Why the Amazon Echo Means Business

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2016-01-19 Print this article Print
Amazon Echo virtual assistant

I could also see Amazon enabling powerful integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), giving you deep insight into your data or Website that's extremely secure.

And imagine Echo in the conference room. Looking up data with a laptop requires a mental shift, essentially psychological exit from the meeting and an entry into laptop land.

An Alexa interface means you're still in the meeting—Alexa is just another meeting participant, albeit one with all the answers. Instead of one person mentally vanishing from the meeting, then returning with the data, everyone can hear both questions and answers. It's just better. The same goes for everything from board meetings to informal one-on-one meetings in the office.

The Fox is a 2.0 product and appears to be targeted for use in any location that's close-up. In the future, I expect Amazon or some third-party company to create conference room-specific versions of the Echo—preferably built into conference call and video conference systems, smart white boards and other business communication paraphernalia.

We're already getting location-specific Echos.

At CES earlier this month, Ford introduced Alexa integration with its SYNC Connect dashboard system. That means your car can function as an Amazon Echo. Here's what that looks like. The interaction goes both ways—you can control the car from your home Echo, and control the home appliances and devices connected to Alexa from your car. For example, you can start your car from the kitchen with a voice command, and then open the garage door from your car with another voice command. You'll also be able to get the status of things, as in: "Alexa: How far can I drive with the electrical charge and gas in my car?" And: "Alexa: Is anyone home?"

Amazon is also reportedly working on a kitchen-specific version of the Amazon Echo, code-named Kabinet. Right now, an app by Campbell Soup Company called Campbell's Kitchen, lets you learn about and select recipes. Once you've picked a recipe you'd like to make, it emails the recipe to you. Which is worthless. I expect the Kabinet product to be able to walk you through recipes step-by-step with pictures and more. Clearly, the Kabinet version is designed to encourage the ordering of ingredients through Amazon.

We can also imagine other location-specific hardware implementations, such as a car version for people who don't drive Fords, a bedroom-specific one integrated into an alarm clock and phone dock, a version for kids, a version for outdoors and others.

A bathroom version of the Echo should be more like the current version—large, loud and hands-free. It could also be waterproof and come with a karaoke app for singing in the shower.

However, the most powerful implementations will be for work, not home. After all, secretaries and personal assistants have always been associated with workplaces. Now, however, everyone can have them, from executives to truck drivers to factory workers.

One of the biggest motivations for Amazon to embrace enterprises is that, so far, Amazon is failing with its Amazon Business offering—an Amazon store for professionals. Echo for Business could do for Amazon Business what the original Echo was intended to do for consumers—redirect  purchases to Amazon, instead of the company's competitors.


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