For ScopeAR, the market is finally catching up with the technology

Posted by on 10 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

ScopeAR, a graduate of the Y Combinator Summer 2015 class, came to the augmented reality game very early, launching in 2011 when there was very little hardware and most people didn’t understand the technology. But it has managed to hang around long enough for the market and the hardware to finally catch with the founders’ vision of using AR as an advanced training tool in the enterprise.

Today, the company offers a pair of tools. First of all, there is RemoteAR, which CEO and company co-founder Scott Montgomerie describes as “Facetime with AR on top of it.” It allows a technician to virtually look over the shoulder at what a local person is seeing and provide directions and feedback in real time remotely. For example, the expert could circle the cover the technician needs to remove and point to the screws with two virtual arrows.

This could have great utility in any situation where you have an experienced person in the office, who doesn’t want to go on the road on anymore, but can still provide detailed instructions to a novice, acting as a trainer and helper. This is an actual problem in many industries with aging workforces.

Technician working with RemoteAR. Photo: ScopeAR

The second product, called WorkLink, lets you import a 3D CAD model, then associate that model with real equipment. When you put on hardware like Microsoft Hololens, you can see the 3D representation of the equipment and follow along with instructions on how to repair it. It also works with iOS, Android and Windows devices.

One big change since the company was established in 2011 is the variety of platforms you can use for augmented reality. “Last year was the thing where AR took off. Apple got into it with ARKit and Google with ARCore and awareness happened and people saw it was viable,” Montgomerie said.

By creating enterprise use cases like remote assistance and work instructions, the company has been gaining momentum over the last year, and reports tripling its revenue in 2017. Although they aren’t sharing a specific number, it’s fair to say they are growing quickly.

They developed an augmented reality training product early on that resonated with a mining company, and that along with consulting working with the likes of NASA, Boeing and Toyota, helped them stay afloat until things began to really click around AR in recent years, Montgomerie explained.

They also took some time to be part of the Y Combinator Summer 2015 class, and even scored a spot on TechCrunch’s list of favorite Demo Day 2 startups. During the YC experience, they developed the first version of RemoteAR. WorkLink followed a year later.

So far the company has taken on a a fairly modest amount of investment with Montgomerie reporting three seed rounds including $2 million right after Y Combinator, $1.7 million last May and another $2 million this past December. If the company continues to grow at this rate, it’s a good bet they will be looking for a Series A at some point to help scale the company further.

Posted Under: Tech News
Google to acquire cloud migration startup Velostrata

Posted by on 9 May, 2018

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Google announced today it was going to acquire Israeli cloud migration startup, Velostrata. The companies did not share the purchase price.

Velostrata helps companies migrate from on-premises datacenters to the cloud, a common requirement today as companies try to shift more workloads to the cloud. It’s not always a simple matter though to transfer those legacy applications, and that’s where Velostrata could help Google Cloud customers.

As I wrote in 2014 about their debut, the startup figured out a way to decouple storage and compute and that had wide usage and appeal. “The company has a sophisticated hybrid cloud solution that decouples storage from compute resources, leaving the storage in place on-premises while running a virtual machine in the cloud,” I wrote at the time.

But more than that, in a hybrid world where customer applications and data can live in the public cloud or on prem (or a combination), Velostrata gives them control to move and adapt the workloads as needed and prepare it for delivery on cloud virtual machines.

“This means [customers] can easily and quickly migrate virtual machine-based workloads like large databases, enterprise applications, DevOps, and large batch processing to and from the cloud,” Eyal Manor VP of engineering at Google Cloud wrote in the blog post announcing the acquisition.

This of course takes Velostrata from being a general purpose cloud migration tool to one tuned specifically for Google Cloud in the future, but one that gives Google a valuable tool in its battle to gain cloud marketshare.

In the past, Google Cloud head Diane Greene has talked about the business opportunities they have seen in simply “lifting and shifting” data loads to the cloud. This acquisition gives them a key service to help customers who want to do that with the Google Cloud.

Velostrata was founded in 2014. It has raised over $31 million from investors including Intel Capital and Norwest Venture partners.

