Westin Buffalo Becomes First Hotel Offering Smart Speakers Linked to Guests’ Personal Alexa Accounts
The Westin Buffalo became the first hotel where guests can connect their personal Amazon accounts to the Echo devices in each of its rooms last month. The new feature marks another milestone for the hospitality industry’s growing investment in voice technology. It is also notable because it is the first instance where users are connecting their Alexa device profiles with a smart speaker owned by someone else.
The Westin Buffalo first placed Amazon Echo devices in its 115 hotel rooms back in 2017. The hotel is a subsidiary of Delaware North set in the larger company’s headquarters. The system is managed by Volara, a voice technology software developer specializing in the hospitality industry.
Connecting their personal Amazon accounts to the hotel devices offers really one notable feature, personalized music. They can access their Spotify, Pandora, or Amazon Music accounts and play the music playlists they’ve already customized, which might make an impersonal hotel room feel more like home. When they check out, all of their personal information is deleted and their activity history cleared.
Otherwise, the Echo devices offer the same suite of services to guests that they already did. Users can ask for services, get information about the hotel and its amenities, and ask for recommendations on activities they might enjoy. Volara’s software customizes those elements for the hotel, but guests don’t have to connect their personal accounts to the Echo to be able to use them.
This option is a narrow implementation of Alexa personalization focused on music. However, it demonstrates how account data could be shared across Alexa devices to customize user experiences whether or not they own the device in use. This may ultimately require new security and privacy options to make consumers comfortable with the personalization feature. Then again, it does show how you can abstract the user account from the device to make Alexa experiences personalized on any smart speaker.
Delaware North hasn’t limited its smart speaker placement to one hotel in Buffalo. A pilot program began last year to test placing Alexa-enabled devices in Marriott hotel rooms, with new locations getting added since.
Volara’s central role hasn’t been limited to one hotel brand either. We recently covered the company’s new partnership with hospitality technology firm CIRQ+, which added Volara’s conversational software to CIRQ+’s Smart platform. Volara is also integrating its software into other hospitality and IoT software companies such as Bittel, Interel, and Schneider Electric.
Other hotels are trying other approaches to bringing voice assistants and smart speakers to guests. SoundHound announced a partnership with Samsung subsidiary Harman Professional Solutions this summer to integrate its Houndify voice AI to hotel rooms. And, InterContinental Hotels Group installed Baidu-powered smart displays in some of its Chinese hotels last year.
Smart speakers stand out as a notable feature in hotel rooms right now, but as more people become familiar with and accustomed to using them, they could fade into the background as much as the wallpaper. By personalizing the experience as much as possible, hotels want to make the shift from home to hotel smart speaker interaction as seamless as possible.