Can Alexa or Google Assistant call 999?
- By: Ashley Saunders
- July 2022
Most of us now have a smart speaker within our homes. So it’s only time before you want to explore all of the things they can help you with. One question you might have after investigating what your device can do is: Can Alexa or Google Assistant call 999?
Currently, you can’t make emergency calls using either Alexa or Google Assistant. However, if the police get their request, it might be possible soon. But as with everything government-related, we’re not holding our breaths as they usually take years to implement even a tiny change.
While we wait for the emergency services to get their wish, we have the definitive answer on whether you can make 999 calls from Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.
Can you tell Alexa to call 999?
Sadly, Alexa can’t call the emergency services for you.
Just to confuse the situation, Alexa can make external calls with the Drop In feature or Alexa Calling. Should Alexa have access to your phone contacts, all you need to do is ask Alexa to call the person in question. And that works for both landlines and mobiles.
However, this feature doesn’t yet support the calling of emergency numbers. Even if you create a contact called Police with the phone number 999, Alexa will still refuse to dial it.
Back in 2019, The Sunday Times (paywall) reported that the Metropolitan Police are developing a system that would allow Alexa device owners to make emergency calls. More people are ditching home landline phones for mobiles, and over 50% of UK homes have a smart speaker.
The Met is reportedly working on “AI” that makes a call if it senses the homeowner needs help. Amazon already offers features that trigger alerts if it detects certain sounds, such as smashing glass. So, this isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound.
Of course, this would raise privacy issues as Alexa would need to recognise every household member’s voice. It would also always be listening (or snooping as the case might be). So while it sounds good, most of us have grave concerns.
Will Google Assistant call 999?
Asking a Google Nest speaker to call 999 or the police will result in nothing. Your smart speaker will respond that it’s unable to make calls to the emergency services.
However, if you have an Android phone in your pocket, it will happily ring 999 for you, when you ask the Google Assistant. While this sounds weird, it’s the current state of affairs.
So, yes, Google Assistant can call the emergency services, but only on Android smartphones.
Siri can call 999
While Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant cannot yet call 999, Siri can. You can contact emergency services by saying “Hey Siri, call 999” or “Hey Siri, call emergency services.”
You can even do this on the Apple HomePod. However, it will try to use the iPhone you connected to it to complete the call. If your iPhone isn’t available, it’ll try using another iPhone on the same network.
Why smart devices cannot call 999?
The underlying reason why smart devices can’t dial 999 is complex. But it has been the cause of a long running debate. The system used by the emergency services can tell your location from your landline number, and so routes your call to the nearest call centre to get you the quickest help.
While this worked flawlessly for landlines and still does, our adoption of mobile phones made the issue far more complex. Mobile phones use cell towers that bounce signals off of each other, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly where the call originates from.
As smart speakers and assistants use Wi-Fi to operate, they make it challenging to pinpoint the caller’s location. Using one requires an internet signal to work, a fact often forgotten.
However, when setting up a smart assistant, you’re asked for your address. The address is used for services like pizza delivery, calling an Uber, and much more. So this address could be used when contacting the emergency services to help them locate you.
Soon, it should be possible to overcome these issues or incorporate a service such as what3words to make locating you even easier.
Will Alexa or Google Assistant call 999 in the future?
We might be soon living in a world where Can Alexa or Google Assistant call 999. But we’re not there just yet. Well, not unless you use Siri, which can.
Smart speakers have the potential to become a part of your basic home security system, but only if more features are added to them. Until then, they will only be reactive assistants.
It is possible that shortly your smart speaker could listen for unusual voices when none of the usual users were around and set off an alarm or contact emergency services. Such a system is a long way off and requires complex programming.