By Julia Tell
Security systems of all types are coming on line through Alexa Skills. If you like to tinker, you can now install your own security system and integrate it with your Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. A do-it-yourself (DIY) option is great if you have some technical skills. But if you don't want to monitor the system yourself, or you frequently travel, you may want to consider a security system that is professionally monitored, even if you've installed the set-up yourself.
In the last article, 8 Alexa skills for your professionally installed and monitored security systems, I looked at Alexa skills for systems where the professionals do all the work. This time, I'll explain the features of DIY/pro security skills available for Alexa. You can certainly save some money by doing the installation yourself. Plus, if the installer does something wrong, you know exactly who to blame! (I'm not sure if that is a good thing.)
Do your work, then relax
If a DIY install is something you can handle, the next question is whether you want to monitor it yourself, where alerts are sent to your phone, or if it makes more sense to have a professional firm manage your 24/7 monitoring. There are many advantages to letting the pros monitor your home for you. You can be relaxing on the beach, or in a business meeting, and the minute an alarm in your home goes off, the security company can alert the authorities. You don't have to be on the alert at all hours, so you can take care of the other things in your life.
As you install your security system, you will find that the Alexa skills can offer a number of short cuts, but not necessarily everything you want them to do. If you are ambitious, you can find ways to extend these tasks through IFTTT's, or "If This, Then That" mini routines. Alexa already has a number of this pre-written IFTTT's and some may prove useful in expanding how you run your specific security system.
As I mentioned in the previous article, Alexa has trouble recognizing some device names, so you may need to rename some of your gadgets for her. Alexa is also sensitive to exact wording, so you will need to make sure you say the exact phrase for her to work. For instance, you need to say "Alexa, ask Frontpoint to record a clip with the living room camera." These phrases can be pretty long, but if you use them frequently, you'll get used to saying the statements aloud.
One of the most popular and affordable systems, Protect America, has monitoring plans that start at $19.99 a month. You can install and integrate Alexa yourself, but you will probably need to call Protect America to get them to enable voice control through your Alexa. This skill lets you control the security system, lights, locks, thermostats and other connected devices from anywhere in the world.
Protect America's Amazon Alexa Skill was just launched in May 2017, so there may still be bugs. However, Protect America gets very good ratings as a company, so they will probably have it working smoothly very quickly. They currently have a special running that when you upgrade to a touchscreen control panel, they will send you a free Echo Dot.
Another popular DIY installed and professionally monitored home security system is Frontpoint. This skill controls security, access (door locking and unlocking), video monitoring, thermostat and lights. You will need your Frontpoint user name and password to link with your Alexa Skill and it only works with systems powered through Alarm.com. The Frontpoint Alexa skill will not arm the system when you away because of false alarm risk, nor will it disarm by voice.
You can add functionality to your Frontpoint system by buying a smart doorbell. Skybell is the skill for a video doorbell which can be added to your Professionally Monitored and DIY installed Frontpoint. It can turn on the camera and you can talk to people at your front door through your Alexa.
There is an Alexa skill for the Kuna Security Camera, but it only controls lights on the security system at this time. It reportedly works quite well, but needs other functions added to be more useful for security monitoring. Parts of its system are still in beta testing, so more will be coming soon, we hope.
Abode is a DIY installed system that you can monitor yourself or use its professional monitoring plans. Abode Smart Home Skill was released in May 2017, though they have had the Abode Security Skill out since April 2016 only for security functions. The Abode Smart Home Skill can control lights, switches, dimmers, and even lock your smart locks. More features are being added all the time. This skill will disarm the security system with an extra pin code. Self-monitoring is free, but optional cellular backup costs $10 a month, and security monitoring costs $30 a month, though you will pay less if you sign up for an annual plan. If you are monitoring yourself, you can add an optional on-demand pro-monitoring plan for 3 to 7 days for a fee.
The skill for Iris by Lowe's Home security system can control lights, switches and thermostats through you Iris Home Security system, but not security functions. Iris is very flexible and allows you to add devices as your home or needs grow. This is another system you can monitor yourself, but its pro-monitoring package is $14.95 a month. Some users report frustration with the Iris system, but the Alexa Skill seems to work well.
Options for controlling your security system through the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot are coming on line all the time. Many of them are still working the bugs out, but when you add together all the other functions Alexa can do for you, it is really nice to integrate security as well. These days, Alexa is becoming the personal assistant we wish we all had.
Visit GearBrain's What Works with Amazon Alexa to see the connected devices that work with Amazon Echo and Alexa enabled devices.
-Julia Tell last wrote for GearBrain about Alexa skills for professionally monitored and installed home security systems.