Amazon Announces Alexa for Business, Ushering in the Area of Voice-Enabled UC
Amazon has been a leader in the consumer market for voice-assistant technologies with the Alexa set of devices. On Nov. 30 at the AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon formally announced its business entrant into the voice space with the Alexa for Business services.
The promise of Alexa for Business is a voice-enabled interface for unified communications, collaboration and meeting tasks.
"If voice is the natural way for interacting with things in the home and for home automation, why not build something that you can actually use at work as well," Werner Vogels, CTO of AWS, said during his re:Invent keynote. "Alexa for Business is a fully managed service for having many Alexa devices at work."
The service manages both Alexa devices and users, as well as providing a set of business-focused skills. One of the first use cases that Amazon looked at was for conference and meeting rooms.
Alexa for Business provides integration with Cisco and Polycom conferencing systems, so business users no longer have to manually type in a meeting number, they can simply use voice.
"Just say hey Alexa, start the meeting," Vogels said. "Alexa knows what room you're in and what meetings take place there."
Additionally Alexa for Business integrates with other applications and services that are commonly found in and around business conference rooms, including smart lighting. The system can also be integrated with services from conference room management vendor Teem, which allows users to find available space.
The Alexa for Business will also work desk-side as well, enabling business users to join meetings and call people, as well having the ability to merge personal skills, such as music services.
Vogels added that Alexa for Business also provides integration with Microsoft Office 365 and Google's G-Suite in the cloud, in addition to support for Microsoft Exchanges for on-premises as well. Ring Central PBX, Salesforce, Concur, SAP SuccessFactors and Splunk are among the many other vendors that provide integrations with Alexa for Business.
"You now have access to all your software, and you no longer need to go to web pages, you can just use your voice," Vogels said.
Overall, Vogels emphasized that voice is a key paradigm shift, providing a natural way for interacting with technology and services. In his view, when existing systems can be accessed via voice, there is a new generation of services that will be built with voice as the primary interface.
Vogels said that rather than a display-based approach to information discovery, the voice-enabled future model will be about conversations.
"The next generation of systems will be built with conversational interfaces because it will become the main interface to your systems," Vogels said. "This is how you will unlock a much larger audience for the systems that you are building."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.