Meet your new colleague, Alexa

Amazon has introduced its intelligent voice-activated personal assistant Alexa to workplaces.

'Alexa for Business' will help with office-y tasks such as establishing teleconference connections, and with adding data to enterprise-focused sales programmes.

Companies will be given the tools to manage a fleet of Alexa-enabled devices and admins will be able to enroll users, enable and disable skills, and connect Alexa to their conferencing equipment.

Amazon suggests apps for the new platform could include functions like helping with directions around the office, reporting problems with equipment, and ordering new supplies. While at home, employees with their own Alexa devices could see if there are meetings scheduled along with other tasks.

“Tens of millions of people already count on Alexa at home, in their cars, and on mobile devices to answer questions, provide news and information, and stay connected to friends and family,” said Peter Hill, Director, Productivity Applications, AWS.

“Alexa for Business extends the simplicity of voice control to the workplace, while adding powerful tools to help businesses deploy and manage devices, create skills, and deliver voice-first experiences in a scalable way—all backed by the AWS Cloud.”

A dedicated marketplace for Alexa for Business apps has been launched as part of Amazon’s goal to make its artificial intelligence a key component in workplaces.

Solution and software providers  — including Salesforce, Concur, SuccessFactors, ServiceNow, Splunk, Acumatica, Tact, Polycom, Crestron, RingCentral, Teem, Twine, and Zoom  — are integrating their business applications with Alexa for Business.

Users could accomplish tasks with simple utterances like:

  • “Alexa, ask RingCentral to read me my voicemail”
  • “Alexa, ask Salesforce for the current status of my team's big deals scheduled to close this quarter”
  • “Alexa, ask Concur when my flight leaves”
  • “Alexa, ask SuccessFactors to file paid time off for November 28 and 29, 2017”
  • “Alexa, ask Splunk how many Amazon EC2 instances are running in our South America region”
  • “Alexa, ask Cloudwatch to tell me about any alarms”

The virtual assistant was debuted in 2014 alongside the Echo speaker which aims to help people receive help from an increasing number of queries.

To increase its capabilities, Amazon released tools which help to speed up third-party development for Alexa. At present, Alexa now has over 20,000 third-party skills. Amazon continues to invest heavily in Alexa and expanding its line of popular Echo devices.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft have been upgrading their own virtual assistants and expanding their support for third-party apps  — and even hardware in some cases. These competitors are yet to make a big push for the workplace, however, leaving a big market open for Amazon to 'Tap' (pun intended.)

To get started with Alexa for Business, visit: https://aws.amazon.com/alexaforbusiness/

What are your thoughts on Alexa for Business? Let us know in the comments.

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