Alexa Guard & Home Security Guide - Everything You Need to Know
How can Alexa protect my home | Alexa guard commands | Alexa security commands and guide | How to activate Alexa guard | When is Alexa Guard coming to the UK | and more...
Published: 31st Oct 2019
So, you've probably landed here because you want to know how Alexa can help with keeping your home safe? Does it have built-in security features, and does it work with third-party devices?
You want to know about Alexa Guard and you want to know 'Does Alexa Guard actually work?'
This in-depth guide will focus on Alexa’s security capabilities, particularly the role it can play in home security. We've even included two case studies below to show how we used Alexa Guard to protect our home when we went away and whether it worked.
Can Alexa Be a Security System?
Amazon’s Alexa is a cloud-based voice assistant, and while it does have some built-in security features, it’s not a security system. Nonetheless, Alexa is a highly versatile service that can be used in combination with numerous smart devices to form a complete security system.
Does Alexa Have Any Built-in Security Features?
Alexa’s flagship security feature is Guard, which works with the Echo or other smart devices to help you keep your home safe. I provide a complete rundown of Alexa Guard, its features, how it works, and how to use it in the next section of this guide.
Another feature that can provide some security benefits is Alexa Hunches. The feature works with smart devices and detects when something is not how you would usually prefer. For example, you may set your alarm before going to bed with the “Alexa, set alarm” voice command, and Alexa will detect that your front door is still unlocked and offer to lock it.
Alexa Guard – Alexa’s Built-in Feature That Acts Like a Guard Dog (Almost)
Guard, also referred to as Alexa Guard, is a free and easy-to-use security feature that was first announced by Amazon in October 2018. It’s still a relatively new Alexa feature that will see continued development and improvements as time goes on.
What Is Alexa Guard?
Alexa Guard is a security feature that is designed to help keep your home safe when you’re away. It uses your Amazon Echo device(s) to listen for sounds that could indicate danger or problems at home. The sounds it currently detects include breaking glass, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detector alarms, and human activity (footsteps, talking, coughing, or doors closing).
Alexa Guard will only detect these sounds when it is set to Away mode, which is activated with the “Hey Alexa, I’m leaving” voice command. When Alexa Guard detects one of these sounds, it can send you a Smart Alert, which includes notifications on your phone and a 10-second recording of what it heard. Guard also allows you to connect remotely to your Echo device so you can hear what’s happening in real-time.
It can also integrate with ADT and Ring security systems, with the ability to arm the systems and have Smart Alerts sent to your security provider when Alexa Guard is set to Away mode. If you have smart lights, Alexa Guard can also create the illusion that someone is home by automatically turning them on and off, helping to deter any would-be burglars.
Case Study 1 – How We Used Alexa to Protect Our Home While Away
It was that time of year again. Time for me, my wife, and two kids to pack our bags and jet off for a two-week holiday to Spain. We usually ask our neighbours to keep an eye out while we are away and give a spare key to my brother so he can check everything is OK a few times a week.
While we do not live in a dangerous neighbourhood, burglaries are not unheard of and precautions must be taken. On previous vacations, the only deterrent we had was leaving the lounge and hall lights on to give the impression we were home. It was hardly going to fool smart thieves, but it was the best we could do at the time. However, this time, in terms of security, things were going to be a bit different.
That’s because this year, we transformed the house into a smart home, with Echo devices in most rooms, Philips Hue Smart Lights throughout, and a Ring Alarm security system with 24/7 monitoring. I was able to cover all the bases, ensuring the best security without needing to bother my relatives or neighbours. Alexa and its Guard feature were a major part of the process. Here’s how we used the above devices to protect our home while on holiday:
Burglar Deterrent: To deter any would-be burglars, we used Alexa Guard’s Away Lighting feature, which automatically turned on/off our Philips Hue Smart Lights, making it look like someone was home. Away Lighting uses machine learning to determine what lighting activity is most realistic. Setting up Alexa with our Philips Hue Smart Lights was easy, we just needed to enable the Philips Hue skill and link our Philips Hue account in the Alexa app.
