Mesa, AZ Citizens Can Pay Utility Bills with Alexa
Citizens of Mesa, Arizona, will be able to start paying their utility bills through Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant beginning March 1. Paying utility bills is one of the central features of the new City of Mesa Alexa skill that the government has put together.
Utilizing Alexa for Utilities
Once someone who lives in Mesa activates the Alexa skill, they can connect their utility account to the voice assistant. They will be able to “ask the city of Mesa” through Alexa how much their bill is, as well as pay the total amount. The Alexa skill arrives not long after a new mobile app for the city. Both are part of Mesa’s Smart City initiative. Along with the utility bill aspect, the Alexa skill offers information by voice directly from the city. Alexa device owners can find out what’s on the city calendar, learn when waste collection happens in their neighborhood, and learn more about the elected officials in the city by asking the voice assistant.
Mesa isn’t the first municipality to start offering utility payments by voice. Last year, Amazon began to provide this feature directly, first in India, then worldwide. Working with utility companies, Amazon set up a way to connect Alexa, through Amazon Payments, to a user’s utility account. Alexa could then determine the cost of a bill and tell the user, who would then be able to authorize the payment vocally. In India, users can include voice PIN to increase security when sending money. They can also find out how much is in their Amazon Pay account and add to the available cash by voice.
Even before Amazon and Alexa began, Google Assistant started handling utility bill payments after Xcel Energy created a Google Action. This ability was limited to Xcel, as opposed to the more than 700 utility companies Amazon lists as partners. What Mesa’s inclusion of an Alexa skill to go with the mobile app shows is how the idea of commerce by voice is continuing to become more mainstream. Amazon has been pushing that idea on its own for several years, of course, offering Alexa developers many incentives to create things for people to purchase by voice. Basic needs like utilities are only now becoming part of that equation. Mesa is adding to the momentum of voice commerce by highlighting how it’s about more than shopping from stores; it’s about making moving money around as convenient as possible for the essentials like power and water as much as buying groceries.
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