Tag Archives: lets

SAP Concur creates Slack bot for booking flights

SAP Concur has created a Slack bot that lets users book travel and submit expenses within the team collaboration app. It’s the type of advanced business integration that Slack has embraced as a way to differentiate its platform from Microsoft Teams and Cisco Spark.

The SAP Concur Slack bot lets workers search and book flights within a Slack messaging channel. The integration makes it possible to share a flight itinerary with other Slack team members, who can then schedule the same travel arrangements with a couple of clicks. After travelers book a flight, they can direct the bot to create an expense report.

The travel bot is SAP Concur’s latest partnership with Slack. In March, the two vendors released a Slack bot that lets a user file, approve and manage expense reports. A worker could create an expense report, for example, by messaging the bot, “Expense $15 for lunch.”

SAP Concur has not released any bots that are compatible with Slack competitors Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex Teams, although it does have integrations with Microsoft Outlook 365 and the AI voice assistant platform Alexa for Business.

SAP Concur’s Slack bot for travel uses technology from the consumer flight search tool Hello Hipmunk, which SAP Concur acquired in 2016. The business-grade application of the software syncs with the travel policies enterprises set within SAP Concur.

“I can see significant potential for this to cut down on email back and forth that typically occurs when a travel department sends a list of options to an employee, and then they respond, and then there’s some back and forth before everyone agrees on a travel plan,” said Irwin Lazar, analyst at Nemertes Research based in Mokena, Ill.

Slack builds on integration advantage

Slack has a better track record than its rivals for being able to accommodate and take advantage of deep integrations with third-party business software like SAP Concur, said Wayne Kurtzman, analyst at IDC. Slack has more than 1,500 apps in its directory, far exceeding the inventory of other leading team collaboration platforms.

“Microsoft and Cisco have to make pushes — and they will — to leverage AI in new and different ways that make work easier, but it really has to be easier,” Kurtzman said. “Slack appears ready for the competition, and the team collaboration market will retain double-digit growth rates for most of the next 10 years.”

Slack has recently taken steps to make integrations more useful, and easier to create. Last month, the vendor acquired Missions, a division of the startup Robots & Pencils, to incorporate its technology for helping nondevelopers build workflows and integrations within Slack. The company also introduced a new paradigm for using third-party apps, letting users export contextual information from Slack into those business tools.

Businesses are looking for ways to streamline workflows so that employees can get work done faster, and with easier access to the context they need to make decisions. As a result, the integration of business apps with team collaboration platforms like Slack has become one of the hottest new trends in collaboration.

But those integrations need to balance convenience, complexity and confidentiality, said Alan Lepofsky, analyst at Constellation Research. The industry is still in the early stages of determining which tasks are best done in separate apps rather than within a platform like Slack — as well as which types of apps to trust with confidential data, he said.

“That said, I think the creation of these ‘work-related’ bots is a step in the right direction, as our future will certainly be filled with digital assistants. The question is when and to what level of granularity,” Lepofsky said.

BigQuery ML moves machine learning into Google BigQuery

Google has released a beta version of BigQuery ML, new software that lets users build some machine learning models inside the Google BigQuery cloud data warehouse with standard SQL commands.

BigQuery ML eliminates the need to move data sets from Google BigQuery to a separate tool to develop and train analytical models. Its SQL support also opens the machine learning process to SQL-savvy data analysts who might not be versed in more-advanced languages like R, Python and Scala that data scientists typically use to build machine learning models.

However, the new technology is limited in what it can do. Google said BigQuery ML initially supports only two types of models: linear regression ones that predict numerical values, such as sales forecasts, and binary logistic regression models that can be used to do two-group customer segmentation, identify email as spam and do other relatively simple classifications in data sets.

In addition, BigQuery ML is based on the standard batch variant of the gradiant descent methodology that drives machine learning algorithms instead of the so-called stochastic version.

