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Alexa Takes On Smart Home Security Responsibilities

By David Jones
Aug 5, 2016 11:08 AM PT

Millions of customers using Amazon's Alexa voice assistant technology now can add locks that can be controlled remotely to the growing ecosystem of smart home capabilities.

August Home last week announced that Amazon's line of voice-assisted products, including the best-selling Echo, now support its smart products, allowing users to lock and unlock their front doors and other points of access using simple voice commands.

August product line includes the August Smart Lock, the August Smart Keypad and the August Smart Doorbell Cam, which allow customers to secure and keep track of home security using a smartphone app.

Connected home devices are gaining wider acceptance due to the increased use of smartphones, Internet availability, and connected devices that solve real consumer problems and needs, said Lisa Auslen, spokesperson for August.

"Consumers are definitely adopting voice-enabled devices, often because voice commands bring added convenience to the products they may already have at home," she told TechNewsWorld.

August Smart Lock customers using the first- or second-generation locks can use the service by enabling the August Smart Lock skill located in the Alexa app. The service also requires the August Connection WiFi bridge to connect the Bluetooth lock.

August officials said the company's product work with a number of different partners, including Airbnb, Apple, Nest, Logitech and Xfinity Home.

Growing Ecosystem

The ability to remotely control home security marks the latest series of capabilities for Alexa voice-command products, which now have about 1,900 third-party skills from a range of companies, including Kayak, Lyft, Honeywell and others.

Customers are using Alexa-enabled devices to listen to music, set alarms, get news, shop online, order pizza, and perform a variety of household talks including controlling lights and window blinds.

One of the biggest issues for accelerating adoption of smart home products is the ability to integrate all the various capabilities that communicate seamlessly with each other.

"The smart home market has been and will continue to be hobbled by a lack of comprehensive and simple methods to integrate the various smart home devices from different manufacturers," said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"Amazon Alexa integration is one step towards making the integration easy for users, but it still competes with Apple HomeKit, Nest and other home automation solutions," he told TechNewsWorld.

Security Concerns

Voice command is the most compelling feature of home automation systems using the Alexa platform, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. However, controlling automated locks presents a unique set of challenges.

"The concern is that someone either accidentally issues an unlock command or someone outside the house gets heard by Alexa, which then opens the lock," Enderle said. "The problem with scripts is they too can include locks, and up until now this capability was disabled."

The demand for smart home lock devices took off several years ago, when August and rival Weiss announced early versions of smartphone-controlled door locks, observed Konkana Khaund, principal consultant at Frost & Sullivan.

While demand clearly is growing, there are still concerns about the security of connected home devices from hacker intrusions.

"Most of these systems have confirmed threat potential," Khaund told TechNewsWorld.

Securing them "will require commitments to device hardening on the part of solution providers," she said, "as well as more vigilance in terms of device protection and authentication on the part of the consumer."

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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Salesforce Industries Summit
Forrester names NICE inContact CXone a leader in cloud contact center software
Forrester names NICE inContact CXone a leader in cloud contact center software