Amazon is debuting a new feature that will allow businesses to use Alexa for booking conference rooms. The addition is part of the Alexa for Business platform, and works with linked calendars from either Google’s G Suite or Microsoft Exchange, as well as over an API, arriving soon.
The feature is part of Amazon’s broader plan to put Alexa to work outside the home. At last year’s AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon first launched its Alexa for Business platform to allow companies to build out their own skills and integrations for practical business use cases. Amazon also spoke of integrations that would allow Alexa to support productivity tools and enterprise services, including those from Microsoft, Concur, Splunk, and others.
Shortly after, early partner WeWork integrated Echo devices in some of its own meeting rooms to test out how the smart assistant could be useful for things like managing meeting room reservations, or shutting off or turning on lights.
Now, Amazon wants to make booking rooms themselves possible just by asking Alexa.
As the company explains, it’s common in workplaces for people to walk from room to room to grab a space for an ad-hoc meeting, or to find a space for a meeting that’s running over. But to reserve the room, they often have to pull out their laptop, run an application, do a search, and then look through the search results to find an available room. The Room Booking skill will allow them to ask Alexa for help instead.
The feature requires read/write permission to users’ calendar provider to enable, but can then be used to check the availability of the conference room you’re in, by asking “Alexa, is this room free?”
Users can then schedule the room on the fly by saying, “Alexa, book this room for half an hour,” or whatever time you choose.
Alexa will also be able to confirm if the room is booked, when asked “Alexa, who booked this room?”
Amazon is making this functionality available by way of a Room Booking API, too, which is soon arriving in beta. This will allow businesses to integrate the booking feature with their own in-house or third-party booking solutions. Some providers, including Joan and Robin are already building a skill to add voice support to their own offerings, Amazon noted.
The feature is now one of several on the Alexa for Business platform, specifically focused on better managing meetings with Alexa’s assistance. Another popular feature is using Alexa to control conference room equipment, so you can start meetings by saying “Alexa, join the meeting.”
A handful of large companies have since adopted Alexa in their own workplaces, following the launch of the Alexa For Business platform, including Condé Nast, Valence, Capital One, and Brooks Brothers. And the platform itself is one of many ways Amazon is contemplating as to how Alexa can be used outside the home. It has also launched Alexa for Hospitality and worked with colleges on putting Echo Dots in student dorms. It also last month introduced its first Alexa device for vehicles.