Tag Archives: into

Ex-SAP exec steers Episerver CMS toward digital experience market

NEW YORK — The Episerver CMS is morphing into a digital experience platform, led by CEO Alex Atzberger, the former SAP C/4HANA customer experience platform lead. He departed SAP in October and joined Episerver last month.

We sat down with Atzberger at NRF 2020 Vision: Retail’s Big Show to discuss recent Episerver acquisitions such as Insite Software, future acquisitions, how digital experience and customer experience differ, why he left SAP and his vision for Episerver’s acquisition and product roadmap.

How did you end up at Episerver? Things happened kind of fast after you left SAP.

Alex Atzberger: It happened very fast. When I desired to leave SAP, I looked for a cloud company with triple-digit [hundreds of millions of dollars in] cloud revenue. I was looking for something in CX, the most exciting and fastest-growing part of enterprise software. And I was looking for something that had the right strategic mindset.

[Episerver] had been acquired by Insight Partners, which had put money into the business, so they’re at an inflection point. They are the leader in what is still king, which is content. Even if you look at commerce-centric businesses, content matters a lot. And how do you marry content and commerce together? There are very few companies that have both of those embedded, and Epi is one of them. It worked out well, and the timing was perfect, very fast.

You’ve only been at Episerver for a month, but how would you describe your vision for the company and the product roadmap moving forward?

There are a couple of trends that continue to be very important: One, understanding everything about your customer, and two, serving up the next best action.
Alex AtzbergerCEO, Episerver

Atzberger: We have an untold story. People are really, really happy with this technology. One big part of the strategy, going forward, is expansion in North America, and telling the story of Epi.

Because of the size of the U.S. market, we have to decide on which specific verticals to focus on. There’s a large part of the economy that is not digital, that is somehow forgotten. These companies will not work with [platform vendors] that are too large; they need [vendors] that are large enough to serve, but small enough to care about the results. … Ultimately commerce and content are the face of so many brands, the heart of your business. … We’re going to focus on that market, and bringing automation to content, using AI and automation to scale [digital operations].

Do you feel like you’re competing with your old company SAP, since Episerver CMS is now on its way to being a full-featured digital experience platform with content and commerce clouds?

Atzberger: When I built the SAP CX platform, we built it under the notion of connecting supply chain and demand chain. It was really a relevant message for very large companies that were looking at one platform. Epi is much more focused on the digital experience, truly understanding the digital customer, and doing it in such a way that companies between, say, a million and a billion, are the sweet spot. It’s 80% or 90% whole different [market].

What happened at SAP? Bill McDermott left [in October], and you weren’t far behind. It was all very quick.

Atzberger: If you look at the big picture, it was 15 years [at SAP]. We all want to be CEO of a company. At one point it becomes harder, and you basically end up being part of a company for life.

There’s too much innovation going on, too much excitement going on that I wanted to be part of as well. Ariba and CX are a massive part of SAP. I’m very proud of that and I’m proud of what SAP has done as a company. With the CEO change it was a natural point [to depart].

How do your past experiences at SAP and SAP Ariba color what you’ll be doing at Episerver?

Atzberger: Those involved transformation, and I think it’s going to be a bit of the same here, rallying people around a common cause and a common brand.

The acquisition of B2B e-commerce company Insite Software, which caters to manufacturers and distributors, happened within days after you joined Epi. The deal probably was in the works before you started, right? Did you have final sign-off on the acquisition, or was the deal finished before?

Atzberger: Yes, it was in the works. The strategic direction was important in speaking about it with [Epi’s private equity owners] Insight Partners. There’s a huge B2B commerce opportunity.

When the acquisitions of Insite and [product content tagging automation technology] Idio were discussed with me, not only was I supportive of them but also it attracted me to Episerver as a company. The acquisitions made it so much more compelling to be at this place, at this time. I went to Minneapolis and met [Insite Software CEO] Steve Shaffer, and saw how well they executed against their goals. It left me inspired. I left Minneapolis thinking, ‘This is part of the future of Epi.’

What can you tell me about how you’re thinking about future acquisitions? You’re growing, you’re flush with cash. You can’t be done. What’s next?

Atzberger: We’re not done. Our focus now is the integration of Idio and Insite. What’s interesting to me is that there are a couple of trends that continue to be very important: One, understanding everything about your customer, and two, serving up the next best action. Everything that we do in the foreseeable future will be focused on the digital experience, and helping our customers get better and more informed data about their customers so they can make better decisions.

Go to Original Article
Author:

For Sale – 27” mid 2011 iMac i7 / 16gb For spares its repair

I was using it, then it stopped. I spoke to Apple Support and the booked me into Cambridge Store Genius. They ran a diagnostic and it passed all their tests and he suspected that it was a hard drive fail. It is classed as vintage and he says Apple would not repair it. I have already replaced with a new one so want this one gone. The guy in Apple removes the hard drive for me and that us not included. As for condition I can see no marks but he warned me that there may now be dust between glass and screen. Can take pictures if needed. It is boxed and comes with mouse only.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Microsoft Teams to add smartphone walkie-talkie feature

Workers will soon be able to turn their smartphones into a walkie-talkie using Microsoft Teams. The feature is one of several Microsoft unveiled this week targeting so-called frontline workers, such as retail associates, nurses, housekeepers and plumbers.

