Tag Archives: Customer

C3 IoT and Microsoft announce strategic partnership to accelerate AI in the enterprise

C3 IoT Platform to increase customer value, provide more intelligent business solutions with Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud provider

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and REDMOND, Wash. – April 10, 2018 – C3 IoT and Microsoft Corp. announced Tuesday a strategic partnership to deliver new technology developments and go-to-market initiatives that accelerate enterprise AI and IoT application development.

As part of this partnership, the companies will create a “better together” solution, comprising the C3 IoT Platform™, a low-code, high-productivity PaaS for scaling AI and IoT across enterprises, fully integrated to operate on Microsoft Azure. C3 IoT will leverage Microsoft Azure as a preferred cloud platform and tap into the power of its intelligent capabilities. The companies will conduct co-marketing and co-selling strategies that rapidly scale distribution globally, as well as intensive training for dedicated teams to speed customers’ time to value.

Close collaboration between Microsoft and C3 IoT will help enable customers to more rapidly develop and deploy AI-based applications for transformative use cases, such as AI predictive maintenance, dynamic inventory optimization, precision healthcare and CRM.

“The partnership between Microsoft and C3 IoT is significant in that it allows us to optimize our existing investments in data infrastructure while accelerating time to value of AI-based applications that enable Shell to better serve our customers with even more agility and efficiency,” said Erik Betz, Vice President, Architecture, Platforms, and Data, Shell.

“With this partnership, two market leaders are joining forces to drive digital transformation at the world’s leading organizations,” said Thomas M. Siebel, C3 IoT CEO. “Combining the market reach of Microsoft, the amazing power of Microsoft Azure, and the capability of the C3 IoT AI platform, we will dramatically accelerate the adoption of AI, IoT, and elastic cloud computing globally.”

“C3 IoT has an exciting vision, proven technology, and demonstrated customer success across industries, making them a great partner for implementing 3M’s digital transformation initiatives,” said H.C. Shin, 3M Vice Chair and Executive Vice President. “With tangible business results from the initial predictive healthcare and supply chain analytics applications, we plan on scaling the C3 IoT and Microsoft Azure solution across our enterprise. In this way, 3M is combining data science into material science, transforming how we design and deliver products and better serve our customers.”

“AI is one of the most transformative technology paradigms of our time in its ability to empower companies, societies, and economies to achieve more,” said Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President, Worldwide Commercial Business, Microsoft. “C3 IoT’s proven technology and strong customer relationships make them an ideal partner in helping drive forward AI-based solutions built on the intelligent cloud.”

The C3 IoT Platform is now available on Microsoft Azure and fully integrated with a rich set of Azure services, including Azure IoT Hub, Azure Machine Learning, and big data and advanced analytics solutions.

About Microsoft

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

About C3 IoT

C3 IoT is the world’s leading AI and IoT software platform for digital transformation. C3 IoT delivers a comprehensive platform as a service (PaaS) for the rapid design, development, and deployment of the largest-scale big data, predictive analytics, AI, and IoT applications for any business value chain. C3 IoT also provides a family of configurable and extensible SaaS products developed with and operating on its PaaS, including predictive maintenance, fraud detection, sensor network health, supply chain optimization, investment planning, and customer engagement.


C3 IoT Contact:

Kim Dion, Corporate Public Relations

(650) 503-2200; PR@C3IoT.com

Microsoft Contact:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft

(425) 638-7777; rrt@we-worldwide.com


The post C3 IoT and Microsoft announce strategic partnership to accelerate AI in the enterprise appeared first on Stories.

ThousandEyes-Juniper pact focuses on hybrid WANs

ThousandEyes has deployed its network performance monitoring agents on routers and customer premises equipment, or CPE, made by Juniper Networks to improve visibility for hybrid WANs and other extended networks.

ThousandEyes software, running as virtual network functions on NFX250 branch routers, will support a wide range of capabilities, the companies said, including gauging network health and confirming traffic paths. Among other capabilities, the agents probe latency and bandwidth, monitor MPLS and automate outage detection. They also can report connection errors for FTP, HTTP, Session Initiation Protocol and Real-Time Transport Protocol-based applications, and carry out root-cause analysis for problems stemming from domain name system and Border Gateway Protocol routing.

The proliferation of hybrid WANs, SD-WAN and SaaS offerings, as well as ongoing consolidation of data centers, means enterprises face visibility challenges with their extended networks. The addition of ThousandEyes’ software is aimed at eliminating some of those challenges, said Mihir Maniar, vice president of product management for Juniper Networks. 

“As more and more of our customers move to cloud-centric networks to realize its cost and agility promises, the migration — often to a hybrid public-private environment — can also bring new network blind spots that, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on service delivery, application development, SLAs [service-level agreements] and the overall end-user experience,” Maniar said in a statement.

Cloud revenues soar 25% in Q3: IDC

Sales of cloud infrastructure products, such as Ethernet and servers, surged in the third quarter of 2017, growing 25.5% year over year and reaching $11.3 billion, according to the most recent study by IDC. The firm’s Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker found that public cloud investments fueled most of the sales increase, representing 68% of all cloud IT infrastructure sales during the quarter. Storage platforms generated the highest growth, with revenue up 45% over the same quarter in 2016.

