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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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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

Use the page links below to continue reading about Tan’s visions.

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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