Indiana launches travel advisories skill for Amazon Alexa

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Just in time for a coming storm, the State of Indiana has announced the launch of a new skill for the Amazon Alexa voice assistant that lets users ask about travel advisories in their area.

The new functionality, which users can activate by first installing the “State of Indiana” skill on their Amazon Echo device and then saying the phrase, “Alexa, ask Indiana for travel advisories,” extends one of the state’s most popular pieces of web content to the growing smart speaker market.

The state’s travel advisories page receives millions of page views, and traffic was so heavy one storm season that it crashed the state’s entire website, said Graig Lubsen, communications and marketing director at the Indiana Office of Technology. The release of the new skill comes just as the northern part of the state anticipates 8 to 12 inches of snowfall and temperatures occasionally dip close to zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Like the state’s webpage, the Alexa skill allows users to specify which of Indiana’s 92 counties they want an advisory status for.

“We wanted to figure out where people are going,” Lubsen said when asked why the state is pursuing smart speaker technology. “We want to be able to put services where they are, not have them come to us. That made it for a natural connection to put the travel advisory onto our Alexa skill.”

The state published its first Alexa skill last summer, which allows users to search for state agencies and state employees. That was mainly developed as a proof of concept, Lubsen said, and after becoming comfortable with the technology, the office started looking into converting its more popular services onto the platform. Developed through the state’s agreement with NIC, Indiana is now exploring the possibility of moving its 2,000-item FAQ onto Alexa and considering converting its work onto competing smart speakers, like Google Home and Apple HomePod, Lubsen said.

Having been first, Amazon dominates the smart speaker market, with 70 to 76 percent market share, according to three 2017 reports, though both Google and Apple appear to be prioritizing the technology in their most recent marketing campaigns.

The state governments of Georgia and Utah are also early adopters of the technology.

Lubsen said Indiana’s technology department is getting involved with the technology early because they believe smart homes will play a larger role in the future.

“I’m looking forward to the time where you can just say, ‘Alexa, renew my driver’s license.'”

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Amazon Echo, Digital Services, Emerging Technology, Google Home, Graig Lubsen, Indiana, Indiana Office of Technology, Mobility, Open Government, Public Safety, State & Local News, States, Tech News
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