Grant thinks that home assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Echo are great for home automation, but he hates talking to a box and knowing that it listens to everything he says. He wants more control over what it hears and what it doesn't. Leo says that there is an open source version called OpenHab, that is highly customizable and completely internal. And it runs on Raspberry Pi. There's also Mycroft.
Doctor Mom calls in to talk about Amazon's new Alexa feature that listens for the sound broken glass. When it hears glass breaking, it sends you an alert on your phone and can notify your alarm company. Doctor Mom says this new feature joins a feature that monitors your smoke and CO2 alarms as well. So it's listening for a lot more than just the word Alexa or Echo.
Brian is having problems with his Amazon Echo. It tells him it's not connected and to try again later. Leo says that is more likely a WiFi failure, not an Echo issue.
Sam is thinking of getting an Alexa or Google Assistant to control his door locks and is worried about security and privacy. Leo says that all assistants are roughly the same. They listen for a keyword. And there's no evidence that either Amazon or Google are spying on you. Schlage makes one that is dedicated and doesn't need the assistant, so it has a directly line which can be more secure. But any iOT device can get hacked. Bottom line is, that no door lock is perfect. It's a deterrent, a suggestion. But if the bad guy wants to get in, he can.
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?
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.
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.
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.