26 February 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Telefónica has launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-based service for consumers in six countries in association with Facebook, Google and Microsoft.
The service, called Aura, will be
available in three countries in Latin American –
Argentina, Brazil and Chile – and three in Europe
– Germany, Spain and the UK.
"It will help customers talk to the network. We have integrated
different technologies into the ecosystem, said
Telefónica’s chairman, José
María Álvarez-Pallete, speaking on Sunday in
Barcelona. "We have integrated Telefónica into a
platform company. It is a platform of platforms.
The Aura service means that Telefónica will be able
ultimately to work in a similar way to Amazon’s
Alexa. Customers will be able to speak requests, prefixed by
"OK, Aura", initially about Telefónica services such as
billing information or TV programmes, but eventually much
"Customers don’t need to talk in the language of a
machine," said Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK, which
will offer Aura as O2 Ask. "It will give access to live music,
sport and location-based offers."
Chema Alonso, Telefónica’s chief data
officer, explained Facebook, Google and
Microsoft’s roles. "If we want to be in the place
customers are we need to go beyond Telefónica. If our
customers are on other platforms we want to be there."
In Germany and Chile Aura will be integrated with Facebook
Messenger. Javier Oliván, the vice president of growth
at Facebook, said that in those two countries customers will be
able to speak with friends on Facebook Messenger via
Customers will also be able to talk to Aura via Google
Assistant, said Scott Huffman, vice president of engineering
for Google Assistant. "Telefónica is one of the first
telcos to join the Assistant carrier programme." Alonso said
getting into the Android ecosystem had been "one of the big
Finally Gurpreet Singh Pall, Microsoft’s vice
president of Bing and Cortana products, said: "We plan to
integrate Aura with Cortana, starting with the UK later this
year." Already "any Windows device with Cortana will be able to
use Aura", he added.
Meanwhile Álvarez-Pallete invited rival telcos to join
the Data Portability Cooperation, an initiative that already
includes Deutsche Telekom, KPN and Orange. It aims to set up
common protocols for personal data that will allow customers to
carry their data from one telco to another. "I invite whoever
else wants to join," said Álvarez-Pallete.