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How to use an Amazon Echo device as a home intercom
Though we tend to think of Amazon’s Echo speakers as music and smart home devices, they’re also handy as intercoms in any home with two or more people. Here’s how to get an Alexa-based intercom system going.
To create an Alexa intercom system, you need at least two compatible devices linked to the same Amazon account or Amazon Household. Each device must also have Drop In enabled, which you do through the Alexa app by going to Devices > Echo and Alexa > [device name] > Gear icon > Communication > Drop In. From there you can ask Alexa to "drop in" on a room or device, and say "Alexa, hang up" or "end drop in" when you're done.
How to use your Echo speaker or display as an intercom
There are a few essential requirements, the most obvious being that you need two or more Echo devices, each far enough apart that intercom functions make sense and don’t generate feedback. Any Echo product with a speaker and microphones will do, including Echo Show smart displays. In fact you should be able to use some other Alexa-connected devices, such as the Fire TV Cube.
All devices need to be linked to the same Amazon account, or (in the US, UK, and some other countries) the same Amazon Household. The reason is privacy — as far as Alexa is concerned, separate accounts that aren’t joined in a Household might as well belong to strangers in different cities. It is possible to enable remote intercom functions, but that requires explicit consent from contacts, and you should probably use voice or video calling instead.
The final requirement is that each device have Drop In enabled, and probably Announcements as well (more on that in a moment). Follow these steps in the Alexa app:
- Open the Devices tab, then Echo and Alexa.
- Select one of the devices you want Drop In on.
- If you see a Drop In icon, that means the feature is already active on this device. Otherwise, tap the gear icon in the upper-right corner.
- In the gear menu, scroll down and tap Communication.
- Tap on Announcements or Drop In to toggle those features on or off.
- Within the Drop In menu, choose On (permitted contacts only) or My Household. The latter is preferable unless you want the option of remote sessions.
Repeat this process for each Alexa device you want in your intercom system, or choose Sync from the Communication menu if you want to copy the same settings elsewhere.
Alexa intercom commands
With every device ready to go, all you need to do is say “Alexa, drop in on…” followed by the name of the room or group an Alexa device is assigned to, such as Kitchen, Living Room, or Everywhere. People on the other end will hear a tone and see a green light when Drop In is active. You can also drop in on specific devices, but it’s often less confusing to use the room/group system.
A Drop In session won’t end until one of the participants decides it should. Say something like “Alexa, hang up” or “Alexa, end drop in” to close the connection.
Announcements are related to Drop Ins, but intended to deliver one-way messages to every Alexa device linked to your account. Be careful in that respect, since Announcements might disturb or annoy people who aren’t expecting them.
In most cases you can say “Alexa, announce…” followed by your message, such as “it’s bedtime” or “the school bus is almost here.” Alternately, “Alexa, tell…” can be used to direct Announcements at specific people or groups of people. Some examples might include “tell Jackson to get ready for Muay Thai,” or “tell everyone that the sushi is here.”
If your device has Drop In enabled, and the initiator is an authorized contact, you don’t have to do anything — the session should start automatically.
No, at least not during Drop Ins. Alexa is constantly waiting for its wake word, and needs to process most commands on Amazon servers, but no one at Amazon should be able to listen in to actual conversations.
Less clear is if this applies to Announcements, since messages could be considered part of a command. Amazon anonymously reviews a sliver of commands unless you opt out.
Yes. You can call any Alexa contact, or any mobile or landline number in the US, UK, Canada, or Mexico, so long as you’re in one of those countries. Echo Shows can additionally place video calls using Zoom, Skype, or Amazon’s own framework.