The stochastic approach “is far more common in today’s large-scale machine learning systems,” Google acknowledged in a blog post about BigQuery ML. The company added, though, that the batch variant “has numerous practical advantages” on the performance, stability and tuning of machine learning models.

Broadening the machine learning user base

BigQuery ML likely won’t convince many data scientists who analyze data stored in BigQuery to change how they build models, said Daniel Mintz, chief data evangelist at software vendor Looker Data Sciences Inc., which has teamed up with Google to enable its data modeling and analytics platform to function as a front-end tool for BigQuery ML users.

“Professional data scientists, the people who do this all the time, are going to continue to use the tools they’re most comfortable with,” Mintz said.

But, Mintz added, BigQuery ML makes it feasible for the hordes of data analysts “who know SQL but haven’t done much with machine learning yet” to start developing models without having to learn new languages or deploy additional analytics tools.

We have a lean team of data scientists, and it can get a bit challenging to support all of the [marketing] campaigns in all possible cases.
Miguel Angel Campo-Rembadosenior vice president of data science and analytics, 20th Century Fox

And, in some cases, busy data scientists may be able to speed up the model-building process to better support business needs for information by using BigQuery ML.

For example, film studio 20th Century Fox is an early user of the technology. In a keynote session at the Google Cloud Next ’18 conference in San Francisco that was streamed online, Miguel Angel Campo-Rembado, the studio’s senior vice president of data science and analytics, said its marketing team needs analytics input on a continual basis to assess advertising and promotional campaigns for movies.

“But we have a lean team of data scientists, and it can get a bit challenging to support all of the campaigns in all possible cases,” Campo-Rembado said.

Less of a machine learning maze to run

With BigQuery ML, Campo-Rembado added, his team was able to build a linear regression model in just 30 seconds to analyze movie trailers to help pinpoint audiences that should be targeted in promoting the latest Maze Runner movie released in January. All it took was adding a CREATE MODEL statement in BigQuery ML to an existing SQL query for audience analysis, he said.

That, and the ability to keep the entire process inside Google BigQuery, enabled the analytics team to quickly run the model and deliver the results to the Los Angeles-based studio’s marketers “within minutes,” according to Campo-Rembado.

At its core, BigQuery ML is a set of SQL extensions designed to support machine learning and predictive analytics. Google, which announced the technology at Google Cloud Next, said users can build machine learning models in BigQuery ML with simple SQL statements like this:

CREATE MODEL dataset.model_name
  OPTIONS(model_type=’linear_reg’, input_label_cols=[‘input_label’])
AS SELECT * FROM input_table;

More work to do on BigQuery ML

Google didn’t say how long the beta-testing cycle will last or when it expects to make BigQuery ML generally available.

In its blog post, the company said that it plans to do more to boost the technology’s performance and that it will explore adding support for other types of machine learning algorithms to broaden BigQuery ML’s potential uses.

Looker, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., said its integration with BigQuery ML lets analytics teams use its namesake platform to prepare data for analysis, build and run their analytical models in a Google BigQuery data warehouse, and then disseminate the resulting information to business executives and workers.

“From a user’s perspective, it’s all a Looker front end,” Mintz said. “BigQuery ML is running under the hood, but it looks like one tool to users.” He added that BigQuery ML is the first tool Looker has seen that directly integrates machine learning capabilities into a data warehouse’s SQL interface.

Wanted – 1150 i7 / E3 12xx V3

Looking for an upgrade from my i3 – something along the lines of a 4770/4770s or counterpart xeon. Let’s see what you have! Thanks.

Location: Barton Upon Humber

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Mixed reality and medicine: Surgery with no surprises – Asia News Center

Let’s start at the beginning. The internal workings of the body have fascinated us since before the time of Leonardo da Vinci. And up until today, most medical schools have relied on books, models and, just like Leonardo, the dissection of cadavers to teach anatomy and surgical procedures to tomorrow’s doctors. But that has suddenly changed.

