Tag Archives: People

Kasten backup aims for secure Kubernetes protection

People often talk about Kubernetes “Day 1,” when you get the platform up and running. Now Kasten wants to help with “Day 2.”

Kasten’s K10 is a data management and backup platform for Kubernetes. The latest release, K10 2.0, focuses on security and simplicity.

K10 2.0 includes support for Kubernetes authentication, role-based access control, OpenID Connect, AWS Identity and Access Management roles, customer-managed keys, and integrated encryption of artifacts at rest and in flight.

“Once you put data into storage, the Day 2 operations are critical,” said Krishnan Subramanian, chief research advisor at Rishidot Research. “Day 2 is as critical as Day 1.”

Day 2 — which includes data protection, mobility, backup and restore, and disaster recovery — is becoming a pain point for Kubernetes users, Kasten CEO Niraj Tolia said.

“In 2.0, we are focused on making Kubernetes backup easy and secure,” Tolia said.

Other features the new Kasten backup software offers, which became generally available earlier in November, include a Kubernetes-native API, auto-discovery of the application environment, policy-driven operations, multi-tenancy support, and advanced logging and monitoring. The Kasten backup enables teams to operate their environments, while supporting developers’ ability to use tools of their choice, according to the vendor.

Kasten K10 dashboard screenshot
Kasten K10 provides data management and backup for Kubernetes.

Kasten backup eyes market opportunity

Kasten, which launched its original product in December 2017, generally releases an update to its customers every two weeks. A typical update that’s not as major as 2.0 typically has bug fixes, new features and increased depth in current features. Tolia said there were 55 releases between 1.0 and 2.0.

Day 2 is as critical as Day 1.
Krishnan SubramanianFounder and chief research advisor, Rishidot Research

Backup for container storage has become a hot trend in data protection. Kubernetes specifically is an open source system used to manage containers across private, public and hybrid cloud environments. Kubernetes can be used to manage microservice architectures and is deployable on most cloud providers.

“Everyone’s waking up to the fact that this is going to be the next VMware,” as in, the next infrastructure of choice, Tolia said.

Kubernetes backup products are popping up, but it looks like Kasten is a bit ahead of its time, Rishidot’s Subramanian said. He said he is seeing more enterprises using Kubernetes in production, for example, in moving legacy workloads to the platform, and that makes backup a critical element.

“Kubernetes is just starting to take off,” Subramanian said.

Kubernetes backup “has really taken off in the last two or three quarters,” Tolia said.

Subramanian said he is starting to see legacy vendors such as Dell EMC and NetApp tackling Kubernetes backup, as well as smaller vendors such as Portworx and Robin. He said Kasten had needed stronger security but caught up with K10 2.0. Down the road, he said he will look for Kasten to improve its governance and analytics.

Tolia said Kasten backup stands out because it’s “purpose-built for Kubernetes” and extends into multilayered data management.

In August, Kasten, which is based in Los Altos, Calif., closed a $14 million Series A funding round, led by Insight Partners. Tolia did not give Kasten’s customer count but said it has deployments across multiple continents.

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Microsoft Teams reaches 20 million users, threatening Slack

More than 20 million people now use Microsoft Teams daily — up from 13 million in July. The product’s impressive growth has many analysts and investors worried about the long-term prospects of rival collaboration vendor Slack. 

Slack’s stock was down more than 8% Tuesday in apparent reaction to Microsoft’s announcement. The company’s value has been steadily declining since June as more and more financial analysts have voiced concerns about the rise of Microsoft Teams.

Unlike Slack, Microsoft has a massive base of existing customers to target. More than 200 million people use Office 365 every month, and those customers usually have access to Microsoft Teams at no additional cost.

“Microsoft has the advantage of including Teams collaboration with a lot of their Office 365 packages,” said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “And that literally gets it in front of more users than Slack can ever hope to.”

Microsoft also has a vast network of partners worldwide that provide services and support to businesses using its software. Slack launched its partner program last week, but so far has only recruited small and midsize firms.

Slack has attempted to undercut Microsoft’s growing user count by focusing on user engagement. Among paid customers, Slack users spend nine hours connected to the app and 90 minutes actively using it each day, the company said.

