It’s not exactly like calling 911, but a new Alexa skill allows hotel guests and staff to call for help in emergency situations. Seattle safety tech company React Mobile and Volara, which provides voice-based guest engagement software for the hospitality industry, have developed a new solution for Alexa which acts like a panic button in case of emergency.
The skill allows hotel guests to say “Alexa, tell the hotel someone is trying to break into my room,” and the Echo device will automatically notify the staff and tell them which room the command is coming from. This new skill is yet another way for hotels to leverage voice assistants to improve the guest experience. Hotel chains such as Wynn Las Vegas have begun to use the Amazon Echo and Alexa as a virtual concierge to assist guests with various tasks and queries.
Alexa as a Safety Tool
It is also not the first skill to use Alexa as a safety tool. Ask My Buddy is a free service that allows users to alert a personal network in case of emergency. The hands-free nature of voice first devices makes them an ideal tool to call for help. But even as the Ask My Buddy website states, it is “not a substitute for 911.”
Despite a recent incident where it was incorrectly reported that a woman used her Google Home or Amazon Echo device to call 911, this is still not a feature provided by Alexa and other voice assistants. The reason is largely about regulation as a recent Wired article points out:
“According to Federal Communications Commission spokesman Mark Wigfield, providing 911 services means adhering to a host of technical regulations, everything from making sure all 911 calls route through the right call center, to making sure each one transmits the correct location of the caller. Additionally, devices that make 911 calls must also be able to receive incoming calls, so police can call back. Those hurdles currently prevent Google and Amazon from offering a direct emergency line.”
So, you can call Alexa for help, just not dial 911. For now, companies like React Mobile, Volara and Ask My Buddy are working to fill this gap by teaching Alexa the meaning of “safety first.”