It’s time for Siri to get to work. Voice-command technology has already entered the workplace in the form of a benefits assistant, while one major tech company is betting that it can improve enterprise collaboration as well.
Emma is a voice-command app built by healthcare provider Alegeus which helps employees with their benefit plans. The service will take the place of a call center or help desk and is programmed to answer 100 questions on topics such as flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, and other tax-advantaged benefits.
“There’s such a glaring obvious need for people to get easy and accurate information when they need it in a convenient way,” John Young, Alegeus’ senior vice president, consumerism and strategy, told Amanda Eisenberg of Employee Benefit News last week. “Consumers have questions but people don’t often seek the answers because they’re not easily available… what Emma solves is that instant resource for normal people.”
For those concerned with the privacy issues that may arise, the app will have a multi-layered authentication and authorization framework to maintain high levels of data security. Alegeus will not disclose how many clients are using Emma, but claims there was “considerable interest” before it launched.
Amazon, best known as an online retailer, also happens to be the largest cloud services provider in the world, and is looking to tweak its Alexa technology to speed up communication and information sharing in the office. Though the Seattle-based giant has been tight-lipped about the details of its plans, it has posted job listings around a “New AWS/Alexa Service” that offer some clues:
Amazon Web Services is looking for Solutions Architects to help establish AWS as the market leader for a new service that addresses our enterprise customers’ needs. This effort is in direct response to feedback from customers and seeks to address their daily pain points in collaborating, communicating, and sharing documents and information. Leveraging AWS’s scale, reliability, flexibility, and ease of use, we will offer customers an easy-to-manage and cost-effective solution that solves many of these pain points.
“This new service will offer a compelling alternative for our customers when faced with multiple components, channels, vendors, long-term commitments, complex pricing models, and scaling based on the specific needs of their businesses,” the listing continues. “When available, this exciting new service will be part of the growing family of SaaS offerings from AWS such as Amazon Chime, Amazon WorkSpaces, and Amazon WorkDocs.”
According to Nat Levy at GeekWire, Amazon is looking to build a national team of solutions architects and software engineers in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta and hire multiple sales positions for the new offering. This new product represents a large step forward in Amazon’s entry to the workplace services market, as Levy notes:
These efforts show how Amazon Web Services has evolved over the years from a cloud storage business to a full-on provider of software as a service products. Amazon’s cloud division has been a moneymaker for the company, and it sits atop the growing cloud landscape. Amazon’s move “up the stack” to releasing its own products means that some that were once rock-solid partners with AWS could become competitors.