Crestron, Amazon partner to bring Alexa to meeting rooms

Amazon's Alexa has been largely confined to the domestic sphere, but Crestron is aiming to change that with an expanded Amazon partnership and new Alexa integrations targeting the enterprise.

What you need to know about Amazon Alexa

Crestron has just announced an expansion of its partnership with Amazon. The Alexa-focused partnership is now working on enterprise integrations focused on bringing voice functionality to meeting rooms.

Most enterprise employees are familiar with Crestron products: It produces a range of teleconferencing, audio/visual, and presentation tools that can control almost every aspect of a meeting space. Today's announcement simply makes them voice-powered using Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant.

For the IT professionals worried about adding additional support to already complicated Crestron units don't be: It's all cloud based and as easy as adding an Amazon Echo to a conference room and connecting an API.

What Crestron/Alexa integration in the conference room is

Crestron has been working with Amazon in the residential and hospitality spaces for nearly a year to give Alexa users voice control over Crestron smart home hubs, making enterprise expansion an obvious next step.

Crestron business units are designed to be smart home-like hubs for meeting rooms and presentation spaces. They can control lights, shades, A/V equipment, HVAC, and other room elements from a single touchscreen station or mobile device--all that was missing until now was voice control.

SEE: Amazon Alexa: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

Alexa integrates with Crestron units through an API that connects Crestron's cloud to the Amazon Alexa crowd to facilitate cross-platform communication.

Once you set up the Crestron Alexa API all you need is an Amazon Echo unit--that's a pretty low barrier to entry for meeting room voice control.

"Crestron products provide the connectivity to tie in the physical devices to the Alexa services, so each space has a Crestron controller and then hooks into A/V, lighting controllers, and [HVAC] controllers," said Dan Jackson, Crestron's Enterprise Technology Director.

Once the Echo is in your conference room, all you need to do is say the right phrases and Alexa will do the hard work you used to have to do with your fingers.

Is the future of meetings hands-free?

Strictly speaking, you don't need to control a Crestron unit with your voice, but if cutting edge is the look you're trying to establish for your business, Alexa in the conference room is definitely going to be a plus.

There isn't any subscription fee associated with the service, and Crestron is also working on integrating smart speaker functions directly into Crestron devices, so eventually you won't even need an Echo to power the system.

SEE: These new features could make Amazon Alexa a true office assistant (TechRepublic)

Enterprise integration between Amazon Alexa and Crestron devices will be available in July, and Crestron is demonstrating it at InfoComm 2017 this week in Orlando. While there is no subscription fee the initial price, if applicable, isn't known.

The future just keeps feeling more and more like Star Trek--soon you'll be able to do most everything around the house and office with a simple voice command. On the flip side of that, however, is the realization that something is always listening.

The three big takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. Crestron is expanding its partnership with Amazon to bring Alexa voice control to its enterprise units, making conference room controls traditionally done via touchscreen accessible with an Alexa voice command.
  2. Aside from needing an Amazon Echo for voice control, there are no additional hardware requirements. All the work is done between Crestron and Amazon's cloud services.
  3. Enterprise Crestron/Alexa integration will be available to the public in July.

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