Apple Business Chat has the enterprise talking about iMessage Apps

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Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced the App Store. While its first titles were mostly games and novelties, soon major businesses began to recognize the power of mobile apps, shifting major investment from desktop PCs and web apps into iOS. This year, Apple is inciting new enterprise investment in iMessage Apps with Apple Business Chat–billed as an interactive, personal way to connect with customers while respecting their privacy.
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Apple teases ‘late spring’ launch of new Business Manager platform for enterprise users

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Apple is teasing the launch of a new Apple Business Manager device management solution for ‘late spring’ of this year. In a document outlining new enterprise features, Apple explains that Apple Business Manger is a web-based portal for IT managers to manage people and devices…

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Pure Storage, NVIDIA launch enterprise AI supercomputer in a box

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Pure Storage and NVIDIA have launched “AI in a box” for enterprise customers. Chris Middleton talks to Pure Storage CTO Alex McMullan about the strategy behind the team-up.

Flash storage provider, Pure Storage, and hardware giant NVIDIA have announced what they say is a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer ready to be slotted into a customer data centre.

AIRI, which the companies describe as “the industry’s first comprehensive, AI-ready infrastructure”, is designed to help organisations deploy artificial intelligence at scale, and speed time to insight.

The new converged-infrastructure appliance is essentially “AI in a box”, and is intended to provide an architecture that “empowers organisations with the data-centric infrastructure needed to harness the true power of AI”, according to a joint announcement from the companies.

What’s in the box?

The integrated hardware/software solution includes Pure Storage FlashBlade, a storage platform architected for analytics and AI, and four NVIDIA DGX-1 supercomputers, delivering “four petaflops of performance” via NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs.

The systems are interconnected with Arista 100GbE switches, supporting GPUDirect RDMA for maximum distributed performance. AIRI is also supported by the NVIDIA GPU Cloud deep-learning stack and Pure Storage’s new AIRI Scaling Toolkit.

All of this high-performance, optimised hardware will enable data scientists to “jumpstart their AI initiatives in hours, rather than weeks or months”, said the announcement.

As some sections of the media zero in on the perceived problems and ethical challenges associated with AI, Pure Storage stressed the social benefits of the technology.

“AI has fantastic potential for aiding humanity,” said Charles Giancarlo, CEO of Pure Storage. “It has the capacity to significantly improve the quality of all of our lives. AIRI will accelerate AI research, enabling innovators to more rapidly make advances to create a better world with data.”

That’s all very well, but how much does all this cost? On that point, Pure Storage and NVIDIA remained tight-lipped and pointed to their channel partners, but the specification of the hardware suggests this may be for enterprises with deep pockets. Perhaps AIRI can tell us.

The CTO speaks out

Pure Storage CTO Alex McMullan told Internet of Business that while AIRI is an “industry first”, the focus is on making AI “accessible to just about everyone”.

“If you can actually drop an AI supercomputer into a customer data centre in a couple of hours, then that’s a huge time-to-market benefit,” he said.

“We’ve worked with NVIDIA to make a high-end, state-of-the-art supercomputer available in 24 inches of data centre infrastructure, replacing what would otherwise be racks and racks of stuff.”

What was the main driver behind the idea? “This is a very data-driven world, with big data sets and data footprints,” explained McMullan. “And we have a whole separate thread here at Pure Storage about data gravity, and why that’s a challenge and concern for the industry.

“AI is really about data quality, it’s about data provenance, and it’s about having the right level of training data that is correctly tagged and indexed.

“But some of our existing customers who are doing machine learning have 200 or 300 people who do nothing but categorise and tag images and other data, because that’s what’s required in this space. They told us, ‘We spend a lot of time with wires and cables and boxes trying to plug all this stuff together, so wouldn’t it be great if…’

“That’s what started the conversation with ourselves and NVIDIA. We had a number of joint customers, but we thought it would make more sense to have a single offering.”

So does AIRI (AI-Ready Infrastructure) itself include AI software, or is the appliance optimised for other vendors’ solutions?