The walkie-talkie feature will let groups of employees speak to each other by pressing a button in the Teams mobile app. The audio will travel over Wi-Fi and cellular networks, meaning users will be able to communicate with colleagues anywhere in the world. The feature will be available in private preview in the first half of 2020.

Many retailers, hospitals, airlines and hotels still rely on physical walkie-talkie devices. In recent years, startups like Orion Labs and legacy vendors like Motorola Solutions have begun selling smartphone walkie-talkie apps. Those mobile apps come with benefits like location tracking and integration with other business technologies.

Microsoft’s smartphone walkie-talkie feature is not innovative. But if it works well, the capability could help Microsoft boost adoption of Teams among workers who otherwise wouldn’t use the app. Microsoft has made targeting frontline workers a priority since late 2018.

In addition to the walkie-talkie app, Microsoft said Thursday it would add to Teams a task feature for creating and assigning small projects to employees. The system will give businesses a dashboard to track tasks in real time across multiple departments or store locations. It will launch in the first half of 2020.

Microsoft will also expand the scheduling capabilities of Teams by integrating the app with popular workforce management platforms by Kronos and JDA Software. Those integrations will let businesses keep existing scheduling software in place while giving workers the ability to swap shifts and request time off through Teams.

Microsoft is not the only collaboration vendor targeting frontline workers, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. But Microsoft has a leg up on competitors because it can offer businesses so many complementary cloud services. Those include the customer relationship manager Dynamics 365 as well as e-commerce and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms within Microsoft Azure.

New identity and access features for Microsoft Teams

Additional features targeting frontline workers include SMS sign-in, off-shift access controls and shared-device sign-out. These features will roll out between now and the middle of the year. 

Workers will soon be able to sign into their Azure Active Directory account (which controls access to Teams) using only a mobile phone number. IT admins will decide which groups of employees use the method.

IT admins will also be able to prevent frontline workers from accessing Teams when they are not on the clock. Temporarily blocking access will help businesses comply with labor laws.

Finally, for Android, Microsoft will add an “end shift” button to shared mobile devices and tablets that will clear app logins and browser sessions. Purging that data will prevent employees from accessing information they shouldn’t.  

Collectively, the latest features show that Microsoft wants to take Teams beyond the 30% of corporate employees who work in offices, Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, said. “I think Microsoft is aggressively trying to expand the reach of Teams.”

Go to Original Article
Author:

Customer experience world catches up on CCPA regulations

The California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect Jan. 1 but will not be enforced until July 1. Those in the customer experience realms of sales, marketing, e-commerce and customer service who’ve already created GDPR compliance plans are a good chunk of the way to CCPA compliance, experts say.

CX teams who work for companies outside California may view CCPA compliance as a lower priority than GDPR, because it only represents one U.S. state. That is the case for a majority of clients of Blue Fountain Media, a New York-based digital agency specializing in marketing, e-commerce and overall customer experience, said general manager Brian Byer.

“This particular law isn’t going to be what drives the behavior across the entire United States,” Byer said. “Being a New Yorker, California is looked upon as being a little quirky, and once this becomes a federal mandate you will see a massive consumer effect. As of today, until somebody gets a massive fine, it’s going to be something consumers aren’t as cognizant of as, say, HIPAA compliance if they’re going to the doctor every week.”

Nationally, consumer data protection proposals are under consideration in Washington and Oregon as well, prompting some companies such as Microsoft to make CCPA compliance its national standard as it prepares for users to scrutinize cloud companies’ data-privacy practices as a patchwork of state laws may eventually lead to a national umbrella regulation.

CCPA regulations chart
CCPA regulations touch numerous teams involved with customer experience.

Differences, similarities to GDPR

For CX teams, protecting customer privacy under CCPA is similar to the European GDPR law, which took effect in 2018, in that a core principle involves consumers’ “right to be forgotten,” or requiring a company to delete their personal data.

The differences between the two laws are borne of the different mindsets of the European and California legal systems, said IDC legal analyst Ryan O’Leary. CCPA makes an exception for customer loyalty programs, which are not covered under the law, while the GDPR doesn’t. CCPA also puts more responsibility on consumers to opt out of their data use for commercial purposes, rather than the company that holds the data.

Another difference with CCPA is that it gives consumers separate control over sale of their consumer data, the extent of which will remain somewhat “up in the air” until regulators decide what will and won’t be enforced, O’Leary added. But California consumers, in effect, can tell a company to hold on to their data, but not to sell it.

If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.
Ryan O’LearyAnalyst, IDC

“Businesses have to provide a clearly visible and worded opt-out link on their websites [for data sales],” O’Leary said, adding that cloud software platforms add more legal questions about who is responsible for data-selling violations — which can add up quickly, with fines of $7,500 per violation — for selling a consumer’s data after consumers have opted out. “If you’re not selling the data, but third parties you’re working with are leveraging your consumer data and going ahead and selling it, you could be held liable.”

