Voice-activated technology is one of the new frontiers in how people are interacting with technology. Google, Apple, and Microsoft have all developed voice-command assistants and have begun incorporating them into their enterprise software offerings. This week, Amazon joined the club, announcing the introduction of Alexa for Business at its annual AWS re:Invent conference.
The first rumblings of Amazon’s expansion of the popular voice-activated home assistant came in August, when the Seattle-based giant began posting job listings for a “new AWS/Alexa service” that would be “part of a growing family of SaaS offerings from AWS such as Amazon Chime, Amazon WorkSpaces, and Amazon WorkDocs.” Jay Greene and Laura Stevens of the Wall Street Journal report that the company has added hundreds of engineers to the Alexa team and is giving this initiative preference in hiring in order to keep up with the other tech titans in this highly competitive emerging market.
The technology will allow employees to book conference rooms, start presentations, make calls, join teleconferences, turn lights on or off, obtain Salesforce information, and more. CNBC obtained a list of the break-out sessions at the re:Invent conference showcasing the Alexa for Business offering:
- “Bring your Alexa to work. Voice enable your company”
- “Building smart conference rooms with Alexa”
- “New skills for Alexa for Business”
- “Hack your office: Building the skills that help you at work”
Third-party developers will be able to create apps, or “skills” in Alexa terminology, to bolster the value of this technology. The Journal adds that the expense management platform Concur Technologies and co-working giant WeWork are among the companies that have developed new Alexa skills. For example, employees traveling for work could ask Alexa when they need to leave for the airport and get a response containing information not only from their travel itinerary and schedule but also publicly available information as well. WeWork is deploying the technology to make using its services as easy as possible for tenants.
“For me, I think that the more natural our interfaces become—the more they disappear—the better,” Josh Emig, WeWork’s head of product research and development, told the Journal.
Alexa for Business will also interface with Microsoft Exchange and Office 365, as well as GSuite and the machine-generated data analysis tool Splunk. Alexa for Business customers will be able to control 25 Alexa-enabled devices at one time.
Additionally, Khari Johnson of Venture Beat reports, Amazon is investing another $100 million into the Alexa Fund, the company’s venture capital arm aimed at investing in companies which embed Alexa into their products. The money is also earmarked for international expansion. By early 2018 they plan on bringing Alexa to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand after already expanding to the UK, Germany, India, and Japan since its US launch in 2015.