Should Alexa answer all of our home phone line calls?

The landline is dead, of course, but is apparently still live enough that Amazon makes the Echo Connect so that the constant stream of telemarketing calls can be fed directly to the Echo (and so that one’s outgoing calls aren’t mistaken for telemarketing due to having a legit caller ID!).

As long as Alexa is connected to the phone line and able to answer the phone, shouldn’t it be possible to say “Alexa, please answer my unknown calls from now on”? Alexa can then ask “Who lives in the house” and then, if an incoming caller is not asking for one of those people (or company names perhaps), Alexa can play a prerecorded message to the caller. The caller ID would be automatically whitelisted (but could be switched to a blacklist by the user in the Alexa App’s list of recent calls). On a second call from a whitelisted number, Amazon remembers the caller ID and lets the number go to the legacy phone for conventional ringing.

For a large house maybe there needs to be a beefed-up Echo Connect that can sit in front of the conventional phones and get them to ring after the actual call has already been picked up.

What do readers think of the above? It would seem that Alex already has 99 percent of the capability necessary to make a home landline useful again.

8 Comments

  1. JDB

    January 19, 2018 @ 4:31 pm

    1

    When I was in college (12 years ago) I set up an asterisk pbx system in my apartment to filter calls that would come in over my DSL line. I programmed it to first play the “number out of Service” tone to trick auto dialers, then would advise that any call would be recorded, then had it ask a simple math problem before ringing my line. Spam calls went to zero, but people that knew me knew what to expect If they were calling the land line. Also the math question thing was good as an alarm clock. It would call me in the morning and wouldn’t stop until I answered a few questions right. It turned out that I got good at doing math in my sleep. Then I got cable when I moved and ditched the phone line altogether.

    Everything you said above is excellent. With the increase in spam I’m getting on my cell phone, I wish iOS/Android APIs would allow for a custom dialer that would implement that algorithm (and even a P2P micro payments concept you blogged about that would require an Apple Pay or PayPal payment to connect the call for non whitelist or not previously dialed or known via email signature numbers ).

  2. jay c

    January 19, 2018 @ 5:17 pm

    2

    If a contractor sells your name and number to a bunch of other contractors, you’re still going to get a lot of nuisance calls from roofers who know whom to ask for. Again, I think you’re overthinking things. Just hook a raspberry pi to an old modem over serial, and set the pi set to play audio from a pseudorandomly selected clip from pornhub when caller ID shows a number not in the database or “blocked” and voice is detected. US Robotics modems indicated voice if the frequency on the line was between 1130 and 2000 Hz, and continued for 4 100 millisecond periods (0.4 seconds) when carrier detect went high. there you go.

  3. philg

    January 19, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

    3

    Jay: Only about 1 percent of telemarketing calls that we get are from people who know our names. Most of the remaining 99 percent are not from humans at all. So a system that required a caller to ask for one of us by name would get rid of 99 percent of spam calls. (I guess you could argue that, if everyone has Alexa answering their home phones, telemarketeers will step up their own AI efforts.)

  4. wally

    January 19, 2018 @ 6:21 pm

    4

    and that would trigger the singularity. The good news is, we wouldn’t be hunted down by terminators, we’d just have to get unnecessary siding and roofing jobs.

  5. bobbybobbob

    January 19, 2018 @ 7:23 pm

    5

    The FCC should just fix the damn phone system and prosecute the perps. We shouldn’t have to pay for gadgets or services as a band-aid. Email spam should also be fixed politically. I am constantly having to tweak my spam filter and hit unsubscribe (to no effect).

    Why do I not get SMS spam? I get buckets of email and voice spam. Is SMS policed in some way? Or am I just unusual?

  6. James

    January 19, 2018 @ 8:00 pm

    6

    Bobbybobbob – I get sms spam, though not at the same rate as voice or email. There must be some economic reason.

  7. Ishibashi

    January 20, 2018 @ 1:04 am

    7

    Don’t blog about it. Patent it.

  8. Tom

    January 20, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

    8

    Sounds good, except isn’t the landline dead by now? My 75-y/o parents retired theirs last year, opting for a mobile-only household.

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