As if to remind us in both a comforting and eerie way that smart home devices are eavesdropping on everything you say and do, news emerged this week that one such gadget was instrumental in resolving a incident of domestic violence.
Although Gizmodo and others have reported that the device was a Google Home, the original ABC story doesn't mention the brand or model of the smart device. What we do know is that the crime occurred in Tijeras, New Mexico, near Albuquerque, where Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at a residence with his girlfriend and her daughter. There the couple got in a fight that turned nasty.
That's when the smart speaker stepped in.
The couple got into an argument and the altercation became physical, according to the Bernalillo County Sheriff Department's spokesperson, Deputy Felicia Romero.
Barros allegedly wielded a firearm and threatened to kill his girlfriend, asking her: "Did you call the sheriffs?" A smart speaker, which was hooked up to a surround sound system inside the home, recognized that as a voice command and called 911, Romero said.
“The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life. This amazing technology definitely helped save a mother and her child from a very violent situation," Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III told ABC. Officers and a SWAT team swiftly arrived at the home and were able to talk Barros down after a long stand-off; his girlfriend, who had been injured, was taken to a hospital, but her daughter was unharmed.
While the implications are still a bit worrying—the police were called by coincidence, not because the smart device knew what was happening, and there's reason to fear mistaken calls as well as sophisticated cyber-attacks that target this kind of technology—it does seem these speakers could have a significant upside in ensuring the safety of their owners within the home.
Let's just hope you never really need it.