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OnStar Emergency Response Is Coming to Amazon Alexa

Now residents can call for help via certain Amazon Alexa voice-activated devices in homes. The move comes as emergency dispatchers seek more detailed information from callers and as 911 technology improves nationwide.

A 911 dispatcher sitting in front of multiple computer screens.
Amazon and General Motors have teamed up to offer OnStar emergency request services via Alexa inside homes.

The move represents not only the latest new way for residents to request emergency assistance but further evidence of the growth of smart homes and cities.

This new deal also comes as OnStar parent company General Motors and other private firms traditionally outside the realm of emergency dispatch technology continue to work with sellers of public safety software designed to make communications and responses more efficient.

General Motors says that it will offer its OnStar Guardian skill for Amazon Alexa, starting with some OnStar members and then rolling out more broadly in 2022.

That skill can provide voice-enabled connections to workers trained to take emergency calls via the OnStar technology, which is typically found within vehicles. An Alexa user at home experiencing a medical crisis, fire, break in or other emergency can say “Alexa, call for help” to be connected with dispatchers.

“Through our collaboration with Amazon, people can now have access to OnStar’s emergency-certified advisors in a place where they spend so much of their time — their home,” said Pam Fletcher, GM’s VP of innovation, in a statement. “This is another great example of how we’re expanding the safety and security of OnStar beyond the vehicle to help more people, which demonstrates GM’s commitment to its growth strategy and innovating its software enabled services.”

General Motors said the OnStar Guardian skill for Amazon Alexa initially will only be available to some OnStar subscribers. Next year it will become available to anyone in the U.S. with a compatible Alexa-enabled device such as Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show.

Earlier this year, OnStar launched a Guardian app for mobile users who do not own GM vehicles, and this latest move involving Alexa reflects the technology provider’s desire to offer those emergency response services outside of just trucks and cars.

This move also comes as GM gets cozier with other emergency response and dispatch services.

In August, GM’s venture capital arm said it had taken part in a $40 million Series B funding round for RapidDeploy, a gov tech company providing Next-Generation 911 services.

The move is part of an ongoing, nationwide upgrade of emergency communications, an effort that involves many companies and agencies.

OnStar and RapidDeploy had already started to supply California 911 call centers with the OnStar Automatic Crash Response notifications. That technology uses built-in vehicle sensors to notify emergency dispatchers of serious crashes and send non-verbal location and related data to those 911 centers.

“The increased availability and speed of incident data into the hands of responders is a game-changing improvement,” said Tom Clemo, deputy chief of the Santa Monica Fire Department in California, in a statement.

GM is not the only company that works with RapidDeploy. Google and ADT also have integrated with the cloud-based emergency platform.
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