Home Hardware Amazon takes Alexa to the boardroom

Amazon takes Alexa to the boardroom

Global cloud-hosting company AWS wants to bring its Alexa voice-enabled AI to a conference room near you.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) today announced Alexa for Business, during its AWS re:Invent 2017 event in Las Vegas.

Like its consumer-based sibling Alexa for Business brings the power of the spoken word to automation, giving office workers an intelligent assistant.

AWS announced partnerships with Cisco, Polycom, Office 365, Google GSuite, Microsoft Exchange on-premises and other calendaring and conferencing systems, showing examples of the service with commands like “Alexa, set a teleconference for 4pm”, “Alexa, start the conference” and so forth.

Alexa for Business also supports a large and growing list of skills and integrations from companies like Salesforce, Concur, Splunk and more, allowing such instructions as “Alexa, ask Salesforce how many widgets we sold last year in Australia” and “Alexa, ask Concur when my flight leaves.”

Businesses can also extend Alexa for Business by building their own “private” skills, integrating the platform with internal applications and requirements.

To aid IT depts, Alexa for Business includes tools to set-up and manage Alexa devices at scale, as well as enrolling users and assigning skills.

AWS states Alexa for Business will help employees stay productive by freeing them from having to deal with multiple manual steps. For example, kicking off a conference may involve checking the room is available, turning on equipment, entering in dial-in details, and much more. “Starting a meeting can take to five to ten minutes,” AWS claims.

Amazon’s chief technology officer and vice-president Werner Vogel said today: “voice represents the next major disruption in computing”, making the case that the way people interact with devices has historically been designed around the hardware – such as using a keyboard and mouse. Vogel states with the advances, power and scalability the cloud offers, voice interaction is now a realistic option to interact with computers and other devices.

“Tens of millions of people already count on Alexa at home, in their cars, and on mobile devices to answer questions, provide news and information, and stay connected to friends and family,” said Peter Hill, director, Productivity Applications, AWS. “Alexa for Business extends the simplicity of voice control to the workplace, while adding powerful tools to help businesses deploy and manage devices, create skills, and deliver voice-first experiences in a scalable way – all backed by the AWS Cloud.”

The writer has been attending AWS re:Invent 2017 as a guest of the company.

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David M Williams

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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.