Creative Innovation Labs | Potential Testing Small-Scale Projects On Small-Scale Budgets

Building An IoT Project | Using Alexa Skills

At our CIO Innovation Insider events this year, Innovation labs have been a hot topic of conversation.

Whether it’s simply having a slush fund to draw from, or having full-on innovation facilities, bringing new ideas into an organization and experimenting with new technologies is the best way to keep a business at the forefront of offensive innovation. I wanted to show that innovation labs don’t have to be expensive, and that it’s possible to take an idea from start to fruition quickly, without much cost.

I sat down with my application developer, and tasked him with exploring Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and to build a custom application using the Alexa Skills kit on Amazon’s developer portal. The goal of the project was to explore the possibilities of natural language interfaces and to see what other resources we could integrate with Alexa in order show others that innovation is possible quickly, on a small scale.

The Alexa Skills kit provides a rich interface for creating natural language interactions, but before we could jump into the web interface, there were a number of design elements to consider. At the end of the day, the goal of the IoT, not just Alexa, is to provide convenience for people.

When working on any Internet of Things (IoT) project, the most important design consideration by far is Human Centered Design. In order to be able to provide a positive experience for your end users, it is imperative to have an understanding of the basic human interaction being supported or improved on by the IoT technologies being worked with. It’s imperative to understand how end users are going to go about completing a given task, what their thought processes around said task are, the types of questions they may ask, and even the types of information that needs to be gathered from them in order for the task to be completed properly.

Creating a solid foundation around the basic human interaction being worked on will allow for more thorough analysis and understanding of how the IoT technologies being worked with will add convenience for end users, or improve a business process. That foundation will also make it easier to examine the security aspects of the project. It is important to consider questions such as:

  • What resources are going to be necessary to support the project?
    o  Databases, Web Services, Humans, etc.
  • What kinds of data are going to be collected?
    o  Where is this data going?
    o  Who is ultimately going to own/control it?
  • How is my compliance going to be impacted?
    o  PCI, GDPR, NCUA, etc.

Understanding the basic human interactions being worked with is the cornerstone of any IoT project and will allow for a much richer experience for end users. What we ended up with, is a simple FAQ Skill to allow users to learn more about our company and the many different things that we do. Our FAQ skill is still a work in progress, but by simply experimenting with a relatively new technology we were able to learn a lot, quickly, and at a low cost.

For more on the specifics of how Alexa works, take a look at a detailed walkthrough of the steps for the Amazon Alexa Demo.

Join the innovation conversation at our next CIO Innovation Insider Lunch! Email for more info.