Isle of Wight Ferry Service Launches Alexa and Google Assistant Voice Apps
Wightlink, one of the main ferry services between the Isle of Wight and the British mainland, has launched a voice app for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to keep customers informed about the ferry schedule through real-time updates. The voice apps were built by the local Wight Computers, emphasizing how ubiquitous both the interest in having a voice skill and the ability to build one have become of late.
The Wightlink voice apps on both Alexa and Google Assistant allow users to ask about the status of ferries, with rapid updates based on the company’s website. The voice app uses conversational language to answer a wide variety of questions about when the next ferry is from specific locations or answering yes or no questions about whether one of them is on time or not.
You can ask questions such as “Alexa – ask Wightlink if the ferries are running on time” or “Alexa – ask Wightlink when the next FastCat from Ryde is“
“We’ve linked Amazon Alexa and Google Home to our live service status so customers can find out the time of their next sailing, and if there are any delays, by simply asking their voice-controlled smart speaker,” Wightlink marketing and innovation director Stuart James said in a statement. “Google Assistant can also be used by drivers to control their vehicle’s entertainment system – that’s great news for regular travellers.”
Though Wightlink is not an official governmental service, its use as transit is similar to how many governments and official agencies have been experimenting more and more with voice technology as a means of connecting with citizens. At the biggest scale, countries like Estonia are working on voice and text-based AIs to facilitate governmental services. In the U.S., individual states like Iowa are publishing voice apps for both Alexa and Google Assistant, and cities such as Mesa, Arizona are creating Alexa skills to both answer questions and act as an intermediary to pay utility bills. Even the relatively tiny village of New Haven, Michigan is willing to commission an official Alexa skill for the village’s department of parks and recreation.
The coronavirus pandemic and accommodating the limits on in-person interaction has accelerated the trend too, according to a recent Adobe report. Companies are building pandemic-specific voice apps, turning to companies like Satisfi Labs and its pandemic-focused virtual agents. Whether a private business or government service, the idea of voice assistants as a necessary channel for information and other services is only going to grow.
“Voice technology is becoming the norm now and it opens up many innovative opportunities and possibilities for businesses – across all sectors,” Wight Computers managing director Andrew Nordbruch said in a statement. “We have thoroughly enjoyed working on this voice project with the team at Wightlink and are excited to be able to offer this bespoke software service to create other applications using these major platforms.”