Posted Under: Tech News
StubHub bets on Pivotal and Google Cloud as it looks to go beyond tickets

Posted by on 9 May, 2018

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StubHub is best known as a destination for buying and selling event tickets. The company operates in 48 countries and sells a ticket every 1.3 seconds. But the company wants to go beyond that and provide its users with a far more comprehensive set of services around entertainment. To do that, it’s working on changing its development culture and infrastructure to become more nimble. As the company announced today, it’s betting on Google Cloud and Pivotal Cloud Foundry as the infrastructure for this move.

StubHub CTO Matt Swann told me that the idea behind going with Pivotal — and the twelve-factor app model that entails — is to help the company accelerate its journey and give it an option to run new apps in both an on-premise and cloud environment.

“We’re coming from a place where we are largely on premise,” said Swann. “Our aim is to become increasingly agile — where we are going to focus on building balanced and focused teams with a global mindset.” To do that, Swann said, the team decided to go with the best platforms to enable that and that “remove the muck that comes with how developers work today.”

As for Google, Swann noted that this was an easy decision because the team wanted to leverage that company’s infrastructure and machine learning tools like Cloud ML. “We are aiming to build some of the most powerful AI systems focused on this space so we can be ahead of our customers,” he said. Given the number of users, StubHub sits on top of a lot of data — and that’s exactly what you need when you want to build AI-powered services. What exactly these will look like, though, remains to be seen, but Swann has only been on the job for six months. We can probably expect to see more for the company in this space in the coming months.

“Digital transformation is on the mind of every technology leader, especially in industries requiring the capability to rapidly respond to changing consumer expectations,” said Bill Cook, President of Pivotal . “To adapt, enterprises need to bring together the best of modern developer environments with software-driven customer experiences designed to drive richer engagement.”

Stubhub has already spun up its new development environment and plans to launch all new ups on this new infrastructure. Swann acknowledged that they company won’t be switching all of its workloads over to the new setup soon. But he does expect that the company will hit a tipping point in the next year or so.

He also noted that this over transformation means that the company will look beyond its own walls and toward working with more third-party APIs, especially with regard to transportation services and merchants that offer services around events.

Throughout our conversation, Swann also stressed that this isn’t a technology change for the sake of it.

Posted Under: Tech News
ServiceNow chatbot builder helps automate common service requests

Posted by on 9 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

When it comes to making requests inside a company for new equipment or to learn about HR policies, it can be a frustrating experience for both sides of the equation. HR and IT are probably tired of answering the same questions. Employees are tired of calling a help desk for routine inquiries and waiting for answers. ServiceNow’s new bot-building technology is designed to alleviate that problem by providing a way to create an automated bot-driven process for routine requests.

The company claims that you can build these bots to provide end-to-end service. Meaning if you tell the bot you need a new phone, it can pull your records, understand what you currently have and and order a new one all in the same interaction — and all within a common messaging interface such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

It also works for customer service transactions to process routine customer inquiries without having to route them to a CSR to answer typical questions.

The new chatbot building tool called Virtual Agent, has been built into the ServiceNow Now platform and provides a way for developers to build conversational interfaces easily, says CJ Desai, chief product officer at ServiceNow. “[The Virtual Agent] enables our customers to develop a wide range of intelligent service conversations from a quick question to an entire business action through the messaging platform of their choice,” Desai said in a statement.

The announcement is part of a broader AI initiative on the part of ServiceNow, which purchased Parlo, a chatbot startup, just last week for an undisclosed amount of cash. The acquisition should help give ServiceNow more AI engineering talent and help them beef up their natural language processing (NLP) to further refine and improve their chatbot products moving forward, as the Parlo team and technology get incorporated into the ServiceNow platform.

The company claims that using these chatbots, customers can reduce call volume to help desks and customer service by 15-20 percent, using the standard argument that it should free humans to handle more difficult inquiries.

The company joins a slew of other platform players including Salesforce, IBM, Oracle, AWS, and others who are incorporating chatbot building technology into their platforms.

