LA has an Alexa Skill. Will you love it?

VentureBeat reports that the city of Los Angeles has an Alexa skill called L.A. City. Today, it only includes local event information and is quite limited. There is apparently a Bride Expo scheduled this weekend and The Classic Auto Show the following weekend. Both will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Also next weekend there is the 3rd Annual Night on Broadway and the 118th Golden Dragon Parade will be held on February 4th.

The user experience is a bit awkward but that isn’t unusual for technology departments building Alexa skills for the first time. Very few consult user experience experts or voice designers, but they should. For example, I could apparently ask for more information on the Auto Show, but I have to tell Alexa the event number to access it. The event number isn’t shared with the other information so it is not clear how I would even find that to hear the additional information. Despite this, I can see how this very limited functionality is helpful. Events hosted in L.A. should be thinking about how they can get listed and available to Alexa.

Providing More Information and Services to Citizens

“Next month, [the skill] will grow to include information about reading times at local libraries and information about city council members and upcoming council sessions,” reports VentureBeat. More interesting is that the city plans to add access to its 311 service. VentureBeast says 311 can be used to, “schedule a building inspection, request graffiti removal, locate non-emergency police services, or report the location of a dangerous beehive.” Accessing government information makes a lot of sense. The convenience of Alexa may actually increase consumption of the content. Enabling citizens to share information with the government so it can perform services more effectively is a novel concept that has even more potential promise. However, this concept should go beyond government agencies. Commercial product and service companies should be looking at customer service and engagement opportunities through Alexa.

L.A. City isn’t the only government agency to build an Alexa skill. Mississippi and Utah both provide access to state government information. However, this is an interesting trend that maps to the hypothesis that voice assistants are following a path similar to the advent of websites. Organizations both public and private recognize it is important to have a presence on the voice web. When insurance companies and local governments are moving quickly into a new technology, you can bet that widespread adoption is inevitable.

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