August-door
The August smart lock. Image courtesy of August.

Amazon’s Alexa Now Can Lock Your Front Door

Jul 28, 2016

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa can order an Uber, check your credit card balance and even arrange for a Domino's pizza to be delivered to your doorstep. Next up, it will be able to lock your door, thanks to an integration with August, a startup that makes Internet-connected door locks.

Embedded in Amazon's voice-controlled Echo smart speakers, as well as its Fire TV video streaming device, Alexa answers questions and lets users order items like diapers from Amazon.com. Over the past year, a number of home automation and smart device companies have built their own skills (the Amazon name for Alexa's apps) for Alexa, letting users turn their lights on or off, or control their thermostats with the voice assistant.

Launched in 2014, August's smart lock lets homeowners essentially connect their lock to their smartphone, turning their phones into virtual keys. Consumers can use the app to lock and unlock their door, and keep track of who comes and goes. The startup also offers a internet connected doorbell which lets you see who's at your door.

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With the new Alexa skill, August is letting users lock their doors by simply saying, "Alexa, ask August to lock the front door." You can also check whether the door is locked.

But it's worth noting that due to security constraints, you cannot unlock the door using Alexa, said August CEO Jason Johnson. That feature will come eventually, he added.

August also has an integration with Apple's voice assistant, Siri, and Apple's home automation platform, HomeKit, to allow iPhone and Apple Watch users to unlock their doors using a voice command. The difference between Siri and Alexa, explained Johnson, is that Siri is tied to an individual, which makes it more secure. Alexa isn't yet tied to an individual, he added.

Review: Apple HomeKit vs. Amazon Alexa

But Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Alexa Smart Home, said the e-commerce giant is working on ways to add security to Alexa skills. For example, with a Capital One integration, users have to enter a voice pin before accessing sensitive financial information.

Amazon is putting a lot of resources into Alexa and Echo, as the company looks to fend off competition from Google (goog) and possibly Apple (aapl). In June, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said that more than 1,000 people are working on Alexa’s technology, and he believes Alexa will become the fourth pillar of Amazon’s business, adding to Amazon Prime, its cloud business Amazon Web Services, and its online marketplace.

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