You are probably thinking, how could we possibly tie Adobe Experience Manager and Amazon Alexa together? AEM is obviously great at managing a website and delivering content to several channels, including mobile and kiosk. Amazon Echo is a voice-activated device where we can talk to Alexa and she answers back by playing music and buying doll houses. There is no voice interface for content, or is there?
Any content manager’s goal is to reach more people and have bigger audiences, right? One big benefit of using AEM is we can reach more people through a multi-channel approach of publishing content to websites, mobile apps, and so on. Still, websites, mobile apps and kiosks all require us to touch something in order to interact with our content.
Amazon Alexa is turning out to be one of the newest and hottest channels right now. According to Forbes, Echo and Echo Dot were the best selling products across Amazon last year. Sales were nine times the previous year’s sales and reached over 5 million devices in 2016. That’s a lot of potential new reach.
In our bold new world of APIs and Artificial Intelligence, it is now possible to tie these two systems together: AEM meet Alexa. Here are some brief examples from various industries where Alexa could interact with your AEM managed content. The following are all voice interactions your customers, employees and partners can have with Alexa (if you build the right skill), but more on that later.
- Alexa, ask the Clinic which doctors specialize in cataracts?
- Alexa, ask the Clinic what pregnancy classes are scheduled for this week?
- Employee intranet:
- Alexa, ask the Hub what’s on special today in the café?
- Alexa, ask the Hub for the flash briefing?
- Retail store:
- Alexa, ask bookstore for the store hours?
- Alexa, ask bookstore for the top 5 history books?
- Alexa, ask Our Place for today’s special?
The answers to all these requests to Alexa are content that you probably already manage in AEM. You just have to tell Alexa how to get to your content through voice instead of by clicking a mouse button. This is were Alexa Skills come into play.
An Alexa Skill is something you develop to instruct Alexa on what phrases or utterances to listen for and then what feeds of content Alexa should say back. AEM provides a great way to supply dynamic content feeds to Alexa. Alexa uses two forms of content feeds for several of their services – RSS and JSON feeds. AEM can easily publish content in RSS and JSON formats. This sounds like a good marriage.
Alexa has many different kinds of skills templates available with which to get started.
One example is the Flash Briefing skill. The Flash Briefing skill provides a quick overview of news and other content. This skill could be the basis for a news briefing on your employee intranet or your public website. (Note, Alexa cannot access content behind a login, so this has to be publicly available news.) Other skills templates include reading a calendar, asking fact of the day, and even how-to directions. But you don’t have to rely on a template; you can build your own types of skills too.
How do you go about building an Alexa Skill to connect to your AEM content? We can’t get into the details in this blog, but the basic steps are:
- Register at Amazon.com and create the skill. See https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit/docs/steps-to-create-a-flash-briefing-skill for details about creating the skill.
- Add a feed to your site that will supply content. See https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit/docs/flash-briefing-skill-api-feed-reference for details. Your feed cannot be behind a log on, so it has to be public. In AEM you can create a component that produces the right feed for your skill, place the component on a page and publish the page. You use the URL of your page to provide the data feed to Alexa.
- Test and publish your skill.
- Get your skill certified by Amazon. Amazon has some strict rules about what a skill can and cannot do, so make sure you comply with them. https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions/alexa/alexa-skills-kit/docs/flash-briefing-skill-certification-checklist
- Tell your audiences about the new skill and watch the traffic come in!
Of course, there are lots of details that Amazon Alexa development covers, including the voice interface. But from an Adobe AEM perspective, you can easily create RSS or JSON feeds of dynamic content that your customers can “ask” for using one of these voice-activated assistants.
I think the integration of Alexa with a content system can open up a whole new set of capabilities that we can’t even imagine right now. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to “hear” them in the comments when I develop the Alexa skill that connects to our Perficient blog.