We might be living in a high-tech world these days, but the concepts of everyday living remain the same. Case in point—I remember when I was a kid visiting my aunt and uncle's house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, they had a timer for their living room lamp to give the appearance that someone was home, or awake, during late hours. Fast forward to today and Amazon is introducing a similar feature as part of its 'Alexa Guard' for Echo devices.
As the name implies, the new Guard functionality enables Alexa to beef up the security in homes, for Echo device owners. It was previously available to users in the US through an invite system, in preview form, and is now being rolled out as a free update to everyone with an Echo smart speaker.
When enabled, Guard initiates what Amazon calls Smart Alerts. It listens for distinct sounds, such as breaking glass, as might happen if a burglar is trying to get inside, and also can detect the sound of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
As for the lighting thing I mentioned, Guard can automatically turn compatible lights on and off to make it look like someone is home, just as my relatives were doing in the 1980s. Only with Guard, it's a decidedly higher tech implementation.
"With Away Lighting, Alexa can automatically turn compatible smart lights on and off to make it look like someone is home. Away Lighting works with connected smart lights, plugs, and switches that are Works with Alexa-certified. Get started with a Philips Hue and Echo Dot bundle," Amazon explains.
This is a logical extension of Alexa and Amazon's Echo ecosystem. Yes, there are still privacy concerns related to having a hot mic in your home (or several hot mics, depending on how many Echo devices you own), but there is some welcome added utility that Guard brings to the table.
Guard also integrates with Ring and ADT security systems—users of either service can have Smart Alerts forwarded to them. As part of that, Amazon is selling security-themed bundles, one each for Ring and ADT, and a third that is a smart lighting bundle.
All that said, Amazon is quick to point out that Guard is not a security system in and of itself. Amazon points out in a related FAQ that "Smart Alerts are provided for informational purposes only." It's also important to note that Guard cannot contact emergency services, such as the police or fire department, and the service as a whole goes down if there is an internet or power outage—it's a cloud based service.
If you live in the US, you should see the option to enable Guard in the Alexa app soon, if not already.