Away Mode Alexa Skill to Deter Burglars by Making it Seem Like Someone is at Home
It is clear that we are just scratching the surface of the applications for smart speakers. An innovative contribution to new voice app use cases is the new Away Mode Alexa skill published by Hippo Insurance. A new website promoting the skill says, “Away Mode is an Alexa skill that plays lengthy and awkward audio tracks to ward off unwanted visitors from your home.” It is billed in the Alexa skill store as, “the first ever home protection skill that harnesses the power of human awkwardness to ward off unwanted visitors. It’s like that scene from Home Alone, except instead of cardboard cutouts, it’s insufferable conversations.”
Making Burglars Think Twice
The idea is that if a burglar believes someone is at home, they are less likely to break-in just like in the Home Alone movie. You simply start the Away Mode Alexa skill and one of the tracks plays for about an hour. Track lengths range from 47 to 72 minutes and you can play them in sequence to stitch together a few hours of conversations. Jim Bueermann, a retired police chief from California told USA Today that:
Theoretically it’s a good idea. If this thing mimics real conversation, it’s much more likely to trick the burglar into believing somebody is home…Most burglars don’t want you to see them. They want to get in, steal your stuff and get out.
The seven audio tracks are humorous, voiced by actors and written by former writers from Saturday Night Live, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and UCB. Once started, the conversations are somewhat random similar to human speech, but follow a general topic such as:
- Two Guys Brainstorm What’s Unique About Themselves So They Can Start a Podcast About It
- Book Club Meeting Where Everything Except the Book is Discussed
- Couple Has a Breakup While Also Trying to Watch TV
User Reaction is Mixed but it’s Marketing Genius
The skill has 51 reviews as of this morning and only a 2.9-star rating. One three-star review says, “Cool idea and has potential” while another says “Just not believable.” A five-star reviewer suggested it was clever and funny while some one and two-star reviewers offered up “subpar effort,” “don’t waste your time,” and “Just NO!!” The review distribution populates an inverted bell curve with 33% offering 5-stars and 35% 1-star.
Given the reaction, Away Mode isn’t likely to become one of the most popular Alexa skills, but it might already be one of the best known. There are hundreds of new Alexa skills introduced each week, but very few capture any media coverage. Hippo Insurance, a San Francisco based home insurance provider, secured coverage from USA Today, Fortune, TechCrunch, Mashable, Tech Times, SlashGear and many more. This has raised awareness about the Alexa skill, but likely introduced many consumers to Hippo Insurance for the first time.
Keep in mind that the Alexa skill doesn’t say a thing about the company or its products. The skill is simply a utility (or entertainment option) for users that is related to home security from a provider of home insurance. Burger King in 2017 used Google Home as a tool for promoting the Whopper and generated a lot of media publicity. Away Mode isn’t on that scale of impact, but is another clever way brands are using voice assistants to make connections with users.