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Alexa Comes to Home Security Systems: Here's How It Works

[UPDATEDwith clarification that Alexa Guard began rolling out last week to select customers.]

Amazon Alexa’s home security features have been opened up to the whole developer community, letting alarm and camera manufacturers add the digital assistant’s functions to their products.

Credit: Nest/Ring

(Image credit: Nest/Ring )

This is based on Amazon’s release of a Security Panel Controller API for Alexa to the public on Dec. 13, allowing more companies access to the code required to let users control their home security systems with voice commands.

These features are currently only available on certain models of alarm made by ADT, Honeywell, Abode, Scout, and of course Amazon-owned company Ring. The other caveat is that this only currently works if you live in the U.S., but watch out for future announcements from home security businesses bringing Alexa integration to the UK and beyond.

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To use it, you'll have to download the relevant company’s skill from the Alexa app’s store. This will let you then arm, disarm, or check the status of your home security, and potentially more depending on the specific product and skill. Arming and monitoring your system can be done easily by voice, and if you have multiple arming modes, you can identify which one you want to use as you give the order.

But since disarming by voice is something that could be easily abused, this has some extra conditions to meet. First off, you have to enable that feature yourself either in the Alexa app or in your security system’s menus. Then, depending on how your alarm’s internal systems work, you may be able to state your existing PIN along with the command to turn off the alarm, or you might need to create a specific code to use with Alexa.

These capabilities are reminiscent of Alexa Guard, first demonstrated in September 2018. This function lets Alexa listen for burglar alarms or smoke detectors, and send you a message if it hears them, as well as turn on smart home lights to dissuade any potential break-ins. Sadly Guard is currently only available to a select group of users, but it will roll out to everyone in the next few weeks.