“Our way of visualizing the body in medicine has historically been as a two-dimensional abstraction. Now through mixed reality, we can view it in three dimensions and that is pretty transformative,” Dr. Kos says. Mixed reality is so transformative that clinicians – who are normally conservative in the uptake of new technologies – are “leaping at it”.

Institutions like Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in the United States and the University of Sydney in Australia are using Microsoft HoloLens to instruct their students. Donning headsets, they can “see” and study the anatomical complexities as if from the inside of the body. Three-dimensional tutorials, projected across a visor, graphically show how the heart pumps, how the nervous system functions, how bones and muscles interact, as well as the layout of vital organs. Students can walk around and even through the projected images to get intimately acquainted with the subject.

Similarly, global training and education company, CAE Healthcare, is aiming to improve patient safety by getting its students to use HoloLens to simulate and practice medical procedures. Its President Dr. Robert Amyot says healthcare providers are at their “most dangerous” when they are still on a “learning curve”. But now that has completely changed due to HoloLens. Through repeated and 3-D simulations, students can practice varied scenarios, make mistakes, and try things before treating real patients.

Meanwhile, the Hololens – which is an advanced computer in its own right – has also become an unrivaled tool for surgeons planning intricate operations, which have little or no room for error. This is how it works: A patient is scanned by a CT or MRI machine. The resulting two-dimensional images are then presented in 3-D within a HoloLens headset. With these a doctor can determine exactly what needs to be done and how.

This is happening right now in Norway’s capital, Oslo, by a team of specialists renowned for correcting congenital defects in the tiny hearts of infants. Until recently, they had their own hi-tech way of planning such intricate surgeries: They used scans and a 3-D printer to create physical models of each heart. But now, the precise interactive 3-D imagery within the Hololens has made that once cutting-edge solution redundant after just a few short years.

Dr. Kos believes mixed reality will revolutionize how surgeons tackle a wide range of delicate operations, resulting in better success rates and speedier patient recovery times. “Using HoloLens means you can do surgery with no surprises. You can plan carefully ahead of time. No one’s anatomy is the same as another’s. So, you have got to know what you are in for.”

Azure DevOps Projects helps ease release automation

NEW YORK — Microsoft’s new Azure DevOps Projects tool lets developers configure a DevOps pipeline and connect it to the cloud with no prior knowledge of how to do so.

Azure DevOps Projects, released to public preview at the Microsoft Connect(); conference here this week, is a scaffolding system for developers to configure a full DevOps pipeline and connect to Microsoft’s Azure cloud services in less than five minutes.

With digital transformation efforts in full swing across enterprises in nearly every industry, developers are driven harder than ever to speed up application releases. In the process, they also want to ensure quality and security and to manage these apps more efficiently. This is where DevOps becomes critical and where a simplified way to get started with DevOps could be useful.

Abel Wang, a senior cloud developer advocate for DevOps at Microsoft, demonstrated how, with a series of clicks to provide information about the type of application and programming language used, Azure DevOps Projects sets up a Git repository and wires up automated build and release pipelines. Everything is automatic, although developers can customize the configuration.

“We make it ridiculously easy to go to a full DevOps environment,” Wang said.

Azure DevOps Projects comes out of the intersection of Microsoft’s Visual Studio family of tools and services — particularly Video Studio Team Services (VSTS) — and the Azure cloud platform.

It’s hard to set up your DevOps pipeline, because developers often manually integrate a lot of different tools, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise group. However, VSTS is fully integrated with Azure.

“I think this shows that Microsoft now has a good set of tools and a strengthening set of stuff for ops,” said Thomas Murphy, an analyst with Gartner.

Microsoft has historically been weak in areas such as release automation, but a stronger Azure platform, including Azure DevOps, will help Microsoft better compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS) for enterprise customers. New independent software vendors still target AWS or Cloud Foundry, but in the corporate space — especially retail businesses that view AWS as a competitor — there is a growing business-driven push away from AWS and toward Azure, Murphy said.

Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.
Microsoft engineer Donovan Brown previews Azure DevOps Projects at Microsoft Connect(); 2017.

Microsoft continues to advance cloud for DevOps

Another VSTS capability, release management gates, enables developers to specify conditions necessary to begin or finish a deployment to an environment, automating a process that’s often manual. DevOps pros can configure an environment to deploy and wait a day to ensure there are no blocking work items or monitoring alerts before proceeding with deployment, said Brian Harry, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Visual Studio Team Services and Team Foundation Server (TFS), in a blog post

VSTS also has free, cloud-hosted continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD) on macOS, so teams can build and release Apple iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS applications without the need for Mac hardware. This also means the VSTS CI/CD system in the cloud covers the gamut of Linux, macOS and Windows in one offering.

Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs.
Theresa LanowitzCEO, Voke

Microsoft also made generally available Team Foundation Server 2018 and the TFS Database Import Service. Additionally, it released to preview the company’s open source command-line tools for VSTS and YAML support for VSTS build definitions, so developers can represent their build pipeline as code.

Finally, Microsoft launched a new partnership with GitHub to drive adoption of the Microsoft-developed Git Virtual File System (GVFS) as the industry standard to use Git at scale. Microsoft has become one of the most prolific contributors to open source largely through GitHub, and the two have worked together to bring GVFS to the code repository’s 25 million users on Windows, Mac and Linux clients, said Sam Lambert, senior director of infrastructure at GitHub.

Theresa Lanowitz, founder and CEO of Voke, a market research firm in Minden, Nev., praised Microsoft for its strong release management updates with software such as Azure DevOps Projects, but she expected to hear and see more about security and performance. “Without security and performance, there are no apps of the future, and moving fast only gives you continuous bugs,” she said.

“Our research shows low automation and low adoption of any commercial release management tool for full lifecycle traceability — of all assets,” she said in an interview from Microsoft Connect();, noting that enterprise integration issues may be partly to blame for low adoption of these tools.

SwiftKey announces Photo Themes & partnership with a National Geographic contributing photographer – SwiftKey Blog

Hi everyone, 

We’re excited to announce Photo Themes, a new feature that lets you personalize your SwiftKey Keyboard even more and, even better, is available on both Android and iOS immediately! With Photo Themes, you can upload your own images to create a personalized theme on SwiftKey Keyboard. Even better, we’ve partnered with a National Geographic contributing photographer to inspire you with a gallery of 12 curated images exclusive to SwiftKey!  

To ignite your creativity and demonstrate the possibilities of this new feature, we’ve worked with Keith Ladzinski, a professional adventure photographer who’s worked with clients such as National Geographic, Discovery Channel and ABC. Keith has an eye for capturing beautiful pictures and has curated a gallery of his eye-catching nature images just for SwiftKey users. Download your favorites from his image gallery and make your own Photo Theme! 

The possibilities for Photo Themes are limited only by your creativity. Keith’s nature photos are stunning, but you may prefer more personal photos of your family, pet or hobby.  For those with an artistic side, let it show – illustrations or abstract photos make for great photo themes too.     

Android users will also find that they can customize whether or not their keyboard has borders on the keys, as well as whether or not symbols and secondary characters. Go for a more minimal, streamlined look or keep all the borders for a look that’s uniquely yours. To get started with Photo Themes, open ‘SwiftKey Settings’ and click on the ‘Themes’ tab on SwiftKey for Android. Read the Help Center article here for a step-by-step guide.  

iOS users can also customize the color of their keys, which will show when pressed. To start customizing your keyboard with these new features, open the SwiftKey app and select ‘Design’. For a step-by-step guide on how to get up and running with Photo Themes, check out our Help Center for a step-by-step guide.

To accompany the release of Photo Themes, we’re running a contest to award the most creative users of this new feature during the month of November. Submissions will be collected on Twitter with the #photothemes hashtag and we’ll be awarding winners each week. Enter for the chance to win an Amazon gift card worth $150, a limited edition SwiftKey hoodie sweatshirt and more prizes.