“It brings it up to a specific level where all the tool sets, libraries, and models that a data scientist would expect are installed on the platform. But if you have your own data sets and models you can certainly apply them,” said McMullan.

The public cloud problem

So what would the advantage be to an organisation of implementing an on-premise, appliance-based solution – as opposed to deploying something like Watson in the cloud or any other solution?

“For me the answer is it’s all about [the problem of] the public cloud,” said McMullan. “The public cloud has challenges with data gravity. For me, the public cloud is there to deliver agility and time to market, but it’s not there to deliver scale and cost efficiencies.

“What we see quite often is that many of our existing customers experiment, integrate, and develop in the public cloud at small scale, but once they have larger deployments and data sets, once they have bigger clusters, it always come back on premise, because that’s the most cost-effective way of deploying it.

For me something like Watson is very much a start, a small-scale, early-adopter technology, whereas the NVIDIA/Pure solution is very much an industrial scale behemoth.”

AIRI: “An industrial-scale behemoth”.

Customers speak out

AIRI is launching with three named customer partners onboard: outsourced call centre provider Global Response, AI business applications provider Element AI, and AI pathology specialist, Paige.AI.

Paige.AI aims to transform clinical diagnoses and oncology via the use of artificial intelligence. “With access to one of the world’s largest tumour pathology archives, we needed the most advanced deep learning infrastructure available to quickly turn massive amounts of data into clinically validated AI applications,” said Dr. Thomas Fuchs, founder and chief science officer of Paige.AI.

Meanwhile, Element AI, a platform for companies to build their own AI solutions, sees AIRI as an “accelerant” for complex projects. “AIRI represents an exciting breakthrough for AI adoption in the enterprise, shattering the barrier of infrastructure complexities and clearing the path to jumpstart any organisation’s AI initiative,” said Jeremy Barnes, chief architect at Element AI.

Finally, Global Response has begun development of a call centre system that allows for the real-time transcription and analysis of customer support calls. “We’ve reached an inflection point where integration of AI throughout our organisation is critical to the ongoing success of our business,” said Stephen Shooster, Co-CEO, Global Response.

“While we wanted to move quickly, the infrastructure for AI was slowing us down, because it is very complex to deploy. To truly operationalise AI at scale, we needed to build a simple foundation powerful enough to support the entire organisation.”

Internet of Business says

McMullan’s own background is in financial services technology, with stints at UBS and Barclays, along with Sun Microsystems and British Aerospace. However, he said that despite sectors such as financial services being in the vanguard of AI adoption, AI is really just about, “shovelling large amounts of data into a GPU engine”.

“The cardinality and the structure of that data doesn’t really matter. The chief thing is it’s best at finding trends, patterns, and outliers,” he said.

However, one thing that is increasingly important to AI adopters – and to legislators and regulators – is the question of AI’s transparency and ‘auditability’. Does an AI in a box make ‘showing the workings’ of AI easier, or harder?

“In terms of transparency, I don’t think this changes the equation,” said McMullan. “It’s still using the same native software tools, it’s simply allowing you to get to a result considerably faster and more reliably.

“However, I think that the combination of Pure Storage and NVIDIA allows you to have a much larger training set, which to me is the key foundation of any kind of machine-learning-based approach. The better and bigger your training set, the better the results you’re going to get.

“But the workings inside the box are still a software output, and I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of understanding the complete result based on the input.”

So now we know.

Some of our recent AI-related reports:-

Read more: Affectiva launches emotion tracking AI for connected car drivers

Read more: Mayor of London launches project to make capital epicentre of AI

Read more: HPE aims new tech portfolio at enterprise AI deployments

Read more: Group protects rainforest with recycled phones, machine learning

Read more: AI regulation & ethics: How to build more human-focused AI

Read more: IBM launches new Watson Assistant AI for connected enterprises

Read more: Analysis: Oracle says autonomy now, AI with everything by 2020

 

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HPE aims new portfolio at enterprise AI deployments

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HPE, the hardware, software and IT services company, has revealed a number of new products and services that it hopes will help organizations across different industry sectors deploy artificial intelligence (AI).

