Amazon made a special version of Alexa for hotels with Echo speakers in their rooms

 theverge.com  6/19/2018 10:00:00 AM   Chris Welch
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Amazon is today introducing Alexa for Hospitality, a special version of the company’s voice assistant that will be distributed on an invitation basis to hotels, vacation rental spaces, and other locations starting today.

The Alexa experience will be customized and tailored to each individual hospitality location, so guests will be able to do things like order room service, request a housekeeping visit, or adjust room controls (thermostat, blinds, lights, etc.) using an Echo in their room. They can also ask location-specific questions such as what time the hotel pool closes or where the fitness center is.

Marriott International plans to integrate Alexa for Hospitality at select Marriott Hotels, Westin Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, Aloft Hotels, and Autograph Collection Hotels starting this summer. Some upscale hotels like the Wynn Las Vegas have already put Echos in rooms — even before Amazon optimized Alexa for the purpose and interacting with a new guest every day.

But do you want an Echo in your hotel room? Would you trust it? Would you keep it on mute? Or would you unplug it entirely? When I heard about Alexa for Hospitality, my immediate question was what happens to guest recordings and their history of Alexa queries after each stay. Are they automatically cleared? Can the hotel or business access them afterward? The answers are at least somewhat reassuring.

  • Recordings of Alexa commands are deleted daily.
  • Hotels are not given access to voice recordings of Alexa interactions. Nor are they able to review Alexa’s responses to users.
  • Hotels can use Alexa for Hospitality to “measure engagement through analytics” or “customize the deployment” by choosing default music stations from iHeartRadio or connecting custom skills to their Echo devices. Amazon’s example of the latter is Marriott offering TED Talks on Echo devices at its locations.

This new Alexa for Hospitality stuff comes not long after Amazon’s assistant recorded a private conversation and randomly sent it to someone as a message — completely on its own without ever being instructed to do so. The company basically chalked it up as a freak incident where Alexa misheard an entire sequence of commands, but still. It’s worth keeping a close eye on all things privacy with smart speakers and assistants.

Amazon says that “soon,” users will be able to temporarily link their own Amazon account with Echos that are running Alexa for Hospitality. That way you’ll have access to your music subscription from Amazon Music or Spotify or your audiobooks from Audible. “When a guest checks out, Alexa for Hospitality automatically disconnects their Amazon account from the in-room device.” To me, that feels like another thing that could spell trouble if the auto-disconnect fails. But Amazon is no doubt working on all of this, so we’ll have to see how Alexa for Hospitality works in real world scenarios over the next few months.

« Go back