IDC said all regions of the world, except for Latin America, experienced double-digit growth in cloud infrastructure spending, with the fastest growth in Asia-Pacific and in Central and Eastern Europe. Private cloud revenues reached $3.6 billion, an annual increase of 13.1%. Noncloud IT infrastructure sales, meantime, rose 8% to $14.2 billion.

“2017 has been a strong year for public cloud IT infrastructure growth, accelerating throughout the year,” said Kuba Stolarski, research director for computing platforms at IDC, in a statement.

“While hyperscalers such as Amazon and Google are driving the lion’s share of the growth, IDC is seeing strong growth in the lower tiers of public cloud and continued growth in private cloud on a worldwide scale,” he added.

New Intel and AMD platforms launched in 2017 will provide a further boost to the cloud segment, Stolarksi said, as providers and enterprises take steps to upgrade their IT infrastructures.

Lambda MSA issues preliminary optical specification

The 100G Lambda Multi-Source Agreement, or MSA Group, released preliminary interoperability specifications based on 100 Gbps pulse amplitude modulation 4-based optical technology. The new optical interface specification is intended for next-generation networking equipment and is suitable for tasks requiring increased bandwidth and greater bandwidth density.

In addition to ensuring optical receivers from multiple vendors can work together, the new spec increases the distances supported by both 100 Gigabit Ethernet and 400 GbE  systems from the 500 meters currently specified in the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet standard to up to 10 kilometers for 100 GbE and up to 2 kilometers over duplex single-mode fiber for 400 GbE.

The Lambda MSA group is comprised of major networking vendors, such as Arista Networks, Broadcom, Cisco and Juniper Networks, as well as major enterprises, such as Alibaba and Nokia. Final specifications will be released later in 2018, the MSA Group said.

Intelligent Retail

At NRF Microsoft will showcase connected solutions for customer engagement, workforce empowerment, operational insights, and business transformation that combine the excitement of the latest innovations around Artificial Intelligence, Mixed Reality, Internet of Things & Blockchain technologies with the trust of the industry’s most reliable and secure platform. Together with our customers and partners, Microsoft is building the future of intelligent retail.

From digital experiences that make shopping fun and rewarding, to the productivity and collaboration solutions that allow retail employees to provide outstanding customer service, to the intelligent systems that provide deep insights and empower advanced decision making and personalization. Microsoft is transforming the future of retail by empowering people throughout the shopping experience. 

Questions? Contact us here.

Booth Tours:

Thank you for your interest in a booth tour with Microsoft at NRF 2018 in New York, New York.

Join us on a Booth Tour. Explore our latest and greatest industry solutions and hear firsthand stories of innovation from your industry peers as to how they are transforming their business. Booth Tours are 45 minutes in length, and are first-come, first-served – complete the request form below to secure your spot.

Booth Tours

Request 1:1 Briefing:

Do you have a specific business challenge or topic you’d like to discuss with a Microsoft executive? Then let’s meet one on one. We’ll take the time to understand your business and demonstrate the significant ways Microsoft can help you realize your potential.

Please click on the link below and complete the information as thoroughly as possible so we may assign an appropriate Microsoft representative to meet with you.

1:1 Briefing

Startup Showcase:

The extremely popular Microsoft NRF Startup Showcase is back for 2018! This exclusive, invitation-only event will host more than a dozen disruptors in retail technology. Please contact your account executive directly to RSVP. Each company will showcase select solutions that help retailers and brands to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Major global retailers have credited the 2017 event with inspiring fresh, strategic conversations around reimagining retail. These engagements will be hosted at the Microsoft 5th Avenue Flagship Store and has a capacity of 40 guests per event. Please note: unless previously arranged, we are unable to offer private showcase events for individual customer accounts.

Sunday, January 14 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Monday, January 15 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Tuesday, January 16 | 4:00PM-6:00PM
Wednesday, January 17 | 4:00PM-6:00PM

Please contact your account executive directly to RSVP.

Get a FREE pass:

Are you a retailer? Retailers are eligible for FREE passes to the event. Register for your pass here by entering your company name, email address and the Microsoft Customer referral code below.

Code: 831

Having trouble registering? Your company might not have a membership with NRF. Non-members are still eligible for a pass, but will need to contact nrfconcierge@nrf.com for assistance.

For Sale – HP ENVY Recline 23-k210na All-In-One (AIO) Touchscreen

Specification : | HP® Customer Support

For sale is my underused HP Envy All In One (AIO)Touchscreen PC. 23″ i5 16gb 1Tb

Operation system has been upgraded from the original MS Win8 to MS Win10 and memory from 8gb to 16gb.

In very good condition, boxed with all the originally supplied accessories and manuals.

Buyer collects due to weight and delicate nature of these PCs.