That said, O’Leary added that he sees companies trying to limit the number of opt-outs — and therefore, the compliance load — by making it harder to do. Those can include benign “are you sure?” boxes, more onerous web forms, or even requiring consumers to call a contact center to opt out over the phone. It’s all legal, fitting in with CCPA’s mandate requiring companies to offer consumers two modes of contact for consumers to opt out of personal data retention.

What companies CCPA covers

Despite the fear of potential CCPA fines that could intimidate digital marketing and call center teams for mishandling consumer information, not every company is affected by the regulation. First, a company has to do business with Californians. Second, the law covers only companies that either do $25 million in gross revenue, receive personal information from at least 50,000 consumer or derive at least 50% of annual revenue from selling consumers’ personal information.

Some nonprofits may be excluded, according to Jackson Lewis attorneys Joseph Lazzarotti and Jason Gavejian in their analysis of the law, which also includes which data points that the law considers personal information, such as biometric data, education records and even “audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory or similar information.”

For CX teams using cloud platform technology platforms, complying with CCPA and other potential consumer data-protection laws coming down the pike involves unifying consumer data and breaking down data silos — something they’re been working on already for business purposes, said IDC’s O’Leary.

“The first step in complying with these types of laws is to clean up your house and information governance practices,” O’Leary said. “We really need to stop thinking and working in silos. We need to start data mapping. There’s plenty of tools and consultants out there to help. … It will cost, but [consumer trust] is worth any cost to get a handle on your data, where it is and who has it.”

Go to Original Article
Author:

Major storage vendors map out 2020 plans

The largest enterprise storage vendors face a common set of challenges and opportunities heading into 2020. As global IT spending slows and storage gets faster and frequently handles data outside the core data center, primary storage vendors must turn to cloud, data management and newer flash technologies.

Each of the major storage vendors has its own plans for dealing with these developments. Here is a look at what the major primary storage vendors did in 2019 and what you can expect from them in 2020.

Dell EMC: Removing shadows from the clouds

2019 in review: Enterprise storage market leader Dell EMC spent most of 2019 bolstering its cloud capabilities, in many cases trying to play catch-up. New cloud products include VMware-orchestrated Dell EMC Cloud Platform arrays that integrate Unity and PowerMax storage, coupled with VxBlock converged and VxRail hyper-converged infrastructure.

The new Dell EMC Cloud gear allows customers to build and deploy on-premises private clouds with the agility and scale of the public cloud — a growing need as organizations dive deeper into AI and DevOps.

What’s on tap for 2020: Dell EMC officials have hinted at a new Power-branded midrange storage system for several years, and a formal unveiling of that product is expected in 2020. Then again, Dell initially said the next-generation system would arrive in 2019. Customers with existing Dell EMC midrange storage likely won’t be forced to upgrade, at least not for a while. The new storage platform will likely converge features from Dell EMC Unity and SC Series midrange arrays with an emphasis on containers and microservices.

Dell will enhance its tool set for containers to help companies deploy microservices, said Sudhir Srinivasan, the CTO of Dell EMC storage. He said containers are a prominent design featured in the new midrange storage. 

“Software stacks that were built decades ago are giant monolithic pieces of code, and they’re not going to survive that next decade, which we call the data decade,” Srinivasan said. 

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s eventful year

2019 in review: In terms of product launches and partnerships, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) had a busy year in 2019. HPE Primera all-flash storage arrived in late 2019,  and HPE expects customers will slowly transition from its flagship 3PAR platform. Primera supports NVMe flash, embedding custom chips in the chassis to support massively parallel data transport on PCI Express lanes. The first Primera customer, BlueShore Financial, received its new array in October.

HPE bought supercomputing giant Cray to expand its presence in high-performance computing, and made several moves to broaden its hyper-converged infrastructure options. HPE ported InfoSight analytics to HPE SimpliVity HCI, as part of the move to bring the cloud-based predictive tools picked up from Nimble Storage across all HPE hardware. HPE launched a Nimble dHCI disaggregated HCI product and partnered with Nutanix to add Nutanix HCI technology to HPE GreenLake services while allowing Nutanix to sell its software stack on HPE servers.

It capped off the year with HPE Container Platform, a bare-metal system to make it easier to spin up Kubernetes-orchestrated containers on bare metal. The Container Platform uses technology from recent HPE acquisitions MapR and BlueData.

What’s on tap for 2020: HPE vice president of storage Sandeep Singh said more analytics are coming in response to customer calls for simpler storage. “An AI-driven experience to predict and prevent issues is a big game-changer for optimizing their infrastructure. Customers are placing a much higher priority on it in the buying motion,” helping to influence HPE’s roadmap, Singh said.

It will be worth tracking the progress of GreenLake as HPE moves towards its goal of making all of its technology available as a service by 2022.