“As we’ve said before, you can’t transform a workplace if people aren’t actually using your product,” a Slack spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday.

There is, however, no evidence to suggest Teams users are less engaged with the app, as Microsoft has not released comparable statistics on the subject. Microsoft said Tuesday that users conducted 27 million voice and video calls in Teams last month, and interacted with documents stored in Teams 220 million times.

More than 12 million people used Slack daily in September. Use of the app has more than tripled over the past three years, making the vendor a leader in the market for team-based workplace communications software.

Slack often leads larger rivals Microsoft and Cisco in adding innovative features. For example, Slack developed a way to export emails to Slack in a few clicks earlier this year, while Microsoft won’t launch a similar feature until early 2020.

But Slack has never made a profit, losing nearly $139 million on $400 million in revenue last year. Attaining profitability will require selling to more businesses with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of employees. Many of those companies already use Office 365.

In an interview last month with the Wall Street Journal, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said 70% of its 50 largest customers were using Office 365. He also pointed out that many of the top Google Search trends for Microsoft Teams were related to uninstalling the app.

Over the past year, Slack has been redesigning aspects of its user interface to be friendlier to the average office worker. The company launched the tool originally for software engineers, which led to quirks in the way users interact with bots and integrations.

This month, Slack is in the process of rolling out a new toolbar for writing messages that resembles what users are accustomed to when using apps like Microsoft Word. The toolbar lets users bold, underline and italicize text, and create numbered and bulleted lists. Previously, users had to do unintuitive things like put asterisks on either side of a word to make it bold.  

But Microsoft has also been investing heavily in Teams, naming it the successor to Skype for Business. Just last week, Microsoft announced a partnership with Salesforce to integrate that vendor’s online sales and service platforms with Teams. The move could further boost the adoption of Microsoft’s product.

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The story of ADLaM is now a limited-run hardcover book from Story Labs

The African language Fulfulde is spoken by more than 50 million people worldwide. But until recently this centuries-old language lacked an alphabet of its own.

Abdoulaye and Ibrahima Barry were just young boys when they set out to change that. While other children were out playing, the Barry brothers would hole up in their family’s house in Nzérékoré, Guinea, carefully drawing shapes on paper that would eventually become ADLaM – an acronym for “the alphabet that will prevent a people from being lost.”

In the decades since, ADLaM has sparked a revolution in literacy, community and cultural preservation among Fulani people across the world. Abdoulaye and Ibrahima have dedicated their lives to sustaining these efforts, including expanding ADLaM’s reach through Unicode adoption. And thanks to support from a dedicated cross-company team at Microsoft, ADLaM is now available in Windows and Office.

My team at Microsoft Story Labs recently had the privilege of working with Abdoulaye and Ibrahima on a longform feature story about ADLaM. Today I’m happy to announce that we’ve printed a limited-run book version of that story that contains both the original English and an ADLaM translation, so the community of millions now using ADLaM can enjoy it in print. A few copies of the book will be available in a contest giveaway by Microsoft Design on Twitter. The rest will go directly into the hands of the amazing people behind the unique achievement that is ADLaM.

When you’ve been working in the digital realm for most of your career like I have, it’s kind of a treat to make something you can hold in your own two hands! But the biggest reward here was the opportunity to shine a light on remarkable people like Abdoulaye and Ibrahima who have achieved so much, and the team at Microsoft who lent a hand.

Steve Wiens

Microsoft Story Labs

Story by Deborah Bach & Sara Lerner. Design by Daniel Victor.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Unit4 ERP software aims to prioritize people experience

Unit4 this week refocused its enterprise resource planning product, calling it the People Experience Suite, in an effort to make user experience an integral part of its enterprise resource planning platform.

Unit4 ERP product People Experience Suite is a cloud-based platform that combines functions of enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM) software and planning, and analytics software. According to the company, the suite improves the user experience, as well as enable non-IT specialists to run ERP tasks.

Unit4 ERP has an extendable architecture that allows non-IT personnel to change and configure services within the organization through localizations and best practice, work traditionally done by IT professionals. “This is all accomplished by providing low/no-code tooling that is easily accessible by citizen developers,” said Claus Jepsen, deputy CTO at Unit4.

