While it may seem like something you’d read on a conspiracy theory site or even in a science fiction book, it’s true: hotels may be listening in via Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa. Amazon just signed a deal to outfit many Marriot & Westin hotel rooms with their Echo devices to assist travelers in their quest for the perfect vacation. But, there are mixed thoughts regarding this partnership. Some people are thrilled with the convenience of having a personal vacation concierge while others are worried about their family’s privacy. If you’re planning to stay in a hotel anytime soon, read on to get the scoop on this futuristic move!
Why do hotels want to upgrade with Alexa?
Hotels are trying to keep up with industry standards and are getting increasingly more tech-dependent, so it’s only fitting that hotels would start to implement the tech that we are using in our every day lives to make vacation stays even more magnificent. And despite some patron’s concerns about privacy, most people in the hospitality industry agree that having a virtual assistant in every hotel room would be beneficial not just for the short-term satisfaction of customers, but for the long-term goals of the hotel industry.
These digital concierges can help travelers that are new to a city get recommendations on nearby restaurants or get venue listings for events without disturbing the front desk staff. You’ll be able to order room service effortlessly (not even with the press of a button) and all of Alexa’s typical features can be enjoyed as well; you can listen to music, check weather updates or get your favorite team’s latest game scores. The Alexa you find in your hotel room isn’t just the average consumer version, either. These specially designed Echo Dots will be programmed with the hotel’s specific information so guests can check out the hours of certain facilities or make a spa appointment through the device. And the fancy hospitality versions of your home assistant will also be able to customize individual guest’s information like check-out times and preferences such as air-conditioning temperature for state-of-the-art convenience.
The Echos will all be able to be customized and controlled via an easy-to-use app that can save employees and hotels a significant amount of time and money. And in the long run, the hotels will be able to aggregate and analyze the data collected from guests to pivot and offer more of what their guests really want while saving money, hopefully ultimately passing the savings down to the hotel guests.
Who’s against it?
Amazon employs a recording device within all of their Echo products as part of their functionality. The device needs to record your speech in order to figure out what you’re asking. This leads to people believing that their private conversations in their hotel rooms will be recorded and possibly used against them. Amazon is promising that all recordings will be deleted after 24 hours, but Silicon Valley doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for keeping their word in regards to privacy concerns.
Amazon and the hotels they’ve partnered with have also guaranteed that there is anonymity with the usage of Alexa. Hotel staff responding to requests via Alexa will only ever know the guest’s hotel room number and will never receive any identifying information such as the guest’s name or phone number. Despite these assurances, there are some people who are still uncomfortable with the whole idea, so hotels are being asked to advise guests of their options: they can mute the device, unplug it or have it removed from their rooms if they are uncomfortable with the Echo recording sounds and conversations during their stay. Just don’t forget to order some convenient room service before you kick Alexa out!