Amazon Ready to Bring Alexa to Work

Kyle Arthur December 01, 2017
Amazon Ready to Bring Alexa to Work

Amazon Inc. wants to be your new executive assistant at work as Alexa will soon be going to work.

The company on Thursday said that Alexa, its increasingly popular digital aide that shoppers command by voice, is now programmed to handle a range of tedious office tasks.

Businesses can buy Alexa devices that help employees dial into conference calls, manage their calendars, find open meeting rooms and - not surprisingly - order work supplies from Amazon.

Alexa in Office Work

While the e-commerce giant has been busy announcing new cloud services for developers this week at its annual re: Invent conference, the company is preparing to talk about new tools that will make it easier for people to use Amazon's Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant in the workplace.

Amazon intends to announce an Alexa for Business Platform, along with a set of initial partners that have developed specific "skills," or apps, for business customers.

The new technology could well come in handy for connecting into teleconferences or adding data to enterprise-focused sales programs, sources said. It would also add more personalized features, like an enterprise security layer that identifies and authenticates different people using the app at work.

Basically, Amazon wants Alexa to be everywhere, and it needs more voice data to feed and "train" it so that talking to the assistant feels like talking to a friend. The company is looking to make money in the long term from people shopping with Alexa and using it, rather than Apple Inc's Siri or Alphabet Inc's Google Assistant as their go-to voice technology.

"Meetings always start 10 minutes late" due to small technical issues, Amazon's Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels said at the company's cloud-computing summit in Las Vegas on Thursday, announcing the service. "If voice is a natural way of interacting in your home ... why don't we build something that you can actually use at work as well?"

Alexa Skills page

Amazon is also likely to announce a new marketplace for the Alexa for Business apps, similar to the Alexa Skills page it already has for consumer apps.

Businesses also can enroll employees' home devices into their Alexa networks for $3 per month per user. The service lets companies centrally provision and manage devices for their organizations.

The move adds to Amazon's competition with Microsoft Corp, which bought internet phone and video chat company Skype in 2011 with hopes of improving communications at work. Microsoft has also recently courted businesses with applications for its own voice technology, with programs that convert audio into text and vice versa.

Still, integrating a voice aide that is popular among consumers, whether for bedside tables, dressing rooms, cars or even refrigerators, into the workplace would be a first for the technology industry.

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Kyle Arthur


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