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Jan 5, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Amazon launches Alexa for Business, an assistant with corporate travel “skills”

Amazon has just unveiled Alexa for Business, a voice-activated, artificial intelligence-powered workplace assistant with corporate travel capabilities.

Amazon launched Alexa for Business at the Amazon Web Services Reinvent conference, held in Las Vegas on 27 November-1 December. An artificial intelligence-powered workplace assistant, it takes the form of a voice-activated office guru powered by Amazon Echo, Business Travel News reports.

An intelligent assistant that is capable of learning

Alexa has mainly been designed for use in conference rooms. Amazon has worked with Polycom and other audiovisual providers to integrate voice-activated functions that enable employees to utter requests such as “start the meeting”. In response, Alexa calls the designated conference line and engages virtual meeting equipment. Amazon is also looking to fellow giants like Microsoft, Splunk and Salesforce to provide additional functionality – what Amazon calls Alexa’s “skills.” 

Employees have been invited to join the company’s user group, with each employee profile configured to enable access to certain skills. Alexa is equipped with Outlook calendar and other common enterprise technologies, though customers can also build unique skills into it in line with their needs.

Business travel capabilities

Figuring among Alexa’s core skills is business travel, courtesy of Concur, the brainchild of innovation incubator Concur Labs, who wrote on their blog that they have “built an Amazon Alexa skill using Concur APIs so you can ask Alexa about upcoming business trips, flights, hotel bookings, and transportation”.

In more specific terms, that means travellers can ask Alexa when they should leave the office to make a flight, what their flight number is, and directions to their hotel. To access the Concur information, users must say a specific trigger phrase (“Alexa, ask Concur …”) followed by the request. Alexa will then consult the traveller’s bookings in the Concur system and retrieve the information. Users can link their Concur accounts to Alexa, with Alexa thus recognising the user’s voice to retrieve their personalised travel information.

According to the Concur Labs blog post, the experiment with Alexa is but the company’s first venture into machine learning and AI: “There’s a broad spectrum of tools and capabilities to investigate, and this is only the beginning of what machine learning and early artificial intelligence may bring. We’re looking at what’s emerging, what’s relevant, and what’s possible as new technologies, like Alexa for Business, come to market.

 

 

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