Amazon CTO: Here are 3 things you need to make voice tech work in the office

Werner Vogels explained in a recent blog post how Alexa for Business would enable new functionality in conference rooms and more.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • To make voice work in the workplace, business leaders need a management layer, APIs, and voice-enabled devices everywhere, according to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels.
  • Natural language processing and machine learning are helping companies like Amazon process voice requests at scale and get more work done.

It's clear that voice input is the next major frontier in enterprise computing. Advances in natural language processing and machine learning have made machines better at understanding human voices, and more adept at responding in ways that help us get work done.

But, how exactly does a business go about using voice in the workplace? According to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, the equation is three-fold.

In a recent blog post detailing the Amazon's work in voice—centered around its Alexa for Business product—Vogels said that the first thing a business needs is a management layer. This is where Amazon sees the role of Alexa for Business. But, it doesn't stop there.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Next, Vogels wrote, "you need a set of APIs to integrate with your IT apps and infrastructure." If you don't have APIs, then your voice input won't actually be able to do anything of value for your business. You have to have the right connections to the right tools for voice to make a real different in your organization.

Lastly is the hardware. Or, as Vogels put it, "having voice-enabled devices everywhere." Of course, Amazon sells its plethora of Echo devices, so it would make sense that Vogels is pushing this, but the greater point is that having multiple inputs lowers the barrier to productivity with voice. For example, enabling voice won't be of any help if an employee has to walk into another room to use it.

Alexa for Business was first unveiled at the 2017 AWS re:Invent conference in November. It's a fully-managed service that brings the voice-enabled automation of Alexa to conference rooms, calendars, supply closets, and employees.

"Today, Alexa can interact with many corporate applications including Salesforce, Concur, ServiceNow, and more," Vogels wrote in the post. "IT developers who want to take advantage of voice interfaces can enable their custom apps using the Alexa Skills Kit, and make their skills available just for their organization."

As noted in our Alexa for Business Cheat Sheet, here is the full list of what Alexa for Business can do:

  • Look up events
  • Manage your schedule
  • Manage your task list
  • Set reminders
  • Find an open meeting room
  • Provide directions to a conference room
  • Initiate calls in conference rooms
  • Control conference room equipment
  • Notify facilities about a problem with the building
  • Alert IT to a technology issue
  • Order office supplies
  • Query databases and reports
  • Access your latest sales data
  • Check inventory in warehouses

While voice is still a young technology, it's powerful. And, if Amazon can develop the right skills and integrations, and aggressively market Alexa for Business early, it could beat other giants like Apple and Google to the punch when it comes to enterprise adoption.

Also see

Image: CNET

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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