Posted Under: Tech News
Intel Capital pumps $72M into AI, IoT, cloud and silicon startups, $115M invested so far in 2018

Posted by on 8 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Intel Capital, the investment arm of the computer processor giant, is today announcing $72 million in funding for the 12 newest startups to enter its portfolio, bringing the total invested so far this year to $115 million. Announced at the company’s global summit currently underway in southern California, investments in this latest tranche cover artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, cloud services, and silicon. A detailed list is below.

Other notable news from the event included a new deal between the NBA and Intel Capital to work on more collaborations in delivering sports content, an area where Intel has already been working for years; and the news that Intel has now invested $125 million in startups headed by minorities, women and other under-represented groups as part of its Diversity Initiative. The mark was reached 2.5 years ahead of schedule, it said.

The range of categories of the startups that Intel is investing in is a mark of how the company continues to back ideas that it views as central to its future business — and specifically where it hopes its processors will play a central role, such as AI, IoT and cloud. Investing in silicon startups, meanwhile, is a sign of how Intel is also focusing on businesses that are working in an area that’s close to the company’s own DNA.

It’s hasn’t been a completely smooth road. Intel became a huge presence in the world of IT and early rise of desktop and laptop computers many years ago with its advances in PC processors, but its fortunes changed with the shift to mobile, which saw the emergence of a new wave of chip companies and designs for smaller and faster devices. Mobile is area that Intel itself acknowledged it largely missed out.

Later years have seen still other issues hit the company. For example, the Spectre security flaw (fixes for which are still being rolled out). And some of the business lines where Intel was hoping to make a mark have not panned out as it hoped they would. Just last month, Intel shut down development of its Vaunt smart glasses and reportedly the entirety of its new devices group.

The investments that Intel Capital makes, in contrast, are a fresher and more optimistic aspect of the company’s operations: they represent hopes and possibilities that still have everything to play for. And given that, on balance, things like AI and cloud services still have a long way to go before being truly ubiquitous, there remains a lot of opportunity for Intel.

“These innovative companies reflect Intel’s strategic focus as a data leader,” said Wendell Brooks, Intel senior vice president and president of Intel Capital, in a statement. “They’re helping shape the future of artificial intelligence, the future of the cloud and the Internet of Things, and the future of silicon. These are critical areas of technology as the world becomes increasingly connected and smart.”

Intel Capital since 1991 has put $12.3 billion into 1,530 companies covering everything from autonomous driving to virtual reality and e-commerce and says that more than 660 of these startups have gone public or been acquired. Intel has organised its investment announcements thematically before: last October, it announced $60 million in 15 big data startups.

Here’s a rundown of the investments getting announced today. Unless otherwise noted, the startups are based around Silicon Valley:

Avaamo is a deep learning startup that builds conversational interfaces based on neural networks to address problems in enterprises — part of the wave of startups that are focusing on non-consumer conversational AI solutions.

Fictiv has built a “virtual manufacturing platform” to design, develop and deliver physical products, linking companies that want to build products with manufacturers who can help them. This is a problem that has foxed many a startup (notable failures have included Factorli out of Las Vegas), and it will be interesting to see if newer advances will make the challenges here surmoutable.

Gamalon from Cambridge, MA, says it has built a machine learning platform to “teaches computers actual ideas.” Its so-called Idea Learning technology is able to order free-form data like chat transcripts and surveys into something that a computer can read, making the data more actionable. More from Ron here.

Reconova out of Xiamen, China is focusing on problems in visual perception in areas like retail, smart home and intelligent security.

Syntiant is an Irvine, CA-based AI semiconductor company that is working on ways of placing neural decision making on chips themselves to speed up processing and reduce battery consumption — a key challenge as computing devices move more information to the cloud and keep getting smaller. Target devices include mobile phones, wearable devices, smart sensors and drones.

Alauda out of China is a container-based cloud services provider focusing on enterprise platform-as-a-service solutions. “Alauda serves organizations undergoing digital transformation across a number of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, aviation, energy and automotive,” Intel said.

CloudGenix is a software-defined wide-area network startup, addressing an important area as more businesses take their networks and data into the cloud and look for cost savings. Intel says its customers use its broadband solutions to run unified communications and data center applications to remote offices, cutting costs by 70 percent and seeing big speed and reliability improvements.

