How smart home tech is helping to solve a murder mystery in Arkansas

An Amazon Echo and smart water filter are giving police some much needed clues

How smart home tech is helping to solve a murder mystery in Arkansas

Picture by David Parry PA Wire/PA Images

Some Internet-connected smart home devices may just be the key to solving a murder mystery in Arkansas.

Police in Bentonville, Arkansas are investigating the murder of Victor Collins, found strangled and drowned in a hot tub belonging to his friend, James Bates. Mr Bates is the prime suspect in the case, and was charged with first degree murder back in November 2015.

Mr Bates said he left the victim and some other friends after watching a football game in his home at about 1am to go to bed, but one of the other friends who were there said he left Bates and Collins together at 12:30.

Bates’ house was filled with state of the art smart home devices, including an Amazon Echo, Honeywell alarm systems, Nest thermostat, and a smart water filter in his hot tub where the victim was found.

Detectives investigating the case have realised that these devices may hold many clues to what happened on the night Mr Collins died.

Echo's recordings

Mr Bates’ Amazon Echo was believed to have been streaming music wirelessly to the outdoor area with the hot tub around the victim was killed. Police believe that confirming what was played through the Echo could help solve the case.

The Amazon Echo responds to voice commands by constantly listening for a keyword. It captures a split second of audio before the word is said to send back to Amazon’s servers to activate the task you ask it to do. It’s this split second that police think could help solve the case by confirming where in the house Bates was and what it was asked to do.

Amazon have declined police requests to access this information and any recordings though without a "valid legal demand". Police have still seized Mr Bates’ Echo, but without Amazon’s cooperation, it looks like there’s little they can do with it.

One other piece of tech in Mr Bates’ house might prove to be more helpful though; his smart water filter.

Information from the filter says 140 gallons of water was used between 1am and 3am on the night of the victim’s death. It’s thought that Bates used this water to clean down his porch and area where Collins was found dead before alerting the police to finding the body.

The trial for this investigation is due to begin next year, but with plenty of high tech clues, this murder case, like something out of a sci-fi movie, might be closed soon.