The People Platform is an important component of the People Experience Suite, which provides tools for making Unit4 applications able to automate repetitive administrative tasks. It also lets enterprises integrate third-party applications and add customer extensions.

According to Jepsen, Unit4’s Extension and Integration Kit technologies enable the platform to integrate with any third-party application; however, in order to gain access to the technology a company needs to be a Unit4 partner. Meanwhile, customer extensions are “additions to the core ERP that fulfill specific customer needs, but aren’t seen as general applicable functionalities to be part of ERP,” Jepsen said.

David Wilson, founder and CEO t Fosway Group, said that although there are currently a lot of talk from other vendors about user experience, Unit4’s functional capability across the whole ERP space means it has the potential for more than just improving the user experience for companies and their employees.

The key difference between Unit4 and some other HCM vendors, Wilson said, is that its offering provides the capability to manage key business processes, as well as financials.

“So, whilst they are focusing on people experience, the scope of the experience will be wider than HR. … It also means Unit4’s analytics will be able to cross-analyze HR activity with business outcomes natively within the platform,” he said. “But obviously at the moment, it’s still a work in progress. It’s more of a statement of direction rather than necessarily a full deliverable reality today.”

Unit4’s competitors include Workday, NetSuite and SAP. Workday is a cloud-based ERP system vendor that specializes in HCM and financial management applications. Oracle NetSuite offers businesses of different sizes upgrades and customization. SAP’s ERP system enables enterprises to run their business processes, including accounting, sales, human resources and finance, in an integrated environment.

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Microsoft releases 18M building footprints in Africa to enable AI Assisted Mapping

In the last ten years, 2 billion people were affected by disasters according to the World Disasters report 2018. In 2017, 201 million people needed humanitarian assistance and 18 million were displaced due to weather related disasters. Many of these disaster-prone areas are literally “missing” from the map, making it harder for first responders to prepare and deliver relief efforts.

Since the inception of Tasking Manager, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) community has mapped at an incredible rate with 11 million square kilometers mapped in Africa alone. However, large parts of Africa with populations prone to disasters still remain unmapped — 60% of the 30 million square kilometers.

Under Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action program, Bing Maps together with Microsoft Philanthropies is partnering with HOT on an initiative to bring AI Assistance as a resource in open map building. The initiative focuses on incorporating design updates, integrating machine learning, and bringing new open building datasets into Tasking Manager.

The Bing Maps team has been harnessing the power of Computer Vision to identify map features at scale. Building upon their work in the United States and Canada, Bing Maps is now releasing country-wide open building footprints datasets in Uganda and Tanzania. This will be one of the first open building datasets in Africa and will be available for use within OpenStreetMap (OSM).

In Tasking Manager specifically, the dataset will be used to help in task creation with the goal of improving task completion rates. Tasking Manager relies on ‘ML enabler’ to connect with building datasets through an API. This API-based integration makes it convenient to access not just Africa building footprints, but all open building footprints datasets from Bing Maps through ML Enabler, and thus the OpenStreetMap ecosystem.

“Machine learning datasets for OSM need to be open. We need to go beyond identifying roads and buildings and open datasets allow us to experiment and uncover new opportunities. Open Building Dataset gives us the ability to not only explore quality and validation aspects, but also advance how ML data assists mapping.”
– Tyler Radford (Executive Director, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team)

Africa presented several challenges: stark difference in landscape from the United States or Canada, unique settlements such as Tukuls, dense urban areas with connected structures, imagery quality and vintage, and lack of training data in rural areas. The team identified areas with poor recall by leveraging population estimates from CIESIN. Subsequent targeted labeling efforts across Bing Maps and HOT improved model recall especially in rural areas. A two-step process with semantic segmentation followed by polygonization resulted in 18M building footprints — 7M in Uganda and 11M in Tanzania.

Extractions Musoma, TanzaniaExtractions in Musoma, Tanzania

Bing Maps is making this data open for download free of charge and usable for research, analysis and of course, OSM. In OpenStreetMap there are currently 14M building footprints in Uganda and Tanzania (the last time our team counted). We are working to determine overlaps.