NEWSBYTE: Enterprise technology and IT services company HPE has revealed a new product and service portfolio that it hopes will help organisations across different sectors deploy artificial intelligence (AI).

The company said it wants to help businesses exploit AI by making existing business processes more efficient.

“Global tech giants are investing heavily in AI, but the majority of enterprises are struggling, both with finding viable AI use cases and with building technology environments that support their AI workloads,” said Beena Ammanath, global VP for artificial intelligence at HPE Pointnext.

“As a result, the gap between leaders and laggards is widening.”

Read more: Dell: UK lagging well behind Europe on IoT, AI, digital

HPE Digital Prescriptive Maintenance Services, delivered by HPE Pointnext, is a product that prescribes and automates actions, with the aim of preventing industrial equipment from failing, as well as optimising productivity. It aims to capture all relevant data sources in the enterprise, including real-time and batch data from IoT devices, data centres, and the cloud.

Meanwhile, HPE has put together an Artificial Intelligence Transformation Workshop, a one-day initiative that aims to help enterprises begin their AI journey by identifying AI use cases that are tailored to their business needs.

HPE Pointnext AI experts will work with business and technology leaders to formulate a plan to help businesses move from exploring AI to implementing it.

In addition to these services, HPE is also releasing the Apollo 6500 Gen10 System hardware platform –  with support for up to eight NVIDIA Tesla v100 GPUs – to aid organisations in training deep learning models.

HPE said that this enables the system to deliver three times faster model training than previous generations of hardware.

In addition, HPE has embedded NVIDIA’s high-bandwidth NVLink 2.0 interconnect to increase the speed of communication between GPUs in the system – with up to 10 times faster data-sharing rates than traditional, PCIe Gen3 interconnects, said HPE.

• IBM recently unveiled a new data science platform which it hopes will also accelerate AI adoption.

Read more: Crypto mining: Why IoT users should worry about NVIDIA’s stock price

 

 

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Atheer brings enterprise AR platform to Toshiba smart glasses

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Owners of Toshiba’s recently-announced smart glasses will soon be able to use them with an enterprise-grade augmented reality (AR) platform from Atheer.

Toshiba’s Client Solutions Division has just inked a strategic partnership deal with the California-based AR firm. This marks the first time that Atheer’s AiR platform has come to Windows 10 users.

Atheer has confirmed that its enterprise AR technology will be available to owners of the dynaEdge AR glasses by the second quarter of 2018.

It’s described as an “integrated suite of capabilities designed to meet the needs of today’s industrial enterprises”.

Read more: AR-enabled industrial wearables: the next growth market?

AR revolution

With AiR Enterprise, users of Toshiba’s smart glasses will be able to tap into industrial applications, covering areas such as dealer service, manufacturing, repair operations, assembly line management, and technician training.

The platform offers user point-of-view photo and video capture, barcode scanning, detailed task and workflow analytics, integration with other enterprise systems, and business security.

Soulaiman Itani, CEO and co-founder of Atheer, said his company’s software lets users get the most out of their AR glasses.

“We are delighted to partner closely with Toshiba on the development of a uniquely powerful implementation of our award-winning AiR Enterprise application, optimised for Windows 10 on Toshiba’s new dynaEdge AR Smart Glasses,” he said.

“We believe that this relationship will provide a huge boost for enterprise customers who have been waiting for exactly this kind of Windows 10-based enterprise AR solution from a world-class hardware manufacturer.”

Transforming enterprise

When purchasing the dynaEdge AR smart glasses package, companies get an AR100 head mounted display and a DE-100 Mobile Mini PC.

Carl Pinto, vice president of engineering at the client solutions division of Toshiba America, called the partnership with Atheer “a natural fit”.

“We are particularly excited by the fact that Atheer brings its award-winning AiR Enterprise software and its unique touchless, gesture-based interactions to our smart glasses,” said Pinto.

“Throughout our collaboration, Atheer has proved to us that it has the experience and technology leadership to be the right AR solution provider in this emerging space.”  