Price and currency: £290
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: On collection
Location: Slough, Berks
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Skype for Business users face Microsoft Teams migration questions

At Microsoft Ignite last week in Orlando, Fla., Microsoft used its annual customer conference to showcase its new and upgraded Teams product, which competes with Cisco Spark, Slack, Mitel MiTeam, Avaya Zang Spaces and many other similar products. At the conference, Microsoft Teams sessions were well-attended, which shows there’s significant interest in the product.

As Skype for Business users consider a Microsoft Teams migration, they’ll face several interesting questions. Some common questions include:

Is Microsoft Teams ready for prime time? I believe the product is. The new version includes several features that were added to compete with other similar products. New capabilities include voicemail, application sharing and coediting of documents. In addition, other notable features include:

  • guest access for business-to-business usage;
  • PSTN dialing, but the Microsoft PSTN service must be used;
  • importing contacts from Skype for Business;
  • sharing presence with Skype for Business; and 
  • pulling organizational information from Active Directory.

The product is now ready to stand on its own as a full-fledged team collaboration tool, and it’s worth Skype for Business users’ consideration.

Does the on-premises version of Skype for Business go away? No. On-premises Skype for Business is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Microsoft’s installed base of on-premises Skype for Business users is massive. If Microsoft suddenly pulled the plug on Skype for Business Server, it would leave many customers in the lurch.

Many large customers or companies with regulatory requirements want to keep the product on premises for greater control, archiving capabilities or security concerns. At Ignite, Microsoft announced another version of the Skype for Business on-premises server is coming near the end of 2018. Microsoft has to support that version through the normal lifecycle of five years or so.

If you’re a customer using the on-premises version, don’t worry; it’s here to stay, and Microsoft is still adding new features to it. However, some new capabilities, like Teams, are only available through cloud-based Office 365. So, if businesses want to use the team collaboration capabilities, they need to use the cloud.

If you’re a customer using the on-premises version, don’t worry; it’s here to stay, and Microsoft is still adding new features to it.

Can I run Teams and Skype for Business in hybrid mode? The answer is both yes and no. A hybrid model makes a lot of sense for many companies. Use Skype for Business for calls or chat and presence, and run Teams for application sharing or team messaging.

In a sense, the business will be running two unified communications (UC) clients, which is a bit of an oxymoron, since unified client implies a single product. But this two-client strategy is a viable, low-risk way of getting workers used to this new way of working. 

What you can’t do is use Skype for Business and then burst to the Teams cloud when capacity is maxed out. That would be ideal, but the products don’t interoperate that way — at least not yet.

What about all the third-party peripherals I bought for Skype for Business? Many Skype for Business users have made significant investments in third-party peripherals from vendors like Polycom, Crestron and Logitech that provide desktop handsets and conference room systems. Microsoft has said all existing phones and room systems will work with Teams. In fact, at Ignite, Microsoft announced Lenovo, Pexip and Blue Jeans now have certified room systems to work with Microsoft UC.

How do I migrate users from Skype for Business to Teams? Moving users from one product to another is never easy. Once a worker gets used to doing things a certain way, there’s always hesitation in doing things differently. To help get over these hurdles, Microsoft offers three models for migration.

The first model is to run Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams side by side, as outlined above, which could go on for an indefinite period of time. Another option is called “side by side with notify,” in which there’s a date set to flip users from Skype for Business to Teams, and a banner appears in Skype for Business to warn the user when the cutover date is. The third option is to go to Teams only where workers are put on the new product immediately. 

Microsoft provides an administrator portal where these three models can be mixed, so a handful of Skype for Business users can be set to flip immediately, others set to side by side with notify and others left to run both clients until the policy changes.

A training bot has been set up to help users with usage. But a couple users at Ignite told me they tried the bot and it often had problems understanding the questions and giving answers. This is an area Microsoft needs to beef up if the product is to go mainstream.

Automat powers conversational marketing bot for L’Oreal

NEW YORK — Chatbots may be a natural fit in a customer service department, but can they upend traditional — some would say stagnant — digital marketing efforts? Andy Mauro, CEO and co-founder of the Montreal-based Automat Technologies Inc., is betting on it.

Automat is the core technology behind L’Oreal’s conversational marketing bot, called Beauty Gifter, which launched in May. The bot helps L’Oreal customers ascertain and figure out which products make the perfect gift, a beauty-products buying scenario that Mauro called “a legitimate customer problem.”

To make recommendations to customers, Automat swaps out cookies and clicks for a highly personalized interaction. The bot uses artificial intelligence to essentially ask: What do you like?

Digital marketing is ripe for disruption

According to Mauro, digital marketing techniques have stalled. The most common practices include cookies and tracking pixels to follow customers around the web, internet search to understand behavior and email marketing campaigns that whisk customers away to digital properties — often with little success.

“This is a crazy way to talk to your customers,” Mauro said during his talk at the Strata Data Conference. “It builds no brand loyalty. We all hate it.”

L’Oreal’s Beauty Gifter aims to modernize digital marketing for a clientele increasingly accustomed to talking to their phones via digital assistants, such as Siri and Alexa. The technology relies on natural language understanding to converse with customers and help match the right beauty product gifts to the right person. But customers don’t interact with the bot on L’Oreal’s site; instead, they do so through Facebook Messenger, a channel that now boasts 1.2 billion users.