Espressif Systems, also based in China, is a fabless semiconductor company, with its system-on-a-chip focused on IoT solutions.

VenueNext is a “smart venue” platform to deliver various services to visitors’ smartphones, providing analytics and more to the facility providing the services. Hospitals, sports stadiums and others are among its customers.

Lyncean Technologies is nearly 18 years old (founded in 2001) and has been working on something called Compact Light Source (CLS), which Intel describes as a miniature synchrotron X-ray source, which can be used for either extremely detailed large X-rays or very microscopic ones. This has both medical and security applications, making it a very timely business.

Movellus “develops semiconductor technologies that enable digital tools to automatically create and implement functionality previously achievable only with custom analog design.” Its main focus is creating more efficient approaches to designing analog circuits for systems on chips, needed for AI and other applications.

SiFive makes “market-ready processor core IP based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture,” founded by the inventors of RISC-V and led by a team of industry veterans.

Posted Under: Tech News
BotChain wants to put bot-to-bot communication on the blockchain

Posted by on 8 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Increasingly we are going to be having bots conducting business on a company’s behalf. As that happens, it is going to require a trust mechanism to ensure that bot-to-bot communication is legitimate. BotChain, a new startup out of Boston wants to be the blockchain for registering bots.

The new blockchain, which is built on Ethereum, is designed to register and identify bots and provide a way for companies to collaborate between bots with auditing capabilities built in. BotChain has the potential to become a standard way of sharing data between bots in a trusted way.

The idea is to have an official and sanctioned place for companies to register their bots securely. As the organization describes it, “BotChain offers bot developers, enterprises, software companies, and system integrators the critical systems, standards, and means to validate, certify, and manage the millions of bots and billions of transactions powered by AI.

Photo: allanswart

The company was created by the team at Talla, a bot startup in Cambridge, but the goal is to open this up to much larger community of partners and expand. In fact, early partners include Gupshup, a platform for developers and Howdy.ai, B2B enterprise bot developers along with Polly, CareerLark, Disco (formerly Growbot), Zoom.ai, and Botkeeper.

BotChain is the brainchild of Rob May, who is CEO at Talla. He was formerly co-founder and CEO at Backupify, which was sold to Datto in 2014. He recognized that as bot usage increases, there needed to be a system in place to help companies using bots to exchange information, and eventually even digital currencies to complete transactions in a fully digital context.

May believes that blockchain is the best solution to build this trust mechanism because of the ledger’s nature as an immutable and irrefutable record. If the entities on the blockchain agree to work with one another, and the other members allow it, there should be an element of confidence inherent in that.

He points to other advantages such as being decentralized so that no single company can control the data on the blockchain, and of course nobody can erase a record once it’s been written to the chain. It also provides a way for bots to identify one another in an official way and for participating companies to track transactions between bots.

Talla opened this up to a community of users because it wants BotChain to be a standard way for bots to exchange information. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, but these types of projects could be important building blocks as companies look for ways to conduct business confidently, even when there are no humans involved.

BotChain has raised $5 million USD in a private token sale to institutional investors such as Galaxy Digital, Pillar, Glasswing and Avalon, according to the company.

In addition, they will be conducting another token pre-sale starting this Friday to raise additional funds from community stakeholders. “This token sale is a way to give [our community] access. Purchasing these tokens allows users to start registering their assets and create chains of immutable records of what their machines have done,” May explained. He said the company expects to raise $20 million this year from stakeholder token sales.

You can learn more about Botchain from this video:

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft and Red Hat now offer a jointly managed OpenShift service on Azure

Posted by on 8 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Microsoft and Red Hat are deepening their existing alliance around cloud computing. The two companies will now offer a managed version of OpenShift, Red Hat’s container application platform, on Microsoft Azure. This service will be jointly developed and managed by Microsoft and Red Hat and will be integrated into the overall Azure experience.

Red Hat OpenShift on Azure is meant to make it easier for enterprises to create hybrid container solutions that can span their on-premise networks and the cloud. That’ll give these companies the flexibility to move workloads around as needed and will give those companies that have bet on OpenShift the option to move their workloads close to the rest of Azure’s managed services like Cosmos DB or Microsoft’s suite of machine learning tools.