Hitachi Vantara: Renewed focus on traditional enterprise storage

2019 in review: Hitachi Vantara renewed its focus on traditional data center storage, a segment it had largely conceded to other array vendors in recent years. Hitachi underwent a major refresh of the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) flash array in 2019. The VSP 5000 SAN arrays scale to 69 PB of raw storage, and capacity extends higher with hardware-based deduplication in its Flash Storage Modules. By virtualizing third-party storage behind a VSP 5000, customers can scale capacity to 278 PB.

What’s on tap for 2020: The VSP5000 integrates Hitachi Accelerated Fabric networking technology that enables storage to scale out and scale up. Hitachi this year plans to phase in the networking to other high-performance storage products, said Colin Gallagher, a Hitachi vice president of infrastructure products.

“We had been lagging in innovation, but with the VSP5000, we got our mojo back,” Gallagher said.

Hitachi arrays support containers, and Gallagher said the vendor is considering whether it needs to evolve its support beyond a Kubernetes plugin, as other vendors have done. Hitachi plans to expand data management features in Hitachi Pentaho analytics software to address AI and DevOps deployments. Gallagher said Hitachi’s data protection and storage as a service is another area of focus for the vendor in 2020.

IBM: hybrid cloud, with cyber-resilient storage

2019 in review: IBM brought out the IBM Elastic Storage Server 3000, an NVMe-based array packaged with IBM Spectrum Scale parallel file storage. Elastic Storage Server 3000 combines NVMe flash and containerized software modules to provide faster time to deployment for AI, said Eric Herzog, IBM’s vice president of world storage channels.

In addition, IBM added PCIe-enabled NVMe flash to Versastack converged infrastructure and midrange Storwize SAN arrays.

What to expect in 2020: Like other storage vendors, IBM is trying to navigate the unpredictable waters of cloud and services. Its product development revolves around storage that can run in any cloud. IBM Cloud Services enables end users to lease infrastructure, platforms and storage hardware as a service. The program has been around for two years, and will add IBM software-defined storage to the mix this year. Customers thus can opt to purchase hardware capacity or the IBM Spectrum suite in an OpEx model. Non-IBM customers can run Spectrum storage software on qualified third-party storage.

“We are going to start by making Spectrum Protect data protection available, and we expect to add other pieces of the Spectrum software family throughout 2020 and into 2021,” Herzog said.

Another IBM development to watch in 2020 is how its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat affects either vendor’s storage products and services.

NetApp: Looking for a rebound

2019 in review: Although spending slowed for most storage vendors in 2019, NetApp saw the biggest decline. At the start of 2019, NetApp forecast annual sales at $6 billion, but poor sales forced NetApp to slash its guidance by around 10% by the end of the year.

NetApp CEO George Kurian blamed the revenue setbacks partly on poor sales execution, a failing he hopes will improve as NetApp institutes better training and sales incentives. The vendor also said goodbye to several top executives who retired, raising questions about how it will deliver on its roadmap going forward.

What to expect in 2020: In the face of the turbulence, Kurian kept NetApp focused on the cloud. NetApp plowed ahead with its Data Fabric strategy to enable OnTap file services to be consumed, via containers, in the three big public clouds.  NetApp Cloud Data Service, available first on NetApp HCI, allows customers to consume OnTap storage locally or in the cloud, and the vendor capped off the year with NetApp Keystone, a pay-as-you-go purchasing option similar to the offerings of other storage vendors.

Although NetApp plans hardware investments, storage software will account for more revenue as companies shift data to the cloud, said Octavian Tanase, senior vice president of the NetApp OnTap software and systems group.

“More data is being created outside the traditional data center, and Kubernetes has changed the way those applications are orchestrated. Customers want to be able to rapidly build a data pipeline, with data governance and mobility, and we want to try and monetize that,” Tanase said.

Pure Storage: Flash for backup, running natively in the cloud

2019 in review: The all-flash array specialist broadened its lineup with FlashArray//C SAN arrays and denser FlashBlade NAS models. FlashArray//C extends the Pure Storage flagship with a model that supports Intel Optane DC SSD-based MemoryFlash modules and quad-level cell NAND SSDs in the same system.

Pure also took a major step on its journey to convert FlashArray into a unified storage system by acquiring Swedish file storage software company Compuverde. It marked the second acquisition in as many years for Pure, which acquired deduplication software startup StorReduce in 2018.

What to expect in 2020: The gap between disk and flash prices has narrowed enough that it’s time for customers to consider flash for backup and secondary workloads, said Matt Kixmoeller, Pure Storage vice president of strategy.

“One of the biggest challenges — and biggest opportunities — is evangelizing to customers that, ‘Hey, it’s time to look at flash for tier two applications,'” Kixmoeller said.

Flexible cloud storage options and more storage in software are other items on Pure’s roadmap items. Cloud Block Store, which Pure introduced last year, is just getting started, Kixmoeller said, and is expected to generate lots of attention from customers. Most vendors support Amazon Elastic Block Storage by sticking their arrays in a colocation center and running their operating software on EBS, but Pure took a different approach. Pure reengineered the backend software layer to run natively on Amazon S3.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Pilots underscore Amazon healthcare strategy

Amazon’s initial moves into healthcare have analysts like Forrester’s Jeff Becker wondering what its larger game might be.