We will be making the data available on Github to download. The CNTK toolkit developed by Microsoft is open source and available on GitHub as well. The ResNet3 model is also open source and available on GitHub. The Bing Maps computer vision team will be presenting the work in Africa at the annual International State of the Map conference in Heidelberg, Germany and at the HOT Summit.

– Bing Maps Team

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Nextlink Internet and Microsoft closing broadband gap in central US – Stories

The agreement could bring broadband access to benefit more than 9 million people, including approximately 1 million in unserved rural areas

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept. 18, 2019 — On Wednesday, Nextlink Internet and Microsoft Corp. announced a partnership that will help close the broadband gap in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, bringing high-speed internet to hundreds of rural communities. The agreement will further enable Nextlink to substantially expand their coverage areas and is part of the Microsoft Airband Initiative, which is focused on addressing this national crisis, with the goal of extending broadband access to over 3 million unserved people in rural America by July 2022.

Lack of broadband connectivity is a pervasive national issue, and particularly acute in rural areas of the country. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that more than 21 million Americans lack broadband access, the vast majority of whom live in rural areas that continue to lag the national rate of broadband usage. The problem is almost certainly larger than that, though, as other studies and data sources, including Microsoft data, have found that 162 million people across the United States are not using the internet at broadband speeds, including approximately 29 million people across Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s time to deliver on the connectivity promises that have been made to people across the country, and this partnership will help do that for many who have been left behind and unserved in the heartland of America,” said Shelley McKinley, vice president, Technology and Corporate Responsibility at Microsoft. “In the past two years with our Airband Initiative, we’ve seen that progress is possible — particularly when the public and private sectors come together. Partnerships with regional ISPs like Nextlink that have the desire and wherewithal to provide internet connectivity are a critical part of closing the broadband gap and helping families, children, farmers, businesses and whole communities to not only survive, but thrive in the 21st century.”

Nextlink will deploy a variety of broadband connectivity technologies to bring these areas under coverage, including wireless technologies leveraging TV white spaces (e.g., unused TV frequencies) in select markets. Nextlink will continue its deployments in Texas and Oklahoma and immediately begin deployment efforts in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, with rollouts planned through 2024.

Nextlink CEO Bill Baker noted, “Nextlink is tremendously excited about the opportunity to join forces with Microsoft. This agreement will accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband access to underserved areas that are desperate for this critical service. This in turn will make those areas more attractive for employers who require high-speed broadband to operate. By itself, this project is going to generate hundreds of full-time, long-term jobs in rural communities as Nextlink builds out and services the required networks. The overall impact to rural communities in terms of job creation and increased viability for all employers is tremendous.”

“This partnership will enable the coming of precision agriculture, IoT, digital healthcare, access to higher education and overall economic growth,” said Ted Osborn, Nextlink SVP of Strategy & Regulatory Affairs. “Our experience tells us that advanced broadband access and community support can make these promises a reality in relatively short order.”

Improved connectivity will bolster economic, educational and telehealth opportunities for everyone in the region, and could be particularly impactful for farmers. Together, the states covered in part by this deal — Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas — account for more than $120 billion in annual agricultural value, or 29% of the agricultural output of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). With broadband access, farmers can gain better access to markets and take advantage of advancements in precision agriculture, enabling them to better monitor crops and increase their yields, which can translate into significant economic returns. The USDA estimates widespread use of connected technologies for agricultural production has the potential to unlock over $47 billion in annual gross benefit for the United States.

The partnership builds on Microsoft and Nextlink’s efforts to close the digital divide. Nextlink is familiar with the needs of rural communities and was awarded federal Connect America Fund funding to expand broadband access to unserved rural communities. The companies will also work together to ensure that, once connectivity is available in these regions, people will receive the digital skills training to help them take advantage of the economic and social benefits that come with broadband access.

About Nextlink Internet  

Nextlink Internet, LLC is a residential and commercial internet access and phone services provider based in Hudson Oaks, Texas. The company is a leading provider of broadband services to rural school districts and municipalities. Since 2013, the company has organically attracted over 36,000 broadband subscribers using solely private capital and has managed industry-leading operating metrics. Nextlink optimizes its IP-based optical-fiber and fixed wireless network with an unrelenting commitment to customer service to achieve high customer satisfaction.

