Reminders API, Calendar Availability, and Integration with Routines all Added Features to Alexa and Alexa for Business in November
Early this month Amazon rolled out some new features for Alexa and Alexa for Business customers. The Reminders API, calendar availability browsing, and calendar integration with Routines all became available. With these new features, users are able to find free time in their schedule, add their calendar as an action in Routines, and developers can alert users for reasons of their choosing. Launch partners included Kayak (US), NHL (US), TV Guide (UK) and CARADA (JP) with more skills coming later this year. The NHL skill can remind you that your favorite team has a game tonight, and Kayak can remind you of an upcoming flight. Reminders show up as a light pattern and chiming noise on Alexa. In the Alexa companion app, reminders can be viewed and dismissed from the Alerts & Alarms menu.
Browse Calendar Availability & Integrate Calendars into Routines
One feature added recently is Alexa’s ability to help find free time in a calendar. When asked, Alexa will respond with a list of available times. Some example queries include:
Alexa, when do I have free time this weekend? When do I have thirty minutes available on Tuesday?
Amazon debuted Routines in October 2017, allowing users to string together custom phrases, smart home appliance actions, in addition to weather, traffic, and news updates. Now, there should be a new option in the Routines section of the Alexa app to add a rundown of today’s calendar, tomorrow’s calendar or your next event to either one-time or scheduled Routines. For example, set an “Alexa, good morning” routine to hear the weather, traffic, and your calendar events for the day. Both features require that you have a calendar attached to your Alexa account, accepted calendar providers are Gmail, G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Exchange.
The Reminders API provides developers the opportunity to help customers manage their schedule and remind them of important events. Third-party developers have already begun to make use of the Reminders API, Kayak and NHL are some examples.
The Reminders API will also work with the Alexa Skill Blueprints. The Alexa Skill Blueprints is Amazon’s no-code skills creation platform with over 20 different templates. Alexa’s Yelp-powered local search is said to be coming soon, bringing the possibility of integrating it into a skill with the Reminders API as well as the Alexa Skills Blueprints. We could be seeing users that are able to receive a reminder when their favorite store is about to close. Garrett Vargas, CTO of CarRentals.com, has an insightful look at the Reminders API use. Vargas writes,
Used properly, this new API has the promise of increasing repeat engagement with your customers, but you should think about the specific benefits users will gain by adding a reminder from your skill and make it as frictionless as possible for them before diving in.
Alexa Has Been Working on its Memory for Some Time
Alexa first debuted a basic reminder functionality in June 2017, then earlier this year introduced Remember This. Remember This allowed Alexa to remember bits of information. Last year, Amazon expanded Alexa’s notifications feature, which was initially restricted to events like calling, messaging, and package delivery. At the time, the expansion was only available to partnerships with the Washington Post, AccuWeather, Big Sky, Kayak, Twitch, Domino’s, and Life360. The Reminders API differs from these changes in the past by allowing any developer to join.
Accelerating Rate of New Features for Alexa
Ever since September, when Amazon announced 12 new Alexa-enabled devices, including the Alexa powered Microwave, new features for Alexa have been debuting in what feels like a non-stop, increasing wave. The Alexa Presentation Language, the Alexa Gadgets Toolkit (Beta), APIs to connect smart cameras and doorbells to Echo devices, the Music Skills API, and the New Release Notifications are just some of what Amazon has announced or released since September. The questions is, how much more will Amazon announce before the end of the year?