Amazon onboards new recruit, Alexa for Business
Amazon onboards Alexa for Business
(Credit: Amazon)

Amazon onboards new recruit, Alexa for Business

Amazon has launched a new set of tools to allow businesses to use its Alexa-driven smart speakers in offices and conference rooms.

Alexa could be coming to a conference room near you soon. The artificial intelligence (AI) technology that underpins Amazon’s Dot and Echo smart speakers got bumped up the corporate agenda yesterday, with the announcement of Alexa for Business.

Alexa for Business is a set of tools for using the voice-activated virtual assistant in the workplace, explained Amazon’s chief technology officer Werner Vogels, speaking at the Amazon Web Services Reinvent conference in Las Vegas.

Voice, he said, is “a natural way of interacting with your systems. You ask your environment to give you the right answer.”

There are, for example, new integrations for popular office software, including communications tools from Microsoft Exchange and RingCentral; customer relationship management software from Salesforce; and SAP’s Concur and SuccessFactors applications, for travel and expenses and talent management, respectively. Meanwhile, tools are provided to enable IT administrators to set up and manage smart speakers on corporate networks.

Read more: BMW to add Amazon Alexa to new cars from 2018

Virtual office assistants

Work-based virtual assistants could be useful in all sorts of ways, as AWS explained in a blog post.

Devices shared by teams, for example, could be used to start meetings in conference rooms, turning on video conferencing equipment and dialing into conference calls. Or they might enable employees to use voice to request directions around an office building, find an open conference room, report a problem with building equipment or order new supplies.

Devices dedicated to individual employees, meanwhile, could help busy executives make phone calls, send messages, check calendars, schedule meetings or find information in applications such as Salesforce or SAP Concur.

In fact, many businesses are already using Alexa in the workplace, sometimes without the IT department’s knowledge. A recent survey by security tools company Armis of its clients showed that over four-fifths (82 percent) have at least one Amazon Echo in their corporate environment, “sometimes in very sensitive environments.” Armis warned that these devices could be vulnerable to the Blueborne malware.

Read more: Ocado launches Alexa app for voice-activated online shopping