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    Monday, June 24, 2024

    Hey Google. What's a technological concierge I can put in a hotel room?

    Matthew Gillen sits next to a bedside table in a room at the Inn at Stonington Tuesday, Sept. 25, that has a Google Homes device that can access the Hotel Helper app. Gillen and friends created the voice technology company Hotel Helper. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington — "Okay Google," Matthew Gillen says to the Google Home sitting atop the bedside nightstand. The white-and-gray smart speaker turns on, evidenced by a subtle appearance of rainbow lights.

    "Talk to Hotel Helper," Gillen continues. When is checkout? 11 a.m., the device responds. He asks for the WiFi password; the device tells him. He asks about a local brewery; the device suggests two nearby, Beer'd and Cottrell.

    At 18, Gillen isn't quite old enough to order a beer himself, but he has co-founded a tech company: Voxion, which is on a mission "to bring voice technology to more businesses through the power of our simple and customizable software."

    Hotel Helper is software that Gillen put on the Google Home speakers in all 18 guest rooms of the Inn at Stonington.

    The collaboration started with inn owner Bill Griffin's idea to put Google Home in the rooms, so guests could ask about things like the weather and time. In the spring, he was introduced to Gillen, a senior at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School at the time.

    Gillen programmed the Google Homes to be specific to the area, with about 70 questions. Some of them are related to features of the inn, such as asking about gym hours or placing an order for room service.

    Others are about the area, allowing guests to ask where to get seafood — suggestions are the adjacent Breakwater, or Ford's Lobsters — or to inquire about the location of beaches, wineries, churches, ATMs and more. Suggestions for questions to ask are on a card in the room.

    [naviga:iframe width="100%" src="https://projects.theday.com/wavesurfer/hotel-helper/hotel-helper/" height="200" frameborder="0"] [/naviga:iframe]

    "That's all customized by the staff to promote local businesses," Gillen said.

    As manager Susan Irvine talks about Hotel Helper and the folks behind it, she adds, "I know I'm gushing, but they deserve to be gushed about, or upon."

    She said a lot of people don't know about smart-speaker technology like the Google Home or Amazon Echo, so "a lot of them get the giggles."

    Gillen said the installation fee for Hotel Helper is $100 an hour, and then the charge is $5 per room per month.

    The newest technology from Voxion is Voxii, which businesses can use to update customers on things like events or sales.

    Gillen started Voxion in the spring with Ryan Fornara, a 2018 graduate of Stonington High School, and Nathaniel Rowe, a friend of Fornara's.

    Gillen is taking a gap year to work on Voxion, while Fornara is a freshman at the University of Connecticut and Fornara is a sophomore at Brandeis University.

    Gillen has also launched a local Google Developers Group, a free meetup with a goal of bringing app developers together to learn from each other. The group had its first meetup at the Inn at Stonington in late July, which involved six hours of designing a game of Battleship for Google Home.

    The group was originally supposed to have a meetup at the Innovation Commons in Groton on Friday, but Gillen has postponed it until he has time to plan a bigger event.


    A Google Home device that can access the Hotel Helper app sits on a bedside table in a room at the Inn at Stonington Tuesday, Sept, 25, 2018. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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