The conversation starts with the bot asking the gift-giver a few questions, including the gift-giver’s budget. The gift-giver then shares the bot via Messenger with the gift recipient, who is prompted to answer a few quiz questions ala BuzzFeed — pick one: bubble bath or breakfast in bed?

The bot collects the responses, analyzes them and then provides a few price-appropriate gift recommendations to gift-givers, who can purchase and ship the gift right in Messenger.

It’s still early days, but Mauro said he’s been pleased with the results he’s seen so far, including an 82% net promoter score. Even better, the technology starts up a conversation that, if all goes well, continues to pay dividends. “The re-engagement loop is really where the magic happens,” Mauro said.

It’s a data, data, data, data world

Mauro admitted conversational marketing isn’t for every industry. Insurance, for example, may not be the best fit. But opportunities exist for companies in retail, consumer packaged goods, fashion and luxury, he said.

And competitors and venture capitalists are also taking notice. In the last couple of weeks, HubSpot, a marketing and software company, acquired Motion.ai, a small chatbot platform company. And Drift, a conversational marketing startup, announced a $32 million round of funding that will go toward building a presence on the West Coast.

There are types of data you can learn in conversations with someone that you cannot get through a search, through a like or through the traditional digital monitoring means.
Andy MauroCEO and co-founder, Automat Technologies Inc.

CIOs interested in helping their marketing departments pursue a conversational marketing strategy will need to start with the customer data they already have. Mauro said one of the mistakes companies make with chatbots — especially in the early days — is to go narrow and shallow. “I think the point is you want to go narrow, but relatively deep on a specific problem and do full integrations,” he said.

Companies will need to build out an enterprise-grade marketing stack with purpose-built artificial intelligence technology related to marketing — and not something companies can procure from a chatbot builder alone. “The [customer relationship management] integration, card-to-payment integration, inventory integration planning — we had to start that early,” Mauro said.

Plus, if the conversational marketing bot is going to be successful, customers have to be able to find it. Marketing practices, such as paid advertising campaigns and other optimization practices, as well as getting featured on something like a Facebook Discover — Facebook’s chatbot marketplace — and, yes, even stodgy email marketing campaigns still apply to conversational marketing.

The reward for companies that successfully digitize and automate conversational marketing? That would be more — and richer — customer data. “There are types of data you can learn in conversations with someone that you cannot get through a search, through a like or through the traditional digital monitoring means,” Mauro said.

Modernizing Business Process with Cloud and AI

The world is awash with digital transformation. Every customer and partner that I talk to, across every industry, is pursuing it. Why? To stay ahead of the competition, realize new opportunities, new markets and reimagine how they do business.

For companies to reimagine how they do business, they need to reimagine the processes at the very heart of their enterprise. These business processes connect the people, data and systems distributed across every enterprise and connected to every customer. Yet, despite all the technology at our disposal today, these business processes – and the systems behind them – are often complex, cumbersome and un-intelligent. We believe there is a better way and our vision, quite simply, is to make it easy for every business – and every business function – to transform how people work.

To that end we introduced Dynamics 365. Our unification of the siloed CRM and ERP systems of the past, and the beginning of a world of business applications. Applications infused with intelligence that let you start small, transform specific functions, and grow as you need.

Since then we’ve introduced new applications, like Dynamics 365 for Talent, to help you manage your most precious resource – people. We’ve also put the world’s largest professional network at the fingertips of your sales organization, with the Microsoft Relationship Sales solution, and celebrated how customers like Visa, Dolce & Gabbana and Chemonics are putting Dynamics 365 to work for their business.

This week at Ignite I’m excited to share new technologies you can bring to bear for your business, including, new Dynamics 365 AI solutions, modular applications that take our promise of starting small one step further, integrations that make it easier for any business user to build apps that extend and automate their business processes, and greater LinkedIn integration.

Introducing Dynamics 365 AI solutions

AI – powered by decades of research from Microsoft– is already infused throughout Dynamics 365. These new solutions are designed to tackle high value, complex scenarios – end to end. To do that we apply cutting edge AI technologies to existing Enterprise scenarios and tailor it to your existing processes, systems and data. The first solution – introduced in Satya’s keynote at Ignite – is focused on customer service. It includes an intelligent virtual agent for customer care, an intelligent assistant for customer service staff and conversation management tools, all powered by Microsoft AI.

We’re already using this solution in Microsoft Support – along with Australian Government Department of Human Services, HP Inc. and Macy’s – to handle more customer requests, in a shorter amount of time, while improving overall customer and employee satisfaction. You can read more about these solutions at Gugg’s [Steven Guggenheimer] blog on Business AI, here.

Start even smaller

While we continue to offer a complete line of business solutions, like Dynamics 365 for Talent – which includes core Human Capital Management (HCM) capabilities a company needs, we realize some customers need more targeted solutions.

