Mohana Ravindranath | Nextgov | October 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

Commerce Wants Amazon's Alexa To Tap Into Its Data

David Limp, Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices, pushes down an Echo Dot in San Francisco. Jeff Chiu/AP

Alexa, what's the population of my neighborhood?

In addition to ordering items, playing music, or setting alarms through Amazon's Echo speaker, voice-command system Alexa may soon be able to answer this and other questions based on federal data sets.

Last week, the Commerce Department participated in a hackathon at Amazon's Seattle headquarters, part of an effort to incorporate its own data into the knowledge base Alexa scans when answering questions. Amazon's developers were asked to develop "skills"—discrete functions Alexa carries out based on voice-recognition technology—on top of that data.

» Get the best federal technology news and ideas delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here.

Commerce's goal is to get its information to consumers using "comfortable, familiar mediums," Justin Antonipillai, a counselor to Secretary Penny Pritzker, said in a statement.

"[P]ower users and large consulting firms are comfortable getting data via an API," but "a larger audience simply wants to access our data seamlessly via their consumer devices in both text and voice searches," he said.

New skills based on Commerce data might help consumers "[p]lan a crop harvest more effectively by understanding weather forecasts," or "[a]sk questions related to population, median income, and more," Antonipillai wrote in a blog post.

"You might be able to ask Alexa to tell you about the tide and marine conditions," Antonipillai told Nextgov later. "You could ask a question about where [you] live ... that could draw off demographic data and location data."

But before consumers can use Alexa to access that information, developers need to be aware these data sets exist, and build out the skill that can crawl those data sets.

"We want to engage with expert programmers and others who could look at our data sets and say, 'Hey, what is an interesting use case?'" Antonipillai said.

Commerce is exploring other ways to get the attention of developers who might think of new ways its information could be delivered to consumers, Antonipillai said.

"We need to be on more platforms," he said. "By engaging on really cutting-edge platforms like Alexa, it allows people to be using [Commerce] resources."

The department has also issued a public call for companies with business intelligence tools to create public and open versions of their software to run on top of commerce data, Antonipillai said.

Comments
JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.