Amazon adds Hindi to the Alexa Skills Kit

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Users of Amazon’s voice assistant will soon be able to talk to Alexa in Hindi. Amazon announced today that it has added a Hindi voice model to its Alexa Skills Kit for developers. Alexa developers can also update their existing published skills in India for Hindi.

Amazon first revealed that it would add fluent Hindi to Alexa last month during its re: MARS machine learning and artificial intelligence conference. Before, Alexa was only able to understand a few Hinglish (a portmanteau of Hindi and English) commands. Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist for Alexa, told Indian news agency IANS that adding Hindi to Alexa posed a “contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge” because of the wide variety of dialects, accents and slang used in India.

Along with English, Hindi is one of India’s official languages (Google Voice Assistant also offers Hindi support). According to Citi Research, Amazon holds about a 30 percent market share, about the same as its main competitor, Walmart-backed Flipkart.


Amazon adds Hindi to the Alexa Skills Kit

Swit, a collaboration suite that offers “freedom from integrations,” raises $6 million in seed funding

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

A marketplace dominated by Slack and Microsoft Teams, along with a host of other smaller workplace communication apps, might seem to leave little room for a new entrant, but Swit wants to prove that wrong. The app combines messaging with a roster of productivity tools, like task management, calendars and Gantt charts, to give teams “freedom from integrations.” Originally founded in Seoul and now based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Swit announced today that it has raised a $6 million seed round led by Korea Investment Partners, with participation from Hyunadi Venture Investment Corporation and Mirae Asset Venture Investment.

Along with an investment from Kakao Ventures last year, this brings Swit’s total seed funding so far to about $7 million. Swit’s desktop and mobile apps were released in March and since then more than 450 companies have adopted it, with 40,000 individual registered users. The startup was launched last year by CEO Josh Lee and Max Lim, who previously co-founded auction.co.kr, a Korean e-commerce site acquired by eBay in 2001.

While Slack, which recently went public, has become so synonymous with the space that “Slack me” is now part of workplace parlance at many companies, Lee says Swit isn’t playing catch up. Instead, he believes Swit benefits from “last mover advantage,” solving the shortfalls of other workplace messaging, collaboration and productivity apps by integrating many of their functions into one hub.

“We know the market is heavily saturated with great unicorns, but many companies need multiple collaboration apps and there is nothing that seamlessly combines them, so users don’t have to go back and forth between two platforms,” Lee tells TechCrunch. Many employees rely on Slack or Microsoft Teams to chat with one another, on top of several project management apps, like Asana, Jira, Monday and Confluence, and email to communicate with people at other companies (Lee points to a M.io report that found most businesses use at least two messaging apps and four to seven collaboration tools).

Lee says he used Slack for more than five years and during that time, his teammates added integrations from Asana, Monday, GSuite and Office365, but were unsatisfied with how they worked.

“All we could do with the integrations was receive mostly text-based notifications and there were also too many overlapping features,” he says. “We realized that working with multiple environments reduced team productivity and increased communication overhead.” In very large organizations, teams or departments sometimes use different messaging and collaboration apps, creating yet more friction.

Swit’s goal is to covers all those needs in one app. It comes with integrated Kanban task management, calendars and Gantt charts and at the end of this year about 20 to 30 bots and apps will be available in its marketplace. Swit’s pricing tier currently has free and standard tiers, with a premium tier for enterprise customers planned for fall. The premium version will have full integration with Office365 and GSuite, allowing users to drag-and-drop emails into panels or convert them into trackable tasks.

While being a late-mover gives Swit certain advantages, it also means it must convince users to switch from their current apps, which is always a challenge when it comes to attracting enterprise clients. But Lee is optimistic. After seeing a demo, he says 91 percent of potential users registered on Swit, with more than 75 percent continuing to use it every day. Many of them used Asana or Monday before, but switched to Swit because they wanted to more easily communicate with teammates while planning tasks. Some are also gradually transitioning over from Slack to Swit for all their messaging (Swit recently released a Slack migration tool that enables teams to move over channels, workspaces and attachments. Migration tools for Asana, Trello and Jira are also planned).