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.

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777, [email protected]

Dale Curtis for Nextlink Internet, [email protected], (202) 246-5659

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts.

 

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Author: Microsoft News Center

7 smart tech developments for people who are blind or have low vision | Microsoft On The Issues

It’s estimated that there are about 36 million people in the world who are blind, and a further 216 million who live with moderate to severe visual impairments. Although the World Health Organization points out that up to 80% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable with better access to treatment, the number of people who are blind or have low vision is rising as the global population ages.

But technology is playing a vital role in tearing down barriers, and artificial intelligence is making real inroads into improving accessibility.

Here are seven examples of how smart technology can be a game-changer, allowing everyone to interact with the world in new ways.

[Subscribe to Microsoft on the Issues for more on the topics that matter most.]

The eye in AI

As we’ve reported, Microsoft’s Seeing AI is an app designed to help people with low vision or who are blind. It enhances the world around the user with rich audio descriptions. It can read a handwritten note or scan a barcode and then tell the user what the product is. Point a camera at something and the app will describe how many people it can see and where they are in the image – center, top left and so on.

3-D Sound Maps

YouTube Video

For a sighted person, walking along the street can mean taking in every detail that surrounds them. Microsoft Soundscape replicates that behavior by building a detailed audio map that relates what’s taking place around a person with visual impairment.

It creates layers of context and detail by drawing on location data, sound beacons and synthesized 3-D stereo sound to build a constantly updating 3-D sound map of the surrounding world.

Knowledge at your fingertips

Braille has been used for nearly 200 years as a tactile way of reading with fingertips. It has now jumped from the page to the screen with the updated version of Narrator, the screen-reader for Microsoft Windows, supporting digital Braille displays and keyboards.

Outside of Microsoft’s efforts, Braille touchscreens that work in the same way as tablets have already proved popular among students and teachers. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, innovations on display included the BraiBook, a Braille e-reader that fits into the palm of a hand, and even an electronic toy called the Braille Buzz, designed to teach Braille to preschoolers.

Beacons of change

Bluetooth beacons, such as those being used by the company Foresight Augmented Reality, act like highly precise, personalized guides for people who are blind or partially sighted. While basic GPS technology can take users to a location, beacons mounted in a store, restaurant or public building can guide them to the entrance of the building in question. And when the user is inside, other beacons can direct them to the bathroom or other important facilities.

Electric vehicles

The European Union is taking no chances with people’s safety. New legislation means electric vehicles have to be audible  at low speeds and while reversing. Some manufacturers are already incorporating artificial noise into their electric vehicles.

Smart Glasses

Researchers at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates are working on the development of a set of smart glasses that can use AI to read, provide navigation information and potentially identify faces. Glasses are connected to a smartphone through a processing unit, allowing the system to function without an internet connection.

These smart glasses are still in the early stages of development but are said to work with a reading accuracy rate of 95%.

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program was launched last year, with a $25 million commitment to put Microsoft technology in the hands of start-ups, developers, researchers and non-profits in order to drive innovation and amplify human capability for people with disabilities. The program is continuously looking at new projects to support.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center

New Everbridge CEO talks education, NC4 acquisition

The new Everbridge CEO said he wants people to understand the importance of a critical event management platform.

“It just needs to be something everyone has, because it does save lives,” said David Meredith, previously the COO of Rackspace. He took over on July 15 for Jaime Ellertson, the Everbridge CEO since 2011 who is transitioning to the role of executive chairman of the board.

“We need to get out there as the leader and we need to be more aggressive in having conversations like we’re having today, and educating people about what are the best practices, and how they can best prepare,” Meredith said.

Two weeks into his time as CEO, Everbridge acquired NC4 Inc., a risk intelligence provider that Meredith said will improve his company’s Critical Event Management (CEM) suite. The two companies had previously been partners.

