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This one definitely falls into the category of “don’t try this at home”, because it is indeed possible to make emergency calls using voice assistants. And if the police have their way, it will soon become commonplace. In the meantime, here is the definitive answer on whether you can make 999 calls from Alexa or Google Assistant.
Can you make 999 calls from Alexa?
No, not at the time of writing.
This is despite the fact that you can make calls to UK, US, Canadian and Mexican numbers free of charge using Alexa Calling. Assuming Alexa has 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 does not yet support the calling of emergency numbers. Even if you enter, say, Police as a contact with the phone number 999, Alexa refuses to dial it.
That may not be the case for much longer, however. A report in The Sunday Times earlier this year stated that the Metropolitan Police are developing a system that would allow Alexa device owners to make emergency calls. Given that more and more people are ditching home landline phones and that almost a quarter of UK homes have a smart speaker, that certainly makes sense.
You might not even need to explictly ask Alexa to call the police to raise the alarm in your home. The Met is reportedly working on “AI” that will place the call if it senses the homeowner needs help. Amazon already offers features that can trigger alerts if it detects sounds such as smashing glass, so this isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound.
The idea of making emergency calls from smart speakers leaves the country as divided as Brexit, however. New research out today from Unisys found that 49% of Brits would find it “very useful” to be able to make emergency calls from Alexa and the like. On the flip side, 21% were “extremely concerned” that smart speakers could be snooping on them.
Can you make 999 calls from Google Assistant?
The answer here is a qualified yes. As with Alexa, if you ask a Google Home speaker to call 999 or the police, it will respond that it’s unable to make calls to the emergency services.
At the same time, the Android phone in your pocket will be happily placing a 999 call – I know, because that’s exactly what happened to me a few moments ago. Cue a panicked rush to my pocket and furious jabbing at the screen to hang up before the call was actually picked up.
So, yes, Google Assistant can call the emergency services, but on Android smartphones only.