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More than 30 million ‘voice first’ devices in US homes by year end

Marriott will test the Echo and iOS devices and expects to pick a technology later this year.

(Bloomberg)—Amazon.com Inc.’s battle with Apple Inc. over digital assistants is moving to a new venue: hotel rooms, where Alexa and Siri are both vying to be the voice-controlled platform of choice for travellers.

Marriott International Inc., the world’s biggest lodging company, is testing devices from the two tech giants at its Aloft hotel in Boston’s Seaport district to determine which is best to let guests turn on lights, close drapes, control room temperature and change television channels via voice command. In December, Wynn Resorts Ltd. became the first hotel company to install Alexa-powered Echo devices, starting with suites at its flagship Wynn Las Vegas property.

Technology companies are using hotel room as showrooms for new services and devices that can also control so-called smart homes. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, and Apple (No. 2) are competing for dominance in the nascent market, which promises to let consumers access and manage household systems such as heating, cooling, lighting and entertainment by speaking a request at home or using a smartphone from afar.

Marriott expects to decide whether to adopt the technology for one or more of its chains as early as midyear, potentially boosting sales for the device of choice. More important, it will increase the winning company’s exposure in the market for voice-activated devices, which are gaining more mainstream traction.

“Those two players are in the game right now,” said Toni Stoeckl, who oversees the Aloft, Element, AC and Moxy chains as global brand leader for lifestyle brands at Marriott. There are almost 130 Aloft hotels in the U.S., and more than 100 additional ones planned.

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