Smart Speakers Activate Up to 19 Times A Day, Says Study

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Smart speakers mistakenly activate up to 19 times a day, according to a scientific study. The study focused on five different devices:

  • Google Home Mini 1st generation
  • Apple Homepod 1st generation
  • Amazon Echo Dot 2nd generation
  • Amazon Echo Dot 3rd generation
  • Harmon Kardon Invoke by Microsoft.

Related: Google Nest Mini Review 

Daniel J. Dubois, Roman Kalcun, Anna Maria Mandalari, Muhammad Talha Paracha, David Choffnes and Hamed Hadaddi wrote in the study,

“Anyone who has used voice assistants knows that they accidentally wake up and record when the “wake word” isn’t spoken—for example, “Seriously” sounds like the wake word “Siri” and often causes Apple’s Siri-enabled devices to start listening….For the past six months, our team has been conducting research to go beyond anecdotes through the use of repeatable, controlled experiments that shed light on what causes voice assistants to mistakenly wake up and record. “

Amazon Echo Dot and Box
Amazon Echo Dot and Box

By having the speakers listen to 125 hours of shows on Netflix, including Gilmore Girls, The Office and The West Wing, the study measured how many times the speakers activated incorrectly. Conducted by scientists from Northeastern University and Imperial College London, the study  found that different shows had different rates of activation, ranging from 1.5 to 19 times per day. Microsoft and Apple’s speakers mistakenly activated the most frequently, followed by the Echo Dot 2nd generation, the Google Home Mini and the Echo Dot 3rd generation.

Related: The Best Smart Speakers of 2020

Gilmore Girls and The Office caused the most activations due to their large amount of dialogue, but all of the shows tested activated a smart speaker at least once. Activations ranged in length, with half of the Echo devices’ activations lasting six seconds or more all the way up to 43 seconds, the longest of any smart speaker. Words that contained the letter “x” typically triggered Alexa along with words contained the “k” or “g” sounds. Overall, just under 9%. of activations occurred consistently over 12 experiments, demonstrating a randomness to how smart speakers activate.


Which smart speaker is the best?

The best smart speaker of 2020 is the Amazon Echo Plus. With its simple setup and full compatibility with other smart home products, this device continues to set the gold standard for smart speakers. We love the Dolby technology built into this speaker, ensuring a crisp and resonant output for music, Alexa communication, and just about any other sound you could imagine. Speaking of other sounds, the Echo Plus also features an intercom mode, allowing you to send messages throughout your home to other Alexa enabled devices. This device also features customizable security controls, allowing you to turn off the microphones for privacy.

What can smart speakers do?

If you think of your home as human body, then a smart speaker is akin to the central nervous system, essential for controlling the rest of the body (or in this case, the other connected devices in your home). Through Wi-Fi, smart speakers can hear your voice commands and perform an astounding array of functions, whether that’s playing a song, messaging a friend, or ordering paper towels from Amazon. All of the devices listed here are operated primarily through voice control, ensuring that whatever you need is but a few syllables away.

Are smart speakers always listening?

Smart speakers are always listening for their wake word. However, most of them only record after the user says the wake word.

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza is a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her career, her work has spanned many intersections within the tech industry. At SquareFoot, a New York-based real estate technology company, she wrote about the ways in which technology has changed the real estate industry, as well as the challenges that business owners face when they want to invest in property. At, an education technology website, Aliza created digital content for lifelong learners, exploring the ways in which technology has democratized education. Additionally, she has written articles for The Huffington Post as well as her own content on Medium, the online publishing platform. Aliza’s love of journalism and research stems from the excellent Journalism program at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, Aliza interned as a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit “news room without walls”. There, Aliza was paired with an investigative journalist and used academic databases to obtain data on everything from the suicide rates in Bhutan to local Boston court cases. Her last position was as an account executive at Yelp, educating business owners on the power of technology to increase revenue. Throughout, however, her heart remained with tech journalism, and she’s thrilled to be writing for Security Baron. When she’s not keeping afloat of the latest tech trends, Aliza likes to cook, read, and write. A former high school “Class Clown,” Aliza has completed two feature-length screenplays, a pilot, and countless comedic sketches. On her days off you can find her relaxing in Prospect Park, trying the latest flavors at Ample Hills Ice Cream, and spending time with friends and family.