Your digital voice assistant may soon be ready to do more than just play your favorite tunes while you’re working. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has announced the new Alexa for Business.
Alexa for Business
Amazon says the new service will allow you to bring Alexa into the workplace at scale.
More specifically, Tara Walker, Technical Evangelist for Amazon Web Services explains on the AWS News Blog:
“Alexa for Business brings the Alexa you know and love into the workplace to help all types of workers to be more productive and organized on both personal and shared Echo devices. In the workplace, shared devices can be placed in common areas for anyone to use, and workers can use their personal devices to connect at work and at home.”
So what can you do with the new service?
Imagine starting a staff meeting as easily as you’d ask for a piece of information off the web. Just say “Alexa, start the meeting.” Your virtual assistant does the rest, launching the video conferencing equipment, dialing in your conference call and getting the meeting under way, Walker says.
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Or you can use Alexa to straighten things up around the office. Use various Alexa “Skills” to do things like find a vacant conference room, keep track of building maintenance issues or order more supplies — like more ink for the copy machines.
With the Alexa Skills Kit, developers will doubtless create thousands of capabilities for the Alexa for Business platform, adding to the 25,000 plus skills already available for the home version of Alexa.
Alexa for Administrators
Because the services may be shared by several in the office, the new Alexa for Business also offers a variety of controls for administrators, Amazon says.
First, you can manage and provision shared devices. For example, perhaps one device will be used in the conference room and will be provisioned with “Skills” needed to operate a meeting, as discussed above.
Next, you can configure settings. For example, configure one shared device in the conference room to run meetings with a simple “Alexa, start the meeting” voice command. And configure another near the copy machines or in the lunch room to order more supplies, when prompted.
Administrators will also have the authority to decide who can use shared devices. You’ll invite your team to enroll their personal Alexa accounts so they can access Alexa for Business at work, and enable them to use customized Skills needed to run meetings, report maintenance problems etc.
You’ll be able to customize private Alexa Skills needed to maintain office operations and can use the Alexa for Business APIs to automate administrative tasks around the office.
And, of course, you’ll be able to decide which public and private Skills your team members have access to. For example you might limit access to Skills for re-ordering supplies to your office manager to avoid having multiple people order extra printer paper or extra paper plates for the lunch room all at the same time.
Alexa and Echo in the Workplace
What has made Alexa so successful is the sheer number of Skills developers have created. And now that Alexa and Echo are coming to the workplace, there will undoubtedly be just as many Skills created, if not more.
When it is fully integrated with your business system, you can expect to access directories, customer accounts, schedule information and more. You will also still have the same access with Echo to control your environment, set reminders and timers, and ask questions.
What Does it Mean for Your Small Business?
Simply put, it will mean a more efficient workplace. You will have a personal assistant that never sleeps or forgets, and keeps getting better. Alexa will let you focus on what you do best instead of worrying about dates, times, inventory and many of the other daily minutiae of running a business.
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