Follow our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts for more details and don’t forget to share your new Photo Theme with #photothemes! Any questions, let us know!  

Cheers,
The SwiftKey Team 

One billion downloads of Skype for Android—thank you! | Skype Blogs

Today, Skype reached one billion downloads on the Google Play Store. Let’s repeat that:

One billion downloads!

Over the years, it’s been our mission to connect people—from wherever, whenever. Together, we’ve sent billions of messages, calls, and happy face emoticons—probably some sad ones, too. It’s sharing these special moments that make Skype one of a kind, and we’re so thankful that you’ve been with us along the way.

But just because we’ve reached this milestone doesn’t mean we’re going to stop.

We’ll continue to roll out creative new features and find ways to improve existing ones based on your feedback. And most important of all, we’ll continue to be your app for staying connected with the ones you care about most, every day.

So, thank you­—a billion times over—for using Skype. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Skype bow emoticon.

And as always, make sure you download the latest Skype now to see all the newest features and share your feedback with us in our Community!

New Cisco ACI fabric stretches across multiple data centers

Cisco’s third major release of its Application Centric Infrastructure lets companies run the vendor’s software-defined networking architecture across multiple data centers, excluding those of the major public cloud providers.

Introduced Thursday, Cisco ACI 3.0 can provide network services to applications running in a maximum of five data centers. Each facility can run an ACI fabric with as many as 400 leaf switches.

Cisco has aimed its latest ACI fabric upgrade at large enterprises that want to expand their use of the policy-driven form of software-based networking from a single data center to several facilities. Companies demanding multisite networking are typically at the cutting edge of technology.

A recent survey of 200 IT organizations found 90% working on networking projects that spanned multiple data centers, according to analyst firm Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. More than a quarter of those companies planned to connect five data centers or more.

With ACI 3.0, Cisco is providing a competitive product to sell to those companies, said EMA analyst Shamus McGillicuddy. “Multicloud and multidata fabrics are a must-have for these cutting-edge companies.”

Cisco ACI fabrics connect across data centers

Cisco is competing with virtualization vendor VMware in letting companies replicate the vendors’ respective application-centric networking environments so customers can manage a multisite configuration as one. The core of VMware’s approach is its NSX network overlay, while Cisco uses its hardware as the foundation.

Companies that want to access all the capabilities of ACI 3.0 will have to use Cisco’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) to build in each data center a networking fabric comprised of the vendor’s Nexus 9000 switches. Once that is done, the customer can connect each structure to an APIC-powered appliance that presents a single view of the multisite network.

From the appliance’s software console, network engineers can create and distribute application-centric traffic instructions to defined groups of switches in the form of policies. Also, management and monitoring tools can pull network and application performance data through the appliance’s APIC APIs.

ACI fabric’s multisite capabilities

Across multiple sites, ACI 3.0 can keep packet delivery to one second or less, said Srinivas Kotamraju, director of ACI product management at Cisco.  Traffic to an application that suddenly goes down in one data center can be redirected to a backup in another facility without changing the IP address.

Other multisite capabilities include taking a switch offline for maintenance or troubleshooting without disrupting the traffic flow. ACI 3.0 also provides latency monitoring between endpoints, such as ports and application tiers.

ACI 3.0 extends all policy-related functionality for virtual machines and bare-metal applications to containers in multiple sites. Cisco also provides integration between Kubernetes and ACI policies. Kubernetes is an open source system for managing Linux containers.

“The container stuff is most interesting for forward-looking developers and companies,” said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass.

ACI 3.0 is not supported in public clouds, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. Cisco plans to extend ACI fabric capabilities into public cloud environments using their respective APIs, Kotamraju said. Cisco has not provided a timetable.

Rival VMware has started to build a bridge between a customer’s virtualized data center and Amazon. The technology, however, remains a work in progress, with very few production deployments.