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Why Amazon’s Alexa Could Be the Death of Meetings

June 11, 2017, 4:00 PM UTC

Alexa, the voice assistant for the Amazon Echo device, has “Skills” that allow you to order pizza via voice command or close your garage from anywhere in the world. What if you could hack Alexa to do something even more impressive: create a world without work meetings?

Right now, in the shadows of enterprise businesses, there are people hacking away at speech technology products like Alexa to improve daily business life—from scheduling appointments to hailing ride-sharing vehicles. Meanwhile, businesses and entrepreneurs have started asking Alexa to provide updates on status reports, share key metrics with coworkers in other locations, set reminders for daily to-dos, and flag high-priority information.

At this rate of development, products like Alexa will soon be programmed to allow executives to get boardroom-like updates from a device on their desk—the way Captain Kirk from Star Trek once did. They’ll be able to compile, synthesize, and share information in a matter of minutes, eliminating the need for the meetings where these tasks typically take place. With Internet-connected devices—often referred to as being part of the Internet of Things—pulling data from every direction, rerouting delivery trucks based on a newly reported traffic accident will be as easy as telling Alexa to play an Ed Sheeran song.

Organizations may even begin equipping employees with connected badges or “digital twins” similar to key fobs that unlock doors, but connected to an individual’s smartphone. By assigning these badges to employees, companies will be able to easily compile information about which buildings an employee visits, how frequently a team delivers inventory to a specific retail store, or which contractors are currently on site. In the near future, you’ll be able to ask Alexa “What projects are falling behind today?” And she’ll be able to offer the employee-verified data needed to get things back on track.

These are just a few areas where voice assistants powered by the enterprise Internet of Things will help companies drive informed decisions, and soon replace meetings, emails, and status calls that are currently the norm.

The resulting increase in productivity and decrease in delays will lead to happier customers and more revenue. And the implications of workstream-integrated, voice-controlled operations will benefit entire organizations—from the front desk manager in Chicago to the field engineer in Bozeman, Mont.

Indeed, the potential for Alexa to streamline and transform business decisions is the next frontier in the Internet of Things. A report from McKinsey anticipated that 70% of the value created by Internet-connected devices over the next decade will flow from business-to-business applications. Bringing Internet of Things-linked artificial intelligence to the fingertips of partners and employees will breathe new life into the corporate world. And once those connections are made, the inevitable Alexa for business will streamline operations, deliver data efficiently, and eliminate the need for extra face time with colleagues and clients.

Today, Alexa and her speaker-on-the-table counterparts can tell you the weather and remind you about your 4:00 p.m. call. But one day, she will take meetings off your calendar rather than put them on and answer mission-critical questions with responses informed by real-time data from the field. That’s when you’ll realize that meetings can be a thing of the past, and Alexa is so much more than a Hawaiian pizza-ordering robot.

Tim Lang is senior executive vice president and chief technology officer at MicroStrategy. Lang has no direct association with Amazon. MicroStrategy partners with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer the MicroStrategy enterprise analytics platform on the AWS marketplace.