By: Courtney Rose
I recently learned that Amazon’s Alexa, the virtual assistant that was first introduced in 2014, can be used as an intercom that enables instant and convenient communication between both Amazon Echo and Amazon Dot owners. For instance, let’s say you wanted to speak to a family member who is in another room and who may not be able to stop what they’re doing at the moment to answer a phone. If you have multiple Amazon Echo’s or Amazon Dot’s, you can activate the “drop-in” feature which allows you to immediately tune-in to the rooms where your additional Amazon devices are located in to initiate a conversation with that family member or to simply listen in.
The drop-in feature can also be used on devices outside of your home and on another person’s network; that is if they’ve allowed this feature to be enabled and have gone ahead and approved you on their list of trusted contacts. One immediate use of this feature that comes to mind is being able to check-in on elderly family periodically, which would present them the convenience of not having to get up to answer a phone.
To set this feature up, you would be wise to ensure that you have named your devices appropriately with room-specific names so that you can say “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen”, for instance, to inquire if dinner is ready. Additionally, you can initiate a drop-in from the Alexa app on your smartphone, but keep in mind that you will not be able to receive a drop-in call or announcement on your phone using the feature this way.
Luckily, if you are worried about privacy, there are settings in place that give you more awareness and control over when the feature is being employed. When an Echo or Dot device is being used during a “drop-in”, the light ring on top of the device will shine green, alerting you that another device is listening. You can also be in full control of who can “drop-in” at any time, so if you feel that one of your friends or someone you know has overstepped their boundaries by constantly popping-in to the room you are in via the Echo or Dot, you can you revoke their drop-in privileges.
Another tip I can share is that you possess the ability to skip the set-up of the drop-in feature, and can instead give Alexa a command that says “Alexa, announce …[your message here]”. You can issue the command through an Echo or Dot device, or remotely through your Alexa app. From there, Alexa will announce your recorded message to all of your local Amazon devices at once, and in your own voice. The only downside to this maneuver is that the people receiving the message cannot immediately converse back, as it’s a one-way announcement.
Personally, I have used the “drop-in” feature only a handful of times, but I can already observe the value and effectiveness it presents for all groups of people, but is probably at its best accommodating large households with big families and numerous rooms.