By Glenn Fleishman
June 19, 2018

People at home are increasingly using their voices to ask digital assistants for the latest weather report, to hail an Uber ride, or to play their favorite songs. Now, Amazon wants to help people do the same thing while traveling.

The company said today that it would make its voice assistant, Alexa, available in hotels, vacation homes, and other kinds of rentals, starting with Marriott International hotel chains. Only two individual hotels will initially offer Alexa, but that number will grow over the next year to other properties including Aloft, Autograph Collection Hotels, Marriott Hotels, St. Regis, and Westin Hotels, according to Yahoo Finance.

Alexa, available via Amazon’s Echo voice-controlled speaker, can answer trivia questions, control smarthome appliances, and shop at Amazon.com. The version for the hospitality industry lets guests ask questions about where they’re staying, control music, and connect with services offered in the hotel—including, one hopes, room service. Depending on room features, Alexa could control lights, heat and cooling, TV sets, and window shades.

The new service, called Alexa for Hospitality, doesn’t require or yet allow guests to login with an Amazon account, though the company said that would be available later as an option. After that is implemented, guests would be able to use music and audiobook subscriptions and purchases in compatible services, like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Audible.

For now, Echo can play music from services the hotel provides and from a guest devices via a Bluetooth wireless connection. But guests can’t shop at Amazon until they’re able to log in with their account.

Amazon notes that hotel managers, for example, would be unable to listen to what guests say to Alexa or its replies. The company says all data traveling between the Echo and its servers is secured, as well as any data stored on its servers, just like with its consumer offering.

Hoteliers can customize Alexa “skills,” the set of things that the service can provide answers for or actions.

Amazon, Apple, and Google are battling over primacy of their voice-based recognition systems, although Amazon and Google have been widely seen as ahead in sophistication and accuracy. Reuters reports that Marriott had considered both Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. A Marriott spokesperson told Reuters that the test wasn’t head to head.

While the service will be an amenity for guests, it also has features that property managers may enjoy. For one, the maximum volume level can be set, ostensibly to keep a guest from saying, “Alexa, set your volume to 11,” bothering other guests. And the system can provide “administrator notifications if a device goes offline,” perhaps a polite way of describing a guest who finds the Echo so appealing that he or she takes it with them at check out.

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