Burglar Protection: We set Alexa Guard to Away mode upon leaving, which also armed the Ring Alarm security system. All the entry points to the house were covered, with Ring contact sensors on the doors and windows that would send notifications if opened. Alexa Guard would also send a Smart Alert if it heard a window being smashed. If somehow a burglar managed to get into our house undetected, we had two Ring Indoor Cameras which send notifications if they detect motion. We also had Ring Motion Detectors in most rooms and Alexa Guard was listening out for the sound of footsteps, coughing, and other human activity. If there was any detection of motion or activity in the house, both I and the Ring professional monitoring team could drop in remotely to the Echo devices or Indoor Cams to see and hear what was happening in real-time. The local authorities would have been called immediately upon confirmation of a break-in.
Fire Detection: With Alexa Guard set to Away mode and Echo devices throughout the house, if a fire was to break out, we were confident we would know about it quickly. We didn’t need to buy new smart smoke detectors, thanks to Alexa Guard’s ability to hear the sound of our smoke alarm. Upon detection, Alexa Guard would instantly send Smart Alerts to my phone and the professional monitoring team at Ring who could dispatch the emergency services. This felt much more reassuring than relying on neighbours or pedestrians hearing the alarm and calling for help.
Alas, I was unable to test these systems I'd carefully put in place because no one tried to break in, and no fires broke out. I'm kidding, thank god none of that happened. But how would I ever know if it would actually work when I needed it to. I had a cunning plan. "As cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University" Quote Black Adder.
Case Study 2 – Does Alexa Guard Actually Work?
Yes, it does a job! I had a plan to find out if Alexa Guard really worked. What noises would a burglar make in the house? They would pull things off of the shelves without care. They would move quickly and aggressively around the room. They would open and close draws and cupboards, and probably shout to their other thieving mates that they'd found the jewellery collection. I tried all of these things and nothing happened, not one notification on my wife's phone.
But Alexa wasn't listening to these things, it was listening for specific audio signatures. Breaking glass, smoke alarms. So this is what I tried. I put two glass beer bottles in a bin bag and broke them together... aha! My wifi received a notification. Next, I tested my smoke alarm 'beep beep beep' Yes! Another notification arrived. Alexa Guard had picked up the sounds, it had worked. My wife was asked if she wanted to Drop in (guide to Alexa Drop In) and hear live audio with even the opportunity to shout back at the intruders 'get out of my house'.
So, it was conclusive, Alexa Guard at least did what it said on the tin. I think this could be a good feature in the future if they are able to use AI to further help Alexa better understand what sounds to look out for. At no extra cost, it's worth a try.
Is Alexa Guard Free to Use?
Alexa Guard is free to use if you already own an Echo device.
However, if you want to use it with a professional monitoring service, such as those offered by Ring or ADT, there may be additional fees involved.
How to Set up Alexa Guard
Alexa Guard can be easily set up with the following steps:
Various preferences can be set for Guard within the Alexa app. These include selecting which Echo devices use Guard, linking home security systems, setting up Away Lighting, adjusting Smart Alerts, and more.
Alexa Guard Commands / How to Enable/Disable Alexa Guard
The default way of enabling and disabling Alexa Guard is with the following voice commands:
However, Alexa Guard can also use custom voice commands or be set to trigger automatically at a specific time when used in a routine. See the “Can You Automate Alexa Guard?” section for more details on how Alexa routines work.
How Does Alexa Guard Work?
Alexa Guard uses the microphone in your Echo device(s) to listen out for selected sounds when it is set to Away mode. It is able to identify acoustic patterns that match the sounds of breaking glass, smoke and carbon monoxide detector alarms, footsteps, coughing, talking, and doors closing.
Prem Natarajan, the vice president of Alexa’s AI division, stated that employees at Amazon had to destroy many types of glass, including windows and wine glasses, with hammers, baseball bats, and other tools to train the technology. Therefore, Alexa Guard should be able to tell the difference between your pet knocking over a drinking glass and a burglar smashing the window.
Alexa Guard uses a data-driven machine-learning algorithm that gets smarter the more you use it. That means its ability to detect specific sounds accurately will also improve over time. Guard only sends audio to the cloud when it detects a selected sound, and only listens for selected sounds when it’s in Away mode. Any Alexa Guard audio recordings for your account can be reviewed and deleted in the privacy settings of the Alexa app.