In the last two years, Amazon has increasingly set its sights on the healthcare industry as it makes acquisitions and tests healthcare products internally that could be pushed out to customers in an effort to solve larger issues, such as the lack of prescription price transparency and the high cost of healthcare.

The Amazon healthcare strategy includes acquiring online pharmacy PillPack and digital health technology startup Health Navigator. It also includes co-founding Haven. The initiative aims to use their combined resources and test new ways of lowering healthcare costs for their employees and is in partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorganChase.

“I think the most interesting thing they’re doing is following along the storyline of bringing down their own employee medical cost,” Becker said.

Jeff BeckerJeff Becker

Becker believes the company’s strategy is currently focused on cultivating the use of voice technology in healthcare and creating a “more shoppable healthcare experience” for patients and employers.

Some efforts are already proving fruitful. Others are more of a question mark. Becker pointed to Haven as one place that may not be making the kind of progress it set out to make.

The big picture

The Haven initiative is combining data, technology and resources from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorganChase to lower prescription drug costs and medical treatment for patients, according to the company’s vision statement.

Amazon announced the Boston-based joint venture in January 2018, but it didn’t get the name Haven until earlier this year. According to Haven’s vision statement, it’s not looking to make a profit as it seeks to find ways to lower healthcare costs. Haven plans to “reinvest any surplus” back into the initiative’s work to improve health outcomes and lower costs. While its current focus centers on employees of all three companies, the vision is to eventually share its innovations with others.

One of the first pilot healthcare services to grow out of the Haven initiative is Amazon Care, for Amazon employees in the Seattle area. The pilot service offers virtual and in-person care from Oasis Medical through a mobile app.

Becker called Amazon Care a “digital front door” for lowering employee healthcare costs by addressing an employee’s minor healthcare needs and potentially sidestepping costly urgent care visits.

“If they can reduce the overuse of the ER, the digital front door strategy will pay for itself,” he said.

Amazon Care also offers same-day prescription deliveries. The service utilizes Amazon’s $753 million acquisition of PillPack, a digital pharmacy that sorts medication by dose and delivers to a patient’s door. The PillPack acquisition has since been rebranded as PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy. This month, it started working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts by integrating pharmacy services into the health insurer’s “MyBlue” app.

Amazon also acquired a start-up called Health Navigator earlier this year, its first healthcare-related acquisition since PillPack. Health Navigator provides services such as online symptom checking and triage tools for digital health companies seeking to steer patients to the right location to seek care. The acquisition plays a role in the overall Amazon healthcare strategy as it will become part of the Amazon Care health service.

Kamaljit BeheraKamaljit Behera

“If you go by what Amazon’s spokesperson revealed, they want to eliminate costs associated with travel, as well as the inconvenience associated with waiting times for patients,” Kamaljit Behera, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said. “This is where we see Amazon coming strong into the telehealth space.”

The work Amazon is doing through the Haven initiative and pilots like Amazon Care points to what Becker thinks will be the wider Amazon healthcare strategy: a one-stop-shop for patients seeking healthcare options.

What if there was a marketplace for shoppable healthcare experiences?
Jeff BeckerAnalyst, Forrester

“What if there was a marketplace for shoppable healthcare experiences?” Becker said.

That idea is a long way off, but Becker believes Amazon is testing the idea now, starting with its Amazon Care pilot, to find ways to introduce technology and cut down on costs. Yet beyond Amazon Care, the Haven name hasn’t been associated with many projects, and Becker said there hasn’t been much in the way of updates about Haven and the work Haven CEO Atul Gawande, M.D., has been doing — something he will be looking for in 2020.

Behera echoed Becker, saying he believes the Amazon healthcare strategy going forward will be to extend health services with a more consumer-centric offering.

“Amazon will be looking to create a much more curated, personalized space,” Behera said.

Amazon will continue focus on voice

Amazon’s main goal appears to be lowering healthcare costs through its efforts with the Haven initiative, but one area Amazon will continue to develop is voice technology in healthcare, Becker said.

Early partnerships with health systems like Boston Children’s Hospital to build Alexa skills, or voice capabilities, served as indicators of the company’s interest in healthcare. In 2016, AWS partnered with Boston Children’s to start building Alexa skills for parents, Becker said. Recently, Amazon announced the creation of a skill that enables Alexa to refill prescriptions by voice, as well as remind patients to take their medication.

Amazon has continued to build out Alexa skills for the healthcare industry, and Becker speculates that Alexa will be the first virtual assistant to be HIPAA-compliant. Indeed, Amazon is creating healthcare skills that are etching closer to being HIPAA-compliant, such as Express Scripts and Cigna Health Today, which give eligible customers the ability to use voice to manage prescriptions and engage in health improvement programs.

