British Gas

British Gas Offers Advice for Fixing Boilers Through Google Assistant

United Kingdom utility service British Gas has created a voice app for Google Assistant to help people maintain and fix their boilers this winter. The British Gas Boiler Support app is designed to act as an alternative for calling out a repairman, especially as increased demand when the weather is cold leads to longer wait times.

Virtual Boiler Handyman

The new Boiler Support voice app was developed by British Gas to help resolve the most common issues with boilers and heating.  Users can ask Google Assistant to start Boiler Support on the Google Assistant mobile app or on a Google or Nest smart device. When the user says, “OK Google, talk to boiler support,” the voice app will suggest ideas for how to get the boiler back on track using the knowledge supplied by British Gas engineers when the voice app was built.

“This service solves many of the common, but fixable, problems our engineers encounter all the time while visiting customer homes. We’ve used their knowledge, combined with the latest voice-recognition technology, to quickly narrow down any issue with your heating or hot water,” British Gas technical support engineer Jay Slaney said in a statement. “There will still be times where a more complex problem requires a Gas Safe registered engineer to come and visit your home, but we wanted to create something that helped households do it themselves when that isn’t necessary.”

According to British Gas, engineers are sent out 1.3 million times every winter to fix boilers. A good chunk of that number don’t really need a trained expert and its those problems that it hopes people will use the voice app to fix. But, that doesn’t address how its safety concerns, not ignorance, that may prompt the request for an expert’s visit. While many boiler issues can likely be resolved with a simple twist of a valve or a press of the pilot light ignition switch, the fact remains that boilers are big metal tubes full of hot water and potentially explosive gas. No matter how clear and accurate the instructions given by Google Assistant, the human element is still very fallible.

British Voice Helpers

British utilities and services have been experimenting with applying voice assistants to their features in more than one direction. The UK National Lottery launched the Lottery Now voice app for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa last year. The voice app allows users to check the numbers of recent lottery drawings, find out when the next one is, and learn how much money could potentially be won.

Reminiscent of the British Gas voice app, the National Health Service (NHS) rolled out a new feature for Alexa a few months ago where medical questions posed to the voice assistant would be answered using the NHS website as a source. The connection essentially integrates the NHS into Alexa’s database. Like the gas service with its engineers, the point of the NHS app is to explore ways to reduce the time demands on health professionals for basic questions that can be answered efficiently without making an appointment. Whether it is wise to rely on the medical and engineering ability of those using these voice apps in lieu of a professional will likely be judged on if it leads to any explosions this winter.


Amazon Alexa Offers Health Advice to Brits Straight From the NHS

The National Lottery Launches Voice App for Google Assistant and Alexa

6 Reasons Consumers Don’t Own Smart Speakers, and Which Ones Matter