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Achieving consumer-centric innovation with a new in-car Alexa skill

Overview

When Alphabet Germany (hereafter Alphabet), a BMW Group company and global business mobility solutions provider, wanted to improve the customer experience and demonstrate its innovative spirit, it turned to the experts at Star. Alphabet believes that leasing a company car should be enjoyable. The vehicle should add value to drivers’ lives, or better yet delight and surprise them. So, Alphabet set out to develop a unique in-car Alexa skill, compatible across its portfolio of 700,000 cars and light commercial vehicles. While the company had developed an Alexa skill as proof of concept, it needed a partner to productify the service, explore location-based use cases and lead interaction and voice design for in-car use. In December 2019, Alphabet and Star began a fun and effective collaboration.

  • Developed the conversation flow and System Architecture 
  • Launched unique in-vehicle Alexa Skill capabilities to improve the driving experience, including FAQ/Service Guide, Service Partners search and Car Wash Prognosis a feature that informs users of where and when to get their car washed based on location and weather forecast
  • Alphabet Alexa Skill passed Amazon certification and is available for end users in vehicles, on Alexa enabled devices  and mobile phones
  • The Alexa skill unified Alphabet’s diverse fleet of vehicles and strengthened the Alphabet/BMW brand
  • Alphabet demonstrated its innovative spirit and plans to roll out more cutting-edge services that add value for users

Challenge

Before connecting with Star, Alphabet developed a preliminary Alexa Skill to answer FAQs related to Alphabet services using voice dialogues. This early version was available to test in the German market. With the use of in-vehicle voice assistants on the rise, Alphabet wanted to expand its Alexa offerings and develop a skill to support in-vehicle and location-based services. Alphabet manages a mixed fleet, so it needed a solution it could deploy across all vehicles, helping to create a more unified experience for customers. 

Alphabet did not have the expertise it needed in-house, so it turned to Star to develop the next generation of the skill with a range of new features to delight its customers.

consumer-centric innovation
mobility solutions - brainstorming

Project

During the ideation phase of the project, we collaborated with the Alphabet team to define the purpose of the Alexa Skill. We analyzed the existing skill and explored what users really want from their driving experience, and how an in-car voice service could add value. During a truly collaborative process, we determined that we should build out the Service Guide feature, allowing users to ask more questions about Alphabet-related services, and add a Service Partner search, so drivers could easily search for points of interest, including car repair shops and gas stations, without having to take their hands off the wheel. In this phase, we also conceived the Car Wash Prognosis concept. When a user asks, “Where is the nearest car wash?” Alexa responds not only with locations, but the best time to get the car washed, considering the weather forecast. For example, if it is going to rain Monday and Tuesday, the Car Wash Prognosis skill will recommend Wednesday for the wash. 

In the design phase, we focused on usability as we explored interaction and voice design and determined the conversation flow. We then provided a System Architecture identifying the internal and external systems needed to develop the skill. 

In the delivery phase, we turned our design into reality. As always, the Star team worked efficiently to bring the concept to life as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. Star developed the skill by leveraging serverless hosting from the Lambda service provided by AWS. The skill integrated with a custom point of interest (POI) API and 3rd party services like Google Maps and a weather API. We also launched end-to-end testing and QA checks together with the Alphabet team.

Testimonial

Alexander Thoelke
Alexander Thoelke
Technical Leader/Project Manager at Alphabet

"The collaboration with you on the Alexa skill was absolutely remarkable, professional and fun! We highly appreciated that you took over responsibility for the delivery goals and pushed for the great result that is now live and running."

Star says

Olle Haff
Olle Haff
Head of Business Development, Europe

"We are proud of this project for a few reasons. Our teams collaborated flawlessly to achieve results neither company could have created alone. We are proud of our UI and voice design work and believe we have helped create an Alexa skill that is useful and intuitive. We are also excited to have helped Alphabet achieve its internal goal of conveying its innovative spirit. We know this is one of many forward-thinking solutions the leading mobility solutions provider will roll out to push boundaries while delighting end users. We can’t wait to work together on the next one."

Project Scope

Service Lines:

  • Voice Design
  • Project Management
  • Quality Assurance
  • Data Science
  • Software Development
  • Process Excellence

Technologies:

  • Javascript
  • Node.js
  • AWS Lambda
  • Alexa Skills Kit
  • Google Maps Search API
  • Weather API
  • Point of interest (POI) API