“A lot of acquisitions, companies may be competing with each other or they’re maybe in an adjacent space, but they haven’t worked together very much,” said Karl Kotalik, who will be general manager of NC4 after serving as its president and CEO. “We’ve been exchanging information for years, not just together, but in combination with customers.”

The NC4 acquisition gives Everbridge 10 products it sells as a SaaS company, Meredith said. Everbridge, which is based in Burlington, Mass., claims about 4,700 enterprise customers. The company now has about 950 employees, including the entire team of more than 70 workers from NC4, which is based in El Segundo, Calif. The acquisition payment was $83 million in cash and Everbridge stock, and it’s expected to fully close at the end of the third quarter.

We need to really be more proactive in terms of educating the marketplace on what can be done to keep people safe and keep businesses running.
David MeredithCEO, Everbridge

NC4 claimed more than 300 customers. One hundred of those customers are in the Fortune 500. About 50% of NC4 customers were also Everbridge users as well. Kotalik said the acquisition will help NC4 “scale down” into Everbridge’s base for smaller companies that still need risk intelligence.

Meredith said he wants Everbridge to be for CEM what Salesforce is for customer relationship management, in a “platform that really makes the ecosystem” around CRM.

“You can have one place to get all the data if you are an enterprise, or a state, local or federal government,” Meredith said. “Then if something is happening, we can move very quickly to manage that with the rest of the tools in the suite.”

We recently spoke with Meredith and Kotalik to discuss their plans for the Critical Event Management suite and NC4.

What led you to take the Everbridge CEO job?

David MeredithDavid Meredith

David Meredith: I’ve known of Everbridge as a customer for years and was a very happy and satisfied customer. What pulled me into this role, first and foremost, is the mission of Everbridge — the mission of keeping people safe and businesses running faster. It’s a very powerful draw. We are a mission-driven company.

The technology is the leader in the space. They used to say you’d never get fired for hiring IBM in technology. And in the critical event management space, Everbridge is the leader and I think it’s safe to say you would never get fired for picking Everbridge. If you look at the ability to scale, the global reach, the resiliency, the fact that we’re a public company, our size, the breadth of our offerings, we’re the clear leader in the space, and that’s very exciting.

But I still think there’s a lot of room to grow from there.

What is it about the technology that makes Everbridge a leader?

Meredith: Everbridge has been investing heavily on building out our technology platform and doing acquisitions as well. If you look at the Critical Event Management suite, critical event management, or CEM, is an area that we’re sort of a pioneer in. It starts with a single pane of glass, and this is our Visual Command Center, and that’s where we can aggregate thousands and thousands of pieces of data. The ability to curate all that data, using technology, machine learning, artificial intelligence, as well as expert human analysts, [create] that added level of validation.

Our systems are extremely scalable. We’ve moved everything to the cloud now and we’re very resilient. … We have the ability to deliver the messages when you need them in a timely manner, and we’ve got backups in place at every level of the supply chain. We’re the leader in that.

Everbridge and NC4 were partners previously — how did you work together in the past?

Karl KotalikKarl Kotalik

Karl Kotalik: I started NC4 18 years ago, right after 9/11. … A natural partnership developed about 10 years ago because Everbridge was already emerging as the leader in mass notification and communication — at the time they called it unified communications. And NC4, our specialty, we were very focused on risk intelligence. We were emerging as the leader in real-time event incident monitoring, all hazards — everything from water main breaks and one-alarm fires and shootings up to terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tornadoes, major floods.

We were getting the information, but to deliver it at scale, to the large customers we were serving, we needed that assist from Everbridge. So, we partnered, where we did something really well, on the front end of the process, and Everbridge handled the downstream messaging, unified communications to people who needed to know. And they started getting into more response and coordination, and they’ve grown the CEM platform today.

When you’re partnered, you’re not coordinating on strategy. It’s a nice relationship, but we realized we could do so much more coming together. … Putting the two together is a killer combination. And a lot of the work had already been done because of the partnerships with these large enterprises.

How has the integration been going?

Kotalik: Everbridge has had access to every iteration and evolution of our APIs going back 10 years, and they’ve seen our data streams and fed it to their platforms over all these years. So, their development team, their product management team, their operations team, understand the [kind and volume of data NC4 deals in]. We’re doing 700 incidents a day on critical events.

