Millions of people have invited Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into their homes to help run their lives and control smart devices. The assistant’s grip on the residential market is quickly slipping, however, with Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana vying for a place on the mantelpiece. That’s why Amazon is turning to the corporate world, with the company’s AWS division now offering Alexa for Business.
What Is Alexa For Business?
Alexa for Business is a new platform that will allow companies to develop their own skills and integrations for both practical and business-use cases. Amazon’s vision is that companies will be able to schedule meetings on the device, as well as make conference calls directly from the Echo line-up of products.
While Amazon already offers a corporate conferencing solution, dubbed Amazon Chime, the company is partnering with the likes of Polycom to supercharge Alexa in the corporate environment. The company is also throwing in support for other services that are popular with businesses, including Salesforce, Concur, Splunk, and Microsoft’s full suite of productivity apps.
Like Alexa for the residential market, Amazon will allow third-party developers to extend the functionality of Alexa for Business through skills and integrations. That means the initial launch partners are likely just the beginning for the platform, with business customers likely to be well provided for in the voice control arena.
What Can Alexa For Business Do?
Alexa for Business is likely to function much in the same way as the one found in residential dwellings. The difference here is that users will be able to access things such as Salesforce data on various clients and accounts, company calendar information, employee directories, and even make conference calls from an Alexa-enabled device. That’s not to mention the myriad of smart devices that Alexa can control and interact with, which could be especially useful in a corporate environment.
Amongst some of the skills already built by partners includes one by Concur, which will inform corporate clients when they need to leave for the airport for a business trip booked on the platform, or keep track of flights. WeWork, a company that provides shared workspaces to thousands of start-ups around the world, will also give its clients the ability to control the lighting in its buildings, as well as book meeting rooms, using voice commands.
Alexa for Business is launching with a plethora of new voice commands, including:
- “Alexa, ask RingCentral to read me my voicemail”
- “Alexa, ask Salesforce for the current status of my team’s big deals scheduled to close this quarter”
- “Alexa, ask Concur when my flight leaves”
- “Alexa, ask SuccessFactors to file paid time off for November 28 and 29, 2017”
- “Alexa, ask Splunk how many Amazon EC2 instances are running in our South America region”
- “Alexa, ask Cloudwatch to tell me about any alarms”
Additionally, customers can leverage the tens of thousands of public skills available for Alexa today, and create new private ones for their employees by using the Alexa Skills Kit and the Alexa for Business APIs.
Why Has Amazon Developed Alexa For Business?
Just like Google, Amazon has been working hard on getting to know people better in order to better tailor its product offerings. While some businesses may be conscientious about giving Amazon access to confidential data, the convenience Alexa for Business promises could be a small price to pay for others.
On top of access to large swaths of data from corporate clients, Amazon will also benefit from the increased revenue offered by larger-scale customers. By offering the Alexa voice assistant to corporate clients, it could also spur further development in the platform, which could benefit the residential market.
Amazon has been working hard to keep corporate clients in its ecosystem, whether that’s through its cloud-based AWS offering, or the Amazon Business online retail store. This is just another string in the bow of a company hoping to grow in offices around the world. It remains to be seen whether corporate clients want to spend vast amounts of money on acquiring a huge quantity of Alexa-enabled devices, however, and whether they feel comfortable with the always-listening nature of such devices.
Who Is Using Alexa For Business?
To help spur adoption for Alexa for Business, Amazon is partnering with WeWork, Capital One and Brooks Brothers, who will all be using Alexa for Business in their offices.
Dave Fano, chief growth officer, WeWork notes: “Alexa for Business is helping us move towards our greater vision of a smart, connected space that responds to your needs. With the private skills that we’ve built, Alexa can reserve conference rooms, file help tickets, and start meetings. Alexa for Business makes it easy for us to configure and deploy both Alexa devices and the skills we need to improve our employee’s productivity. We’re excited to soon offer these same conveniences to our members.”
Philip Miller, CISO, Brooks Brothers, adds: “At Brooks Brothers, our employees are already successfully using Amazon Chime for productive online meetings. With Alexa for Business, we are now using Alexa to simplify our conference room experience.
“Alexa takes care of all the details by allowing us to begin meetings with the simple voice command, ‘Alexa, start the meeting.’ Not only does Alexa for Business make it easy forme to provision and manage Echo devices throughout my office, but also configure them to work with Amazon Chime and my existing conference room AV/VC equipment.”
Surya Avirneni, master software engineer, Capital One, concludes: “Our technology leaders expect always-on visibility into AWS infrastructure performance across our lines of business.
“As part of the developer preview, we built a private Alexa for Business skill that allows our teams to quickly check the status on our systems, or to request specific updates on high severity events, but we needed a way to make this available to our teams without publishing it in the Alexa Skills Store. Alexa for Business allows us to publish skills for internal use only, and the Alexa for Business APIs enable us to build skill discovery and self-enrollment capabilities for our associates.”
When Is Alexa For Business Available?
Alexa for Business is available in the US now, with no word yet on whether there will be a global roll-out in the future.
To help corporate clients get started with Alexa for Business, Amazon is offering a starter pack, which includes three second-generation Echo speakers, two Echo Dots, and two Echo Shows. The starter pack has been priced at $709.93, which is more than the combined price of all the speakers, which are currently discounted and can be had for around $600.