In addition to “freedom from integrations,” Lee says Swit’s competitive advantages include being developed from the start for small businesses as well as large enterprises that still frequently rely on email to communicate across different departments or locations. Another differentiator is that all of Swit’s functions work on both desktop and mobile, which not all integrations in other collaboration apps can.

“That means if people integrate multiple apps into a desktop app or web browser, they might not be able to use them on mobile. So if they are looking for data, they have to search app by app, channel by channel, product by product, so data and information is scattered everywhere, hair on fire,” Lee says. “We provide one centralized command center for team collaboration without losing context and that is one of our biggest sources of customer satisfaction.”
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Swit, a collaboration suite that offers “freedom from integrations,” raises million in seed funding

Equinix and Singapore’s GIC will launch a $1 billion joint venture to build hyperscale data centers in Europe

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Equinix, one of the world’s largest data center companies, announced that it will form a $1 billion joint venture with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. The partnership will focus on building xScale data centers in Europe. Instead of targeting the wholesale market, Equinix is developing xScale data centers to handle the demands of of the biggest cloud service providers in the world. Equinix’s clients have already included Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Google Cloud and other hyperscale cloud providers.

Under the agreement, expected to be finalized in the third quarter, GIC will own an 80 percent stake in the joint venture, with Equinix owning the remaining 20 percent. Equinix will also sell its London LD10 and Paris PA8 International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers to the joint venture for new xScale centers. xScale centers will also be built in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London, bringing the total to six centers that will provide a combined capacity of 155 megawatts once completed.

Equinix says global deployments from hyperscale cloud providers currently exceed about $500 million in annual revenue. The new xScale data centers will be located on or near Equinix’s IBX campuses, to enable providers to handle more customer access points and rapidly-scaling workloads. Equinix currently has more than 200 IBX campuses, covering more than 50 metro areas around the world. xScale data centers will also offer interconnection and edge services to increase connection speeds for cloud service customers and be engineered specifically to meet the needs of hyperscale companies.

In a press statement, Charles Meyers, president and CEO of Equinix, said, “The JV structure will enable us to extend our cloud leadership while providing significant value to a critical set of hyperscale customers. We look forward to launching similar JVs in other operating regions and believe that these efforts will continue to further differentiate Equinix as the trusted center of a cloud-first world.”


Equinix and Singapore’s GIC will launch a billion joint venture to build hyperscale data centers in Europe

Fungible raises $200 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund to help companies handle increasingly massive amounts of data

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Fungible, a startup that wants to help data centers cope with the increasingly massive amounts of data produced by new technologies, has raised a $200 million Series C led by SoftBank Vision Fund, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners and its existing investors. As part of the round, SoftBank Investment Advisers senior managing partner Deep Nishar will join Fungible’s board of directors.

Founded in 2015, Fungible now counts about 200 employees and has raised more than $300 million in total funding. Its other investors include Battery Ventures, Mayfield Fund, Redline Capital and Walden Riverwood Ventures. Its new capital will be used to speed up product development. The company’s founders, CEO Pradeep Sindhu and Bertrand Serlet, say Fungible will release more information later this year about when its data processing units will be available and their on-boarding process, which they say will not require clients to change their existing applications, networking or server design.

Sindu previously founded Juniper Networks, where he held roles as chief scientist and CEO. Serlet was senior vice president of software engineering at Apple before leaving in 2011 and founding Upthere, a storage startup that was acquired by Western Digital in 2017. Sindu and Serlet describe Fungible’s objective as pivoting data centers from a “compute-centric” model to a data-centric one. While the company is often asked if they consider Intel and Nvidia competitors, they say Fungible Data Processing Units (DPU) complement tech, including central and graphics processing units, from other chip makers.

Sindhu describes Fungible’s DPUs as a new building block in data center infrastructure, allowing them to handle larger amounts of data more efficiently and also potentially enabling new kinds of applications. Its DPUs are fully programmable and connect with standard IPs over Ethernet local area networks and local buses, like the PCI Express, that in turn connect to CPUs, GPUs and storage. Placed between the two, the DPUs act like a “super-charged data traffic controller,” performing computations offloaded by the CPUs and GPUs, as well as converting the IP connection into high-speed data center fabric.

