home assistants

Is it safe to use Amazon's Alexa?

Episode 1478

Julie from Santa Clarita, CA
Amazon Echo

Julie wants to get an Echo, but her husband is worried about privacy and eavesdropping. Are they safe? Leo says it's about as safe as a smartphone. Anything that has a microphone that's connected or broadcasts with a radio can be listened to quite easily. Alexa is always listening, that's true, but it's only listening for the wake word "Alexa," and then whatever follows that for up to 2 minutes. It won't widen the scope until the magic word is uttered. Then it sends the request to the home office for an answer. Can it incidentally record?

What home assistant should I use?

Episode 1474

Bogdan from Rosamond, CA
Amazon Echo

Bogdan wants to know what home assistant should he buy. Leo says it depends on what he wants to use it for. Google Assistant is better for answering questions, and Amazon Echo is better for shopping and consuming music. Both now support making phone calls. Both will work with home automation devices, so he can tell Echo to turn on the lights. In the long run, Google will probably be the best, though.

Why is the audio from my Echo cutting in and out?

Episode 1465

Kevin from Malibu
Amazon Echo

Kevin is having trouble with his two Alexa devices. They are intermittently going in and out. Leo says that if it comes back where it left off, that's just buffering of the internet and is a sign that his bandwidth isn't keeping up. If it's dropping out and coming back at a different time, then he's losing packets. Either way, it's an internet issue. It could also be iHeartRadio. It could also be congestion with wireless traffic. Kevin could use a Wi-Fi analyzer to see if someone's Wi-Fi hotspot is getting in the way.

Why doesn't the Amazon Echo understand me?

Episode 1448

Jay from Los Angeles, CA
Amazon Echo Dot

Jay has an Amazon Echo Dot and the Logitech Harmony system, and sometimes the Echo simply doesn't do anything. Leo says it can do that if it doesn't understand the command. Leo suggests turning on the "ding" feature that will signal that it understands him. He can also use the Amazon Echo app on his phone and look at what the Echo is doing. Then he can see if and why it didn't understand him.