amazon echoAmazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS) unveiled Alexa for Business last week, a new AWS service that provides business customers with an intelligent assistant.

In the press release announcing the service, AWS said that Alexa for Business can help automate tasks including starting conference calls, controlling conference room equipment, scheduling meetings, keeping track of tasks and reordering supplies.

The service integrates with technologies from Salesforce, Concur, Polycom and other companies to extend functionality further. Additionally, companies can tailor Alexa for Business by building custom “private” skills that integrate with a customer’s IT applications and office systems. The service includes the tools to set-up and manage Alexa devices, enroll users, and assign skills.

“Tens of millions of people already count on Alexa at home, in their cars, and on mobile devices to answer questions, provide news and information, and stay connected to friends and family,” said Peter Hill, AWS director for productivity applications, in a prepared statement. “Alexa for Business extends the simplicity of voice control to the workplace, while adding powerful tools to help businesses deploy and manage devices, create skills, and deliver voice-first experiences in a scalable way.”

As an intelligent assistant at work, Alexa for Business makes starting a conference call as simple as asking Alexa to “start the meeting,” AWS added. Alexa for Business can help workers manage calendars, keep up with to-do lists, and make phone calls.

Customers can set up shared Alexa devices in common areas around the workplace—conference rooms, huddle rooms, lobbies, and communications centers—and manage these devices, enroll users, and assign skills from the AWS Management Console. With shared Alexa devices, users can start and end meetings in conference rooms by saying “Alexa, start/end the meeting.”

Alexa will automatically dial into the meeting using an Alexa device as a speakerphone or existing video conferencing equipment. Alexa for Business can also voice-enable conference room features, including the lights and video conferencing equipment. Individual users can also use Alexa for Business from their desks to automatically dial into conference calls, check their upcoming appointments, and schedule or cancel meetings. Alexa for Business works with Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Exchange, and Google G Suite.

Solution and software providers, including Salesforce, Concur, SuccessFactors, ServiceNow, Splunk, Acumatica, Tact, Polycom, Crestron, RingCentral, Teem, Twine, and Zoom, are integrating their business applications with Alexa for Business or developing skills that will allow users to accomplish all kinds of tasks with simple utterances like:

  • “Alexa, ask RingCentral to read me my voicemail”
  • “Alexa, ask Salesforce for the current status of my team’s big deals scheduled to close this quarter”
  • “Alexa, ask Concur when my flight leaves”
  • “Alexa, ask SuccessFactors to file paid time off for November 28 and 29, 2017”
  • “Alexa, ask Splunk how many Amazon EC2 instances are running in our South America region”
  • “Alexa, ask Cloudwatch to tell me about any alarms”

Customers in the U.S. can bring Alexa to their workplace starting today with the Alexa for Business Starter Kit. Each kit includes the following:

  • 3 Amazon Echo (2nd generation) devices for use in conference rooms
  • 2 Echo Dots (2nd generation) devices for controlling equipment in large conference rooms
  • 2 Echo Show devices, perfect for desktop use