Becker said Amazon has six ongoing protected health information-processing pilot programs. He described the company as the first to “cross the finish line” for voice-only two-factor authentication, which first authenticates a voice profile and then asks for a unique verbal pin to access protected health information (PHI).

“We’ve been waiting for some kind of way they are going to overcome the authentication requirements for starting to process PHI,” he said.

As Amazon builds healthcare skills for Alexa, Becker said AWS will eventually play a major role as a data processing platform for the Alexa voice skills. At the recent AWS re:Invent 2019 conference, Amazon introduced Transcribe Medical, which records patient-doctor interactions and turns voice into text. The service is helping clinicians with medical notes, but Becker believes it points to a longer-term use case as a data processing tool.

Transcribe Medical can be made more robust by combining it with services like Amazon Comprehend Medical, which uses natural language processing and machine learning to extract pertinent pieces of medical information from unstructured text, according to Becker.  

“If you have a HIPAA-compliant Alexa service, Transcribe Medical will convert those conversations to text, and then Comprehend Medical will identify clinical facts within that text,” Becker said. “You’re starting to see a more compelling set of capabilities for having medical conversations with consumers over a voice channel. I think that’s part of what they’re building.”

Frost & Sullivan’s Behera said Alexa and voice technology is an integral part of the Amazon healthcare strategy. It’s looking to address a known healthcare pain point — physician burnout — with emerging tech.

Based on industry estimates, 40% of physician burnout is related to the EHR, Behera said. While interacting with a patient, physicians enter information into a patient’s electronic health record, a process that can be burdensome and negatively impact the patient-physician relationship. Transcribe Medical, which is HIPAA eligible, could reduce the data entry burden. EHR vendor Cerner is partnering with Amazon to introduce the service as a digital assistant for providers.

“AI-driven interactive, virtual assistants are becoming a common background technology for medical transcription, documentation … and even customer relationship management,” Behera said.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Procrastinators, rejoice! Last minute US holiday deals available now at Microsoft Store | Windows Experience Blog

As we shift into the final days of the holiday shopping season, it’s not too late to find great deals on your favorite Surface devices, Xbox games and consoles, accessories and more. In fact, “Super Saturday,” the Saturday before Christmas which this year falls on Dec. 21, has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year. This year, 62% of U.S. shoppers plan to shop on Super Saturday, according to the NRF. The good news for all you last minute shoppers: it’s not too late to find great savings at Microsoft Store and microsoft.com.

If you waited a little longer than planned to buy your holiday gifts, Microsoft Store makes it easier than ever to score a last minute deal with free 2-3-day shipping and options to buy online and pick up in store. When orders are placed during the store hours, most pickups are available within two hours. If you’d rather have your gift sent to your front door, to guarantee your order arrives in time for Christmas, make sure to order by Dec. 20 at 10 a.m. PT. Read on for the U.S. Super Saturday offers that will make your last minute shopping a breeze and the in-Store experiences available now.

Surface

Surface Pro X

Xbox

Xbox One S console and controller

PC

Lenovo Flex 14

Connected Life

BOSE QuietComfort 35 II Headphones and Bose SoundLink Micro Speaker

And if you’re cutting it a little too close, it’s never too late to score a digital gift. Skip the holiday lines and give select Xbox One games, PC games and apps right from the Microsoft Store. Or send a digital gift card to give your loved one the freedom to choose the gift they want, from devices to games, apps to movies and more. There are no fees or expiration dates, and the digital gift code is good for purchases at Microsoft Store online, on Windows and Xbox.

Whether you have a long list of gifts to buy, or are just missing one special treat for that tough-to-shop-for relative, Microsoft Store has you covered this Super Saturday and beyond. And in case you need to make a return, we’ve extended the return window so items purchased through Dec. 31, 2019 can be returned through Jan. 31, 2020. Be sure to check your local Store listing for special holiday hours, including Christmas Eve which may have reduced hours.

While you’re in the Store, make sure to check out our fun and free experiences—there’s something for the whole family. Play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on Xbox in a custom Star Wars chair, take a selfie with the newest Minecraft Earth character, the Jolly Llama, or register for educational Winter Workshops and Camps including online safety, digital skills and coding. Plus, you’ll receive a free year of personal training for devices purchased at a physical Microsoft Store location.

Visit your local Microsoft Store or microsoft.com for more details on availability and pricing. Follow Microsoft Store on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

* Offers shown are available in the U.S. online and in Microsoft Stores while supplies last. U.S. prices are shown. Offers and content varies by market and may change at any time. May not be combinable with other offers. Other exclusions may apply.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft Store empowers students with free Computer Science Education Week workshops | Windows Experience Blog

Students at a Microsoft Store

One hundred and thirteen years ago in New York, a girl was born into a generation where the average woman was more likely to perfect a signature pie recipe than solve a pi-based equation. Pushing against expectations, this girl became one of the pre-eminent technologists of our times and made it possible to convert human language into machine code understood by computers. On Dec. 9, the anniversary of Admiral Grace Hopper’s birthday kicks off Computer Science Education Week, an annual program dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science.

