Allying with tech grandees Facebook, Google and Microsoft, Spanish telco giant Telefonica has launched Aura, an artificial intelligence-powered digital assistant, in six countries, as well as announcing smart home device, Movistar Home.
Both services were presented by José María Alvárez-Pallete, Telefonica chairman-CEO, during a full keynote at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress, providing one of Sunday’s highlights.
But the devices are “just the beginning,” said Telefonica chief data officer Chema Alonso as Telefonica, Europe’s second or third biggest telecom according to the metrics, bids to morph from a company offering fibre, mobile and TV connectivity to a supplier of value-added services, big data and now cognitive intelligence structuring clients’ smart home entertainment/communications axis.
Alvárez-Pallete also confirmed at the WMC that some of Europe’s biggest telecoms – Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, KPN and Orange – are working together to create a a new global data portability ecosystem, allowing customers to transport customer usage data with them as the travel.
Announced one year ago at the MWC, Aura was expected. Alvárez-Pallete announced that it is now a reality, confirming a first release of Aura in Telefonica’s four core markets: Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Brazil), Spain, U.K. and Germany, from Friday and over the weekend.
Depending on the countries, it will be delivered to customer devices via a mobile app (Movistar + Habla in Spain), or through third-party channels such as Facebook Messenger (Germany, Chile, where it will be integrated with Facebook’s Safety Check).
Telefonica’s Alonso announced Sunday that in the coming monthsAura will be integrated with Google Assistant: 120 million Telefonica clients use Android devices, becoming one of the first telecoms to integrate with. Google Assistant, said its VP, Scott Huffman on stage at the WMC. Aura will function, starting in the U.K. from later this year, with Microsoft Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant used by over 600 million Windows users, said Gurpeet Singh Pall, at Bing and Cortana Products Global Ecosystem.
Aura “is Telefonica’s new customer relationship model based on cognitive intelligence,” Alvarez-Pallete said at the MWC. “Telefonica has become a platform of platforms,” he added.
Launched under various names – O2 Ask in the U.K, for example – Aura will learn customer interests, evolving over time so as to be able to recommend coffee shop, or a concert, to clients, said Marc Evans, at Telefonica’s O2 UK, or tells pre-paid customers how much credit or data they have left on their account, added Christian Gebara at Telefonica’s Vivo in Brazil.
The big new news at Telefonica’s keynote, at least for Spain, however, was Movistar Home, to initially launch this fall. “If our customers, a device that brings all its services integrated with Aura’s artificial intelligence capabilities, allowing customers to make voice and video calls projected onto the television, and to voice control TV sets, choosing channels, recording programs, and asking for a recommendation.
Alvárez-Pallete suggested that next year Telefonica will reveal its advances in combing 5G and cognitive intelligence.
One indication of the power of Telefonica was when Alonso asked, via Google Assistant, when Barcelona, the soccer club, would play its next game. Aura answered that it was a Liga game, against Las Palmas, scheduled for next Thursday. The match will of course be screened by Movistar +, Telefonica’s pay TV service.