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When will Amazon Alexa’s voice be heard in your office?

By Marcus Lambert

You may have noticed an increasing number of people in your office talking about how they have embraced home automation over the last few months. Their stories will usually begin with tales of creating a "return" radius that triggers their home thermostat to ensure their living space is at optimal temperature before they put their key in the door.

Walking into the kitchen with their hands full of grocery shopping, they can also ask Amazon Alexa to turn on the lights, boil a kettle, switch on the TV and even turn on their oven. All this technology is in its early stages; it’s clearly setting much higher expectation levels from the technology that dominates our world.

We are already starting to lead two very different lives when at home and in the office. Our home is filled with technology and automation while the workplace is often seen as having one foot placed firmly in the past. But could this be about to change?

Oblong industries are already leading the way with their display technology that aims to transform collaboration in the workplace. However, it can only be a matter of time until the soothing and reliable voice of Amazon’s Alexa breaks out of our households and into the corporate world.

The ability to check our bank details is in place, and car manufacturers are beginning to implement it too. Meanwhile, Starbucks recently announced that they were partnering with Amazon’s voice platform to offer “on command” ordering. The only remaining question is how we can introduce Amazon’s Alexa to the enterprise?

It’s easy to see how the Amazon Echo device could bring the corporate office into the 21st-century. Whether it be booking meetings, setting timers, transcribing, or providing easy access to calendar updates, there are more than a few quick wins that should be easy to implement. But, maybe it’s time to allow Alexa’s voice to break free the Echo device and onto our smartphones to unleash more exciting possibilities.

I envision future meetings to include a shared conversation with attendees in multiple locations who can ask Alexa to look up essential information or documents to provide insight and value to the proceedings. Outside of the meeting room, leaders are already questioning why we don’t we have an Alexa to manage workforces.

The AWS re:Invent cloud computing event in Vegas last year revealed how collaboration and productivity were about to receive a helping hand by the tech behemoth. While Amazon Lex will allow businesses to build speech recognition into their own software, Amazon Polly will cover text-to-speech recognition.

A combination of advances in technology and the imagination of developers could soon transform your typical day in the office. Walking into the office and asking Alexa to print your meeting agenda and switching on the projector as you request a cup of coffee from the machine via spoken or typed commands is not as far away as you might think.

Make no mistake that Amazon has designs that go far beyond the home. The rise of conversational interfaces has created an extensive list of smart virtual personal assistants that answer to names such as Alexa, Cortana, and Siri in this digital age. If technology already exists in our homes to enable us to access information and complete tasks quickly to make us more efficient, why is not available in our workplace?

IT departments will be cautiously preparing for the incoming speech computing revolution with the inevitable warnings around privacy, security and access control. However, the impending fate will be sealed upon adoption by the enterprise as B2B companies welcome voice-driven applications.

The pace of technological change is continuing to advance at unprecedented levels. Only a few years ago, speech recognition was widely treated as just another useless gimmick that people felt awkward using. In a dramatic turnaround, the concept is back with a vengeance to become a must-have for users that is genuinely useful.

When thinking about disruptive technologies, most people underestimate the humble Amazon Echo device. Jeff Bezos has essentially caught the likes of Apple and Google napping and gained an early advantage in the home automation market. But this is only the beginning.

The enterprise IoT solutions space is also up for grabs. As users, we expect a seamless experience as we drift from device to device in both business and pleasure. For these reasons alone, it would be hard to bet against Amazon transforming your office too.

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