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Virtual assistant for Skype

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Intervate has released ROBIT, a locally-developed virtual personal assistant (VPA), enabling organisations to extract more value from Microsoft’s recently launched Skype for Business.

Skype for Business, recently re-branded from the previous name of Microsoft Lync, facilitates instant messaging and live online meetings for multiple colleagues within a company – via video, audio, or text-based chat.

ROBIT leverages the Skype for Business platform to act as a company-wide virtual personal assistant for all employees within an organisation.

These could range from simple tasks like booking meeting rooms or resetting account passwords, to more complex queries that dive into line-of-business systems – such as one’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.

Using the text chat feature of Skype for Business, interactions are as quick and simple as any other form of instant messaging (like WhatsApp for example).

Best of all, ROBIT has a quirky and sometimes irreverent personality. She can serve up jokes on request; or reply with cheeky responses like “we don’t have any meeting rooms with a time machine”, if one accidently tries to book a meeting room for a date that’s already passed.

These light-hearted aspects help bring a human-like touch to each interaction, making it fun to engage with ROBIT. It assists in taking the drudgery out of trawling through complex line-of-business systems, which often have less-friendly user interfaces or require additional user access licences.

ROBIT can be customised within any environment, and taught to learn how to perform specific tasks. So, the next time a staff member has the same request, ROBIT is able to deal with the query.

Bruce Williams, ROBIT Product Manager at Intervate, emphasises the importance of this innovation: “Organisations are increasingly looking to automation as a way of becoming more agile and responsive to their customers. ROBIT is an easy-to-use business process tool – designed to speed up many of the simple operational tasks that can consume much of one’s day.”

“She’s always available, always replies instantly, and always provides accurate responses to any queries”.

With fairly straightforward integration, ROBIT is able to draw information from any form of line of business system. Most commonly, information sourced by ROBIT is housed in one’s ERP, CRM and Intranet environments, but it can be plugged into any system.

Williams explains that ROBIT is another illustration of the close partnership between Microsoft and Intervate. As a multi-award winning partner over the past few years (most-recently, Intervate was named South Africa’s Microsoft Partner of the Year for 2015), the two companies have enjoyed a long-standing relationship in Africa.

“From our origins of deploying Microsoft SharePoint to delivering content management services to local clients, we’re now evolving into other areas – like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Azure, Skype for Business and the Internet of Things.”

Intervate will be extending a free one year ROBIT license to all existing clients.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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