Amazon announced that developers can now add features to Alexa skills that leverage geo-location data with the new Device Address API. The Echo will not provide this data directly so developers will need to entice users to enter their address information in the Alexa app to enable these services. A post in Amazon’s Alexa developer portal provided this information:
When a customer enables your Alexa skill, your skill can obtain the customer’s permission to use address data associated with the customer’s Alexa device. You can then use this address data to provide key functionality for the skill, or to enhance the customer experience. For example, your skill could provide a list of nearby store locations or provide restaurant recommendations using this address information. This document describes how to enable this capability and query the Device Address API for address data.
A blog post on the topic adds these thoughts:
Your skill, for example, can deliver food and groceries to a customer’s home or provide directions to a nearby gym. You can also see where your most active users are.
When a developer implements these services, a card will be served in the Alexa app allowing a user to then grant permission to use location data.
And, there are two levels of information sharing the skill can request. Full address or simple zip code.
Making Voice Assistants More Intelligent
Voice assistants work perfectly well without location data. Skills are designed to be location independent other than country level geography. However, offering a geolocation option opens up many more opportunities for developers to make their Alexa skills smarter. The blog post mentions delivery services, but you could imagine some hyper-local targeting around news, social media and events. Of course, mobile devices with onboard voice assistants can do this today. So, this is a move forward for table-top smart speakers, but it is also about reaching parity with basic expectations you find in mobile.
Developer Access Issues Highlighted
AccuWeather, Just Eat and Real are already using the Device location API according to the blog post. That has once again raised concerns that independent developers are getting access to new Alexa developer features well after big name brands. Many of these developers have many skills published and were building on the platform when Amazon was desperate for content.
This will be a question for Amazon going forward. Will it continue to offer early access to new features only to big companies or will independents which have pushed out the vast majority of the ten thousand Alexa skills also start getting beta access for their use. It is a great feature, but several voiced concerns that it reinforced the appearance that there are two classes of access to Alexa development resources right now.