Major hotel chain Marriott is trying to equip its hotel rooms with advanced voice-activated digital assistants.
To achieve this, it's reportedly eyeing two foremost choices: Amazon's Alexa, which powers the Echo range of smart speakers; or Apple's Siri, the proprietary voice assistant for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and Apple TV.
As Bloomberg reports, Marriott International Inc., a top-rank name in hospitality and lodging services industry, is testing both Alexa-powered and Siri-powered devices to decide which is the best for letting guests turn on lights, close drapes, increase or decrease room temperature, and even flip through TV channels using only their voice.
Marriott Is Trying To Decide Between Alexa And Siri
Major tech companies are leveraging hotel rooms and public lodging spaces as pseudo-show floors to showcase the capabilities of modern voice assistants and smart home technology, notes Bloomberg. Both Apple and Amazon hold high stakes in the fairly incipient industry of smart voice assistants, including the integrations birthed by it. These systems offer users a virtual control panel that lets them manage a household's heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and even entertainment, all of which are done via voice commands.
Marriott has yet to cough up any hints as to who the winner might be, but it expects to adapt and integrate the chosen technology into one or more of its chains as early as mid-year, which might also bump up sales of whatever device it ends up selecting.
"Those two players are in the game right now," Toni Stoeckl tells Bloomberg. He is Marriott's global brand leader for lifestyle brands, overseeing the Aloft, Element, AC, and Moxy chains. In the United States, there are now nearly 130 Aloft hotels, with 100 more planned.
How Will This Work, Exactly?
The move is being compared to the addition of iPhone docking stations into hotel rooms in the past, to let users charge their iPhone and listen to music simultaneously. But installing docking stations inside hotel rooms is a much easier fare than equipping them with full-fledged digital butlers that depend on guests' voice commands. Of paramount question is the personalization aspect of the would-be digital hotel assistants: would guests be able to access their account to use either Alexa or Siri or be faced with a custom hotel voice assistant template that comes with basic hotel functions?
"It will be interesting to see how much education they have to go through to get guests to use them," said Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies Inc. "This is not mass-market technology."
But Alexa appears to already have an edge over Siri in this scenario, especially given the fact that it's being used at present in places such as the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, where 10 of the rooms have Alexa installed. The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas similarly plans to equip its hotel rooms with Amazon Echo devices, all 4,748 of them.
An Opportunity For Growth
While it appears that Alexa is the choice voice assistant for smart speakers, seen as ahead of Google, Apple, and Microsoft, Siri could have a leg up over the competition thanks to its multiple language support. Stoeckl says that the hotel is looking for a voice assistant that can become the "ideal solution" and ultimately also stand as a "global platform" for its hotels all over the world.
Whichever technology it ends up choosing, being included as a staple element of something as ubiquitous and widely accessible as hotel rooms is a major exposure tool. This could even help the chosen smart speaker gain further footing in the digital assistant market, and by extension, push the market's growth forward.