For example, most business have a core HCM system for basic functions like payroll and benefits management. To transform that entire system – and every HR related business process – can be quite an undertaking. So, we are introducing easy to implement, modular SaaS apps designed for business users that let you transform a single process, like how you engage job candidates or onboard new employees. These apps are more like the consumer apps we all use every day, apps that let you get up and running quickly. They take advantage of your existing data, connect to your existing systems, deliver insights from LinkedIn and connect to Office 365 and Dynamics 365 to delivering meaningful results, in minutes.

The first two modular apps we will introduce are Dynamics 365 for Talent: Attract, and Dynamics 365 for Talent: Onboard – they will allow talent leaders and hiring managers to more easily: 

  • Attract the right people. Profile the most qualified candidates for your company and role, gain better insights into the hiring pool and improve the ROI of your hiring process. Job candidates are also engaged with their own application experiences.   
  • Onboard new hires to accelerate productivity and ignite employee success. Personalize the onboarding process with the right resources, training and team connections. 

These new apps will be available later this year and are just the start of our plans to help you transform your business, one discrete, high-value business process at a time.

Bringing more of LinkedIn to Microsoft Relationship Sales

Customers familiar with LinkedIn and Dynamics 365 tell me that Microsoft Relationship Sales is changing how they connect with their customers, and we are going to make it even better. Below are a few of the improvements we are making to how insights from LinkedIn Sales Navigator are surfaced within Dynamics 365 for Sales. For a comprehensive list and additional details, please visit the blog from LinkedIn’s Steven Kaplan here.

  • To better elevate relationship insights, we’ll be updating the user experience to move beyond a standard widget, and instead offer fully configurable insights that take advantage of immersive experiences and intelligent business processes to allow for increased flexibility and adaptability to a seller’s unique sales process.
  • Soon LinkedIn InMails and messages will be able to be sent directly from within Dynamics 365 for Sales and these activities will be added to the Relationship Insights capabilities of Dynamics 365 for Sales. This will allow Relationship analytics to be expanded to included activities such as InMail and PointDrive interactions as well as all Relationship Assistant cards to be triggered with LinkedIn data.
  • Customers will be able to natively render profile photos from contact records in LinkedIn, enriching lead and contact data directly within Dynamics 365.


Making it easier for every business user to create, augment and extend business applications

Since we launched PowerApps and Microsoft Flow 12 months ago we’ve been working to realize the vision of a single low code/no code app platform.

At Ignite, we’ll showcase new integrations between PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 that make it easy for any business user familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases or SharePoint to build apps that extend and automate their business processes. Now customers can use PowerApps to:

  • Create a custom list form experience within Office 365, enabling users to easily extend task-specific forms that embed directly in SharePoint 
  • Embed your PowerApps directly into SharePoint pages with a web part
  • Use a point and click rule builder to express conditional logic in apps for formatting and actions. This will enable the creation of sophisticated apps in less time without the need to create advanced formulas 
  • Upload attachments into a list, and multi-select items from a list, with improved SharePoint column types support

and Microsoft Flow to:

  • Implement a modern approvals system using Flow, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Dynamics 365 
  • More easily create approval workflows using Built in SharePoint document library support for Flow

In Q1 2018, we will add support in the Common Data Service for relationships and server-side logic, enabling richer data bound apps to be built using the simplicity of PowerApps. Please check out the latest posts on both the PowerApps blog and the Microsoft Flow blog for additional details. 

A growing business app ecosystem – powered by partners

Customers are already taking advantage of the more than 2700 applications, from over 1400 ISVs, available through AppSource – our destination for business users to discover, try and get line-of-business SaaS apps.

This week we are announcing the addition of consulting services offerings to AppSource to help our customers find quality consulting services from experienced partners for their next project. Business users in the US can search the catalog of more than 100 pre-defined offerings, with more offerings and country support to come. More details on this announcement can be found at the AppSource blog here

Getting Started

From new AI solutions designed for the most complex Enterprise scenarios, to modular apps that let you tackle transformation one discrete business process at a time, we are building Dynamics 365 to meet you where you are, at every step of your journey.

Visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics365/home to learn more about the next steps you can take to drive your business forward.

Hitachi Vantara, commercial Lumada IoT platform unveiled

Hitachi Ltd. used its first annual customer event, Hitachi Next, to announce the creation of its new digital company, as well as the first commercial release of its Lumada IoT platform.

The latest addition to the Hitachi portfolio, Hitachi Vantara, specifically targets organizations looking to capitalize on the sweeping trend of converging information technology and operational technology. The new venture puts the company in direct competition with Dell EMC, HPE and others; but with more than 100 years of experience in the OT sector (107, to be exact) and 58 years of experience in the IT space, Ravi Chalaka, vice president of global IoT and Lumada marketing at Hitachi, said Hitachi Vantara is well prepared, calling this step “a transformation that will help take us through the next 100 years.”

A combination of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group and Pentaho, Hitachi Vantara creates a $4 billion company with more than 7,000 employees that wants to supply the analytics, infrastructure, software and services needed for organizations to embrace digital transformation.

“Data is the currency in the new world,” Chalaka said. “And that’s being driven by things like artificial intelligence and IoT for a next-generation business transformation.”

