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Google Home and Amazon Echo might add voice-calling features

A new report claims that Google and Amazon are both working to add voice-calling features in their Google Home and Amazon Echo connected speakers.
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February 15, 2017

The Google Home and Amazon Echo connected speakers can already handle voice commands to answer queries like, “What’s the weather today?” or “Play my favorite song.” Now a new report claims both companies are working to add voice-calling features to those speakers as well.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, via unnamed sources, the plan is to update both speakers so they can both make and receive phone calls. While the current plan is to update those devices with the calling features later this year, the article says it won’t be as simple as offering a downloadable upgrade.

The story says that there are concerns about privacy with such features, including the possible ability for connected speakers to record phone conversations. The Amazon Echo speakers would store just the numbers that are called as well as the length of each call, if such features were added. It’s not yet clear what would be stored if the Google Home speaker added calling features, but the article points out that the company’s Google Voice app says it keeps the phone number, length of each call, SMS messages, voice mails and any calls users have recorded themselves.

The article says that, if voice calling features are added, the Home and Echo speakers would most likely use a VoIP-based online system. It’s possible that the speakers might access a third-party VoIP system, such as Microsoft’s Skype.

Yet another barrier is adding 911 call support for emergencies. Currently, most internet-based call services cannot contact 911. Also, it’s not clear if calls made through these speakers would be accessible to law enforcement to wiretap conversation, which is required by phone companies.

Based on this report, it sounds like it will be much easier to add these features to the Home and Echo, and much harder to jump through the hoops that will be needed to satisfy privacy concerns, as well as emergency and law enforcement needs. So don’t expect them to be added for a little while.