A geocaching adventure gone wrong saw my phone disappear into the depths of a Latvian river and so I was in need of a replacement phone. My parents were kind enough to let me use one of their old phones and after unlocking it and acquiring a new sim card—both tasks ending up being more time-consuming than they should have been—nothing stood between me and the enjoyment of a new phone.
It was reported in the media that a woman’s life was possibly saved by an Amazon Echo device placing a 911 call. During a dispute that turned violent with her boyfriend he allegedly said “Did you call the cops?” which the device interpreted as an instruction and placed the call. This story may sound convincing, but is also false. As explained in various articles on CNET, Wired, NY Times and other places, an Amazon Echo device cannot activated with the words “Did you” and more crucially cannot place a 911 call.
The idea however is out there. Both the Wired article, as well as a Chief Seattle Geek blog post explore the potential benefits of Alexa being able to call emergency services. This can be done intentionally after being instructed, “Alexa, call 999!”, or on the devices own initiative when it detects smoke from a smoke detector, hears gunshots or senses burglars.