You might think of a critical event as something big, but a critical event for an individual customer could be as minor as a water main break. But [it’s a major event] if it’s across the street and you’re a data center and you depend on that water pressure for the cooling of the equipment in the data center. With the CEM platform, to very quickly orchestrate all the mitigation steps you want to take, shutting down the servers, turning on alternate cooling systems, whatever those steps are, not being able to do that, could turn that into a disaster. It could take down your customers and you don’t want to do that.

Where do you see the CEM suite progressing? Is there anything you want to see added?

Meredith: We have a whole roadmap that we’re going to continue to be building out. There are some big market drivers that we’re tapping into. One is internet of things. There’s going to be 75 billion connected devices in the next six years. One of the things Everbridge does, in addition to keeping your employees or citizens or customers safe, we also help to keep your assets and things safe as well. And that’s going to get much more complex with the advent of more IoT.

Another big trend we see is around mobility. If you look at what’s happening with the workforce today, in the next few years, over 70% of U.S. workers are going to be mobile. If you’re trying to keep your employees safe, it’s not as simple as when everyone is just in one building, from 9 to 5. Now they’re spread everywhere, working from home and other places.

Big data is another one. I think NC4 is a great example where aggregating all that data, being able to curate it, sort through it, and get to actionable intelligence for our customers as quickly as possible, even to the point of being predictive, is going to be strategically important for us. We’re going to continue to invest and drive more analytics-type solutions out of all the data that we have and all the data that we see.

Photo of Everbridge's Global Operations Center
Everbridge’s Global Operations Center at its headquarters in Burlington, Mass., tracks critical events worldwide, 24/7.

What are you seeing as trends in customers?

Meredith: One big trend, and another reason I was drawn to the company, is Everbridge is really creating a network effects business.

We recently announced that the state of Florida did a five-year renewal with us. So, what happens when you win a state like Florida? Over the years, we’ve added 64 of 67 counties as customers. We’ve added 26 cities, including the 10 largest in Florida, almost 50 corporations, 15 state agencies, almost 20 higher education universities [and] 29 healthcare organizations.

When you start to add all that on, it creates this network effect, where when something happens, it’s all interrelated — you’ve got emergency responders, you’ve got the state, the county, the city, transportation. If there’s a hurricane in Florida, all of these groups are impacted. Our ability to have all of them on our platform is really powerful. It’s beneficial to them, it’s beneficial to us. That’s really that ecosystem effect, that network effect we create.

We just announced that we won the country of Australia as a customer. If you think about what I just talked about with Florida, now we’re doing it for the country of Australia — the states, the cities, the healthcare, the higher education, the corporations and tying all that together.

What’s really interesting, looking forward, the European Union has come out and said all of the EU countries need to have population alerting systems in place in the next few years, so that’s an opportunity for us to take what we’ve done in Australia and other countries and now move faster in terms of spreading that in Europe.

We’re getting all this data coming in from all these sources. The data is the lifeblood of the system. As you’re looking at that Visual Command Center — and we’re getting data from our analysts, we’re getting data from the web, from our customers — it allows us to be much more accurate in terms of false positives and false negatives. There have been some highly publicized examples recently about false alarms and how disruptive that can be. With NC4, you’ve got 24/7 analysts looking at all the feeds, highly trained, highly skilled, and can say, ‘I’m looking at all my data, I’m curating all the data and this is not a critical event. This is a false alarm.’

Or, alternatively, potentially minutes can save lives. And being able to shrink that time and know something is really happening, know we’re getting into a critical event, and be able to get people to safety, be able to protect your assets, that is very important and has a huge impact in terms of the overall return on investment the customer makes in a platform like this.

What else have you learned as Everbridge CEO in a month and what are your short- and long-term plans?

Meredith: Having been in technology for many years now, I will say, you need great people, you need great technology; you also need timing to line up. Unfortunately, we’re at a period now, we have the data — unfortunately, it’s up in terms of weather events, in terms of cyber, malware attacks, terrorist attacks. The rate’s increasing.

