Irish Telecom Three Offers Alexa Skill to Refill Prepaid Phones
Mobile operator Three Ireland has debuted an Alexa skill enabling customers to refill prepaid mobile phones by voice. The Irish telecom set up the voice command in a partnership with digital payment service Mi-Pay, connecting a user’s credit or debit card to the voice assistant. The new skill marks how voice commerce is continuing to spread as more companies experiment with adding voice as a payment system.
Any Three customer with a prepaid phone can set up the payments via the Alexa app by enabling the My3 Alexa skill and registering their phone with its connected payment card. Once that’s done, they just have to ask Alexa to “ask My3 to top me up.” The skill will ask how much money to add and the user will say how many euros to transfer and that payment will be with the default card or identify a different card by its last digits, such as “card ending in 1234.” Alexa will confirm the details and Mi-Pay will take care of the transaction on the back-end.
“Innovative solutions like Three’s Alexa top-up service are important in ensuring customers can stay connected without barriers,” Mi-Pay account director Shane McCarthy said in a statement. “Three’s Prepay customers will be the first in the world to top up their mobile phone without lifting a finger, by simply using their own voice.”
Voice Pay Turned Up
Three and Mi-Pay claim the skill is the first of its kind, but the idea of using voice assistants to pay bills is gaining traction in several countries. Citizens of Mesa, Arizona, for instance, can pay their utility bills through Alexa with the city’s official skill. Amazon has also started pushing its own direct solution for utility bill payments by Alexa last year, first in India, then worldwide. India is also home to a variation on the idea of a voice assistant refilling a prepaid phone. Vodaphone customers can use Google Assistant to top-up accounts, but at a retailer with a voice app used by the cashier. The socially-distant approach to refilling the phone’s account was created as a safety measure during the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. Three obliquely references the pandemic and subsequent jump in time spent at home, as part of the impetus for the Alexa skill, and it could motivate more voice commerce as this year has seen a rise in use of smart speakers and voice assistants in general.
“At Three, we understand the importance of staying connected and introducing innovative methods to our customer,” director of consumer for Three Ireland Neasa Parker said in a statement. “This top-up service is a world first, something we are very proud to introduce in Ireland. In recent months, many people have adapted to new ways of living and have increasingly relied on technology to stay connected to those that matter most, and we wanted to bring a safe and simple way for our customers to top up, all from the comfort of their own homes.”