Voice Assistants have found very rapid market adoption increasing to nearly five-fold in market penetration in the U.S. between 2017 and 2021. All three major voice assistant platforms provide an ecosystem for developing applications. Amazon has termed applications that are built to leverage Alexa’s natural language processing capabilities as Alexa Skills and has provided a variety of tutorials and supporting materials to allow 3rd party developers to develop Alexa skills. Concurrent with the trend of market adoption of voice assistants, smart home devices which provide connectivity and compatibility with voice assistants have seen a significant growth doubling in annual consumer spending from 2015 thru 2021 and expecting to triple by 2023. Given these dual trends, the potential for the smart home devices to provide energy management capability and enhanced customer experience using voice assistants integration is alluring.
This project investigates four research questions with the aim of understanding the potential for voice assistants to provide a channel for better customer engagement:
- Do voice assistants integrated with custom-built Alexa skill provide better customer engagement regarding Time of Use (TOU) rates?
- Does improved customer engagement enabled through voice assistant translate to better energy performance?
- Does voice assistant technology enhance demand side management strategies for automated energy management during peak TOU rate periods?
- What are the best practices for developing customer demand side management and demand flexibility programs using voice assistant technologies?
To investigate these research questions, the project recruited and provided customers in the SDG&E service area with Amazon Echo devices enabled with Amazon Alexa voice assistants.