Alexa for Business?


No one can refute the impact that Amazon’s Echo device has had in the home—if I had a nickel for every time someone yelled out the name Alexa in the home, I would be on a warm beach somewhere instead of trying to keep the cold drafts at bay in my office here is chilly Maine. But I digress.

With the success that Amazon has had with Alexa in the home, it is not surprising to see the company try to move into the office with the introduction of Alexa for Business, which was announced earlier this month at the AWS Re:Invent event.

As much as this raises interesting questions about possible uses within the office—in addition to the way these devices interact with other IoT devices in the office—it also raises many questions in regard to the place for voice assistants and voice assistant devices outside of the home.

In the home, Parks Associates estimates that nearly 50 percent of U.S. broadband households use a personal assistant through an application or dedicated device. And currently 10 percent of U.S. broadband households own a smart speaker with a personal assistant, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Parks Associates recently released a new whitepaper, Enabling Voice in the Smart Home, with research showing 49 percent of U.S. broadband households use a personal assistant through an app or dedicated device, which is a key use case for a voice-based user experience. The whitepaper, sponsored by the ULE Alliance, examines the influence of the voice-first interface on the adoption of connected products and presents market strategies for long-term success in the voice technology market.

“Collectively, companies are competing to stay in the race for dominance in the voice-first market,” Dina Abdelrazik, research analyst, Parks Associates, said in a prepared statement. “Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung continue to announce new product enhancements in order to stay ahead of the demand for voice technologies. As the voice-first landscape expands, we will see voice capabilities embedded into a variety of devices, from appliances to thermostats to lighting. Voice alleviates complexity in the user experience for these products, and as a result, voice will serve as a prime differentiator in the user experience for the smart home.”

But will this same battle for the smart home play out in the business world as well? That is a question that only time will answer, but Amazon is hoping that the demand at home will influence and drive the demand outside the home, as consumers come to expect the same kind of convenience and seamless experience in the office.

Amazon offered up some interesting use cases at the launch of Alexa for Business, such as having Alexa make calls, send messages, record important meetings and control thermostats, lighting, and other IoT-enabled devices around the office, for example, but what role will voice play in the overall smart building ecosystem that we are moving toward as an industry right now? This is a question that is loaded with other concerns, such as privacy and cybersecurity, to name just a few.

What do you think the role of the voice in the office will be and how far are we from hearing Alexa called out incessantly in the office as well?