When a gun-wielding Eduardo Barros allegedly rounded on his girlfriend last week, authorities managed to intervene, to get the US woman and her infant daughter out of harm’s way before the worst could occur.
But it wasn’t her who dialled emergency services. It wasn’t even neighbours, or a passer-by. It was a smart home device.
According to a statement released by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the device may have been an Amazon Alexa-enabled product.
Using voice commands, the various Alexa devices are capable of controlling things around the home, including lighting, electronics and air-conditioning. But also of making hands-free telephone calls.
So when Barros, who was house-sitting at the smart home-equipped residence in Tijeras, New Mexico, yelled at his partner, “Did you call the sheriffs?”, it’s believed the device picked up the final three words.
And it obeyed.
Police soon arrived at the home, followed by members of SWAT and a crisis negotiation team.
After a six-hour standoff, Barros was ultimately into custody with the assistance of a police dog, and charged with multiple offences.
Speaking of the smart-home device's role in the situation, Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III 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.”
The woman sustained facial injuries during the altercation but refused medical treatment. Her daughter was unharmed.
Amazon Alexa smart home devices are currently unavailable in Australia, but with the US giant set to launch an online retail platform here in late 2017, pundits predict Alexa will soon follow.
But not before Google carves out its place with its own smart home personal assistant, Google Home, which is due to launch mid this year.
In case of an emergency, call 000 immediately. For 24-hour domestic violence crisis support, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).