Amazon's Alexa for Business May Mean Change for FMs

  December 7, 2017

By Edward Sullivan

The announcement by Amazon that it is introducing a workplace version of Alexa, its voice-operated digital assistant, suggests a new phase in the development of the Building Internet of Things may be in the offing.

Alexa for business can be used at an employee’s desk to place calls or create a to-do list. But it can also be used in a conference room to start a meeting, dialing phone numbers and controlling AV equipment. And companies can create apps — which Amazon is calling “skills” — to enable Alexa to handle a variety of tasks around the office, Amazon says: “Using your custom Alexa skills, Alexa can provide directions, find an open meeting room, order new supplies, report building problems, or notify IT of an equipment issue. Alexa can also provide important information, like inventory levels, and help with on-the-job training.”

Alexa for business may raise security concerns for some businesses, notes an article in The Wall Street Journal. The question is whether corporations will be willing to load up their workplaces with Alexa microphones that connect to the cloud when someone says “Alexa.”

WeWork, a provider of shared workplaces and other services, says in a blog that it has been testing Alexa in its corporate headquarters. WeWork has developed “technology that responds to the needs of people using meeting rooms,” the blog says. A person in a meeting could ask Alexa to extend a meeting. Or to request WeWork to adjust the temperature or the lighting. WeWork see voice-enabled technologies as a step beyond touch screens as interfaces for getting things done.

The introduction of Alexa for business is part of a larger battle among tech giants over voice-enabled devices, says another report in The Wall Street Journal. Alphabet, Apple, and Microsoft all have virtual assistants. Will they jump into the workplace as well with products aimed specifically at business? Stay tuned.

This Quick Read was submitted by Edward Sullivan, editor of Building Operating Management magazine,


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