Amazon intros Knowledge Skills for Alexa developers

The new skill type lets users ask questions about spreadsheet data without calling up a specific skill by name.

In yet another push to bring Alexa into the workplace, Amazon is rolling out a new skill type for Alexa developers that lets users ask questions about spreadsheet data without calling up a specific skill by name. 

Now available in preview, Knowledge Skills let an organization input spreadsheets of data on a range of business details -- such as building and employee information, events, org charts, glossaries, and product catalogs -- and then have that data accessible to employees on Alexa-enabled devices within an organization. 

The big pitch is that users can ask questions by just saying, "Alexa," and then asking the question.

To build Knowledge skills, spreadsheet data is uploaded and mapped to templates that correspond to different use-cases, like how-to, events and in-store assistant. The skills do not require any coding or AWS infrastructure and are available to companies with either the Alexa for Business or Alexa for Hospitality services.

Amazon said that organizations including BayCare Health System and Saint Louis University are already deploying Knowledge skills to help answer common questions from students and hospital visitors.

"Alexa Knowledge skills bring BayCare the opportunity to customize the Alexa experience across the health system without the need for complex coding and lengthy development processes," said BayCare Health System director of innovation Craig Anderson. "We see massive potential at our 15 hospitals, BayCare's many outpatient centers, and our HealthHubs to deliver answers in real time directly to our customers and Team Members via Alexa."

The new Knowledge skills line up with Amazon's range of services tailored to businesses. For instance, the company rolled out Alexa for Business more than a year ago and has steadily added features via AWS

In February, Amazon opened the Alexa Skills program up to businesses, publishers and brands, and in March introduced a dedicated business category on the Blueprints website. Skill Blueprints were launched in April 2018 as a way to allow anyone to create skills and publish them to the Alexa Skills Store. Similarly, with the Alexa for Business Blueprints, businesses can create voice-activated productivity services specific, and exclusive, to their company.  

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