Through a strategic partnership between Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, and Volara, visitors to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center are finding their way around the facility and hosted events easier than ever before.
The new voice-based wayfinding solution atop Amazon Alexa is powered by Volara’s market-leading enterprise-grade conversation management technology. Inside the 2.3 million-square-foot building sits wayfinding kiosks that host the voice assistant. Visitors are encouraged to ask Alexa about happenings within the convention center and ask where to find meeting spaces, food-and-beverage outlets, the closest shoe shine, the business center and more.
More than 50 kiosks featuring the solution on Amazon Alexa will greet visitors, and voice commands will extend outside the facility to local businesses, services and attractions.
“At the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, we aim to provide our customers with a memorable experience,” said Samuel Thomas, senior vice president and general manager of Events DC. “Most people are tech savvy, and they want to have real-time access to the information they need in a format they are most accustomed to using. We partnered with Volara to provide wayfinding on voice command. Now event goers can get their questions answered quickly without having to seek out staff; it’s quick and efficient. We aren’t replacing face-to-face employee interaction – customer service is our core value and the reason we engaged in this project. This voice technology enables us to scale personal service and gives our customers the option to get information their way. It’s exciting.”
Wayfinding is just the first step. Thomas said his team is working with Volara to add more commands to the voice assistant with the goal of personalizing experiences for visitors. Show organizers can customize or brand kiosks strategically placed in their event locations. The conversation management engine will then be leveraged to respond to voice prompts for each event.
The convention center is considering selling kiosk sponsorships as a value-added service. An automobile manufacturer, for example, may want to sponsor all kiosks in the Convention Center during The Auto Show, providing a good revenue stream for the facility and making the event more interactive, informative and fun.
“When we tell customers about this voice initiative, they get really excited,” Thomas said. “We are always trying to find ways to reinvent ourselves and provide better services for customers, and technology is at the core. Recently we added smart furniture to the public areas that contain USB ports or standardized plugs to keep people connected. We are one of the first convention centers to offer free WiFi. And, through our strategic partnership with Digital Conventions, we now have the most robust digital signage program in the country.”
Lasan Coger, general manager of Digital Conventions, said he was intrigued when Thomas approached him about the wayfinding by voice command initiative. “A collaborative team from Events DC, Digital Conventions and Volara met and put our minds together to see how we could launch this program. It was challenging to get to where we are today, but everyone involved loved the challenge, and more importantly, we love the product. When we see the responses from attendees at our events, it validates what we are doing, and we can’t wait to expand this program.”
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