For best performance, Amazon recommends having an Echo device in each room where you want the selected sounds detected. It also recommends having Echo devices near to your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or any windows that you want monitoring.
What Can Alexa Guard Do?
It’s expected that Amazon will continue developing and introducing new features for Alexa Guard as time goes on, but as of now, here’s a quick rundown of the main security benefits it can provide:
Which Alexa Devices Work with Guard?
Alexa Guard is compatible with the following Amazon devices:
What are the Requirements for Using Alexa Guard?
To be able to use Alexa Guard, you must have the following:
Alexa Guard will not work during times of internet or power outages. You must have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector capable of emitting an alarm if you want to receive Smart Alerts for their associated sounds.
Can Alexa Guard Work with Other Devices and Systems?
Yes, Alexa Guard currently works with ADT and Ring security systems, but still requires you to have at least one Echo device. Currently, there are no third-party devices available that can act as an alternative or replacement for having an Echo device.
What Devices Can Guard Work with and What Can They Do Together?
Guard works with Ring and ADT security systems. Here’s what they can do together:
Guard will arm your ADT Control or ADT Pulse security system when you set it to Away mode. It can also send Smart Alerts to ADT when sounds are detected. This can be done automatically or on a case-by-case basis depending on your preference. If you are signed up to ADT’s professional monitoring service, ADT is able to take action on its own behalf when it receives Smart Alerts. The ADT Command with Alexa Guard bundle currently retails for $249, which includes a touchscreen security panel, an Echo Dot, two smart bulbs, and numerous other security devices. More information on this bundle can be found here.
Guard will arm your Ring security system when you set it to Away mode. When you receive Smart Alerts for detected sounds, you are able to quickly access the Ring app. You can then request the dispatch of emergency responders if you have the Ring Protect Plus monitoring service. The Ring Alarm bundle that works with Alexa Guard currently costs $279, which includes a five-piece security kit, an Echo Dot, and two smart bulbs. More information on the package can be found here.
Which Countries Is Alexa Guard Available in Today or When Will It Be Released?
Amazon announced in May 2019, that it was rolling out Alexa Guard to all Echo customers in the US.
Alexa Guard currently remains only available in the US, with no release dates yet given for other countries.
Can You Automate Alexa Guard?
The easiest way to automate Alexa Guard is by creating a routine in the Amazon Alexa App. Routines allow Alexa to perform a series of actions with a single command. For example, you could create a routine that sets Alexa Guard to Away mode, turns down the thermostat, and locks the door all at the same time.
As routines can be set to automatically trigger at a specific time of day, they allow you to fully automate Alexa Guard rather than having to remember to say “Alexa, I’m leaving.” Series can also be set to trigger with a custom voice command, such as “Alexa, I’m going to work.”
Alexa Guard also has the Away Lighting function, which automatically turns smart lights off and on to create the illusion that someone is home.
Does Alexa Guard Work with Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets?
If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably wondering how Alexa Guard will perform when you’re out of the house but your pet isn’t.
With the ability to detect the sound of breaking glass, if your pet was to break a glass vase or a similar object, then it’s possible that Alexa Guard would detect it and send you a notification. However, as previously mentioned, Alexa should be able to tell the difference between a broken wine glass and a smashed window due to its advanced machine-learning algorithm.
This also applies when detecting human activity, as the sound of your pet moving around the home could end up creating some false notifications. Luckily, Alexa Guard gives you the ability to turn on and off these specific functions within its settings. So, the best approach would be to test Alexa Guard with all the functions enabled while your pet is at home and then adjust accordingly based on how many false signals you get.
One dog owner on the Amazon Forum asked if Alexa Guard is able to detect the sound of dogs barking. An Amazon staff member confirmed that currently, it cannot.
Can I Test Alexa Guard?
Once you have set up Alexa Guard and configured its setting, you will probably want to test it to see if it’s working as desired.
