Mar
19
2018
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Apple, IBM add machine learning to partnership with Watson-Core ML coupling

Apple and IBM may seem like an odd couple, but the two companies have been working closely together for several years now. That has involved IBM sharing its enterprise expertise with Apple and Apple sharing its design sense with IBM. The companies have actually built hundreds of enterprise apps running on iOS devices. Today, they took that friendship a step further when they announced they were providing a way to combine IBM Watson machine learning with Apple Core ML to make the business apps running on Apple devices all the more intelligent.

The way it works is that a customer builds a machine learning model using Watson, taking advantage of data in an enterprise repository to train the model. For instance, a company may want to help field service techs point their iPhone camera at a machine and identify the make and model to order the correct parts. You could potentially train a model to recognize all the different machines using Watson’s image recognition capability.

The next step is to convert that model into Core ML and include it in your custom app. Apple introduced Core ML at the Worldwide Developers Conference last June as a way to make it easy for developers to move machine learning models from popular model building tools like TensorFlow, Caffe or IBM Watson to apps running on iOS devices.

After creating the model, you run it through the Core ML converter tools and insert it in your Apple app. The agreement with IBM makes it easier to do this using IBM Watson as the model building part of the equation. This allows the two partners to make the apps created under the partnership even smarter with machine learning.

“Apple developers need a way to quickly and easily build these apps and leverage the cloud where it’s delivered. [The partnership] lets developers take advantage of the Core ML integration,” Mahmoud Naghshineh, general manager for IBM Partnerships and Alliances explained.

To make it even easier, IBM also announced a cloud console to simplify the connection between the Watson model building process and inserting that model in the application running on the Apple device.

Over time, the app can share data back with Watson and improve the machine learning algorithm running on the edge device in a classic device-cloud partnership. “That’s the beauty of this combination. As you run the application, it’s real time and you don’t need to be connected to Watson, but as you classify different parts [on the device], that data gets collected and when you’re connected to Watson on a lower [bandwidth] interaction basis, you can feed it back to train your machine learning model and make it even better,” Naghshineh said.

The point of the partnership has always been to use data and analytics to build new business processes, by taking existing approaches and reengineering them for a touch screen.

“This adds a level of machine learning to that original goal moving it forward to take advantage of the latest tech. “We are taking this to the next level through machine learning. We are very much on that path and bringing improved accelerated capabilities and providing better insight to [give users] a much greater experience,” Naghshineh said.

Mar
12
2018
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Twilio launches Flex, a fully programmable contact center

 Earlier this year we reported that Twilio was going to launch a full contact center solution called Flex on March 12 — lo and behold, today is March 12 and Twilio today announced the launch of Flex at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando. Flex brings together virtually every part of the existing Twilio infrastructure and platform for developers that already power nearly 40… Read More

Mar
12
2018
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Twilio launches Flex, a fully programmable contact center

Earlier this year we reported that Twilio was going to launch a full contact center solution called Flex on March 12 — lo and behold, today is March 12 and Twilio today announced the launch of Flex at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando. Flex brings together virtually every part of the existing Twilio infrastructure and platform for developers that already power nearly 40 billion interactions a year and bundles it with a rather slick user interface for companies that want to set up an out-of-the-box contact center or update their existing deployments.

Twilio’s expertise has long been in providing backend communications services and its design expertise is mostly in building APIs, not user interfaces. With this move, though, the company is giving enterprises (and this product is meant for the kind of companies that have hundreds or thousands of people in a contact center) a full stack contact center with a full graphical user interface.

As the company’s head of its contact center business Al Cook told me, though, the main design philosophy behind Flex is to give users maximum flexibility. He argues that business today have to choose between going with products that they can’t customize themselves, so that they have to rely on expensive outside vendors that will do the customization for them (which also tends to take a lot of time), or a SaaS contact center that can be quickly deployed but is hard to scale and lacks customization options. “Think of Flex as an application platform,” Cook told me. It takes its cues from Twilio’s experience in working with developers and gives enterprises an easy API interface for customizing the service to their liking, but also provides all of the necessary tools out of the box.

“The reason why APIs were very transformative to the industry is because you are unconstrained in what you can do,” Cook explained. “Once you put a user interface on that, you constrain users.” So for Flex, the team had to ask itself some new questions. “How do you build user interfaces in a fundamentally different way that gives people the best features they want without constraining them?”

Out of the box, Flex supports all of the standard messaging channels that contact centers are now expected to support. These include Voice, video, text, picture messaging, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LINE and WeChat. The service also supports screen sharing and co-browsing. Twilio is also integrating its own intelligent TaskRouter service into Flex to automatically route questions to the right agent. A single Flex deployment can support up to 50,000 agents.

Cook argues that getting started with Flex is a one-click affair, though once it’s up and running, most users will surely need to customize the service a bit for their own needs and embed chat widgets and other functions on their websites and into their apps (think click-to-call, for example). Some of the more in-depth customization can be done in Twilio Studio, the company’s drag and drop application builder, too.

