Amazon's quest to take over the world through the medium of a small, polite robot has reached the hotel trade with Alexa for Hospitality: a version of its digital assistant that will help guests to control room functions, order room service and provide hotel information.
Marriott is Amazon's launch partner, and the chain will start to place custom Alexa consoles (including the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus) in rooms at select Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels and Autograph Collection Hotels this summer.
Other hospitality providers will be able to use the system by invitation, starting today.
Integration with existing systems was key, Amazon said, and Alexa for Hospitality will work with technology like DigiValet, Intelity, Nuvola and Volara. Guests will be able to make a request, like "Alexa, order wine," and have it routed to the correct system.
The same applies for room controls, where Alexa will hook into providers like World Cinema, GuestTek, Crestron and Inncom by Honeywell.
More standard Alexa functions, like playing music or TED Talks, are also included - and Amazon has said that a future update will enable guests to log in to their own Amazon account temporarily.
This is a much more compelling offer than the locked-down Android tablets or curated TV channels that hotels have provided in the past. Guests might actually take advantage of having ‘their' Alexa in rooms, playing music from their own Spotify library or reading books from Audible - safe in the knowledge that they are logged out when they check out.
As well as Echo consoles, the Alexa for Hospitality system is a whole suite of configuration tools, which hotels can use to enable skills, adjust settings, track usage and more. Hotels will also be able to measure guest engagement through analytics.
That brings up some concerns about data privacy, but Amazon has thought ahead. There is no ‘god mode': hotels won't be able to listen to voice recordings (which are deleted daily), or review Alexa's responses to users.
Maud Bailly, CDO of the AccorHotels Group, told us recently that the hospitality market is "constantly disrupted", and that the "predictive conversational era" will be next: "all the little Alexa or Google Home everywhere." Accor is currently developing its own "baby bot" for guest rooms, which it is teaching through machine learning - but a fully-formed hospitality solution is probably a more appealing offer.
Gartner recently predicted that 75 per cent of American homes would have a digital assistant by 2020. If Amazon can move quickly and crack the hospitality market, especially by bringing all of those personal Alexas to the space, then it will be the firm that people associate with hotel travel - and its competitors will be left renting rooms in Amazon's house.
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