On the occasion of its global event re: Invent, Amazon Web Services has unveiled a variation of the vocal assistant cut for the office.

New step for Alexa . The voice assistant of Amazon takes the path of the company. The announcement was made this December 1 by Werner Vogels, the technical director of the retailer, at the global event dedicated to  Amazon Web Services , the cloud business of the Seattle group.

“We are launching Alexa for Business, a managed cloud service designed to manage Alexa terminals in the enterprise, administer their users, and drive the deployment of business skills,” says Werner Vogels.

Cisco and Polycom as partners

Amazon has approached OEMs, such as Cisco or Polycom, to integrate Alexa for Business into their audio and video conferencing system. “You will be able to control this type of environment by voice: launch conf call or video simply saying ‘Alexa, start the meeting’, without having to enter a phone number, then configure the parameters of your conference room” says Werner Vogels.

The American group is also highlighting its connected speakers with screens (Echo Show and Echo Spot) which, via Alexa for Business, will now be able to be transformed into “professional communication interfaces placed on the desks, to send messages or manage his phone calls “.

Alexa for Business was unveiled by Werner Vogels, Amazon’s technical director, at AWS re: Invent held this week in Las Vegas. © JDN / Antoine Crochet-Damais

Delivered with the solution, a small library of skills targets various issues: search for a free meeting room, request a supply, manage a list of tasks, schedule calendar alerts …

Alexa for Business also integrates with the Exchange, Office 365 and G Suite calendars to schedule appointments and meetings. But also to third-party business applications to answer questions in different areas: the Salesforce CRM, the Concur business travel management application or the SuccessFactor (SAP) HR management software.

The ability to create skills

“With Alexa for Business, companies also have the possibility, through an API, to create their own skills and integrations with third-party systems,” says Werner Vogels. On the administration side, a console is used to manage user access rights to bot applications and manage the Alexa terminal parks installed in the company.

In terms of processing, Alexa for Business is benefiting from the new AI services announced by AWS in parallel during re: Invent 2017: Amazon Comprehend (for natural language processing), Amazon  Transcribe (for speech-to-text), Amazon  Translate (for translation) and Amazon Rekognition Video (for video image recognition).

Alexa for Business gives companies the opportunity to develop their own skills. © JDN / Antoine Crochet-Damais

The skills can be made available to employees via the Alexa for Business account of the company, without going through the Alexa Skills Store. “It is possible to authorize, or not, the use of personal skills in the workplace, and conversely to allow access to applications and skills of the company from the speaker Echos personal employees at home “, adds Werner Vogels.

Accommodation for the time only in the US

On the front of enterprise digital assistants, Amazon is competing with Microsoft. With Cortana, the publisher of Redmond was indeed already in the field of voice assistants for professional use (not just personal). To address this target, Satya Nadella’s group has integrated Cortana with Office 365  and Dynamics 365, and is working on productivity skills and integrations with LinkedIn (dixit Venturebeat ).

Last August, Amazon and Microsoft announced a partnership whereby each of their personal assistant would be able to access the other. It remains to be seen whether this agreement will be extended to the declination of their assistant for the professional world … No information has yet filtered on this question.

Alexa for Business is priced $ 7 Alexa terminal per month, plus $ 3 per user per month . The service is currently only available in AWS data centers in Virginia. Eventually, it should be extended to other areas of the US cloud, especially in Europe.


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