The popularization of personal virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa — three new Alexa-enabled Echo smart speakers were just introduced on Wednesday — have brought forth a multitude of questions about privacy and security. Alexa operates by listening to its surroundings, waiting for a “wake” word, which incites it to perform a command. Anything said after a wake word is recorded and sent for storage on Amazon’s servers.
So, how private can your home be when Amazon is essentially listening to and storing your words?
As the Internet of Things is just now reaching the average consumer’s home, questions and legal guidelines surrounding that topic — Can police access the recordings for legal investigations? Will Amazon hand over these recordings to third-party app developers? — are still being worked out.
But for users who have decided to take the leap and sacrifice a potential loss of privacy for the smart home capabilities Alexa can offer, there are ways to use the tool to increase safety and serenity — at least on a home security level.
Below, we’ve highlighted a few Amazon Alexa Skills that can work to increase and automate a home’s security capabilities. (Note: In addition to downloading, some Skills require additional hardware or connection to other security systems.)
Wink allows users to control smart safety features in their home like locks, switches, and lights. Using your voice you can check if a door is locked, and then proceed to lock it without getting up. You can also control thermostats and outlets. Sample commands: “Alexa, is the front door locked?” and “Alexa, turn on the downstairs lamp.”
Users can invoke this Skill to program “activities” that increase safety around the home, and then activate the stored settings with a voice command to Alexa. For example, you can have specific lights around your house come on when you return home each evening, and quickly trigger them on with a few words. Users can also use the ADT Canopy app to view video from LG Smart Security cameras, control home automation device, and monitor their home.
ICMyCloud Smart Home Skill
ICMyCloud Smart Home Skill works in conjunction with IC Realtime CCTV systems to provide smart home security. With Alexa, you can use voice commands to turn your security camera feeds on and off, and control which feeds are shown. Sample commands: “Alexa, hide my driveway camera,” and ”Alexa, show my front door camera.”
Those apps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Alexa Skill offerings that give users voice control over locks, lights, and security cameras.
Once users feel secure in their home, they can also turn to Alexa to increase an internal sense of safety and serenity by using available meditation and relaxation Skills, such as the two highlighted below:
Free Sleep Sounds
Free Sleep Sounds offers high-quality soundscapes to help users relax or fall asleep. With Alexa, you can lie down in the comfort of your bed and use voice commands to adjust the setting until you find just the right ambient noise. Sample command: “Alexa, ask Sleep Sounds to play thunderstorms.”
Guided Meditation: Meditation of the Day for Calm
Using Guided Meditation by Stop, Breathe & Think with Alexa can help you get into a regular meditation practice. The app offers a new 3-8 minute meditation each day. With voice control features, you can tell Alexa to “play next” to switch to a different guide without having to move from your grounded meditation position.
For more noteworthy Alexa skills, check out our article Ten Alexa Skills To Turn Your House Into A Smart Home.