Cloud

Amazon brings its digital assistant to the office with Alexa for Business

At the 2017 AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon unveiled an enterprise-focused version of its cloud-based voice service.

Amazon's digital assistant Alexa is formally coming to the office through a new effort dubbed Alexa for Business, unveiled at the 2017 AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas Thursday.

Alexa is the cloud-based voice service that powers Amazon's line of Echo speakers, and can be integrated into other third-party products through the Alexa Voice Service. By making the service more business-friendly, it could open up a host of new uses cases and integrations for Alexa.

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said that voice is the natural way of interaction at home, and it should also be so for business. Alexa for Business is a fully-managed service that will allow companies to provision and manage many Alexa devices as work, manage users, assign skills, build private skills, and more.

SEE: Cheat sheet: Alexa for Business (TechRepublic)

One of the biggest value adds for Alexa for Business is its conference room support. According to Vogels, users leveraging Alexa for conferences will no longer need conference IDs and they'll simply be able to say: "Alexa, start the meeting" to get it going.

Additionally, Vogels said, Alexa can be used in the conference room to dim the lights or lower the blinds, find an open conference room, or order supplies. So far, it will integrate with products from Cisco, Polycom, and a few others.

Alexa for Business will help at your desk as well by making calls on your behalf or scheduling meetings. Vogels said that Alexa for Business will integrate with Office 365 and Google's G Suite, and it will also support on-premises Exchange for business users to handle calendar scheduling and other processes.

SEE: Alexa for Business likely to win in smart office, leverage AWS, Echo, developers and consumers (ZDNet)

Other integrations include Concur for flight information and expenses, Salesforce for sales data, RingCentral for voicemail, SAP SuccessFactors for HR, and more.

Professional users will also be able to merge their home Alexa with Alexa for Business at work, so the skills they use at home will crossover at work. This could help in managing a combined schedule and allow for listening to a personal Spotify account at work, for example.

Major firms like Vonage, Capital One, and others are already using Alexa for Business, Vogels said.

Alexa for Business is a pay-as-you go service. Shared devices cost $7 per device, per month and enrolled users cost $3 per user, per month. More pricing information can be found here.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Amazon announced Alexa for Business at re:Invent 2017, providing a service for provisioning and managing Alexa devices in the office.
  2. Alexa for Business will help start conferences, can lower blinds, dim lights, make calls, and schedule events in Office 365, G Suite, and on-premises Exchange accounts.
  3. Alexa for Business has many integrations, and users can merge their personal and business accounts for shared skills.

Also see

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Image: Amazon

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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