This better prepares data centers for the enormous amounts of data generated by new technology, including self-driving cars, and industries such as personalized healthcare, financial services, cloud gaming, agriculture, call centers and manufacturing, says Sindu.

In a press statement, Nishar said “As the global data explosion and AI revolution unfold, global computing, storage and networking infrastructure are undergoing a fundamental transformation. Fungible’s products enable data centers to leverage their existing hardware infrastructure and benefit from these new technology paradigms. We look forward to partnering with the company’s visionary and accomplished management team as they power the next generation of data centers.”


Fungible raises 0 million led by SoftBank Vision Fund to help companies handle increasingly massive amounts of data

WeWork acquires Waltz, an app that lets users access different spaces with a single credential

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

WeWork announced today that it will acquire Waltz, a building access and security management startup, for an undisclosed amount. Waltz’s smartphone app and reader allows users to enter different properties with a single credential and will make it easier for WeWork’s enterprise clients, such as GE Healthcare and Microsoft, to manage their employees’ on-demand memberships to WeWork spaces.

WeWork’s announcement said “with deep expertise in mobile access and system integrations, Waltz has the most advanced and sophisticated products to provide that single credential to our members and to help us better connect them with our spaces.” Waltz was founded in 2015 by CEO Matt Kopel and has offices in New York and Montreal. After the acquisition, Waltz will be integrated into WeWork, but maintain its current customer base.

WeWork has been on an acquisition spree over the past year as it evolves from co-working spaces to a software-as-a-service provider. Companies it has bought include office management platforms Teem (for $100 million) and Managed by Q, as well as Euclid, a “spatial analytics platform” that allows companies to analyze the use of workspaces by their employees and participation at meetings and other events.

Likewise, Waltz isn’t just an alternative to keys or access cards. Its cloud-based management portal gives companies data about who enters and exits their buildings and also allows teams to set “Door Groups,” which restricts the use of some spaces to certain people. According to Waltz’s help site, it can also be used to make revenue through ads displayed in its app.


WeWork acquires Waltz, an app that lets users access different spaces with a single credential

AWS is now making Amazon Personalize available to all customers

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Amazon Personalize, first announced during AWS re:Invent last November, is now available to all Amazon Web Services customers. The API enables developers to add custom machine learning models to their apps, including ones for personalized product recommendations, search results and direct marketing, even if they don’t have machine learning experience.

The API processes data using algorithms originally created for Amazon’s own retail business,  but the company says all data will be “kept completely private, owned entirely by the customer.” The service is now available to AWS users in three U.S. regions, East (Ohio), East (North Virginia) and West (Oregon), two Asia Pacific regions (Tokyo and Singapore) and Ireland in the European Union, with more regions to launch soon.

AWS customers who have already added Amazon Personalize to their apps include Yamaha Corporation of America, Subway, Zola and Segment. In Amazon’s press release, Yamaha Corporation of America Director of Information Technology Ishwar Bharbhari said Amazon Personalize “saves us up to 60% of the time needed to set up and tune the infrastructure and algorithms for our machine learning models when compared to building and configuring the environment on our own.”

Amazon Personalize’s pricing model charges five cents per GB of data uploaded to Amazon Personalize and 24 cents per training hour used to train a custom model with their data. Real-time recommendation requests are priced based on how many are uploaded, with discounts for larger orders.


AWS is now making Amazon Personalize available to all customers

Microsoft hints at a new “modern” operating system designed to support different form factors

Source: Microsoft more

In a week where AMD, Intel and Qualcomm have already made major announcements, Microsoft’s keynote yesterday at Computex in Taipei was relatively lowkey. Instead of revealing new products, the company hinted at what it wants in a modernized operating system. Intriguingly, Microsoft’s blog post about the keynote does not mention Windows, lending credence to speculation that it is developing a new “super-secure” OS.

According to the blog post by Nick Parker, corporate vice president of consumer and device sales, a modern OS should enable “form factor agility” by being flexible enough to be integrated into different types of devices, which is noteworthy because last year the company hinted at new additions to the Surface lineup, which some have speculated might mean the line is adding a smartphone.

