Alexa is already one of the smart-home devices you're most likely to see people using today, and Amazon is now reportedly planning to push its voice-activated intelligent digital assistant into the business realm as well.
Amazon Web Services is expected to unveil its plans for an Alexa for Business platform today at its re:Invent global customer and partner conference taking place in Las Vegas, according to reports by both CNBC and The Wall Street Journal. Citing four unnamed sources, CNBC said the company is "preparing to talk about new tools that will make it easier for people to use Amazon's Alexa voice-activated virtual assistant in the workplace."
Today's re:Invent agenda includes a day-long program called "Hack Your Office," which offers $5,000 in prizes to developers who come up with new ideas for using artificial intelligence-enabled voice control in an office setting. According to CNBC, breakout sessions at the conference today include, "Bring your Alexa to work. Voice enable your company," "Building smart conference rooms with Alexa," "New skills for Alexa for Business," and "Hack your office: Building the skills that help you at work."
Amazon Echo Dominates Home Use in U.S.
Introduced in late 2014, Alexa currently provides voice-enabled services to consumers through Amazon products such as the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus. Amazon is also expanding Alexa's capabilities into BMW and Mini vehicles starting in mid-2018, and added the assistant to its Amazon Music app in September.
An estimated 10.7 million people in the U.S. now own an Amazon Echo, according to a May analysis by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. A separate report by eMarketer this year said the Amazon Echo holds 70.6 percent of the U.S. voice-enabled speaker market, compared to 23.8 percent for Google Home. Overall, the market for home-based voice-controlled assistant devices in the U.S. has grown by 128.9 percent since last year, according to the report.
With its dominance of the home consumer market, Amazon now appears ready to start moving Alexa's capabilities into the enterprise market.
"The new technology could well come in handy for connecting into teleconferences or adding data to enterprise-focused sales programs," CNBC reported, citing its unnamed sources. "It would also add more personalized features, like an enterprise security layer that identifies and authenticates different people using the app at work."
Enterprise Market Getting More Attention
Amazon's workplace ambitions for Alexa come on top of similar efforts by competing technology providers such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple. Google, for example, announced early this year that more than 3 million businesses are now paying for its cloud-based G Suite productivity tools, and Facebook last year rolled out a new paid Workplace platform for corporate collaboration. Apple, meanwhile, has been working with IBM since 2014 to develop and provide iOS-based mobile apps for specific industries.
"Like Amazon, both Google and Microsoft have been courting enterprises with their cloud infrastructure portfolios," CNBC reported. "But the assistants have largely targeted consumers outside their work lives. Google and Microsoft have yet to reveal major pushes of the Google Assistant and Cortana, respectively, into the enterprise."
In some cases, the tech giants are even working together to bring new services to their customers. In August, for instance, Amazon and Microsoft announced that Alexa and Cortana, Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant, can now "talk" to each other, enabling Alexa users to access Cortana to read work emails, book meetings, and handle other business-related tasks.