Northumbrian Water has developed an Alexa "Skill" that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to inform and educate its customers.
The first part of the Skill launched by the water company allows customers to use Amazon′s AI technology to request any information about issues relating to its service in their area. Customers simply need to say "Alexa, ask Northumbrian Water if there are any issues in my area" to get the latest information.
A second element of the Skill, which has been developed based upon feedback from customers, allows customers to learn facts and tips about how to use water more wisely, simply by asking Alexa.
More functionality is being developed to add into the "Skill" in the future.
The company developed the "Skill" - Alexa′s version of an app - as a result of its Innovation Festivals, where it worked with other organisations and members of the public to delve into ‘tomorrow′s world′. Work to develop the skill has been done in partnership with Newcastle based developer Hedgehog Lab.
In a design sprint led by Northumbrian Water and CGI Group, ideas were generated in an effort to help companies understand and deliver services in a way that fits with how people will want to live and work in the future.
The Skills are available to download from the Amazon Alexa Skills Store and the company is now looking to expand its range of Alexa offerings, identifying and developing the most useful ways of communicating through the AI platform.
The development process has been led by a small team including 20-year-old Mark Ireland, from South Shields, who is working towards a Degree Apprenticeship in Digital and Technology Solutions with Northumbrian Water and the University of Sunderland.
Mark said: "We know that people are more pressed for time than ever before, and that they are increasingly eager to receive the information that matters to them, as quickly and easily as possible.
"Over the years, we have constantly talked with customers to understand their lives and their needs and how best they like to be communicated with. This has led to a range of communications methods, from telephone to web chat, from text to Twitter. Developing Alexa Skills takes this a step further into the future."
"Using the customer′s postcode, we can, for example, send information out to them about leaks, works and emergency repairs in their area - and tell them what we are doing about it, as well as when we are finished.
"Users who are interested in how they can save water can also access a range of information to help them, just by asking a question such as ‘Alexa, ask Northumbrian Water how much it costs to wash the dishes?′"