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Smart home gadget ends a violent dispute by calling police (updated)

An accidental voice command may have avoided a terrible outcome.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 9, 2017
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Inadvertent smart speaker commands aren't always bad. New Mexico police report that a smart home device (incorrectly labeled at first as a Google Home) intervened in a domestic violence incident by calling 911. When Eduardo Barros asked "did you call the sheriffs?" as he threatened his girlfriend with a gun during a fight, the device interpreted it as a request to call emergency services. They overheard the altercation and called both negotiators and a SWAT team, who arrested Barros over assault, battery and firearms charges after a stand-off.

Barros' girlfriend was hurt in the altercation. However, police contend that the situation could have been much worse. County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales believes that the command "possibly helped save a life," including that of the girlfriend's daughter (who was thankfully unharmed).

This doesn't mean that police will welcome smart speakers and similar hardware with open arms. Although they can lead to rescues like this and could theoretically provide evidence in criminal cases, there could also be moments where speakers call police in response to innocuous remarks or (as Gizmodo suggests) TV show dialogue. Really, this is an illustration of what law enforcement will have to deal with going forward. While accidental emergency calls are nothing new, you could easily see more of them in the future.

Update: ABC originally described the device as a Google Home, but later found out that this wasn't the case (the device in question hasn't been named yet) -- we've updated our article accordingly.

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