By Sarah Perez for techcrunch.com
Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa, embedded in devices like the Echo speaker and Fire TV, is today taking on a new role: she’s now a banking assistant, too. Capital One announced this morning the rollout of a new “skill” (like an app for Alexa-powered devices), which will allow consumers to do their banking by voice, including checking balances, reviewing transactions, making payments, and more.
To use the this voice-activated service, Capital One customers have to first add the skill to their Amazon device via the Alexa mobile application, then connect their account by providing their username and password. The Alexa app is available for Fire tablets, iOS and Android.
Afterward, they’ll be able to manage their finances through their Amazon device, be it the Amazon Echo, newly launched Amazon Tap or Dot, or Fire TV.
For example, explains Capital One, customers could then ask Alexa questions like:
“Alexa, ask Capital One for my Quicksilver Card balance.”
“Alexa, ask Capital One for recent transactions on my checking account”
“Alexa, ask Capital One when is my credit card payment due?”
“Alexa, ask Capital One to pay my credit card bill.”
Alexa will use your pre-linked funds to pay the bill, and will simply pull up your account information and reply to your questions for the other items.
Of course, this is the kind of skill you probably only want to add to your home device, not one in a shared environment or workplace, for obvious reasons. And even then, it does raise questions about how secure and smart it is to allow Alexa the ability to access your finances – especially considering that the voice technology is still in its early days and far from foolproof.
Earlier this week, for instance, there were reports of Amazon Alexa going haywire and resetting a user’s connected thermostat to 70 degrees because it heard its name in a radio program that was playing near its speaker.
Then there’s the matter of parent company Amazon’s stance on security technologies in general that may need to be considered. As Apple fights for user privacy rights with the U.S. Government, it was revealed that Amazon had quietly removed device encryption from its Fire OS mobile operating system. The company only reversed that decision after user outcry.
That said, if convenience outweighs risks – and frankly, it should not but often does – you might want to give the Capital One skills app a try.
the article first appeared in Techcrunch.com