A good way to do this is to set Alexa Guard to Away mode and then press and hold the ‘test’ button on your carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm. If Alexa Guard detects the sound and sends the appropriate notifications, then you will know it’s working correctly.
Note: Amazon states in its FAQs that Alexa Guard will not work with all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
You could also walk around the room, talk, cough, or close doors to see how well it detects human activity.
Does Google Home Have Something Like Alexa Guard?
Google Home does not have a built-in feature similar to Alexa Guard. Therefore, alone it will not detect the sound of alarms, breaking glass, or human activity.
However, Google Home does work with a range of compatible security devices, such as those from its partners Nest and Ring. These additional smart devices enable Google Home users to perform various tasks, such as turning lights on and off, locking doors, activating cameras, and more with “Hey Google…” voice commands.
Does Apple HomePod Have Something Like Alexa Guard?
Apple’s HomePod does not have a built-in feature similar to Alexa Guard. Therefore, it will not detect the sound of alarms from smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, nor the sound of breaking glass or ‘human activity’ by itself.
However, you can buy smart accessories that are compatible with the Apple Home app, which, therefore, can be controlled with “Hey Siri…” voice commands through the HomePod or other Apple devices.
There is a wide range of security accessories available, including smoke and carbon monoxide detectors such as Onelink, that are compatible with the Apple Home App.
Third-Party Security Devices That Work with Alexa
There are thousands of different third-party security devices that work with Alexa. Let’s take a look at some of the best options available:
Security Systems That Work with Alexa
Amazon acquired Ring back in February 2018, so as you’d expect, its Ring Alarm security systems work seamlessly with Alexa. Ring has various alarm security system packages available to suit the size of your home, costing between $150 and $650. The systems include devices such as a base station, keypads, contact sensors, motion detectors, range extenders, a video doorbell, and cameras. All devices are fully portable if you decide to move to a new house and can be installed by yourself without professional help. The Ring app allows you to remotely control your security system, receive real-time alerts, and access live video feeds. You can also sign up for 24/7 professional monitoring with Ring Protect for $10 per month.
ADT is a leader in home security, with more than 145 years of experience. ADT’s home security packages can include 24/7 alarm monitoring, security cameras, security monitoring equipment, professional installation, live streaming from mobile devices, smart home controls, wired or wireless systems, and flood, fire, and carbon monoxide detection. Packages are customised to fit your home, so you need to contact ADT to get a free quote for pricing. All ADT packages come with a 6-month money-back guarantee, and ADT also offers a theft protection guarantee. To integrate Alexa, customers just need to add the ADT skill on the Alexa app.
Vivint produces premium security systems that are customised specifically for your home. Its security packages can include doorbell cameras, smart locks, outdoor/indoor cameras, garage door control, thermostats, sensors, flood detectors, and more. The Vivint Smart Home app allows you to access your security systems from anywhere and receive real-time alerts. Vivint also offers a 24/7 monitoring service, costing between $20 and $60 per month. Professional installation of your Vivint security systems costs up to $250, and there are no DIY options available. You can connect your Echo device(s) to your security system by enabling the Vivint Smart Home skill in the Alexa app.
Frontpoint prides itself on offering the easiest to set up security systems. Everything is delivered pre-configured and ready to use, with customers just needing to “peel and stick” their devices where they want them. All Frontpoint security packages are completely wireless, using a 4G LTE internet connection and a backup internet, so there are no wires for burglars to cut to disarm the system. The system is also smash-proof, meaning if the hub or keypad is destroyed, the system still works. There is a wide array of security devices available that will cover all your needs, costing from $69 up to $850. Al packages come with 24/7 professional monitoring and are compatible with Alexa.
SimpliSafe is another leading home security provider that offers systems compatible with Alexa. SimpliSafe’s security system packages cost between $200 and $550, with the option of building your own customised package also available. They offer 24/7 monitoring for $14.99 per month, with professionals ready to dispatch the police when necessary. Security systems can be fitted by yourself, or you can pay to have a certified pro do it for you. Systems can include cameras, motion and entry sensors, panic buttons, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, keypads, and more. You can also trial SimpliSafe in your home for 60 days, and if you’re not satisfied, return the system for a full refund.