The data-driven technologies from Hitachi Vantara aim to offer a better customer experience, the ability for customers to better identify and address new revenue streams all while lowering the cost of doing business, Chalaka said.

[embedded content]

Learn more about the creation of
Hitachi Vantara.

Hitachi Vantara, being led by president and COO Brian Householder, already boasts a customer base of more than 10,000.

From the stage, Hitachi Ltd. President and CEO Toshiaki Higashihara said, “The mission of this company is to help customers discover the true potential of data. The new company is a unique combination of data management, analytics and industry expertise into one global company that supports transformation efforts.”

Hitachi Lumada v2.0

First announced in May 2016, the Hitachi Lumada IoT platform was originally created as a platform to help the company develop and deploy IoT technologies. At Hitachi Next, Hitachi Vantara formally released its first commercial offering with the release of Lumada version 2.0, now with updated artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics capabilities.

But in a world full of IoT platforms, what sets Lumada apart?

Rob Tiffany, CTO at Hitachi, said the technology’s portability, “asset avatars” and “solution cores” were critical to the platform’s differentiation, as well as the platform’s 100+ easy-to-use “connectors.”

When it comes to portability, Tiffany said, the entire Hitachi stack and Lumada IoT platform can be run on premises (with Hitachi hardware or the customers), in a hybrid deployment or in a complete cloud implementation.

“It’s important to meet our customers where they are,” Tiffany noted. “And this is never more important than the industrial space.” He said he had spoken with a number of large manufacturers that want to keep their data in the factory, not only for data sovereignty and safety, but also practicality. “You’ll talk to some manufacturers whose equipment is putting off terabytes of data per day or sometimes per hour. So for them, even if they’re in the cloud from an IT perspective, it might not be practical or feasible for them to be shoveling that much streaming data in the cloud.”

Asset avatars, Hitachi’s version of a digital twin, serve as digital blueprints of physical assets. But they aren’t just simple proxies with JSON files that show, for example, a car has four tires and an engine, Tiffany said. Rather, they’re ready for highly complex machines with multifaceted subsystems. So that car example will have multiple asset avatar instances (for example, for the transmission, engine and other systems) which tie into the larger car model, with all of them pulled together and communicating in a parent-child relationship.

Each asset avatar, or child, then reports back to an avatar type, the overarching parents of like-asset avatars. Information gleaned from each asset avatar instance bubbles up to the avatar type, where it can be shared with other similar asset avatars. For example, Hitachi makes bullet trains; there is an avatar type for each class of bullet train which collects the information from its children — metadata and information from tens of thousands of sensors and actuators — and shares with other similar asset avatars and asset types so all bullet trains will have said learnings.

“Being able to have that digital brain that keeps getting smarter and smarter over time helps us make our equipment and the equipment of our competitors that our customers are using smarter over time,” Tiffany said.

Solution cores were another differentiator, Tiffany added. With specific vertical technology, solution cores are “repeatable IoT building blocks that include software, methodologies and data,” helping customers across a variety of industries and use cases get better value more quickly once they’ve deployed an IoT platform. Available solution cores include IIoT, energy IoT and smart cities.

“We know our customers don’t have an army of data scientists or domain experts on types of machines, so we bring that know-how to get them to value more quickly,” Tiffany said, adding that more solution cores will be developed and released over time.

Finally, Tiffany said that a key differentiator of the Lumada IoT platform was that it doesn’t differentiate — meaning it can ingest and work with machine data, human-entered data, data coming from customers’ existing systems (ERP or CRM, for instance), as well as web services and clouds — from a variety of competitors. With more than 100 connectors, interoperability with other systems helps Hitachi’s customers pull in more data and achieve deeper insight and analytics with more meaning and context.

General availability of App Service on Linux and Web App for Containers

Applications are changing the pace of business today – from delivering amazing customer experiences, to transforming internal operations. To keep pace, developers need solutions that help them quickly build, deploy and scale applications without having to maintain the underlying web servers or operating systems. Azure App Service delivers this experience and currently hosts more than 1 million cloud applications. Using its powerful capabilities such as integrated CI/CD, deployment slots and auto scaling, developers can get applications to the end users much faster; and today we’re making it even better. 

I am pleased to announce that Azure App Service is now generally available on Linux, including its Web App for Containers capability. With this, we now offer built-in image support for ASP.NET Core, Node.js, PHP and Ruby on Linux, as well as provide developers an option to bring their own Docker formatted container images supporting Java, Python, Go and more.

In Azure, we continue to invest in providing more choices that help you maximize your existing investments. Supporting Azure App Service on Linux is an important step in that direction.

High productivity development

To accelerate cloud applications development, you can take advantage of the built-in images for ASP.NET Core, Node.js, PHP and Ruby, all running on Linux, letting you focus on your applications instead of infrastructure. Just select the stack your web app needs, we will set up the application environment and handle the maintenance for you. If you want more control of your environment, simply SSH into your application and get full remote access to administrative commands.

