Alexa Skills

What is Amazon Alexa?

Alexa is Amazon's voice-controlled digital assistant, similar to Apple's Siri. You can ask Alexa about the weather forecast or a route, let her play music or answer questions. You can also directly shop in the Amazon store and much more. At the moment of writing, Alexa is available on all stationary Amazon gadgets (Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Fire TV, etc.) as well as for some smartphones and other gadgets. We expect Alexa to be available for any Android and iOS smart phone soon.

Alexa, what's the weather forecast for tomorrow?
Alexa, add butter to my shopping list
Alexa, play Adele
Alexa, switch off the lights in the bathroom

As opposed to Siri, Alexa offers an open platform for the development of additional capabilities for Alexa, so-called Skills. Examples for Alexa Skills can be to play Jeopardy, listen to sleep sounds or to get some news. Each Skill needs to be activated separately and called explicitly by the user.

Alexa, play Jeopardy
Alexa, open sleep sounds
Alexa, what's my flash briefing?

Each Skill can be made available to all other users in the Alexa Skill Store. In order to get there, the Skill needs to pass a certification process at Amazon where it gets tested for usability and adherence with Amazon's rules for youth protection, copyrights and other guidelines.

Skill Development

The Alexa Skills Kit allows for a quick start when developing Skills. You create a new Skill in the Amazon Developer Console, configure the first phrases ("intents") that your Skill should react to and provide a URL of a web service that can process and answer requests from Alexa via the Alexa SDK. The development of this web service should go hand in hand with the configuration of the interaction model of the Skill on the Developer Console.

Generally, the design of the interaction model should go first. As Amazon is oriented towards natural speech for Alexa, interaction should be designed as close as possible to a chat with a friend or some real person. The easiest way is to create a table or a flow diagram with all possible cases and outcomes (including error cases) and use this model for the creation of the skill. This eases the development as you don't need to go in circles between the Developer Console and your code whenever changes need to be made. It also helps you have a comprehensive interaction scheme.

As your Skill needs to be able to react to requests from Alexa you need to provide an interface that can answer these requests. Although the technology for that is free to choose, sample code is provided by Amazon only in Java and JavaScript. For the hosting of the Skill, AWS Lambda (Amazon Web Services) is a fast, reliable and cheap choice. However, you can also choose any alternative that is accessible from the Internet.

The biggest hurdle when creating an Alexa Skill is the certification for the Alexa Store. You can also use your Skill without the certification, but this is only possible in Dev or Beta mode. In both cases your Skill is only available to yourself or a limited set of users and it won't appear in the Alexa Skill Store. For successful certification, you neeed to make sure you comply with all rules and guidelines of Amazon regarding your conception, naming and the interaction design.

Individual Skills for Your Business

Advantages of Your Own Alexa Skill

An individual Amazon Alexa Skill for your own business has a number of advantages:

  • You enable a more personal communication with your target customers through voice as opposed to "text only"
  • You get comprehensive statistics about how your customers use your skill and you get to know what's relevant for them
  • You position yourself as an early adopter of the "Voice Revolution" that is currently in the making by Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook

Use Cases

Generally the question often is not whether your use case is suitable for the connection with a voice-enabled interface like Alexa, but which parts you should start with. From a vast number of available examples on the Skill Store and request which we received or already implemented, we distilled a non-comprehensive list of examples.

Controlling devices, that are out of reach

  • Lights
  • Heating
  • Home electronics

For support with anything hands-free

  • In the kitchen
  • In the bathroom
  • In the workshop

For information when just passing by

  • News
  • Weather
  • Traffic

For a better, moderated shopping experience

  • Food delivery
  • Calling a cab
  • Online shopping

Audio

  • Music or radio
  • Podcasts
  • Meditation and relaxation

.. and many more

  • Sleeping
  • Shopping and todo lists
  • Games

You have ideas for more use cases? Contact us to talk about it!

Our Offering

If your interested in getting an individual Alexa Skill for your company of your project, we can guide you through all the phases of the lifecycle of your Skill. This can range from idea creation, conception, interaction design, development, certification and hosting. With our expertise we can also consult you regarding the feasibility of your project and create a solution quickly and reliably. We will help you get your Skill certified for the Alexa Skill Store. Whether you want to manage and run your Skill yourself of let us take care of is of course your choice.

You want to learn more about individual Alexa Skills - call us or make an appointment and we'll contact you.

techdev Alexa Skills

We've already created the following Skills for Amazon Alexa - either for ourselves or for customers.

  • Wunder Shopping (Germany / US / UK)
  • Zahn & Art (Germany)
  • Kryptokurse (Germany)
  • Kryptokurse Flash (Germany)
  • Talking Tech Podcast (Germany)

You want your own Skill? Talk to us!

Resources

If you wanna learn more about Amazon Alexa and the possibilities of individual Skills, check out the following resources.

Are you looking for a reliable partner to support you with your IT projects?
Just get in touch and let us talk about your project.