Amazon Launches Alexa for Hospitality, Lands Marriott as Early User, Foreshadows Alexa Personalization On-the-Go
- Amazon announced Alexa for Hospitality, a new service for hotels to offer their guests
- Marriott International is the launch partner and will provide Alexa through Echo devices at select properties starting the summer of 2018
- The program is invitation only and participating hotels will be able to purchase Echo devices in bulk
- Guests will use Alexa as a generic user, but Amazon plans to allow temporary connectivity of personal accounts in the future to provide a similar experience to that at home
Amazon today announced Alexa for Hospitality, a solution designed for hotels to implement Alexa along with Echo smart speakers for guest use. Marriott International hotels are included in the launch announcement as an initial Alexa for Hospitality customer.
“Using the Amazon Echo in their room, guests can now ask Alexa for hotel information, contact the hotel to request guest services, play music in their room and more…Alexa for Hospitality is available to hospitality providers by invitation starting today, with Marriott International introducing the new Alexa experience at select properties in Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels starting this summer.”
This isn’t Marriott’s first flirtation with smart speakers. In October 2017 Alibaba announced that its Tmall Genie smart speaker would be placed in 100,000 Marriott hotel rooms in China. Marriott clearly sees the value in smart speakers and Amazon is making a statement by coming to market with the world’s largest hotel chain.
From Horizontal to Vertical Solutions
Amazon started building solutions for businesses with the launch of Alexa for Business in December 2017. That was a more generic, horizontal solution for businesses that want to build their own capabilities for the enterprise. It is noted in the video above and on the Alexa for Hospitality page that there are tools to manage the Alexa deployment.
“With Alexa for Hospitality, you can easily provision multiple Alexa devices at the same time, and automatically connect them to your account through a centralized console. You can now manage hundreds of Alexa devices in your property with ease. Our console allows you to specify device settings like volume, check device state, and remotely reset devices to prepare for the next guest. We can even connect you with trusted solution providers to provide professional support with your implementation.
The need for a management console was an obvious feature required for launch. However, that mention of a “trusted solution provider” for support is an interesting addition. Amazon is telling prospective hotel customers that they do not have to do this on their own. They can bring in help.
Whereas Alexa for Business was a horizontal deployment, Alexa for Hospitality introduces a vertical customization that takes industry-specific use cases into account for feature support. The console may be useful across industries, but use case customization will enhance value and may help speed adoption. You can anticipate a customized solution for hotels to be followed by additional vertical solutions. Name your favorite. If this turns out to be popular with hoteliers, it will create a challenge for several startups that are today focused on providing smart speaker solutions to hotels and could foreshadow challenges for other verticals. It also potentially puts Google on the defensive in competing for some vertical-specific customers. Google is much farther ahead in working with telecom companies today, but vertical customization is nascent.
Alexa is Trying to Fit into the Hotel Ecosystem
Amazon also notes that it works with several existing hotel solutions. This indicates that Amazon’s strategy is to fit into the existing hotel ecosystem as opposed to replacing incumbents.
“Alexa for Hospitality is built to work with existing hotel technologies, reducing or eliminating the need to retrofit or upgrade existing investments, and works with a range of trusted hospitality solution providers. Features developed by DigiValet, Intelity, Nuvola, and Volara allow guests to make requests like “Alexa, order wine,” or “Alexa, book a spa appointment,” with requests routed to hotel property management systems. Alexa for Hospitality also works with popular guest room entertainment providers including World Cinema and GuestTek for voice control of TV experiences, and in-room control of connected devices using Crestron and Inncom by Honeywell.”
Amazon Will Personalize to the User in the Future
Another interesting aspect of Alexa for Hospitality buried inside the customer FAQs, which are designed for hotel guests, answers the question, “Can I bring my own content to personalize my experience?” The response:
“Today, you can play your music via Bluetooth. Soon, Alexa for Hospitality will support the ability for Amazon customers to temporarily connect their Amazon account to the Alexa-enabled device in their room. Once connected, you can play music from your subscription services including Amazon Music, Spotify, and Pandora; and listen to audiobooks with Audible. When you check out, Alexa will disconnect your Amazon account from the in-room device.
This means Amazon is working on the ability to use any Alexa access point as your personal Alexa. That is the first step to personalized ambient computing wherever you happen to be. It will provide more value to Alexa users because the service becomes portable even if there isn’t a native implementation on the smartphone. That is truly interesting and it is apparently coming, “soon.” You can learn more about Alexa for Hospitality here.