Web App

Pre-built packages including WordPress, Joomla and Drupal solutions are also available in Azure Marketplace and can be deployed with just a few clicks to App Service.

Ease of deployment

With the new App Service capability, Web App for Containers, you can get your containerized applications to production in seconds. Simply push your container image to Docker Hub, Azure Container Registry, or your private registry, and Web App for Containers will deploy your containerized application and provision required infrastructure. Furthermore, whenever required, it will automatically perform Linux OS patching and load balancing for you.

Docker Container

Apart from the portal, you also have the option to deploy to App Service using CLI or Azure Resource Management templates.

Built-in CI/CD, scale on demand

Azure App Service on Linux offers built-in CI/CD capabilities and an intuitive scaling experience. With a few simple clicks, you can integrate with GitHub, Docker Hub or Azure Container Registry, and realize continuous deployment through Jenkins, VSTS or Maven.

Deployment Slots let you easily deploy to target environments, swap staging to production, schedule performance and quality tests, and roll-back to previous versions with zero downtime.

After you promote the updates to production, scaling is as simple as dragging a slider, calling a REST API, or configuring automatic scaling rules. You can scale your applications up or down on demand or automatically, and get high availability within and across different geographical regions.

To get started with Azure App Service on Linux, check out the use cases and try App Service for free. Want to learn more? Sign up for our upcoming webinar focused on containerized applications. You can also join us and thousands of other developers at Open Source Summit North America. For more information and updates, follow @OpenAtMicrosoft. 

Conversational Retail Bots, E-Commerce Fraud Protection & More… Thanks to the Power of Microsoft AI

A peek at selective new customers benefiting from Microsoft AI and Machine Learning.

Cami Boosts Customer Engagement at Dixons Carphone

Based in the United Kingdom, Dixons Carphone is a major electronics retailer employing over 42,000 people in 11 countries, and providing consumers with products and services that help them lead seamlessly connected lives at home, in the office, and on the move. Like most retailers, Dixons Carphone has had to adapt its business to changing consumer buying patterns, including an increase in online product research and shopping. For instance, 90 percent of their customers start their shopping journey online, and a full 65 percent use their phones to assist them while shopping in-store. This resulted in a comprehensive review of their existing customer experience strategies.

Dixons Carphone partnered with Microsoft to research ways to transform their business through better customer engagement. They also wanted to and provide their store colleagues with tools to optimize the time spent with customers. They determined that artificial intelligence could be the key to offering customers a differentiated and personalized service. Specifically, Dixons Carphone investigated the capabilities of the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services in the context of customer interactions. The Bot Framework helps companies build, test and deploy intelligent bots that are capable of interacting with customers in a conversational way. In the case of a retail business, bots can be programmed to answer questions about product options and stock availability, for instance. The Bot Framework works in tandem with Cognitive Services, a collection of intelligent APIs hosted on Azure that provide the underlying language and image recognition capabilities that power the bots.

Dixons Carphone spent a fair bit of time deciding on the branding and personality for their bot, and finally landed on the name Cami – a mildly geeky and confident personality, designed to help customers navigate the world of technology. Cami currently accepts text-based input in the form of questions and accepts pictures of products’ in-store shelf labels to check stock status. The bot uses the Cognitive Services Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) for conversational abilities, and the Computer Vision API to process images. Dixons Carphone was able to simply reuse existing information available on their online buying guide and from their store employee training materials to train Cami.

Cami is not just for customers – she will be assisting Dixons Carphone store colleagues as well, for instance to do stock checks the same way customers do. In addition, the company’s research showed that customers who research products online before coming to a store are often frustrated that they need to start from scratch when getting assistance from a store colleague, and Cami helps bridge that gap through a Wishlist feature. As customers add items to their Wishlist, Cami saves the search criteria they used, and store colleagues can pull up that information in-store, to see what the customer was looking for. They can then direct them to that specific product or related products which may suit their needs.

Dixons Carphone has been testing Cami before rolling out the functionality to customers, and the results have been positive. Once Cami goes live, Dixons Carphone expects the bot to be a new source of business intelligence. The company will use the Cognitive Services Text Analytics API, Azure Application Insights, and a Power BI dashboard to review which products customers are looking at, the sentiment of their interactions, and the questions they are asking. Understanding the questions that customers are asking and analyzing their interactions with the bot will help the company improve their communications and messaging as well.

You can learn more about the Dixons Carphone story here.

Arvato Bertelsmann Protects Online Merchants from E-Commerce Fraud

An estimated 70 percent of online sellers in Germany have suffered fraud attempts, but only 14 percent of them use any safeguards today. Although e-commerce merchants recognize the importance of protecting themselves from online fraud, many of them lack the resources to manage this risk efficiently. What’s more, criminals are quick to adapt their fraudulent methods, so any solutions used by merchants need to learn and adapt as well.

Arvato Financial Solutions, an integrated financial services provider, offers vital services around ecommerce safety for some 2,000 odd customers. One of eight divisions of Bertelsmann – the German media, services and education giant – Avato has over 68,000 employees and delivers a rich portfolio of payment-related BPO services. Arvato recently partnered with Microsoft, inovex GmbH, a cloud and big data specialist, and a few of Arvato’s e-commerce customers to create a fraud detection solution using Microsoft’s big data and machine learning offerings.

