SILVERECHO PROTOTYPE FOR VOICE-COMMAND RAIL BOOKINGS
Written by Frederic Kalinke
There are some very exciting things happening in voice-based applications these days. Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa are an amazing foundation, but apps like SilverEcho have built upon that foundation to deliver much more practical, helpful results. That is one of the reasons that 50% of all searches are expected to be made via voice in less than 2 years’ time. (Source: ComScore).
SilverEcho is a very new app – in fact it’s still in the prototype stage – which aims to start improving users’ rail travel experience before they even leave the house. It will allow users to search for and plan out a fast, efficient and inexpensive rail journey to (and from) anywhere in the UK using Amazon Alexa.
HOW DOES SILVERECHO WORK?
SilverEcho is intuitive and conversational. That makes it very easy to use, as you don’t have to phrase things ‘just the right way’ to get Alexa to understand. You can literally just talk to Alexa using SilverEcho, and plan out your trip together.
For example, Alexa might ask “Where do you want to go today?”, or “Would you like to set your home station?”, and you could respond naturally. You might say something like:
- “I want to go from Bristol to Leeds”
- “I want to go to Leeds from Bristol”
- “I want to go to Leeds at 12:00pm”
- “I want to go to Leeds at noon”
Alexa will translate the voice to text, and our API will then map the text to a specific station ID. Alexa then checks what time the next train leaves from your home station and what time it will arrive at the destination.
At any point, you can ask Alexa for ‘more information’ to find out things like:
- How many transfers the trip includes
- Where the intermediate transfer points are
- How much the entire journey actually costs
Users can also simply tell Alexa to buy the cheapest fair. Watch how easy it is to use SilverEcho in our short demo below.
THE TECHNICAL STUFF
As development of SilverEcho continues, users will be able to search and book UK rail tickets with Alexa in a single voice-based transaction. SilverEcho will provide an innovative and forward-looking customer experience, as well as a comfortable and smooth journey from beginning to end.
Once a ticket has been booked, an email will automatically be sent to customers containing an RDG approved Standard barcode eTicket for their travel. Customers will also be able to check train times and delays in real time, both before and during travel.
SilverEcho was created during one of our companywide two-week Interchange Sprints (find out more about this in the Forbes article here). These are wonderful opportunities for our developers and engineers to collaborate on projects which would be outside of their normal scope of responsibilities, and a big part of our commitment to innovation and cross-team collaboration.