Most large enterprises already have contact centers, though, so it’s maybe no surprise that some of the thinking behind making Flex as… well… flexible as possible is about giving those users the ability to mix and match features from Flex with their existing tools to allow for a slow and steady migration.

As we reported last month, Flex will also integrate with all the standard CRM tools like Salesforce and Zendesk, as well as workforce management and optimization tools that are currently in use in most contact centers.

Before launching the product today, Twilio already worked with ING, Zillow, National Debt Relief and RealPage to test Flex. In addition, it lined up a number of tech and consulting partners to support new users.

Mar
12
2018
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Former Docker CEO Ben Golub joins Storj as Executive Chairman and interim CEO

Last May, Docker CEO Ben Golub stepped down after four years at the helm of the containerization pioneer. We didn’t hear all that much from him since, but today, the distributed object storage service Storj Labs announced that Golub will join its team as interim CEO and Executive Chairman.

There is obviously no dearth of object storage services, but Storj Labs is taking a somewhat different approach. The company has been around since 2014 and always emphasized security and decentralized storage as its main differentiators. In addition, though, Storj also made an early bet on blockchain technology and last year, Storj went all in on Ethereum with a $30 million ICO and migration to that projects technology.

The basic idea behind Storj is that anybody can make hard drive space available to Storj in return  for Storj’s tokens. Currently, the service boasts 70,000 customers who store their data across 150,000 nodes that are run by tens of thousands of what the company calls “farmers” (as opposed to “miners”). In total, these nodes now store over 60 petabytes of data. It’s also worth noting that a number of third-party services, including the popular FileZilla FTP client now support it and that Storj joined Microsoft Azure’s blockchain-as-a-service ecosystem in 2016 to help bring this technology to more enterprises.

“It’s clear to many that we are on the cusp of a major new shift in computing, driven by a fully decentralized internet and by new, decentralized models of trust and security, powered by blockchains and distributed ledgers,” Golub writes in a blog post today. “When I first talked with Storj, I was intrigued by the team, and by the fact that they had already built a robust platform and passionate community to provide the storage layer for this new, decentralized internet, as well as developers that wanted to use this new layer.”

Golub also likens the state of Storj to the early days of Docker. Wheras Docker talked about building an infrastucture layer for the internet, Storj wants to build a storage layer. That’s definitely an ambitious mission and it remains to be seen if this concept will take off. For now, though, Golub wants to focus on building a sustainable business for Storj.

Mar
06
2018
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Wethos looks to match freelancers with non-profits

 With the boom of tech startups and the digitization of incumbent industries, there is a talent shortage in Silicon Valley But no sector has felt that shortage more than the non-profit space. Wethos is looking to change that. The company was founded by Rachel Renock, Claire Humphreys and Kristen Ablamsky with the express intent to connect freelancers with non-profit organizations fighting… Read More

Mar
05
2018
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Virtru’s new API brings encryption tech built by ex-NSA engineer to third-party developers

 Virtru co-founder Will Ackerly developed the company’s underlying encryption technology while he was working as an engineer at the NSA, so it’s fair to say he knows a thing or two about the subject. The company has been delivering encryption products for email and files in transit for several years now, mainly through a partnership with Google GMail and Microsoft Office… Read More

Mar
01
2018
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Microsoft advances several of its hosted artificial intelligence algorithms

 Microsoft Cognitive Services is home to the company’s hosted artificial intelligence algorithms. Today, the company announced advances to several Cognitive Services tools including Microsoft Custom Vision Service, the Face API and Bing Entity Search . Joseph Sirosh, who leads the Microsoft’s cloud AI efforts, defined Microsoft Cognitive Services in a company blog post announcing… Read More

Feb
28
2018
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OpenStack gets support for virtual GPUs and new container features

 OpenStack, the open-source infrastructure project that aims to give enterprises the equivalent of AWS for the private clouds, today announced the launch of its 17th release, dubbed “Queens.” After all of those releases, you’d think that there isn’t all that much new that the OpenStack community could add to the project, but just as the large public clouds keep adding… Read More

Feb
21
2018
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Google’s Cloud IoT Core is now generally available

 Cloud IoT Core, Google’s fully managed service for connecting, managing and ingesting data from IoT devices, is now out of beta and generally available. Google envisions the service, which launched in public beta last September, as the first entry point for IoT data into its cloud. Once the data has been ingested, users can use Cloud IoT Core to push data to Google’s cloud… Read More

Feb
20
2018
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Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, opens its API to all developers

 The arrival of Stride, Atlassian’s Slack competitor, was probably the company’s biggest launch of 2017. While the company generally allows developers to easily integrate with its products, Stride’s API remained in closed beta for significantly longer than the product itself, which exited beta last September. Today, however, Atlassian is opening the Stride API to all developers. Read More

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