We’re creating a whole new category. We need to really be more proactive in terms of educating the marketplace on what can be done to keep people safe and keep businesses running. … We’ve got to be out there and educating and talking about the story. I really believe if you’re a Global 2000 or Fortune 1000 company, really every one of those companies should have technology and plans in place for what to do in the event of a critical event, whether they use Everbridge or not.

Do you think that not enough people and organizations know about what you do?

Meredith: I think that’s correct. When we go talk to a company, a lot of times, it’s not that they already have a solution, but they have maybe a couple point solutions and they’ve sort of jury-rigged some standard operating procedures. We don’t see the level of preparation that you would like to see. It’s something that you don’t want to ever have to use, but you want to have it in place.

Kotalik: We will go in to customers and they won’t even realize they can get real-time information that’s impacting their travelers, their assets, their locations, in enough time to really mitigate. When they hear the stories about how it saved lives or it reduced downtime, it stopped an event from turning into a disaster for the company because they were able to mitigate it, that helps drive our business for these less sophisticated organizations that haven’t really thought about this. They don’t think they have a big enough budget or enough people.

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7 smart tech developments for people who are blind or have low vision | Microsoft On The Issues

It’s estimated that there are about 36 million people in the world who are blind, and a further 216 million who live with moderate to severe visual impairments. Although the World Health Organization points out that up to 80% of vision impairment around the world is avoidable with better access to treatment, the number of people who are blind or have low vision is rising as the global population ages.

But technology is playing a vital role in tearing down barriers, and artificial intelligence is making real inroads into improving accessibility.

Here are seven examples of how smart technology can be a game-changer, allowing everyone to interact with the world in new ways.

[Subscribe to Microsoft on the Issues for more on the topics that matter most.]

The eye in AI

As we’ve reported, Microsoft’s Seeing AI is an app designed to help people with low vision or who are blind. It enhances the world around the user with rich audio descriptions. It can read a handwritten note or scan a barcode and then tell the user what the product is. Point a camera at something and the app will describe how many people it can see and where they are in the image – center, top left and so on.

3-D Sound Maps

YouTube Video

For a sighted person, walking along the street can mean taking in every detail that surrounds them. Microsoft Soundscape replicates that behavior by building a detailed audio map that relates what’s taking place around a person with visual impairment.

It creates layers of context and detail by drawing on location data, sound beacons and synthesized 3-D stereo sound to build a constantly updating 3-D sound map of the surrounding world.

Knowledge at your fingertips

Braille has been used for nearly 200 years as a tactile way of reading with fingertips. It has now jumped from the page to the screen with the updated version of Narrator, the screen-reader for Microsoft Windows, supporting digital Braille displays and keyboards.

Outside of Microsoft’s efforts, Braille touchscreens that work in the same way as tablets have already proved popular among students and teachers. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s 2019 conference in Orlando, Florida, innovations on display included the BraiBook, a Braille e-reader that fits into the palm of a hand, and even an electronic toy called the Braille Buzz, designed to teach Braille to preschoolers.

Beacons of change

Bluetooth beacons, such as those being used by the company Foresight Augmented Reality, act like highly precise, personalized guides for people who are blind or partially sighted. While basic GPS technology can take users to a location, beacons mounted in a store, restaurant or public building can guide them to the entrance of the building in question. And when the user is inside, other beacons can direct them to the bathroom or other important facilities.

Electric vehicles

The European Union is taking no chances with people’s safety. New legislation means electric vehicles have to be audible  at low speeds and while reversing. Some manufacturers are already incorporating artificial noise into their electric vehicles.

Smart Glasses

Researchers at Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates are working on the development of a set of smart glasses that can use AI to read, provide navigation information and potentially identify faces. Glasses are connected to a smartphone through a processing unit, allowing the system to function without an internet connection.

These smart glasses are still in the early stages of development but are said to work with a reading accuracy rate of 95%.

AI for Accessibility

Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program was launched last year, with a $25 million commitment to put Microsoft technology in the hands of start-ups, developers, researchers and non-profits in order to drive innovation and amplify human capability for people with disabilities. The program is continuously looking at new projects to support.

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility and follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter.

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Author: Microsoft News Center