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Amazon's new Marriott partnership could transform your hotel stay

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

You’ll soon be able to order a nice bottle of wine, a toothbrush and 50 extra pillows for the world’s coolest pillow fort to your hotel room using nothing but your voice. That’s because Amazon (AMZN) and Marriott (MAR) are teaming up to bring Alexa to guests’ rooms.

I met with Amazon for a short briefing to see how Alexa will work as a hotel room companion, and it turns out the digital assistant looks right at home. The collaboration between Amazon and Marriott will see the Amazon Echo placed in guest rooms at two pilot hotels, and will expand across the the hotel company’s brands throughout the year.

The idea is to make it easier for guests to do things like find out basic information about the area where they’re staying, play music and control certain smart home appliances in their rooms with their voices. It also makes it easier for guests to book special amenities like massages, or a pricy room service meal.

Marriott says you’ll have to opt into using Alexa in your hotel room by physically unmuting your Echo. At that point, you’ve accepted having the voice assistant in your life until you check out, or mute it again.

Keeping your info private

This isn’t the first time a hotel has added Amazon’s assistant to its rooms. But what makes this instance so interesting is the extra software that allows hotels to program their own specific Alexa skills for guests to use. A backend monitor will even let hotel staff know if an Alexa has fallen off the hotel’s WiFi network, so they can fix it.

Amazon says user data is fully anonymized, and that the hotels never get access to voice data. So you’ll be able to ask Alexa all of the same ridiculously offensive questions you ask it at home and not have to worry about the hotel staff giving you dirty looks when you leave.

Speaking of leaving, the Amazon has also taken the important step of working to ensure that guests can’t just walk off with an Echo when they check out of their rooms. The company says Alexa units used as part of the hospitality experience will only work on their hotels’ WiFi network, so you won’t be able to use it anywhere else. Even factory resetting your Echo won’t allow you to use it on the go.

If you want to use your in-room Echo like the one you’ve got at home, Amazon and Marriott will let you log into your Amazon account to get access to your personal data.

When you check out from your room, Amazon and Marriott say they’ll automatically log you out of you account so someone else can’t jump on your account and start order 47 big-screen TVs.

Should you want to log out before your stay is up, though, you can simply tell Alexa to disconnect your account.

It’s important to note that Echos in these hotels won’t have the same range of capabilities as your home Echo. Don’t expect to be able to buy things on Amazon with your voice or have access to all of your own skills. Those are specifically controlled by the hotel.

I can certainly see myself using an Echo in my hotel room. Most mid- to high-end hotels already have older alarm clocks with iPhone docks built in. But if I can avoid having to plug in my iPhone, and simply use an Echo to start playing tons of trashy music before heading out for a night on the town, I’m in.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn