My Scottish Community
Search ALISS (A Local Information System for Scotland) with your voice on your Alexa smart speaker to find out more about community groups and activities in your local area and support available nationally.
What can I find in ALISS?
ALISS is a way of finding support in your local community or where to get advice from national organisations. The My Scottish Community voice application for Amazon Alexa links to the ALISS data and can help you to find information on things like:
Health and Wellbeing
ALISS can help you find support for managing health conditions or to improve your wellbeing (e.g. dementia cafes, badminton clubs, community gardens)
ALISS can help you find groups that support social and community connection (e.g. local choirs, book groups, befriending)
ALISS can signpost to practical, legal, and financial support (e.g. money advice, advocacy services).
ALISS provides information on digital technology and online support (e.g. online forums, health related mobile apps).
ALISS WALK-THROUGH VIDEO
To help you get started using ALISS for the first time, here's a short walk-through video showing how to customise your settings and how to perform a search.
How do I use ALISS on my Alexa device?
My Scottish Community is what's known as an Alexa Skill. Basically this is like a smartphone app, the main difference is that the software is cloud based and sits within your online Amazon account rather than physically on your actual smart speaker device, this means you can use it across all your Amazon Alexa devices, if you have more than one. Here are some steps to help you get started using the ALISS - My Scottish Community Alexa skill:
01. Open the app
Say "Alexa, enable My Scottish Community". Note that you must say enable on the first opening.
Add your community service to ALISS
Do you run a group or support service in your local community? Help people discover more about your resources and events by listing your details on ALISS.
Frequently asked questions
Getting started with Aliss
You open ALISS on your Alexa smart speaker by saying “Alexa, enable My Scottish Community”. Note that you must say enable on the first opening.
This is known as the invocation name, i.e. what you need to say to open the app on your Alexa device.
If you do not own or have access to an Alexa smart speaker device you can download and use the Amazon Alexa app on your smart phone. The ALISS voice application also works on the Amazon Alexa Fire TVs, sticks and Fire tablets.
When you first use the application you will be asked to give permissions. This is to allow us to use your postcode for the search. We recommend that you check your Alexa device settings to ensure that a full postcode has been input for best results. If there is no postcode set, you will be prompted to do this on your device. You can still use the app without granting permission or without a full postcode, but the results will be less accurate.
To grant permissions to a skill, you can do so via the Alexa smartphone app.
Open the Alexa app.
Tap the bottom right hand corner where it says More.
Tap where it says Skills & Games.
Tap where it says Your Skills.
Find the skill you want to view/edit permissions on in the list, or search for the skill by name using the magnifying class at the top right of the screen.
Tap on the skill name.
Tap on Settings in the skill information. If there is not a settings button this means there are no permissions to be granted.
Tap on the Manage account permissions blue text.
You can then tick or untick the permissions you wish to edit.
Tap on Save Permissions at the bottom of the screen.
There are a number of ways that you can customise the set-up of your Alexa device to make it easier for you to use, particularly if you have a disability, or impairment that affects your hearing or sight. We recommend reading our Accessibility Guide and trying out these settings to see what works best for you.
One of our favourite settings which improves the user experience for everyone is the “Tap to Alexa” feature which allows you to set up your own custom shortcuts on the Alexa devices with a screen.
Performing a search
Your devices should be set up with the same postcode used for your main Amazon account. If you wish to check this or change it to something different you can do so via the Alexa smartphone app.
Open the Alexa app.
Tap the bottom right hand corner where it says More.
Tap where it says Settings, just underneath where it says See More.
Tap where it says Device Settings.
Tap on the name of the device that you wish to check or update.
Tap on the settings cog icon in the top right hand corner of the screen.
Scroll down to where it says Device Location and tap on this wording.
Review the address details, then tap on the address details that you would like to edit. When you tap on the wording the text will become editable. When you are done, tap where it says Save in the top right hand corner.
Note, you may be asked to verify your address after tapping save. This is if your address is similar to a standard address in the Royal Mail database. You will see a tick against “Suggested Address”. Tap on your “Original Address” that you just checked/edited to move the tick. Then tap where it says Select.
You can set your preferences for the distance you wish to travel in miles and whether you would like to see local or national results, or both local and national.
Open the app and choose the settings option or say “Alexa, ask My Scottish Community for settings”. You will then be prompted to change your search “radius” and your search “type” from the default settings of 5 miles and everything. The radius setting is essentially your search area, similar to apps where you drop a pin on a map and then expand the circle around the pin. The search type is whether you would like to search only for local listings (according to your search radius), national or everything (i.e. both local and national).
When you revisit the search settings, Alexa will tell you what you have set and you can use the commands, “radius” and “type” to change these.
To perform a search, you can open the app by saying “Alexa, enable My Scottish Community” and choose the search option when prompted or say “Alexa, ask My Scottish Community for [insert what you’d like to search for]”, i.e. “Alexa, ask My Scottish Community for walking”.
For the time being we recommend searching for single words as multiword searches tend to be less accurate. This is something we are working on improving.
Alexa will read out the search results and display a summary on devices with a screen. Results are returned in batches with the first three being returned so as not to overwhelm you with too much information.
To choose a search result to hear more about, say the number of the search result. i.e. say three if it is the third result read out or on the list.
If there is nothing of interest to you in the first three search results, ask Alexa to give you the “next results” in the list.
When you have found a listing that you are interested in you will be asked if you would like a details card sent to your phone, say “Yes” and the details card will be sent to your Alexa smartphone app. To access the details card:
Open the Alexa app.
Tap the bottom right hand corner where it says More.
Tap where it says Activity.
The details card should show up for your chosen result from ALISS.
One of the top questions that we are asked when we talk to people about Alexa is about whether the device is listening into conversations. It is natural to feel apprehensive about technology.
Alexa is designed to activate the microphone if it hears the wake word. The default wake word is Alexa, but can be changed to Amazon, Echo, Computer or Ziggy. It is not listening and transcribing until after it hears the wake word.
Sometimes the microphone can be triggered by accident. If you notice this, just say “Alexa, cancel” and it will disregard anything it heard. You can go into your recordings and transcripts of recordings to check what data is being recorded. We recommend doing this, as in this part of the settings on the smartphone app you can also review your preferences for how Amazon use your data. We have a free guide on our website of how to do this which you can access here.
If you are having difficulty using the skill we may ask you to help investigate what Alexa thinks it is hearing when you are using ALISS. This will help us to improve the user experience for commonly misheard words. For example Alexa often hears “chicken” instead of “check-in”, but we can correct for this in the application if we know what words are being misheard.
1. Open the Alexa app.
2. Tap the bottom right hand corner where it says More.
3. Tap where it says Settings, just underneath where it says See More.
4. Tap where it says Alexa Privacy.
5. Tap where it says Review Voice History.
6. You will then see all the times you have spoken to your Alexa. You can browse this to look at previous days and specific devices if you have more than one Alexa.
7. The transcription entries are displayed in a list underneath the date and device filters. You can open an entry by tapping on the icon on the right hand side that looks like a down arrow. This will expand the box so you can see the transcription of what was said.
8. You can note this down separately or take a screenshot to pass on the information.
The only information that will be collected during your interactions with the ALISS skill on your Alexa device is your postcode. This data is shared with us by Amazon, but only with your permission. We cannot see any personally identifiable information like your name or other contact details. However, we recognise that information such as a postcode could become personally identifiable depending on where you live if there is only one property in that location. We operate with strict controls including multifactor authentication for access to the Alexa developer console and cloud database storage. Database information is not shared with any third-parties.
You can find out more about our data privacy policies here. For us it's not about compliance but about treating your data with respect and ensuring that your needs always stay at the centre of how any data is stored, used and shared. You can find out more about our digital ethics policy here.
we love your feedback
We are keen to make ALISS as widely accessible as possible and also ensure that it provides useful support information. We are still at a very early stage of development with the technology and your feedback will help to shape how the service evolves. We would be grateful if you could complete this short survey to let us know more about your experiences. https://forms.gle/pucBawn8428huBfC8
You can help us to reach even more people by leaving us a review on the Amazon website here.
You can also use the message box below or the contact details at the very bottom of the page. We also welcome any questions that you have or if you are requiring additional support please let us know.
Access your free ALISS Alexa resource pack!
Help people in your network to learn about how to use ALISS on Alexa
What's next for ALISS on Alexa?
We are still very much at the beginning of the journey with the ALISS app for Alexa. We are keen to continue engagement and action the insights and ideas that have been gathered thus far in the co-design activities. The following section provides visibility of the main development themes and actions. If you have tried the ALISS My Scottish Community app and would like to share your feedback you can message us using the box at the bottom of this page.
A key aspect of the design is to ensure that the information ALISS provides is clear and easy to understand. It also needs to be trusted and for people to have enough information to know whether a service is the right one for them.
Clearer data, will ensure that people are not overwhelmed with too much information and that they can easily decide whether a service suits their needs.
How does a user know the data is up to date and reliable? Add a last updated date to the search result entries, show on the screen and also read out in the audio.
Provide more detail about services, such as access to service (open hours, walkable v. drivable, accessible entrances etc.). This would require further information to be added to the database and probably also updates to the categorisation of entries.
Service names and descriptions
This needs to be specially written with the audio experience in mind so that it is not too long and captures the most important information to make it easy for people to know what the ALISS entry is about.
Correcting the way Alexa speaks
Can the wording in the ALISS entries be corrected to ensure they sound correct when Alexa reads them? For example, pronunciation and speed of speech can be a problem. Email addresses are often not read out correctly.
A key aspect here is narrowing down the number of matches in the search to those more relevant. People need to be able to perform multi-word searches that include not only a description of what support they are looking for but also location information. The current search functionality and database structure does not support this and will need to be reviewed and updated.
A better search experience will ensure that people are not overwhelmed with too much information, or information that is not suited to their needs.
Observed that a search is different depending on the combination of words used. i.e. Yoga brings up a different list to Yoga Group. It can result in less relevant entries being shown. This is also encountered on a search on the ALISS website.
Observed that people are naturally performing multi-word searches which include both the thing they require support on and the location, therefore it would make sense to improve the search to pick-up any location information provided verbally as well.
Define appropriate categorisation for defining ALISS entries, for example is it a service, an information source or an event or activity.
Add parameters for filtering search results (e.g. set maximum travelling distance, or select national). Consider additional filters such as organisation type (charity vs. private), travel mode (e.g. public transport), accessibility (e.g. wheelchair friendly), free vs. paid.
Provide accurate distance
Provide more accurate distance/travel information from the user's postcode to the search result location.
1hr+ distance option
In rural areas it would not be unusual for travel times to exceed 1hr. Consider including longer distances as a filter option.
Small no of search results
If there is a low number (less than 3?) of results returned, add a message that provides the results but also says something like "or you can expand the search by changing your preferences in the settings". Related to this, we could consider having a higher default radius in the search settings.
Change the way that information is presented to instead have Alexa ask questions that find out what issues a person needs support with and then making suggestions based on this.
The key aspect here is ensuring that people find the experience pleasant and are able to follow the conversation to complete their search for information successfully.
We don't want people to be frustrated due to issues with Alexa mishearing commands or providing too detailed instructions for people who have used ALISS before and are now familiar with how it works.
User journey for first visit and repeat visits
On first visiting a longer format introduction on the skill/ALISS and how to use and navigate could be useful, with a shorter version once a user is familiar with how it works. Could have the longer form info available within the "help" message so that people can get a reminder if they need it.
The smart speaker may not pick up what a user is saying accurately, further testing is required with different accents to investigate whether there are any areas where this could be improved.
The word configuration is likely to be confusing. Could be changed to preferences of filters instead, or completely removed.
The word radius may be confusing and changing this to "search area" might make more sense. This will require more user testing and could also be influenced by how the travel distance is determined. As at the moment ALISS does a basic "as the crow flies" calculation rather than actual driving distance.
Helpful hints footer messages
On the Alexa devices with a screen there is space to add prompt messages to the bottom footer. These could be used to suggest ideas of things to try on ALISS. Create a bank of prompt messages that can be added to the screens.
Develop a unique sound for the ALISS application to bring some personality to the user experience.
Time of day greeting
Greet the user dependent on time of day, Morning, Afternoon and Evening.
If the user doesn't hear the information, add functionality for the user to say "Alexa, repeat" and it read out the information again.
Alternative voices to Alexa
Consider giving people an option of what voice they would like. Potentially use a Scottish voice.
There were many ideas shared in the co-design activities that would make ALISS even more useful for people and accessible.
A large number of the ideas are related to ALISS being able to provide information on events and "real-time" information updates.
Another key theme that came out was imagining where ALISS is being used to support someone else. In this scenario you might want to share information from the search results or change the settings like the location (which at the moment is linked to the Amazon account address).
Live service information and booking
ALISS could provide information about whether a service has available space or if they are oversubscribed or have a waiting list, etc.
ALISS could provide prompts and updates about activities/events and an easy way for people to reserve a space at a service or activity.
What's New For Me?
Based on people's interests, when they open ALISS it could give them suggestions of new things in their area.
Call activity organiser directly through the Alexa skill. Not currently possible with free Alexa features, but Alexa can send an information card to a users phone for them to make a call outside of the skill. There is a new paid for feature that allows calls to be made via Amazon Chime.
Setting the location to something different to the Amazon account address. Note that the location needs to be a full postcode for it to work in the API. If a user does a website search using a place name then website converts this into a postcode before performing the search.
Add text entry boxes to allow user to input their postcode. Could also use text entry for user to input their search keywords and other search preferences. Would need to ensure that layout is clear and well spaced out. Might be best to have on a separate screen?
Emailing search results
Instead of, or as well as, the information cards sent to the Alexa app, users could be sent an email with the search results/entries.
Allow users to save favourite search results and possibly also share them with others. "Alexa, save this service". Alexa, share this service with mum". "Alexa, ask ALISS for my favourite services."
Ability to share the search info with someone else, for example carers or family.
Website account linking
Allow the user a more seamless user experience, where they could move between the voice interface and the web interface and all their searches and preferences would be accessible via either interface.
Non-English as a First Language Speakers
There are many people within Scotland who do not speak English as their first language, offering alternative languages could be beneficial.
Amazon Fire TV interface
Create a visual interface for the Amazon Fire TV screens that allow people to navigate the ALISS information with their TV remotes.
Expand accessibility by creating a version that works on the Google smart speakers. Note that this would require a working ALISS smartphone app first due to the way that the Google platform for voice works.
Linking in with businesses
Expand ALISS to include information about activities and events from businesses in the health and wellbeing space.
Service user recommendations
Incorporate reviews/recommendations from people who have used the service.
Provide support with planning travel arrangements to the service found in the search results.
QR codes on search results
Include a QR code with the search results details on the screen to allow the user to scan it and navigate to the relevant site/get information/contact organisation.
Get in touch with us
Have a question or feedback about ALISS or Alexa, get in touch, we'd be happy to help. Or if you'd like to share your stories of how you've benefited from using ALISS we'd love to hear from you.