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University-customized Alexa devices will answer scholars’ questions

Saint Louis University (SLU) has rolled out 2,300 Alexa-powered Echo Dot digital assistants to all of its scholar residing areas to offer solutions to university-related queries about occasions, audio system on campus and extra. The college additionally plans to increase use of the unreal intelligence assistant into school rooms and assembly rooms in long term and goals to make use of the generation to enhance office productiveness for its school personnel, in keeping with CIO, David Hakanson.

Students arriving at SLU this month can get entry to a customized talent that solutions questions when it comes to college products and services, equivalent to “When does the library open?” or “Where is the registrar’s office?” Already, 130 university-related queries may also be spoke back the use of the Alexa, and the college is operating on extra. The thought is that Alexa can scale back the time it takes for college kids to get entry to data on-line from seconds to mins. “The value proposition for us was around productivity, stated Hakanson.

While it isn’t by myself in offering Echo devices to scholars Arizona State University and Northeastern University are amongst the ones with an identical projects, albeit on a smaller scale — SLU’s use of Alexa-powered devices generally is a differentiator in serving to draw in extra scholars, stated Rob Arnold, business essential for attached paintings at Frost & Sullivan.“It is an interesting deployment,” he stated. “There is a lot of competition among higher-education institutions to attract students, and this appears to be a fine point of differentiation for SLU.

Hakanson stated that the rollout of Echo Dot devices to scholars is “just day one” in SLU’s plans for voice interfaces throughout the college. We are investing in this because we see voice technology as being a major component of improving productivity, he stated. We see a time in the next few years where people are spending less time searching for information through websites, or searching for reports, and instead using a virtual assistant to get immediate access to data.

Deployment and control

SLU started investigating using the generation previous this yr, and the rollout took 3 months from conception to crowning glory, with the real deployment of devices requiring simply 3 days. A pilot challenge this spring noticed 20 Echo devices and 20 devices from an unnamed rival supplier given to scholars as an ordeal of the generation. “We surveyed them multiple times throughout that pilot, and the preference was the Amazon platform,” stated Hakanson.

Amazon’s gear stood out for 2 causes. For scholars, Alexa was once the perfect digital assistant to have interaction with. But similarly vital was once the facility to control devices the use of Alexa for Business, Hakanson stated. The Alexa for Business platform, introduced by way of Amazon in November 2017, supplies a control console to assist directors deploy huge numbers of Echo devices in company settings.

The ability to centrally manage devices through one system and the flexibility that comes from Alexa for Business was a significant differentiator,” stated Hakanson. If we had 10 to 20 devices, then in my view managing the ones [would be difficult], however at 2,300, there was once no approach we had been going to successfully organize them with no need some tough centralized control gadget. The Alexa for Business platform is what truly allowed us to do that at any stage of scale.

Security

The use of digital assistants raises privateness issues within the office, stated Arnold, and this may be true within the college surroundings. “Admins and customers want to be sensible and acutely aware of data they percentage within the presence of voice assistants in any surroundings,” stated Arnold. It is an element that SLU took into consideration as a part of the deployment challenge. “We were very cautious, and so we have the devices on a dedicated, secured network that is specific to this purpose,” stated Hakanson.

Students are informed they are able to merely press the mute button of the Echo Dot devices or stow them away till they depart the distance the place the instrument is positioned. The privateness tips introduced by way of Amazon Web Services also are supplied for college kids to view. Furthermore, the devices aren’t these days related to someone accounts, which means that scholars’ private data isn’t accessed by way of the Echo devices. The problem to present safety and privateness measures is that sure Alexa abilities for example fashionable music-streaming products and services equivalent to Spotify are unavailable to scholars.

Over time, there will most probably be extra personalization of devices, alternatively, permitting get entry to to private route data, grades, timetables and so on. “We are not at that point yet, and we feel that there is some more due diligence needed to make sure that the appropriate level of security and privacy is in place before we offer those features,” Hakanson stated. Security was once no longer the one problem for IT, Hakanson identified. “Getting these devices on an enterprise corporate network is not always trivial, so you definitely have to look a the architecture of your network and make sure you are designing it in a way that these device can connect easily.”

Future plans

SLU plans to deploy Alexa and Echo devices extra broadly in long term too. The generation might be utilized in numerous tactics to enhance school personnel. An explanation of thought has been arrange to make use of the Alexa voice interface to start out lecture room or meeting-room programs. This approach connecting Alexa for Business with SLU’s Crestron keep an eye on and automaton gear to modify on projectors, TVs or conferencing programs.

So you can go into the room and say, ‘Alexa start my class,’ or, ‘Alexa start my meeting, and then various technologies will come to life and have everything ready for you, stated Hakanson. The digital assistants is also customized for school personnel for administrative center productiveness functions, permitting personnel to invite questions that would possibly differently require reviews to be created.

We see a lot of potential from a broader productivity standpoint in the workplace through this type of technology, and so we are pursuing that,” he stated, with the caveat that extra paintings must be carried out on safety sooner than shifting forward. Frost & Sullivan’s Arnold stated that Alexa and different voice-activated assistants will turn into extra common in trade environments. “In general, we do expect to see voice-driven AI become more prevalent in business environments, particularly for use cases such as virtual receptionists, concierge and orchestrating technology in meeting rooms.

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