Internet of Business says

While augmented and virtual reality glasses have long been thought of as gamers’ accessories, or as offering a window into a world of entertainment, their industrial applications are numerous and exciting. 

For example, engineers and other industrial workers can use smart glasses to access detailed schematics, machine data, or digital twin representations of machinery. These could enable them to repair, upgrade, or troubleshoot faulty equipment. Meanwhile, the training potential for all kinds of industrial workers is similarly large.

More about this in our detailed report on industrial wearables, here

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Alexa for Business: Amazon calling the shots in enterprise, it claims

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The retail and Web services giant is conquering the enterprise with its smart assistant, it says.

With Alexa for Business, Amazon looked set to bring its digital assistant into the enterprise technology space. It nows claims to have scored some early successes.

Announced on Internet of Business in December, the company has since been working with a number of companies to refine its Alexa for Business offering for use in the corporate environment.

Until recently, Amazon has pitched Alexa firmly at the consumer space, with skills that are mostly designed to control smart home devices, play music, or find the latest news and weather.

But according to a new blog post by Amazon’s chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, Amazon’s business customers have already built hundreds of private Alexa skills that are designed to help employees perform a range of tasks, “from getting internal news briefings to asking what time their help desk closes.”

The company now believes that the next generation of corporate systems and applications will be built using conversational interfaces.

Happy API talk

To prepare Alexa for deeper adoption in the workplace, Amazon has added a management layer and a set of APIs to integrate with more enterprise apps and infrastructures.

Alexa can already interact with a range of enterprise applications, including Salesforce, Microsoft Exchange and RingCentral, SAP Concur and SuccessFactors, and workflow tool ServiceNow.

According to Vogels, the voice assistant has been deployed in growing numbers of businesses to control office environments, give directions, book meeting rooms, report problems, or arrange transportation for employees.

“One of the biggest applications of voice in the enterprise is conference rooms, and we’ve built some special skills in this area to allow people to be more productive,” he said.

“With Alexa for Business, the administrator can configure conference rooms and integrate calendars with the devices. When you walk into a meeting, all you have to say is ‘Alexa, start my meeting’,” he added.

Vogels said that IT developers who want to take advantage of the voice interface can enable custom apps using the Alexa Skills Kit, and make their skills available solely for their organisations, if they wish.

“There are a number of agencies and systems integrators that can help with this, and there are code repositories with code examples for AWS,” he said.

Alexa in the office

Vogels shared the example of collaborative workspace provider, WeWork. The company has been using Alexa for Business in its everyday workflow for the past few months.

“They have built private skills for Alexa that employees can use to reserve conference rooms, file help tickets for their community management team, and get important information on the status of meeting rooms, ” said Vogels.

“Alexa for Business makes it easy for WeWork to configure and deploy Alexa-enabled devices – and the Alexa skills that they need to improve their employees’ productivity,” said Vogels.

Internet of Business says

IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Apple, and Google are among the tech giants refocusing their businesses on cognitive services, AI, and machine learning. But – the earlier Siri aside – Alexa has swiftly become the byword for voice-enabled services, not to mention the stuff of a thousand memes.

Amazon has achieved this by focusing its Echo and Dot devices at the centre of people’s homes. If you can accept a technology in your living room, then you can accept in anywhere, perhaps.

However, while voice might be the most intuitive means for most human beings to communicate with each other, issue simple instructions to devices, or receive basic information, it is an inferior, serial, and time-consuming means of searching or scanning through large volumes of data.

For sighted people at least, screens, smart glasses, and graphical interfaces are likely to remain the quickest and most efficient means of interacting with business information and in-depth reports.

“Alexa, book me a ticket to New York” or “Alexa, show me the latest quarterly figures” are scenarios that work, while “Alexa, compare the past five years of financial results” isn’t, until the technology becomes capable of interpreting and summarising data.

That said, voice already accounts for over 20 percent of search traffic in the US, according to several recent reports.

Perhaps as mobiles force organisations to publish information in smaller and smaller chunks, and people’s attention spans get shorter and shorter as a result, voice interfaces’ influence will continue to grow and the business environment may get noisier.