Top-Rated Security Devices That Work with Alexa
There are simply too many Alexa compatible third-party security devices available to be able to list them all. Nonetheless, the following ten “Amazon certified” devices have some of the best customer ratings on amazon.com:
Does Alexa Work with Google Nest?
Yes, Alexa currently works with Google Nest cameras, thermostats, and video doorbells. Google states that it supports new technologies, including Alexa, which gives you more flexibility and control over the Nest products.
To use Google Nest products with Amazon Alexa, you will need to enable the Nest Skill in the Alexa app. Simply follow the instructions and set your preferences within the Alexa app, and then you will be able to use Alexa’s voice controls for your Nest products.
Are There Any Alexa Security Skills?
Alexa skills enable you to expand the voice command capabilities of your Amazon Alexa devices, such as the Echo smart speaker and Fire tablet. There’s a wide selection of skills available to choose from, many of which work with third-party smart devices. You can easily enable or disable Alexa skills from within the Alexa app.
Some Alexa skills aim to provide a security service or allow you to control your security devices. Here are eight top examples of Alexa skills that help with security:
IFTTT Recipes That Help Alexa with Security
If This Then That, known as IFTTT, is an automation platform that allows you to connect the different services you use together in order to complete tasks. Different combinations of services can be used together to perform different tasks, with each unique combination known as an “applet.” These applets help you to automate your daily workflow by allowing you to control smart devices, websites, and applications simultaneously.
While IFTTT applets can fall into many categories, let’s take a look at some examples of those that work with Alexa to help improve security:
Alexa Security Voice Commands
While there are thousands of different voice commands available for Alexa, here's a list of those most essential for home security.
|Alexa Security Command||Description||Example|
|Alexa, I’m leaving||This sets Alexa Guard to Away mode||"Alexa, I’m leaving"|
|Alexa, I’m home||This sets Alexa Guard to Home mode||"Alexa, I’m home"|
|Alexa, Lock / Unlock the [lock name]||Control your homes smart locks with Alexa||"Alexa, lock the front door"|
|Alexa, is the [lock name] locked?||Have Alexa tell you the status of your homes smart locks||"Alexa, is the back door unlocked?"|
|Alexa, turn on / off [light name]||Control the smart lights in your home with Alexa||"Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights"|
|Alexa, show the [camera name]||View your cameras live feed on your Fire TV, Echo Show, or Echo Spot||"Alexa, show doorbell camera"|
|Alexa, hide the [camera name]||Remove the live camera video feed from your device||"Alexa, hide living room camera"|
|Alexa, is the [sensor name] open?||Find out the status of your door sensors||"Alexa, is the garage door open?"|
|Alexa, open / close the [blind name]||Control your homes smart blinds with Alexa||"Alexa, open the living room blinds"|
|Alexa, arm / disarm Ring||Arm or disarm your Ring alarm with Alexa||"Alexa, arm Ring"|
|Alexa, set Ring to home / away||Set Ring to home or away mode with Alexa||"Alexa, set Ring to away"|
|Alexa, is Ring armed?||Find out the status of your Ring alarm||"Alexa, is Ring armed?"|
|Alexa, trigger [IFTTT Recipe]||Use Alexa to run your IFTTT recipes||"Alexa, trigger call my device"|
|Alexa, [Custom Command]||Create an Alexa routine to control your security devices with a custom phrase||"Alexa, I'm going to work"|
|Alexa, discover devices||Have Alexa search for smart security devices in your home||"Alexa, discover devices"|
Alexa Privacy Concerns - Tips to Improve Privacy
Privacy concerns surrounding Alexa and Amazon’s smart devices have been widely reported, but there are some tips you can follow to ensure better privacy. Amazon previously admitted that some of its employees listen to customers’ voice recordings from Alexa-enabled devices, such as the Echo.
Amazon states that this is done in order to train Alexa’s speech recognition technology, and customers do have the option to opt-out of it. With a string of privacy concerns sweeping the industry, it does look like tech companies are starting to take note, and Amazon just added some new delete options for Alexa.
However, for those who see privacy as the utmost priority, here are some tips you can follow to keep your information private when using Alexa: