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How Amazon aspires to transform business meetings using Alexa

Amazon first announced Alexa for Business, the entrance of the company’s digital assistant into the enterprise world last year, and now we are learning more about how the program will impact the ways people work.

Werner Vogels, Amazon’s chief technology officer, published a blog post this morning about the potential impact of voice control in for enterprises. Perhaps the clunkiest problem Alexa for Business aims to solve is the logistics behind meetings and conference calls. Vogels writes:

With Alexa for Business, the administrator can configure the conference rooms and integrate calendars to the devices. When you walk into a meeting, all you have to say is “Alexa, start my meeting”. Alexa for Business automatically knows what the meeting is from the integrated calendar, mines the dial-in information, dials into the conference provider, and starts the meeting. Furthermore, you can also configure Alexa for Business to automatically lower the projector screen, dim the lights, and more. People who work from home can also take advantage of these capabilities.

Alexa has more than 30,000 skills, and it is adding new business-oriented integrations all the time. Vogels wrote that Alexa works with a variety of corporate applications including Salesforce, Concur, ServiceNow and more.

Vogels also detailed how Amazon is working directly with big businesses to integrate Alexa. WeWork, for example, uses Alexa to reserve conference rooms and file help tickets for community management teams. Wynn Las Vegas is installing Alexa-powered devices in 4,748 hotel rooms, allowing guests to use their voice to open curtains, turn on the lights, fire up the TV, and get basic information like news and weather.

Acumatica, a Bellevue, Wash.-based company focused on enterprise resource planning, is working with Amazon on an Alexa skill that will recognize who is speaking and know which pieces of data each person has access to. As Alexa for Business proliferates, enterprises will have to navigate how to deal with user authentication and authorization, typically an important piece of security for big companies.

Amazon already leads the way in the voice command market for consumers and is a powerhouse in the smart home sector, but its entrance into the office represents a new frontier. It also means Amazon is nudging in on Microsoft’s turf, as much of the recent advancement in its own digital assistant Cortana has been focused on enterprises and productivity.

Amazon and Microsoft last year announced a surprise partnership between Alexa and Cortana. We have yet to see any integrations out of this alliance. In an interview with Axios, Vogels insisted that Alexa for Business will not impact Alexa and Cortana’s budding friendship.

In addition to Alexa for Business, Amazon is also beefing up making calls using Alexa. The company announced today that it has added Alexa calling and messaging on its in-house Fire tablets, as well as other machines running Android and iOS.

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