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

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.

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.

Comments

I hope you can unplug it. This sounds creepy.

No matter what they "guarantee you" it is just a matter of time until they get hacked or the the hotel gets the information.

This is just another avenue for perverts.

Went on a weekend trip to SF last week, and a vacation to St. Augustine before that.
Yeah, those hotel rooms are the LAST place I want a recording device

And, it would be unplugged the moment I set my bags down in the room. No thanks.

Absolutely not! Not only is this a massive intrusion of privacy I also do not feel like donating data to help their marketing. If I found one of these in my room I would personally ask the hotel manager to remove it. Unbelievable!

The stores had better order more tin foil hats… they’re running low.

Nope! If I walk into a hotel room with this I will be calling the front desk immediately to have it removed from the room.

I understand people’s concerns about privacy, but we are monitored constantly and spied on a thousand times a day as it is. I really think the privacy horse has long bolted and that the problem is so pervasive and overwhelming, that adding an echo into a hotel room will make little difference. I would probably unplug the thing, but then I don’t have one at home either.

Please click accept to use "free" hotel WiFi. You’ll hit accept to that, but cry about privacy when it’s an echo device.

I have never jumped on an Alexa conspiracy bandwagon (and have Echoes in every room of my house), but to this I say: No way! If I ever encounter an Alexa device in my hotel room, its microphone is getting turned off and left that way. I kinda trust Amazon, but I certainly wouldn’t trust any hotel’s management.

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