A Calgary-based firm that builds Alexa Skills for its clients says that Amazon.com Inc. wants to see big Canadian brands developing on the voice-based platform before officially launching its products north of the border.
Amazon Echo, the first device to bring Alexa into the home, was first released in the U.S. in 2015 and followed with a U.K. release in 2016. Over the past year, Amazon released more devices to the Alex family with the Echo Dot, Tap, Echo Look, and Echo Show. But there’s still no word on plans for a Canadian region launch.
That hasn’t stopped many Canadians from using the device on the grey market, buying one in the U.S. and shipping it here or doing the transportation themselves. Included in that group is Tara Kelley, CEO of Calgary-based Splice Software. The firm has been building Alexa Skills for its clients in the U.S. on Dialogue Suite, its automated dialogue cloud platform, and Kelly has been pushing Amazon on when it might come to Canada.
“They want to see large brands asking for it,” she says. “What they are really saying to us continually is bring out your biggest Canadian brands.”
Kelly’s response to Amazon is that there’s a chicken and egg problem. Canadians aren’t using Alexa yet because it’s not officially available here, so brands aren’t interested in the channel yet. But if a big Canadian bank were to write an Alexa Skill akin to what Capital One produced, that’d be a big motivator for Amazon.
“We need to show them we’re early adopters of technology,” she says. “We’re an innovative country and they need to bring more product availability into Canada because we’ll use it just like we did Amazon Prime.”
Amazon didn’t respond to IT World Canada for a comment on this story.
Splice Software is taking a vendor neutral approach with its Dialogue Platform, launched June 8, and is also currently developing dialogue interactions for its customers with Google Home. It will seek to support Apple HomePod as well, when that’s launched.
While Canadian brands haven’t flocked to develop voice-first services on these channels yet, Kelly says it’s going to become an important space for brands to engage customers. She advises companies start working on how to architect their data infrastructure so their CRM can communicate with this new channel.
“You want to have the opportunity to be present and be there when your customers need you,” she says. “This is going to drive towards better architecture about how to store information so you’re ready for a real-time relationship with your customer.”
Having worked previously in the Interactive Voice Response business, Splice has built up a large library of voice phrases that it can “splice” together with appropriate tone and emotion in the voice, Kelly explains. It can do this outside of a PBX system, so it has the capability to deploy its service to any connected device – from the new variety of smart home assistants, to the more traditional phone call.