Announcing Alexa Knowledge Skills (Preview): Query Your Organization's Data Without Writing Code or Invoking a Skill Name
Ben Grossman Dec 16, 2019
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Alexa developers can now sign up to preview Alexa Knowledge Skills, a new skill type that enables users, such as employees and customers, to ask questions about an organization’s spreadsheet data without invoking a skill name. Users can ask Alexa about different types of data - org charts, building information, events, FAQs, glossaries, product catalogs, and more - in a Knowledge skill by simply saying “Alexa” and asking their question. Building Knowledge skills requires no coding and no AWS infrastructure, only a spreadsheet of data and the Alexa for Business or Alexa for Hospitality service. Like all private Alexa skills, Knowledge skills remain accessible only on devices within an organization.

Knowledge skills offer four key benefits:

  1. Spreadsheet data input: upload and refresh your tabular data in bulk via spreadsheet files. This makes it easy to have your skill answer questions about large amounts of data quickly.
  2. Flexible understanding: Knowledge skills use Alexa’s intelligence to support flexible questions out of the box. For example, the Events template enables users to ask questions about “next” and “last” events, as well as events happening “last week”, “next month”, or “this year” without any work from developers.
  3. No code or infrastructure: building a Knowledge skill requires no coding or AWS infrastructure. Anyone who is familiar with spreadsheets can build one, enabling most people in your office to unlock Q&A on your organization’s data through Alexa.
  4. No skill invocation: you do not need to remember and state your Knowledge skill’s name before interacting with it. Simply say, “Alexa” and then ask your question.

How Knowledge Skills Work

Knowledge skills enable Q&A on spreadsheet data that you upload and map to templates. These templates correspond to different use-cases, like How To (“Alexa, how do I log on to the Wi-Fi?”), Events (“Alexa, when is the next keynote?“), In-Store Assistant (“Alexa, where can I find the pasta?“), and others. For example, you can add org-chart data to the People Directory template:

Knowledge Skills Example Data

Once done, your Knowledge skill can answer a variety of questions about the people in your data set, such as:

  • Single Fact: Alexa, when did Mary Major start?
  • Multiple Facts: Alexa, what’s John Public’s start date and phone number?
  • Counts: Alexa, how many software developers are in New York?
  • Lists: Alexa, what employees are located in New York?
  • Statistics: Alexa, what’s the average tenure for Software Developers?
  • Superlatives: Alexa, who are the newest employees in New York?
  • Reasoning: Alexa, is Jane Doe a Software Developer?

How to Build Knowledge Skills

Building a Knowledge skill takes just a few minutes and requires no coding. To start, go to the Alexa developer portal and log in with your Alexa developer account. Then, choose the "Knowledge" skill type.

How to Build Knowledge Skills

Within the Knowledge skill interface, add templates to your skill. Then, download a pre-formatted spreadsheet for each template to see sample values and data requirements. Add your data to that spreadsheet and upload it to your skill. Then, review and test the example queries Alexa automatically generates based on your data. Finally, distribute the skill to your Alexa for Business or Alexa for Hospitality organization and enable it on devices.

Customer Stories

BayCare Health System is deploying a Knowledge skill to help hospital visitors answer questions in common areas, such as, “Alexa, what are the hours of the coffee shop?”. Craig Anderson, Director of Innovation, BayCare Health System, explains: “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. 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.”

Saint Louis University is deploying Knowledge skills to help students find people, places, and resources around campus and within buildings, such as asking, “Alexa, where is the Psychology section?” in libraries. David Hakanson, Saint Louis University’s Vice President, CIO and Chief Innovation Officer, explains: “By implementing Alexa knowledge skills, Saint Louis University will provide immediate access to a broad range of data as part of our Alexa@SLU program. Through the easy-to-use interface, we are quickly building and deploying Knowledge skills to the 2,500+ devices across campus that had over 150,000 Alexa interactions during the past year. Knowledge skills will provide even more features and efficiency to our students, and aligns with our commitment to harness the power of technology and innovation to help our students be successful, in and out of the classroom.”

 

Get Started

To get started, sign-up for the Knowledge skills Preview here. To learn more, visit the developer documentation here.

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