowing the pros and cons of digital assistants before getting one. Here are a few strengths and weaknesses of home security that often inform people’s purchasing decisions.
- Convenience: Once you install the smart home assistant, you’ll find your home’s devices much easier to monitor and manage. Seeing security camera footage from around your home or arming your security system after you’ve crawled into bed is easy when you can just ask Alexa to do it for you.
- Device Vulnerability: Many people worry that their smart home devices can be hacked, leading to physical or digital theft. While getting hacked is a risk, you can minimize it with best security practices. Revisit your router’s wireless settings and change passwords on connected devices. You can also use a firewall and antivirus and malware protection.
- Commitment: If you start with an Amazon Echo but decide to switch to a Google Home, you’ll discover how hard it is to switch between them. Scott Rosenberg at WIRED puts it best: “You can switch hardware, but you can’t just say, ‘Hey, Google! Tell Alexa everything you know about me.'” No, you’ll have to start all over with setting up security devices and skills. It’s a pain, so think about what smart home assistant meets your needs (and what smart devices they work with best) before committing to one smart home hub.
What Commands Work for Home Security and Safety?
You will most often interact with your digital assistant through voice commands. Since these commands are specific to each device, this section will use Alexa as an example. Here are a few example commands to illustrate how Alexa helps automate your home and protect your property:
- “Alexa, show the feed from the backyard.” If you use a Nest smart security camera, let Alexa handle the logistics. Simply tell it to show or hide different video feeds.
- “Alexa, is the front door locked?” Some smart locks, like the Kwikset Kevo, integrate with Alexa, allowing you to confirm whether the door is locked or unlocked.
- “Alexa, show my front door camera.” Smart doorbells, such as the Ring, work with Alexa. You can prompt Alexa to show you whoever is at the door from an Alexa-connected screen in your home.
- “Alexa, turn on the living room lights.” If you use smart lightbulbs from the Philips Hue line, Alexa can turn them on and off. Doing so can make it appear that more people are at home than just you or make it seem like you’re at home during a vacation.
- “Alexa, ask ADT to disarm the system with PIN 1234.” Several security systems, including ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint, offer Alexa skills, meaning you can command Alexa to arm and disarm systems, send security alerts, and more.