Amazon’s smart home assistant, the Echo, powered by Alexa, has taken another step in dominating the smart home, Internet of Things space. Users that have the Echo in their home and have installed compatible smart locks can now power those devices with voice control.
Here are the new commands that Alexa can now support for smart locks:
For worrywarts and flakes, this new smart home skill allows status updates. With a quick voice command, you can ask if your doors are locked, and gain peace of mind. If you hear your kid come in late at night, you can ask if they locked the door behind them without getting out of bed. You can check the status of any door – front, back, garage, man cave.
With the sound of your voice, you can secure your house If you check that status of your smart locks and discover they are unlocked, you can promptly lock them without stopping what you’re doing – whether that is making dinner or giving the kids a bath.
As you can imagine, the ability to unlock doors with voice commands could be a security risk, instead of providing security. That being said, most smart locks do not at this time offer unlocking doors with voice commands. Those that do have added an extra layer of security; you have to choose and recite a passcode in order for that command to work.
The smart lock brands that now work with Alexa include Wink, Schlage, August, Yale and Kwikset (though some require that you use a Wink or Samsung SmartThings hub). While this is an exciting addition to the skills that are available on Amazon’s smart home assistant, there is also going to be some concern about privacy and security that goes along with this update.
It’s great that precautionary steps are being taken with the unlock ability, but that isn’t going to stop the concerns that users have over safety when it comes to smart home devices.
Though the voice control won’t unlock most smart locks, connecting smart locks to the Amazon Echo adds another device that can be hacked for full access. If you use just a lock, your vulnerability is limited to the lock’s security.
As you start connecting it to hubs and to smart home assistants, you add a bunch of different ways for your smart home technology to be hacked and taken over. A hacker doesn’t need to hack the lock itself; if they can hack a connected device, then they can gain control of your locks, too.
No doubt that there will be a whole group of hackers working on ways to expose weaknesses and flaws in this new skill – hopefully their findings are used to make future improvements for the connection between smart home assistants and smart locks, instead of being used to aid criminals.
Will smart home users adopt to this new skill and continue to value convenience over security, or is this just a step too far?