He added that a modern OS should include seamless updates, done invisibly in the background without forcing people to stop using their computers and be secure by default, preventing attacks by separating the state from the operating system and the compute from applications.

A modern OS would constantly be connected to LTE 5G and use AI to help make apps more efficient. It would also support different kinds of input, including pen, voice, touch and even the ability to use your eyes to control apps or write—two things that likely to fuel more speculation that the new OS will be developed with mobile products (like a possible Surface Phone) and lightweight or dual-screen laptops in mind.


Microsoft hints at a new “modern” operating system designed to support different form factors

AMD unveils the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X, at half the price of Intel’s competing Core i9 9920X chipset

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

AMD CEO Lisa Su gave the Computex keynote in Taipei today, the first time the company has been invited to do so (the event officially starts tomorrow). During the presentation, AMD unveiled news about its chips and graphics processors that will increase pressure on competitors Intel and Nvidia, both in terms of pricing and performance.

Chips

All new third-generation Ryzen CPUs, the first with 7-nanometer desktop chips, will go on sale on July 7. The showstopper of Su’s keynote was the announcement of AMD’s 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen 9 3900x chip, the flagship of its third-generation Ryzen family. It will retail starting at $499, half the price of Intel’s competing Core i9 9920X chipset, which is priced at $1,189 and up.

The 3900x has 4.6 Ghz boost speed and 70 MB of total cache and uses 105 watts of thermal design power (versus the i9 9920x’s 165 watts), making it more efficient. AMD says that in a Blender demo against Intel i9-9920x, the 3900x finished about 18 percent more quickly.

Starting prices for other chips in the family are $199 for the 6-core, 12-thread 3600; $329 for the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 3700x (with 4.4 Ghz boost, 36 MB of total cache and a 65 watt TDP); and $399 for the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 3800X (4.5 Ghz, 32MB cache, 105w).

GPUs

AMD also revealed that its first Navi graphics processor units will be the Radeon RX 5000 series. Pricing is being closely watched because it may pressure Nvidia to bring down prices on competing products. AMD announced that the GPUs will be available in July, but more details, including pricing, performance and new features, won’t be announced until E3 next month in Los Angeles.

Data processors

AMD announced that its EPYC Rome data center processors, first demoed at CES in January, will launch next quarter, one quarter earlier than previously anticipated, to compete with Intel’s Cascade Lake. AMD says that during a benchmark test, EPYC Rome performed twice as fast as Cascade Lake.


AMD unveils the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X, at half the price of Intel’s competing Core i9 9920X chipset

IDC: Asia-Pacific spending on AI systems will reach $5.5 billion this year, up 80 percent from 2018

Source: Tech News – Enterprise

Spending on artificial intelligence systems in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to reach $5.5 billion this year, an almost 80 percent increase over 2018, driven by businesses in China and the retail industry, according to IDC. In a new report, the research firm also said it expects AI spending to climb at a compound annual growth rate of 50 percent from 2018 to 2022, reaching a total of $15.06 billion in 2022.

This means AI spending growth in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to outpace the rest of the world over the next three years. In March, IDC forecast that worldwide spending on AI systems is expected to grow at a CAGR of 38 percent between 2018 to 2022.

Most of the growth will happen in China, which IDC says will account for nearly two-thirds of AI spending in the region, excluding Japan, in all forecast years. Spending on AI systems will be driven by retail, professional services and government industries.

Retail demand for AI-based tools will also lead growth in the rest of the region, as companies begin to rely on it more for merchandising, product recommendations, automated customer service and supply and logistics. While the banking industry’s AI spending trails behind retail, it will also begin adopting the tech for fraud analysis, program advisors, recommendations and customer service. IDC forecasts that this year, companies will invest almost $700 million in automated service agents. The next largest area for investment is sales process recommendations and automation, with $450 million expected, and intelligent process automation at more than $350 million.

The fastest-growing industries for AI spending are expected to be healthcare (growing at 60.2 percent CAGR) and process manufacturing (60.1 percent CAGR). In terms of infrastructure, IDC says spending on hardware, including servers and storage, will reach almost $7 billion in 2019, while spending on software is expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 80 percent.


IDC: Asia-Pacific spending on AI systems will reach .5 billion this year, up 80 percent from 2018