Jul
22
2020
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huddl.ai wants to bring more intelligence to online meetings

As the pandemic has shut down in-person meetings, and pushed us online, products like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams have become part of our daily lives. Into the fray jumps huddl.ai, a 3.5-year-old startup from a serial entrepreneur who wants to bring a dose of artificial intelligence to meeting technology.

Company co-founder and CEO Krishna Yarlagadda says while these companies have introduced the video meeting concept, his startup has a vision of taking it further. “As we move forward. I think the next [era] is going to be about intelligence,” Yarlagadda told TechCrunch.

That involves using AI tools to transcribe the meeting, pull out the salient points and help users understand what happened without poring over notes to find the key information in a long session. “Primarily there’s a purpose for every meeting, or essentially we’re meeting for outcomes, and that’s where Huddl comes in,” he said.

Yarlagadda said that current solutions simply give you a link to a cloud room and everyone involved clicks and enters. Huddl wants to bring some more structure to that whole process. “We’ve developed a very user-centric architecture and also added a layer called meeting memory, which essentially captures the core aspects of the meeting — the agenda, action items and moments and then added search,” he explained.

They call these meeting elements moments, and they involve capturing three key aspects of the meeting: the agenda and collaborative notes participants take during the meeting, screen captures the user takes using a built-in tool and, finally, audio, which captures a recording of the meeting. Users can search across these elements to find the parts of the meeting that are most relevant to them.

Image Credits: huddl.ai

Further, it integrates with other enterprise applications like Slack or Salesforce to move to applicable tools items discussed during these meetings when it makes sense. “Essentially what we’re trying to do is create a five-minute version of your 60-minute meeting that is stored in your memory and that becomes part of your search. Post-meeting this content has a life, and through APIs and integrations, we can [share it with the right programs],” he said.

For instance, if it’s an action item in a sales meeting, it would go to Salesforce, and if it is a software bug in an engineering meeting, it could be shared with Jira.

The company was started in 2017, and has raised $8.7 million in seed money to date. It has 50 employees, with 10 in the U.S. and the others in India, and has plans to hire 15-20 additional people this year between the U.S. and India offices.

Jul
15
2020
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Zoom introduces all-in-one home communications appliance for $599

Zoom has become the de facto standard for online communications during the pandemic, but the company has found that it’s still a struggle for many employees to set up the equipment and the software to run a meeting effectively. The company’s answer is an all-in-one communications appliance with Zoom software ready to roll in a simple touch interface.

The device, dubbed the Zoom for Home – DTEN ME, is being produced by partner DTEN. It consists of a standalone 27-inch screen, essentially a large tablet equipped with three wide-angle cameras designed for high-resolution video and 8 microphones. Zoom software is pre-loaded on the device and the interface is designed to provide easy access to popular Zoom features.

Zoom for Home – DTEN ME with screen sharing on. Image Credits: Zoom

Jeff Smith, head of Zoom Rooms, says that the idea is to offer an appliance that you can pull out of the box and it’s ready to use with minimal fuss. “Zoom for Home is an initiative from Zoom that allows any Zoom user to deploy a personal collaboration device for their video meetings, phone calls, interactive whiteboard annotation — all the good stuff that you want to do on Zoom, you can do with a dedicated purpose-built device,” Smith told TechCrunch.

He says this is designed with simplicity in mind, so that you pull it out of the box and launch the interface by entering a pairing code on a website on your laptop or mobile phone. Once the interface appears, you simply touch the function you want, such as making a phone call or starting a meeting, and it connects automatically.

Image Credits: Zoom

You can link it to your calendar so that all your meetings appear in a sidebar, and you just touch the next meeting to connect. If you need to share your screen it includes ultrasonic pairing between the appliance and your laptop or mobile phone. This works like Bluetooth, but instead of sending out a radio signal, it sends out a sound between 18 and 22 kHz, which most people can’t hear, to connect the two devices, Smith said.

Smith says Zoom will launch with two additional partners, including the Neat Bar and the Poly Studio X Series, and could add other partners in the future.

The DTEN appliance will cost $599 and works with an existing Zoom license. The company is taking pre-orders and the devices are expected to ship next month.

Jul
07
2020
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Zoom announces new Hardware as a Service offering to run on ServiceNow

Zoom announced a new Hardware as a Service offering today that will run on the ServiceNow platform. At the same time, the company announced a deal with ServiceNow to standardize on Zoom and Zoom Phone for its 11,000 employees in another case of SaaS cooperation.

For starters, the new Hardware as a Service offering allows customers, who use the Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms software, to acquire related hardware from the company for a fixed monthly cost. The company announced that initial solutions providers will include DTEN, Neat, Poly and Yealink.

The new service allows companies to access low-cost hardware and pay for the software and hardware on a single invoice. This could result in lower up-front costs, while simplifying the bookkeeping associated with a customer’s online communications options.

Companies can start small if they wish, then add additional hardware over time as needs change, and they can also opt for a fully managed service, where a third party can deal with installation and management of the hardware if that’s what a customer requires.

Zoom will run the new service on ServiceNow’s Now platform, which provides a way to manage the service requests as they come in. And in a case of one SaaS hand washing the other, ServiceNow has standardized on the Zoom platform for its internal communications tool, which has become increasingly important as the pandemic has moved employees to work from home. The company also plans to replace its current phone system with Zoom Phones.

One of the defining characteristics of SaaS companies, and a major difference from previous generations of tech companies, has been the willingness of these organizations to work together to string together sets of services when it makes sense. These kinds of partnerships not only benefit the companies involved, they tend to be a win for customers too.

Brent Leary, founder at CRM Essentials, sees this as a deal between two rising SaaS stars, and one that benefits both companies. “Everyone and their mother is announcing partnerships with Zoom, focusing on integrating video communications into core focus areas. But this partnership looks to be much more substantial than most, with ServiceNow not only partnering with Zoom for tighter video communication capabilities, but also displacing its current phone system with Zoom Phone,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Oct
17
2016
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Cisco strengthens Spark meetings management with Worklife acquisition

A business meeting in a conference room. Cisco announced today that it was acquiring Worklife, a member of the  Y Combinator winter 2015 class, for an undisclosed sum. Worklife was founded with the idea of improving online meetings, something that Cisco has been working on for years. It of course owns WebEx and has been trying to enhance that experience in recent years with Cisco Spark. Cisco intends to add the Worklife team to… Read More

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