By combining Azure services with the open-source Storm and Hadoop frameworks, Avato built an integrated cloud-based solution that uses a modern lambda architecture to process massive data quantities using both batch and stream processing. The batch path transforms existing data using Hadoop. Then, by applying machine learning algorithms, the solution develops self-learning analytical models from past fraud cases, for early recognition of any new fraudulent approaches. The stream-processing path captures incoming real-time transaction data via Azure Event Hubs. It then analyzes the data with the assistance of Storm and Azure Machine Learning to uncover fraudulent activities as they happen.

An important goal of the project was to visualize and monitor the models, and Power BI serves this function, displaying datasets drawn directly from cloud sources, Azure HDInsight, and SQL Database on several large screens in Arvato’s monitoring center.

Avato’s investment in good cloud design is paying for itself, helping the company reliably fulfill SLAs using cloud services. Their flexible architecture enables rapid deployment, which is key for fraud recognition in an international e-commerce setting. Using Microsoft machine learning on big data, Avato has created an innovative e-commerce fraud recognition solution and built the basis for innovative financial BPO services based on Microsoft Azure.

Read more about the Arvato Financial Solutions story here.

Complex Networks Automatically Curates Personalized Website Content

Complex Networks is a youth culture media company catering to millennials and part of Verizon Hearst Media Partners, an American entertainment and media holding company. With a focus on music, style, entertainment, sports and popular culture and a robust portfolio of popular channels such as Complex, First We Feast, Collider, and Rated Red, plus a multichannel network with more than 100 websites, Complex Networks has built a powerful pop culture brand presence. Their sites feature over 54 million unique visitors a month and an average of 800 million video views per month.

The company’s main website, Complex.com, strives to present visitors with fresh, engaging materials to attract their interest. The current focus is around video consumption and efficiently showing visitors the right content at the right time, so they spend more time on the site, visit more pages, watch more videos and generate more ad conversions. The company wanted to improve engagement on its owned and operated websites, specifically around automating and personalizing the selection of featured site content. Historically, the company’s editorial department manually curated what content to highlight on the site, using factors such as what content was most recent, or trending, etc. While this took advantage of editors’ subject matter expertise, it was also inefficient, especially in contrast to the big social networks, which algorithmically recommend content to drive a ton of traffic.

It was clear to Complex Networks that they needed to invest in automation and the power of AI, to compete better. 

The team initially considered crafting its own solution to add recommendation logic to the website, but ultimately decided that outside services would offer better results. They learned about Microsoft Custom Decision Service, an open-source reinforcement learning system running on Azure. One of the Microsoft’s Cognitive Services APIs, the Custom Decision Service harnesses the power of AI to help applications create custom experiences with adaptive, contextual decision making. The Custom Decision Service algorithms use observations of actual user behavior to train themselves to continuously improve and optimize decisions.

Using their existing video player setup, the team ran A/B tests comparing Custom Decision Service with other solutions and was pleased with the results. Aside from being easy to implement and understand, the Custom Decision Service was also customizable in ways that other tools were not. The input data and reward can be made to vary by decision, so the service can optimize the most important metrics. This makes it easy to implement business logic on top of the service.

Following the successful tests with the video player, Complex Networks implemented Custom Decision Service on the homepage of Complex.com. The homepage features three articles or videos at the top, and Custom Decision Service now chooses the content for two of the three from a pool of 10 to 15 items selected by the editors. When the team evaluated their A/B test results, they found that Custom Decision Service consistently generated more clicks than hand curation. What’s more, Custom Decision Service works around the clock, with the most sustained performance observed during nights and weekends. Since eighty percent of their audience is returning visitors, it was especially important to Complex Networks to keep their content fresh and relevant to their users’ interests, so they are motivated to keep coming back.

Custom Decision Service incorporates other Cognitive Services APIs to analyze page content and provide better decision making for Complex Networks. For instance, the Computer Vision API scans images on the page and determines what they contain, and can identify people, locations, objects, and the presence of any adult content. The Emotion API looks at people in the images and identifies any strong emotions being expressed. The Text Analytics API parses any language on the page and determines its sentiment. And custom topic models hosted on Azure Machine Learning extract topics for given articles.

Complex Networks has already begun looking at other ways to apply Custom Decision Service. The company is rolling out a new video product that presents visitors with one video at a time and lets them swipe right or left on the video, based on their feelings about it, and move on to another. They have built a prototype using Video Indexer – another Cognitive Services API – to index and analyze the video content, and are considering using Custom Decision Service to make the important choice of which videos a visitor is most likely to enjoy. By helping the editorial department curate and select pieces of content to be distributed through other outlets, and allowing editors to focus on creating the best content, as opposed to spending time ranking articles, Custom Decision Service can also help improve the editorial processes within the company. Because Custom Decision Service is constantly learning and refining its choices, the results just keep getting better over time.

You can learn more about the Complex Networks solution here.

ML Blog Team