Alexa, the popular smart home speaker, is moving into new verticals - like your hotel stay. The recently introduced Alexa for Hospitality program is partnering with leading hotel chains to place customized Alexa devices in hotel rooms to aid guests with front desk needs, local restaurant and attraction suggestions, and even ordering deodorant because you left yours on the bathroom counter at home. The devices can even control room lighting and other functions, keeping you from fumbling for a light switch as you enter your room. Alexa for Hospitality's launch partner is Marriott International, which plans to implement the program in ten high profile locations this summer. The skills available on each device will vary based on individual hotels and configurations of rooms; some rooms will feature Alexa lighting and window shade controls, while others may be limited to informational queries only.
According to Jennifer Hsieh, Marriott's vice president of customer experience innovation, Alexa for Hospitality aims "to strip away the things that might create unexpected surprises or bumps in the road and create as seamless an experience as possible" for hotel guests. Alexa can easily handle simple inquiries from guests such as pool hours, requesting a hotel shuttle, and more, all without a call down to the front desk. Not only does this fulfill the needs of guests in rooms quickly and easily, it also leaves front desk staff free to attend to other needs and guests who need human help.
Alexa for Hospitality is a modified version of the mainstream product - it runs from a backend system installed at each hotel that stores site-specific information like gym hours and local restaurants and is easy configurable by hotel staff. The devices also feature enhanced security settings to reduce theft, such as alerts sent to staff when devices are unplugged and the restriction to only run on the hotel's configured wifi network. As popular as Alexa devices are, there are still many consumers who are hesitant to have a device listening in at all times, so it's on hotel chains to address these concerns within their individual Alexa programs. However, Amazon has promised to not share voice data with hotels and will delete logs daily. Devices will be muted for every new guest, so guests do have control over enabling the device or not.
Amazon has also announced that the ability for guests to connect the Alexa for Hospitality devices to their various profiles in Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, as well as audiobook retailer Audible. The method to connect accounts to the hotel devices hasn't been specified, however Amazon did announce that all configured accounts will be disconnected upon guest checkout.
Once Alexa for Hospitality has earned its place in the market Amazon may explore other opportunities for mass deployments - such as healthcare.
This article was based on a June 19, 2018 CNET article by Ben Fox Rubin.