Amazon Echo & Security Alarms/Door Locks, etc?

Usual preface applies…sorry if there is already a centralized thread for this topic. If so, please close this one and point me in the right direction…

I will eventually add an Echo to my SmartThings system. When I do, I’d love to be able to use it to interact with my whole-house security alarm system and my smart door locks, etc.

However, since there is no voice pattern recognition in Echo to differentiate between members of my family and ‘outsiders’, it seems like a bad idea.

e.g. potential burglar walks up to my house, yells to Echo through the window to turn off the alarm system, and open the front door lock. Walks right in.

Is this a real problem, or is it easily dealt with some way I haven’t read about yet?

Echo is not intended as barrier control for any area where you need to have security. You’re absolutely right, if the echo can hear a person from outside, it will respond.

There are still many of us who do use the echo for locks but they are for situations which don’t compromise barrier security.

For example, I’m Quadriparetic and it is physically very difficult for me to work the turn bolt on my door, although I can. So I use the echo to open it from inside the house. But the echo is positioned so that you can’t use it from outside the house.

Some people use the handheld echo remote from the car. Again, their echo can’t hear someone who just stands on the street and yells.

With the new IFTTT echo triggers feature that was just released today, you could use a secret passcode instead of saying “unlock the lock.” So you could use a numeric code or whatever you wanted to say. The problem is that when someone overheard you use it they can also use it.

Amazon’s own security FAQ mentions the issue and just says be aware of it. Anyone can use the echo. So if there’s something you don’t want other people to be able to use, then don’t add that function.

So it just depends on your use case.

With SmartThings you authorize each individual device for use by echo or not. It’s not your whole account. So you can authorize echo to control your lights without authorizing it to control your lock. I think that’s what most people are doing.

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Ya, that’s what I figured.
I guess I was just hoping that perhaps magic really does exist, or that somebody had come up with a way of ‘smartening-up’ the voice recognition algorithms in Echo already.

Of course, we all know it’s totally possible, and will happen some day, but for now, I will be satisfied with the in-home convenience factor…that is, once there is a good enough sale for me to justify trying to convince the finance officer to open the wallet. lol

Thanks! :slight_smile:

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Gee… we have Star Trek level voice recognition and you want it to be smarter? We really are a spoiled generation! :neutral_face:

Seriously, I had this discussion with a couple of Echo engineers at the AWS Loft in San Francisco (we’re very lucky here to have these great venues). I said that identity is definitely a #SmartHome challenge (i.e., even with SmartThings, we want family members to use unique presence sensors, phones, and door key codes for identification purposes … not just “someone is home”, but who is home).

Voice identification is probably a long ways off. But perhaps Echo could ask challenge/response type questions for security related functions like door unlocking or Alarm Deactivation.

e.g., alarm goes off; “Alexa, Disarm” … Alexa asks “What is your passphrase, please” …


The custom device names in Echo work well, until somebody you don’t want to hears your commands
" Alexa open pod bay doors. “, rather than " Alexa unlock front door”
“Alexa turn off missile defense system” rather than " Alexa disarm security system"

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and geekiness :slight_smile:


You can do this with ASK. One of the security systems that has an Alexa skill already is.

But again, the first time somebody hears you use it, they can use it too.

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Hey, I just thought of a possible way of doing this…sort of like things already mentioned, but with added smartness…

  • User says, “Alexa, Disarm the home security system” (no need for secret phrases in this new concept)
  • Echo responds with a One-time Security Challenge Key Phrase (an automatically and randomly generated list of known words) sent to the user via notification on phone, or txt msg, or other (I was thinking we could even have it configured to use Tasker or whatever to actually, audibly speak the One-time Security Challenge Key Phrase out loud via text-to-speech technology already on the phone, but for those that would rather do the speaking…).
  • User speaks the One-time Security Challenge Key Phrase out loud.
  • Echo carries out the command.

This way, we accomplish the user-felt convenience goal (handling actions related to and responding to commands regarding security systems and door locks, etc) AND keep it secure by randomizing the security challenge response every time there is a new instance of security commands being given.

Now, I don’t know exactly how to do the whole randomized phrase piece, but I assume this is relatively easy for those with more skills in that area. Not that it would (or even could) be done with the way SmartApp coding here works now, but just that it could be done somehow by somebody if the concept checks out and becomes adopted by the community and the platform.

What do you guys think?
Other than the fact that it may go beyond the scope of coding SmartApps (easily fixed by decree from above), are there any problems you can imagine with this way of doing it?

Just depends on your use case.

At the present time (nothing to do SmartThings, this is just how Alexa works) the way you would do this is with the Alexa Skill kit (ASK)!and set up your own server. It’s the same way that Alexa plays magic eight ball or gives you your horoscope.

So it’s doable, but a fair amount of work.

The Issue I see with it is amount of time you’re standing outside your door waiting for the challenge and response and second response. In the same amount of time you could probably just open the door in any of many different ways, including a watch widgit or taking out your phone and just toggling the device. So I’m not really sure I see the practical application of it. The usual goal of voice-based lock systems is to reduce the amount of time it takes to get through the door. Not add to it. So I’m not seeing this as meeting the “convenience goal” for most people, although it might for someone who had no other way of opening the door. But you’re keeping the person on the street for a pretty long time.

If you remove the “convenience goal” and view it as a security checkpoint where making the person wait for the next stage was acceptable, then it could work for some sort of antechamber set up where there was a safe place for the person to wait while the whole procedure completed. Could be cool for a treehouse or kids’ playhouse kind of thing, too.

So if you really wanted to do it, ASK would be the way.

The following project report is from a community member who’s been using ASK with SmartThings and Alexa so you can see how that might work together.


Sounds a bit like 2 level authentication. But if you need to access your phone for the authentication, why not just use the SmartThings app on the phone to do the task?

Good question.
The reason I wouldn’t want to think of doing this through the SmartThings app itself, is because it’s way too cumbersome to use the native SmartThings app for anything daily-UI-related. It’s fine for configuring stuff (OK, maybe not really ‘fine’, but it works lol), but not for daily usage.

For my wall-mounted control panels, I use SmartTiles, but for this, I guess I was thinking a simple text message or something else that could be displayed on the lock screen would be doable and not even have to do anything with the phone other than look at it to get the passphrase or something like that.

Also, if I did it in the car before walking up to the door, I could just speak into the air in the car (I do this all the time for other things, like weather forecast, driving directions, etc without having to even touch my phone at all), and have it speak the passphrase outloud to me and then I’d just need to remember it long enough to still have it in mind when I get to the front door (and each unique passphrase would be time-limited, of course).

I don’t know…I guess it’s just too much to try to get out of this thing at this point, and I will just wait until they have something figured out.

Meanwhile, I may do some testing and experimenting with Tasker/SharpTools/AutoVoice (and/or other methods I have heard mentioned lately) to see how well I can get voice interaction working without the Echo at all (since I will already have wall-mounted Androids in every room of the house anyway). I know I still may not be able to get a good, secure way of doing it for things like security systems, door locks, etc for a while, but oh well.

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