As technology such as AI and cloud computing rapidly transforms the future of work, it’s more important than ever for students and educators to develop STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—skills. It’s estimated that over 85 million jobs worldwide will go unfilled by 2030 if we don’t bridge the STEM skills gap—but schools often struggle to implement quality STEM curriculum and prepare students for career paths that are just starting to come into focus.

Inspire students to ignite a passion for Computer Science

Microsoft Stores are committed to empowering students and educators with computer science resources and will host over 400 events in partnership with STEM influencers throughout Computer Science Education Week across locations. Ensuring no one is left behind when it comes to developing increasingly crucial computer science skills, programming this year has an increased focus on inclusion for traditionally underrepresented students.

Microsoft Store workshops will offer hands-on learning centered around coding, game design, app development and more using technologies from Windows, Surface, Office 365, Minecraft and more. Participants will hear from a diverse group of mentors and organizations from across the STEM field, including Lynell Caldwell, NASA, Brandon Copeland, Black Girls Code, Al Smith, Curtis Baham, Lee Woodall, Dennis Brown and Titus O’Neil.

Students at a Microsoft Store

Check your local Microsoft Store to register for exciting workshops geared toward empowering every learner, including workshops like;

  • Latina Girls in Gaming with MakeCode Arcade: Learn basic block coding and create video games with Gabriela Ponce, producer with Turn 10 Studios and advocate for helping the Latinx community succeed in the gaming industry. Gaby will share more about her journey combining her passions for art, culture and technology, and empower Latina girls to embrace STEM skills.
  • All Kids Code with Tynker Space Quest: Solve coding puzzles to guide an astronaut in space with Nadmi Casiano, the first deaf woman to graduate with an aeronautical engineering degree. All students are welcome, and ASL interpreters will be available at participating Microsoft Store locations to empower students with hearing disabilities.
  • African American Girls Code with Tynker Space Quest: Joan Higgenbotham, one of the first African American female astronauts to go into space, will share her experience at a workshop geared toward inspiring African American Girls to pursue STEM. Participants will learn basic coding concepts in an engaging format as they navigate aliens in search for a spaceship.
  • MANCODE with Design and Code Apps: Brainstorm app ideas and bring ideas to life with MANCODE, an organization aimed at addressing the stagnate growth of African American males within the STEM industry, who currently represent only 2.2% of the field. This workshop is geared toward underrepresented male students aged 13 and older, who will meet a male minority mentor and learn about the importance of technology.
  • Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit Workshop: Explore the magic of STEM at a Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit Workshop that introduces foundational coding concepts, including drag-and-drop coding. This autism-friendly workshop features alternate activities to allow a broad level of participation, and parents are welcome to join with their child.

In addition to these workshops, Microsoft Stores will also host Minecraft Hour of Code workshops, teaching students of all ages to code with Minecraft. The new Minecraft Hour of Code lesson aligns with this year’s theme, Computer Science for Good. Students will explore coding and artificial intelligence as they protect a village from forest fires in an immersive Minecraft world. Anyone can learn how coding can help build a better world—in just one hour!

Check availability of workshops and RSVP at your local Microsoft Store. Programming will vary by location. And, do you know students always get 10% off at Microsoft Store?* Make sure to take advantage of your discount when you shop at Microsoft Store.

* See full terms at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/b/education

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center

8×8 Video Meetings launches for free in challenge to Zoom

8×8 has launched a free version of its video conferencing app, hoping to lure businesses into subscribing to its cloud-based calling and contact center suite.

8×8 is challenging Zoom and LogMeIn in launching its first stand-alone video product. The move comes as those vendors have been seeking to penetrate 8×8’s primary market: business calling, also known as unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

Zoom has aggressively expanded its cloud-based business calling service over the past year while LogMeIn has pursued product consolidation. The company recently folded its flagship video conferencing platform, GoToMeeting, into a broader UCaaS offering called GoToConnect.

8×8 Video Meetings places no limit on how long meetings can last. In contrast, the free versions of Zoom and GoToMeeting cap meetings at 40 minutes. 8×8’s free version also provides toll-free dial-in options, which are usually a pay-by-the-minute add-on.

“This is certainly a compelling new entrant that will challenge Zoom and GoToMeeting’s freemium offerings,” said Mike Fasciani, analyst at Gartner.

Screenshot of 8x8 Video Meetings
8×8 Video Meetings uses WebRTC to enable browser-based meetings without downloads or plugins.

But only 50 people can meet at once on 8×8’s platform. That’s fewer than the 100-person limit of Zoom’s free version, although more than GoToMeeting’s three-person cap. (Zoom’s paid service can support 1,000 participants, while GoToMeeting’s premium tier can support 3,000.)

Users can access 8×8 Video Meetings without registering. However, signing up with an email address unlocks benefits such as calendar integration, team admin controls, and personalized virtual meeting rooms. In turn, 8×8 will try to convince users who register to become paying customers.

8×8 Video Meetings launched in September for businesses subscribed to the vendor’s X Series suite, which includes calling, messaging and contact center apps. 8×8 built the product using the open source software of Jitsi, which the vendor acquired from Atlassian last year.