Microsoft’s Brendan Burns, one of the co-creators of Kubernetes, told me that the companies decided that this shouldn’t just be a service that runs on top of Azure and consumes the Azure APIs. Instead, the companies made the decision to build a native integration of OpenShift into Azure — and specifically the Azure Portal. “This is a first in class fully enterprise-supported application platform for containers,” he said. “This is going to be an experience where enterprises can have all the experience and support they expect.”

Red Hat VP for business development and architecture Mike Ferris echoed this and added that his company is seeing a lot of demand for managed services around containers.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft and DJI team up to bring smarter drones to the enterprise

Posted by on 7 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

At the Microsoft Build developer conference today, Microsoft and Chinese drone manufacturer DJI announced a new partnership that aims to bring more of Microsoft’s machine learning smarts to commercial drones. Given Microsoft’s current focus on bringing intelligence to the edge, this is almost a logical partnership, given that drones are essentially semi-autonomous edge computing devices.

DJI also today announced that Azure is now its preferred cloud computing partner and that it will use the platform to analyze video data, for example. The two companies also plan to offer new commercial drone solutions using Azure IoT Edge and related AI technologies for verticals like agriculture, construction and public safety. Indeed, the companies are already working together on Microsoft’s FarmBeats solution, an AI and IoT platform for farmers.

As part of this partnership, DJI is launching a software development kit (SDK) for Windows that will allow Windows developers to build native apps to control DJI drones. Using the SDK, developers can also integrate third-party tools for managing payloads or accessing sensors and robotics components on their drones. DJI already offers a Windows-based ground station.

“DJI is excited to form this unique partnership with Microsoft to bring the power of DJI aerial platforms to the Microsoft developer ecosystem,” said Roger Luo, DJI president, in today’s announcement. “Using our new SDK, Windows developers will soon be able to employ drones, AI and machine learning technologies to create intelligent flying robots that will save businesses time and money and help make drone technology a mainstay in the workplace.”

Interestingly, Microsoft also stresses that this partnership gives DJI access to its Azure IP Advantage program. “For Microsoft, the partnership is an example of the important role IP plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant technology ecosystem and builds upon existing partnerships in emerging sectors such as connected cars and personal wearables,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

Posted Under: Tech News
Microsoft brings more AI smarts to the edge

Posted by on 7 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

At its Build developer conference this week, Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on artificial intelligence and edge computing. To a large degree, that means bringing many of the existing Azure services to machines that sit at the edge, no matter whether that’s a large industrial machine in a warehouse or a remote oil-drilling platform. The service that brings all of this together is Azure IoT Edge, which is getting quite a few updates today. IoT Edge is a collection of tools that brings AI, Azure services and custom apps to IoT devices.

As Microsoft announced today, Azure IoT Edge, which sits on top of Microsoft’s IoT Hub service, is now getting support for Microsoft’s Cognitive Services APIs, for example, as well as support for Event Grid and Kubernetes containers. In addition, Microsoft is also open sourcing the Azure IoT Edge runtime, which will allow developers to customize their edge deployments as needed.

The highlight here is support for Cognitive Services for edge deployments. Right now, this is a bit of a limited service as it actually only supports the Custom Vision service, but over time, the company plans to bring other Cognitive Services to the edge as well. The appeal of this service is pretty obvious, too, as it will allow industrial equipment or even drones to use these machine learning models without internet connectivity so they can take action even when they are offline.

As far as AI goes, Microsoft also today announced that it will bring its new Brainwave deep neural network acceleration platform for real-time AI to the edge.

The company has also teamed up with Qualcomm to launch an AI developer kit for on-device inferencing on the edge. The focus of the first version of this kit will be on camera-based solutions, which doesn’t come as a major surprise given that Qualcomm recently launched its own vision intelligence platform.

IoT Edge is also getting a number of other updates that don’t directly involve machine learning. Kubernetes support is an obvious one and a smart addition, given that it will allow developers to build Kubernetes clusters that can span both the edge and a more centralized cloud.

