Alexa is Entering the Hotel Industry
June 22, 2018
Artificial intelligence assistants have become a part of everyday life, taking over our homes, cars and offices, and now it looks like they’re becoming an asset in the hotel industry. Alexa, the virtual assistant marketed by Amazon, will be partnering up with Marriott hotels as an in-house virtual butler, assisting in a range of helpful tasks.
Alexa works as a voice activated virtual helper, originally paired with the Echo, a microphone and speaker system used in homes to play music and search the internet. Eventually it evolved into an all-purpose assistant, linking to everything from lighting and air conditioning, to the washer and dryer. Owners of an Alexa smart home system can use it to do a multitude of chores and tasks around the house and online without ever lifting a finger.
Some of the most common commands used with Alexa include, “Alexa, let’s chat”, “Alexa, louder/softer”, “Alexa show me (movie trailer/video/photos)”, “Alexa, play music”, “Alexa, call mom”. Alexa answers various questions, from personal information stored in your personal devices to general information across the World Wide Web.
Alexa and Marriott
Amazon recently made the announcement that Marriott would be working closely with Alexa to create a virtual concierge experience for their clients. The concept involves putting echo devices into hotel rooms so that clients can use them for hospitality services. Everything from ordering extra pillows and towels to ordering room service and movies will be available through the AI setup. Of course, all of these abilities have always been available through the in-house telephone system, but this will ultimately cut out the middle man, making it quick and simple to tell the front desk what you need without ever speaking to them.
The technology will start in Courtyard and Four Points development, branching out into all Marriott properties if testing goes well. The goal seems to be making Alexa AI concierges available in all global properties around the world as part of the Marriott brand. The hotel giant has suggested that this new arrangement will create a unique client experience and improve customer service.
Apart from ordering food and bathroom essentials, Alexa will also help with a multitude of in-room features, such as turning lights on and off, thermostat control, television control, turning on and off music, searching for information on local restaurants and events, access to videos and audiobooks, and more. Essentially, anything a guest would ask a concierge about, Alexa will be able to supply.
But it’s not all so general. The Marriott’s in-house Alexa system will be able to tap into customer information, accessing personal contacts, syncing calendar events and providing access to music and videos stored on personal devices. Clients won’t just be unpacking suitcases full of clothing; they’ll also be storing virtual information during their stay.
Concerns for Travelers
Of course, as with any new technical system with access to personal information, there are concerns that this partnership between Amazon and Marriott will cause privacy problems. Any time that personal information is accessed in a large-scale setting like a hotel chain system, there’s a chance that privacy and security could be breached. This is one area of concern that consumers have had over the news of this new partnership.
Fears of losing data, data being lost or stolen and personal conversations or searches being recorded and kept are all a concern. It provides plenty of convenience, but at the cost of privacy. Hotel visitors will have television and music preferences logged, and there’s always the potential that this information could be leaked. These are issues that Amazon and Marriott hotels will have to tackle if the partnership continues.
Plans for the Future
As of now, there are plans for 10 U.S. based locations to bring Alexa into their folds over the summer months. This includes locations in North Carolina and California. It will offer visitors the ability to check out of their rooms without visiting the front desk, learn about pool and restaurant hours without calling down, and control the abundance of room features mentioned above.
Amazon also has plans for Alexa to expand into office buildings and there is a potential for use as a medical assistant in Alexa’s future as well. While there are many bugs to workout, Amazon has high hopes for their AI system, suggesting that it has far more use than simply for at home or in the car. This could mean competition for other tech giants, such as Google, who just recently began developing a system for the medical community. The Google medical assistant is being designed to help doctors cut back on time spent researching and making notes, by taking the talk to text feature to a new level. If Alexa can get in on this action at ground level before Google launches a larger medical campaign, it could be the battle of the artificial intelligence assistants.
So, will Alexa become the next name in the hotel world? It’s possible that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or the setting of a whole new set of privacy and security concerns. Only time will tell whether the AI concierge venture will be successful. It will also be surprising if other companies don’t jump on board. From Google Home to Siri, consumers can expect to see some big movement in the virtual assistant world in the coming months, especially if the Marriott sees good reviews from their clients.