Amazon’s Alexa expert in NG demand & supply

By Rachel Murray

Kenric Anderberg, VP, IS Strategy, Innovation and Ventures is based in the US and shares a great example of customer-focused innovation coming out of NG Labs.

NG Labs is an IS innovation team with labs in both the US and UK. The team was created to experiment with new technologies to both solve existing business problems, and shape future ways of working.

“Every month NG Labs holds a joint US and UK team exercise. The aim is to develop a working prototype in a single day, using the combined intellectual capital of our UK and US development teams.

According to Rich Wiles, Digital Innovation Manager at NG Labs UK, sometimes these projects are about solving specific business problems and sometimes they are about exploring new technologies.

In the month of June, the task was to create a “’skill” for the Amazon Echo – a voice-activated personal assistant.

Given the recent media focus on the UK energy mix (we had our first coal free 24 hours on the 21st April) we thought it would be good if people could get information on the demand and supply in the UK from their Amazon Echo devices.

Through this exercise we’ve learned a lot –  designing a user interface for voice requires thinking about users in a completely different way.  Our industry is riddled with acronyms, most of which will be lost on the general public so we had to simplify the data to make it easier to understand.

Brendan Hanna, Head of NG Labs in the US, believes the first steps taken in the creation of the skill are just the start to new ways of interfacing with technology that will enhance our business. He explains, “Human to machine interaction using human speech and artificial intelligence is an exciting area. We see many others. The combination of emergent HMI (human to machine interfaces) and cognitive computing is radically reshaping our industry – and world. NG Labs is striving to bring these capabilities to National Grid to enhance our workforce abilities and customer engagement.”

If you own an Echo device, you can head to the Alexa store and download the skill now. And, for those of you wondering what on earth made us decide to do this, we will be exploring opportunities in the US to leverage our experience of the development and certification process to allow customers to interact with their accounts.

Having the experience and learning from this exercise allows us to do this internally which is a great benefit to the Company.

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