As we often point out, the twin pillars of home automation are security and convenience. With Alexa Guard and Away Mode, you get both of these.
If you own an Alexa-enabled Echo device, you might already have dabbled with Away Mode.
We’ll touch upon how you can relax this summer with Away Mode, but we’ll also be looking at how Amazon has trumped this with Alexa Guard.
Home insurance company Hippo admitted to USA Today that this skill was more fun-based than a serious attempt at security. Despite mixed reviews, Away Mode still has some potential if you spend lots of time away from home.
What Is Away Mode?
The purpose of Away Mode is to get your Echo devices playing conversations up to an hour or more long so it seems like someone is home.
Only really useful if you’re popping out for some quick errands, the creation of this skill nevertheless opened a dialogue beyond those recorded conversations.
How might Echo devices be used to meaningfully ramp up security in your smart home when you’re sunning yourself on a Caribbean beach?
The answer comes from Amazon themselves in the guise of Alexa Guard. Also featuring Away Mode, functionality is much more robust than that offered by Hippo.
What is this new layer of security, though, and why should you care?
What Is Alexa Guard?
Revealed way back in September 2018, Alexa Guard is now rolled out for all US-based customers.
As the name hints, this feature allows your Echo device to listen out for a range of dangers when you’re away from home.
Flicking Alexa Guard into Away Mode means you get alerts pinged to your smartphone if your Echo picks up on something such as your smoke or carbon monoxide detector sounding off. Guard can also listen out for the sound of breaking glass.
Functionality also extends to lighting and security systems. We’ll explore this below after walking you through how to set up Alexa Guard.
Before that, we will cover how Alexa Guard works.
How Does Alexa Guard Work?
The basic premise of Alexa Guard is simple: it picks up on danger by detecting acoustic patterns to match your chosen sounds. Using those piercing far-field mics, Alexa Guard will be your eyes and ears, even when you’re thousands of miles away.
Once you’ve enabled this feature in the Alexa app, all you need to do is state, “Alexa, I’m leaving” to your Echo device and your robotic guard kicks in.
As well as sending you alerts, you can also choose to receive an audio clip to hear the offending noise for yourself. If you want, you can use the Drop-In feature on your Echo device to monitor proceedings in real-time.
Machine learning has helped Echo learn the sounds of glass shattering by a variety of means from a crowbar and hammer, through to a brick and a small stone.
So far, so good. How about device support?
Which Devices Support Alexa Guard?
All generations of the following smart speakers and smart displays support Alexa Guard: Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Echo Spot, and Echo Input. You can purchase an echo device here.
Amazon has recently built out backward-compatibility, so you’re not left out if you still own an older Echo.
How Do You Set Up Alexa Guard?
Luckily, the initial set-up couldn’t be much easier:
- Fire up the Alexa app
- Hit the Menu button top left
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down and tap Guard
At this stage, you’ll need to decide what duties you want Alexa Guard to perform.
You don’t need to muddy the waters by activating everything. If you’re already perfectly content with the performance of your smoke alarm, you can limit listening in to the sounds of breaking glass. Just choose what you need, rather than feeling the need to go all-in.
With this set-up taken care of, how do you activate and deactivate Alexa Guard?
How Do You Enable and Disable Alexa Guard?
You have two principal methods of enabling and disabling Alexa Guard.
- Tell your Echo device, “Alexa, I’m leaving” or “Alexa, I’m home” and your trusty virtual butler will do the rest
- Go into the Guard Settings and use the green button to toggle between Home and Away
If you’re still not convinced that Echo can protect your smart home while you’re away, maybe Away Lighting will persuade you of its power…
Make Your Home Look Occupied With Away Lighting
Not content to passively listen for trouble, Alexa Guard gets more active by interacting with your smart lighting.
Away Lighting can be enabled with a single tap so you won’t be deep in a menu system when you want to hit the road for holidays.
You’ll need to enter your zip code so Alexa can determine the time of sunrise and sunset. If you’re concerned about the privacy angle of this, we’d recommend you don’t use it. After all, what’s the point of trying to relax on vacation if you’re panicking about security issues?
Alexa then toggles lights on and off to recreate an occupied house even when it’s empty. Your trusty guard is even intelligent enough to turn the lights off downstairs just before the lights go on in the bedroom. This is a nice touch of realism.
The app will give you a complete activity breakdown, too.
Alexa Guard and Smart Home Security Systems
Guard also plays nicely with security systems from Ring, Honeywell, ADT, Scout Alarm and Abode.
If you have a professionally monitored service with one of the above firms, you can even arrange to have all your alerts forwarded to them.
Amazon points out clearly that Guard is not a substitute for a home security system since it won’t be able to take action on your behalf. Guard won’t be calling 911 for you, although you can get indirect assistance if you have that professionally-monitored package.
We know it’s that time of year when you’ll be excitedly planning your vacation and your security should never be overlooked. We hope you can see the added value from activating Alexa Guard on your Echo devices. If you don’t already own one of these nifty smart speakers, maybe it’s an added incentive to buy one.
And, if you need further encouragement, why not sign up for our email newsletter? You will stay up to date on the latest smart home news and you’ll also get a full 20% off your first order. Why not use that to treat yourself to an Echo device?
Don’t forget to bookmark our blog and come back soon!