(Pocket-lint) - You could pay hundreds or perhaps thousands for a smart home security system. Or you could just use the Echo device you already own.

Amazon offers an Echo-driven smart home security system called Alexa Guard. It allows your Echo device to listen for potential signs of an emergency. It also works with a subscription service, called Alexa Guard Plus, which provides access to premium features, including an emergency helpline available 24/7.

If you’re the type of person who has a hard time enjoying a holiday away, mostly because you’re worried about what’s going on at home, this new feature could help put your mind at ease. Here's everything you need to know about Alexa Guard and Alexa Guard Plus.

What is Alexa Guard?

It's straightforward: What if the Echo speakers in your home could detect threats and then help make you instantly aware of them?

That's the whole point of Alexa Guard, an Alexa-powered feature that uses existing far-field mics in Amazon Echo devices to closely listen for glass breaking, footsteps, or the sound of alarms coming from smoke or CO detectors when you're away from home. Alexa Guard can also switch your smart lights on and off, mimicking your normal usage to make it seem like you’re at home. It even works with the new Ring Car Alarm, helping alert you to potential vehicle break-ins.

Amazon

What is Alexa Guard Plus?

Alexa Guard Plus is a premium subscription service for Alexa Guard.

It adds a few new features that make the service more effective at protecting your home and deterring potential intruders, as well as offering a 24/7 emergency helpline. Amazon said the service will fully support hands-free calling and will be staffed by trained agents "24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year".

Other new features to Alexa Guard Plus include improved noise detection, allowing your Alexa-enabled devices to detect the sounds of everything from babies crying to footsteps, and it can play the sounds of dog's barking if it sees intruders coming near your front door via a Ring device. 

Alexa Guard Plus in Away Mode

Alexa Guard was made with the idea that it would be guarding your home while you're away, and Guard Plus builds on that idea in some great ways. 

When set to away mode, Guard Plus will listen for any sounds that shouldn't be in your home while it's empty. If it detects anything, it will send you a notification. Alexa can also play noises that act as a deterrent such as dogs barking. In circumstances where it's necessary, Alexa can call into the emergency Guard Plus helpline in order for you to get trained assistance from a person to deal with a situation. Then that agent will be able to contact emergency services if they are needed.

Pocket-lint

How to enable Alexa Guard

Enable Alexa Guard

First, you have to enable the feature in the Alexa app on your iOS or Android.

  1. Open the Alexa app.
  2. Go to Menu (three line icon) > Settings.
  3. Scroll down and select the Guard option.
  4. It'll ask you to confirm and enter your zip code to use the Away Lighting aspect.

Note: The Alexa app uses your zip code for Away Lighting, so it can smartly turn on your lights when it's nighttime in your neighborhood.

How does Alexa Guard work?

Activate Alexa Guard with a voice command

Once you've enabled the feature in the Alexa app, say, “Alexa, I’m leaving” to your Echo. This will switch Guard to Away mode, and then it will send Smart Alerts to your phone if it hears something like a smoke alarm or the sound of glass breaking. These notifications will include an audio clip, so you can hear for the noise yourself. You will also be given the option to Drop In on your Echo device.

In order for Alexa to accurately identify the sound of a window shattering, Amazon said it had a team break hundreds of different types of windows with objects like crow bars, hammers, bricks, and more. Using machine learning, it was able to teach Alexa how to listen and recognise these types of sounds so that it can better understand when to alert you of a potential break-in or hazard.

Which Echo devices support Alexa Guard?

All generations of Amazon Echo devices support Alexa Guard.

  • Amazon Echo
  • Amazon Echo Dot 
  • Amazon Echo Plus
  • Amazon Echo Show
  • Amazon Echo Spot
  • Amazon Echo Input
Amazon/Ring

Will Alexa Guard work with Ring or other security systems?

Yes. Alexa Guard can be set up to work with your existing home security system. It works with Ring (including Ring Car Alarm), ADT Pulse, and ADT Control security systems. In fact, if you have a professional monitoring service through Ring or ADT, you can forward Smart Alerts to your security company.

Is Alexa Guard free to use?

Yes. Alexa Guard is absolutely free to use. However, in the US, you can upgrade to the Alexa Guard Plus subscription service for $4.99 a month (or $49 for an annual subscription) for added benefits. You will also be able to try Alexa Guard Plus for free for one month when it becomes available.

When will Alexa Guard and Alexa Guard Plus be available?

Alexa Guard is already live in the US. Alexa Guard Plus will be available from autumn 2020.

Want to know more?

Check out Amazon's FAQ page here.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.