by Byron Connolly

Transport for NSW joins Amazon Alexa party

Jan 31, 2018

Transport for NSW is the latest organisation to hook into the Amazon Alexa natural language platform.

Alexa will provide real-time train, ferry and light rail information from the organisation’s Real-Time Intelligent Transport Assistant (RITA), launched in September. RITA skill for Alexa, available through Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant, doesn’t yet provide information for buses.

NAB and Westpac banks also jumped on the Alexa bandwagon earlier this month. The banks’ customers will use an Alexa-enabled device to retrieve information about their accounts.

The RITA platform provides hands-free access to network updates and disruptions on daily Sydney Trains, Sydney Ferries and Inner West Light Rail services using voice devices such as Amazon’s Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot.

Transport for NSW deputy secretary, customer services, Tony Braxton-Smith said the organisation recognises that the information landscape is shifting towards voice service, which is why it has been quick to innovate in this space.

“In NSW, we know transport is no longer just about building infrastructure and running services but embracing new technology to provide the best services for our customers. RITA began as an interactive ‘chatbot’ on Facebook Messenger. Now RITA has evolved to become an essential component of digital assistant products like Alexa,” Braxton-Smith said.

Transport for NSW said customers can ask, ‘What’s my morning commute like?’ and hear up-to-date information on disruptions affecting their saved commute. Detailed information on this function is available via the companion Amazon Alexa mobile app.

Today’s announcement follows Transport for NSW’s launch last year of a trial of contactless transport payments – using a credit card or mobile phone – on the Manly to Circular Quay ferry route. The organisation said last November it expected to expand this functionality to Sydney’s entire ferry fleet as early as February.

“As it stands, our Open Data website has served over 1 billion API hits. This type of innovation is now part and parcel of travelling in Sydney, it would be hard to imagine your daily bus or train ride to work without real-time transport apps,” Braxton-Smith said.

The organisation said it would explore more options for voice-based skills on digital assistants with the potential to include real-time bus disruption information, and Opal voice-activated balance top-ups in the home.