The appeal of running Event Grid, Microsoft’s event routing service, at the edge is also pretty obvious, given that it’ll allow developers to connect services with far lower latency than if all the data had to run through a remote data center.

Other IoT Edge updates include the planned launch of a marketplace that will allow Microsoft partners and developers to share and monetize their edge modules, as well as a new certification program for hardware manufacturers to ensure that their devices are compatible with Microsoft’s platform. IoT Edge, as well as Windows 10 IoT and Azure Machine Learning, will also soon support hardware-accelerated model evaluation with DirextX 12 GPU, which is available in virtually every modern Windows PC.

Posted Under: Tech News
As Kubernetes grows, a startup ecosystem develops in its wake

Posted by on 7 May, 2018

This post was originally published on this site

Kubernetes, the open source container orchestration tool, came out of Google several years ago and has gained traction amazingly fast. With each step in its growth, it has created opportunities for companies to develop businesses on top of the open source project.

The beauty of open source is that when it works, you build a base platform and an economic ecosystem follows in its wake. That’s because a project like Kubernetes (or any successful open source offering) generates new requirements as a natural extension of the growth and development of a project.

Those requirements represent opportunities for new projects, of course, but also for startups looking at building companies adjacent that open source community. Before that can happen however, a couple of key pieces have to fall into place.

Ingredients for success

For starters you need the big corporates to get behind it. In the case of Kuberentes, in a 6 week period last year in quick succession between July and the beginning of September, we saw some of the best known enterprise technology companies including AWSOracleMicrosoftVMware and Pivotal all join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the professional organization behind the open source project. This was a signal that Kubernetes was becoming a standard of sorts for container orchestration.

Surely these big companies would have preferred (and tried) to control the orchestration layer themselves, but they soon found that their customers preferred to use Kubernetes and they had little choice, but to follow the clear trend that was developing around the project.

Photo: Georgijevic on Getty Images

The second piece that has to come together for an open source community to flourish is that a significant group of developers have to accept it and start building stuff on top of the platform — and Kubernetes got that too. Consider that according to CNCF, a total of 400 projects have been developed on the platform by 771 developers contributing over 19,000 commits since the launch of Kubernetes 1.0 in 2015. Since last August, the last date for which the CNCF has numbers, developer contributions had increased by 385 percent. That’s a ton of momentum.

Cue the investors

When you have those two ingredients in place — developers and large vendors — you can begin to gain velocity. As more companies and more developers come, the community continues to grow, and that’s what we’ve been seeing with Kubernetes.

As that happens, it typically doesn’t take long for investors to take notice, and according to CNCF, there has been over $4 billion in investments so far in cloud native companies — this from a project that didn’t even exist that long ago.

Photo: Fitria Ramli / EyeEm on Getty Images.

That investment has taken the form of venture capital funding startups trying to build something on top of Kubernetes, and we’ve seen some big raises. Earlier this month, Hasura raised a $1.6M seed round for a packaged version Kubernetes designed specially to meet the needs of developers. Just last week, Upbound, a new startup from Seattle got $9 million in its Series A round to help manage multi-cluster and multi-cloud environments in a standard (cloud-native) way. A little further up the maturity curve, Heptio has raised over $33 million with its most recent round being a $25 million Series B last September. Finally, there is CoreOS, which raised almost $50 million before being sold to Red Hat for $250 million in January.

CoreOS wasn’t alone by any means as we’ve seen other exits coming over the last year or two with organizations scooping up cloud native startups. In particular, when you see the largest organizations like Microsoft, Oracle and Red Hat buying relatively young startups, they are often looking for talent, customers and products to get up to speed more quickly in a growing technology area like Kubernetes.

Growing an economic ecosystem

Kubernetes has grown and developed into an economic powerhouse in short period of time as dozens of side projects have developed around it, creating even more opportunity for companies of all sizes to build products and services to meet an ever-growing set of needs in a virtuous cycle of investment, innovation and economic activity.

Cloud Native Computing Foundation projects. Photo: Cloud Native Computing Foundation

If this project continues to grow, chances are it will gain even more investment as companies continue to flow toward containers and Kubernetes, and even more startups develop to help create products to meet new needs as a result.

Posted Under: Tech News
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