Having a virtual assistant like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Home, and Amazon’s Alexa is a true blessing. It only takes a few words to be clearly uttered and the assistant will schedule a meeting, create reminders, add items to the shopping list or tell you about the current weather. It seems like digital assistants can indeed do everything, right?
Actually, there was one thing what has been missing from the features list of digital assistants: the ability to place and receive calls through the internet. However, since 2017 Amazon Alexa allows users to make calls and send voice messages hands free, while Alexa for Business is now able to integrate with the best VoIP providers on the market.
Video Introduction to Alexa's Call Feature
VoIP Experience With Alexa
Initially Alexa users were allowed to call only those who had also downloaded Amazon’s assistant to their phones but now, thanks to the October 2017 update for the app, any Echo or Echo Dot owner can simply place a call to any mobile contact or most mobile and landline numbers in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico without ever touching the smartphone.
What’s more important, however, is that all calls handled by Alexa are like true VoIP calls – meaning they are handled through the internet – so that callers don’t have to use their cellular plan. Simply put, all calls with Alexa are free of charge, not to mention that enabling this feature only requires the latest version of the Alexa app and, of course, the necessary devices.
However, there are a few limitations. The first one a smaller nuisance: although Alexa integrates with the smartphone’s contact list, if the person to be called also has an Alexa device then the app will make an Alexa-to-Alexa call instead of connecting to the receiver’s phone number. This can be easily circumvented by giving a more specific voice command – such as ‘Alexa, call Mom’s mobile’ – or by simply saying the phone number in full.
The second but far more important limitation is that inbound calls from landlines and mobile numbers are not yet supported. However, considering that it took only a few months for Amazon to activate this feature to allow unlimited outbound calls, it’s likely only a matter of time before inbound landline and mobile calls can be handled by Alexa as well.
Integrating Alexa With VoIP Service Providers
Not only does Amazon’s Alexa provide a hands-free VoIP experience, but it’s also capable of being integrated into true cloud phone services as well.
For instance, Ooma’s residential users can place calls to Ooma contacts and listen to their voicemail messages using simple voice commands. Although initiating a call with voice command is not as effective as it is with Amazon’s own solution – since the phone needs to be picked up to connect the call to the receiver – it does still make Ooma’s already exceptional service even better. Additionally, non-Ooma users can also enjoy this feature by adding the Ooma Skill to Alexa, but they can’t place international calls, listen to voicemail messages and talk for more than 1,500 minutes in total.
For business users there are solutions provided by Vonage and RingCentral. Vonage has Amazon Chime, a feature that not only fully integrates with Amazon for Business, but also comes free with each Vonage business subscription.
RingCentral, on the other hand, allows the integration of Alexa for Business with its own online conferencing solution, RingCentral Meetings. With Alexa on board and RingCentral Meetings synchronizing the data, users can give out various voice commands for joining pre-scheduled meetings, even to those hosted by other conferencing applications that support Alexa. Customers can also start ad-hoc conferences and end conversations by simply telling Alexa to do so, making it a very handy tool to have for a wide number of purposes.
RingCentral Meetings and Alexa for Business Promo Video
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