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Amazon Echo with Captain America shield, declaring it will stand guard.

Amazon just rolled out Alexa Guard to all Echo users. Your Echo can now listen for breaking glass, alert you to smoke alarms, and randomly turn your lights on and off. But it’s not a full security system.

What Is Alexa Guard?

Alexa notifications turning guard on and off.

Alexa Guard is a new free service from Amazon for Amazon Echo users. When you enable Guard, your Echo devices start listening for the sound of glass breaking or smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. If an Echo detects any of those noises, it will send you an alert.

Amazon accomplishes this feat by altering the wake word behavior for your Echo devices. Usually, your Echo listens for “Alexa” (or one of the optional wake words) to activate. But enabling and activating Guard mode adds additional “wake words” that match up to the sound of glass breaking and alarms. In other words, your Echo listens for these sounds just like it listens for “Alexa.” When you deactivate guard mode, your Echo returns to its standard behavior.

Beyond listening for trouble, Guard can take some basic preventative actions. If you have smart lights tied to the Alexa platform, Guard can turn them on and off at random intervals to give the appearance that you’re home. You choose which smart lights are automated, so your basement light isn’t turning on and off pointlessly.

Once enabled, you arm Guard by telling Alexa “I’m leaving” and disarm by saying “I’m home.” Your Echo will say it’s starting or stopping guarding. You’ll receive an Alexa notification on your phone, too.

Alexa Guard Isn’t a Monitored Security System, But it’s Helpful

Simplisafe Next to an Amazon Echo
The Simplisafe on the left offers a monitored security system; the Echo on the right does not. Josh Hendrickson

Alexa Guard isn’t a monitored security system. Amazon spells that out multiple times in its FAQ:

Alexa Guard is not a replacement for an alarm system or life safety device and cannot contact emergency services, such as the police or fire department, on your behalf. Smart Alerts are provided for informational purposes only.

This is something to keep in mind. Alexa Guard won’t contact the police or fire department for you. For example, let’s say you’re at the theater and your phone is set to do not disturb. If your house catches fire or a burglar smashes all your windows, you won’t receive the notifications. It may be too late to notify the police or fire department by the time you do see the notifications.

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