Businesses get a couple of perks for using 8×8 Video Meetings as part of the X Series. For those customers, 8×8 Video Meetings includes a call-me feature for connecting to a meeting’s audio. Also, the video app integrates with third-party services, such as single sign-on software.

In the future, 8×8 might create a paid subscription tier for 8×8 Video Meetings. The offering could include advanced features like transcription and meeting room controls, said Eduardo Cocozza, a senior marketing director at 8×8.

Because it relies on WebRTC, 8×8 Video Meetings lets users conduct meetings in web browsers like Chrome and Firefox without downloads or plugins. But desktop and mobile apps are available for those who want them. Highfive, Cisco and BlueJeans have also enabled browser-based video conferencing in recent years.

8×8 is currently beta-testing meeting room software for connecting its video app to software-agnostic endpoints from vendors like Logitech and Poly. 8×8 is in the process of cementing partnerships with hardware vendors for preintegrated room kits, Cocozza said.

Go to Original Article
Author:

Project Silica proof of concept stores Warner Bros. ‘Superman’ movie on quartz glass

Turning digital data into physical artifacts

With a nearly 100-year history in film and television, Warner Bros. owns one of the world’s deepest and most significant entertainment libraries. Re-releasing older films in new formats or for new audiences is an important part of the business. It’s also a tremendous cultural responsibility to preserve some of the world’s most beloved stories in perpetuity, Colf said.

“Imagine if a title like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ or a show like ‘Friends’ wasn’t available for generation after generation to enjoy and see and understand,” she said. “We think that’s unimaginable, and that’s why we take the job of preserving and archiving our content extremely seriously.”

The company has redundancy plans in place to handle multiple worst-case scenarios: an earthquake or hurricane that strikes one of the coasts, a fire where the suppression systems don’t kick in or a climate control failure that allows moisture to build up and ruin film stock.

The goal is to have three archival copies of each asset stored in different locations around the world: two separate digitized copies, along with the original physical copy on whatever medium a film or television episode or animated cartoon was created.

Fortunately, original film negatives will last for centuries if stored in the right conditions. But for some older television shows — think episodes of “Alice” shot in the 1970s — the original physical copy has a limited shelf life that requires migration to newer formats. And for today’s films and television shows that are shot digitally, the archival-quality third copy has a very short migration cycle of three to five years, which is challenging to manage.

“Let’s say a TV show is pushing directly into our digital archives; there’s nothing physical,” said Steven Anastasi, Warner Bros. vice president for global media archives and preservation services. “The digital file is going in but I don’t have something I can put in a vault or in a salt mine or anything physical coming into the building.”

Researcher Youssef Assaf drops a square of silica glass in a kettle of boiling water to demonstrate its durability
Microsoft Project Silica researcher Youssef Assaf drops a square of silica glass in a kettle of boiling water to demonstrate its durability. The team has baked, boiled, microwaved, demagnetized and scoured similar pieces of glass with steel wool — with no loss to the data stored inside. Photo by Jonathan Banks for Microsoft.

Warner Bros. is potentially looking at Project Silica to create a permanent physical asset to store important digital content and provide durable backup copies. Right now, for theatrical releases that are shot digitally, the company creates an archival third copy by converting it back to analog film. It splits the final footage into three color components —cyan, magenta and yellow — and transfers each onto black-and-white film negatives that won’t fade like color film.

Those negatives are put into a cold storage archive. In these highly managed vaults, temperature and humidity are tightly controlled, and air sniffers look for signs of chemical decomposition that could signal problems. If they need the film back, they must reverse those complicated steps.

That process is expensive, and there are only a handful of film labs left in the world that can do it. And the process is not optimal from a qualitative point of view, said Brad Collar, Warner Bros. senior vice president of global archives and media engineering.

“When we shoot something digitally — with zeros and ones representing the pixels on the screen ­— and print that to an analog medium called film, you destroy the original pixel values. And, sure, it looks pretty good, but it’s not reversible,” Collar said.

“If we can take the digital representation of those pixels and put it on a medium like silica and read it back off exactly as it was when it came out of the camera, we’ve done our preservation job to the very best of our ability. That’s what I love about this,” he said.

It’s not economical to create archival film negatives for every digitally shot television episode in the Warner Bros. library. The company hopes Project Silica might prove to be a cheaper, higher quality alternative to create physical archives of digital content.

There’s much more work ahead to reach that scale — Microsoft researchers would need to significantly increase the speed at which data can be written and read, as well as its density. Warner Bros. envisions its own infrastructure to read data from the glass archives. But both partners see promise in how far they’ve come.

“If Project Silica’s storage solution proves to be as cost-effective and as scalable as it could be — and we all recognize it’s still early days — this is something we’d love to see adopted by other studios and our peers and other industries,” Colf said.

“If it works for us, we firmly believe that this will be a benefit to anyone who wants to preserve and archive content,” she said.

Go to Original Article
Author: Microsoft News Center