Read more: Alexa beware! New smart home tests reveal serious privacy flaws

Read more: Kerching! Amazon pays $ 1 billion for a doorbell. Smart idea?

Read more: Amazon takes on UPS and FedEx – and catches Theresa May’s eye

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition announced

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Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note 8 Enterprise Edition last year and now following the same trend; it has announced the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition smartphones in Germany. The company is promoting the enterprise edition as truly “business-first” offering for the product line. Apart from the business-centric additions like after-sales support and enterprise-deployment software, rest of the core internals do remain the same as the original S9 and A8. Samsung says that both the phones will be getting three-year licenses for Knox Configure (Dynamic Edition) and the Enterprise Firmware Over-The-Air service (E-FOTA on MDM). The Knox Configure will let the IT. Administrators easily configure the Samsung devices remotely and update all of them at once. It also allows the flexibility to schedule updates to reduce service interruptions and downtime. Furthermore, the Galaxy S9 Enterprise Edition will receive three years of monthly security updates and quarterly updates for the fourth year. On the other hand, the Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition will only get monthly security updates for three years. However, both phones will come with two years of manufacturer warranty. The Samsung Galaxy S9 Enterprise Edition will be available in Germany from April 2018 and is priced at 849 euros ($ 1,045 or Rs. 68,080 approx.) While the Samsung Galaxy A8 Enterprise …
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Samsung brings Galaxy S9 and Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition variants to Germany

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The Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition models have arrived in Germany. The former will be available in the country starting April, while the latter has gone on sale already. They carry a price tag of €849 and €499, respectively. It’s worth mentioning that these phones are dual-SIM. In case you aren’t aware, Samsung’s Enterprise Edition devices come with features such as Knox Configure and Enterprise Firmware Over-the-Air (E-FOTA). The Galaxy A8 Enterprise Edition will get three years of monthly security updates, while the S9 variant will also get quarterly updates…

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Canalys has really, really good news for Apple in the enterprise

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When you want to get your computers into the enterprise you need to enlist support from channel partners, and Apple’s moves to reach closer alliances with the biggest names in that space certainly seem to be paying off.

Partnerships are good for business

Apple has reached partnerships with some of the biggest names in enterprise tech. IBM, Cisco, JAMF, Deloitte, Accenture, GE, SAP, among others.

These partnerships work because Apple needs the help of such people in order to ensure its products are deployed across enterprise technology in the most effective way.

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Check Out The First Integrated Directory Management Solution for Enterprise

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Reputation.com, a complete Online Reputation Management (ORM) platform, is accelerating its category momentum with the acquisition of SIM Partners, “whose proven Directory Management technology deepens and augments Reputation.com’s own capabilities,” a provided announcement notes.

So how does it work?

Reputation.com’s SaaS platform now helps organizations with dozens or thousands of locations and professionals provide robust and intuitive search capabilities for consumers, by powering find-a-doctor directories for healthcare, dealer locators for automotive, and location finders for retail, restaurants, hospitality, and other industries.

The stakes are high. Eighty-two percent of smartphone users turn to search to find local businesses according to Google, and 77 percent start their search for a healthcare provider online, according to Pew Research. Robust Directory Management tools are essential to ensure that websites and third-party directories are easily searchable and always reflect correct addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation and other critical information for every location, consistently, across any device.

We’re told that Reputation.com’s acquisition of SIM Partners is important because it creates the first and only platform that covers the entire span of consumer experience for location-based enterprises on the web, by integrating:

  • Business listings, directories and location finders
  • Review management
  • Customer surveys
  • Operational analytics
  • Social media management
  • Mobile customer engagement
  • A broad array of digital advertising services

“The customer experience begins before anyone walks in the door,” said Reputation.com Founder and Executive Chairman Michael Fertik. “And it persists long after the visit, across the web on social media and review sites. For too long, location-based enterprises and large healthcare organizations have cobbled together fragmented tools to manage customer experience on the web. The days of disconnected point solutions are done.”

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