Tag Archive | "Announces"

Wyze Announces $20 Million in VC Funding via YouTube Docudrama

Wyze has always been anything but boring. They have an affordable $ 20 security camera that makes Ring users wonder if they’ve wasted their money. One of their founders, Dave Crosby, has an adorable singing daughter Claire Crosby that has appeared on Ellen and has 1.5 million subscribers to her YouTube channel. Dave has also been a contestent on The Voice.

Now Wyze has announced $ 20 million in Series A funding in dramatic fashion via a YouTube docudrama. It makes sense. Wyze considers their customers their community and being honest is part of the Wyze DNA. Letting customers in on the struggles of a startup via a documentary style video is a great way to reinforce that trust with their community.

Wyze Announces $ 20 Million in VC Funding via YouTube Docudrama

The funding round is led by Norwest Venture Partners and comes on the heels of Wyze’s massive success in selling over 1.5 million units of its first products, Wyze Cam and Wyze Cam Pan, since launching in October 2017. This funding is in addition to the previous seed funding investment from iSeed Ventures.

“We’ve had a singular focus on making pragmatic hardware and software that actually improve people’s lives, and this new capital infusion will help us continue that mission,” said Yun Zhang, Co-Founder and CEO of Wyze. “Without our tremendous and wonderful community, we would never have been able to build a $ 100 million company in just one year. We’re looking forward to offering them more, and listening to the community’s feedback as we continue to expand into new areas of the home.”

“This is the story about a lemon aid stand,” says Wyze founders and employees. “A story about a guy who put everything on the line. A story about 800,000 people that decided to give a no-name startup in Seattle a shot. A story about a brand that’s about to be a household name. At least that’s the plan. This is a story about you. This is a story about $ 20 million.”

“Now thanks to you there are 800,000 people at our lemon aid stand,” Wyze says. “Because you gave us such great feedback on the forums and the different social media our product is just getting better and better. Over 80 percent of customers have shared Wyze Cam with a friend. That is amazing. Thank you. That kind of growth is hard to manage.”

“Wyze proved that a smart home camera doesn’t have to be expensive to be great, which has driven adoption across a much broader base of consumers than ever before,” said Parker Barrile, Partner at Norwest Venture Partners. “I’m excited to partner with Yun and his team to build the next generation of smart home devices and services that everyone can afford.”

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AWS CEO Announces Textract to Extract Data Without Machine Learning Skills

AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced Amazon Textract at the AWS re:Invent 2018 conference. Textract allows AWS customers to automatically extract formatted data from documents without losing the structure of the data. Best of all, there are no machine learning skills required to use Textract. It’s something that many data-intensive enterprises have been requesting for many years.

Amazon Launches Textract to Easily Extract Usable Data

Our customers are frustrated that they can’t get more of all those text and data that are in documents into the cloud, so they can actually do machine learning on top of it. So we worked with our customers, we thought about what might solve these problems and I’m excited to announce the launch of Amazon Textract. This is an OCR plus plus service to easily extract text and data from virtually any document and there is no machine learning experience required.

This is important, you don’t need to have any machine learning experience to be able to use Textract. Here’s how it generally works. Below is a pretty typical document, it’s got a couple of columns and it’s got a table in the middle of the left column.

When you use OCR it just basically captures all that information in a row and so what you end up with is the gobbledygook you see in the box below which is completely useless. That’s typically what happens.

Let’s go through what Textract does. Textract is intelligent. Textract is able to tell that there are two columns here so actually when you get the data and the language it reads like it’s supposed to be read. Textract is able to identify that there’s a table there and is able to lay out for you what that table should look like so you can actually read and use that data in whatever you’re trying to do on the analytics and machine learning side. That’s a very different equation.

Textract Works Great with Forms

What happens with most of these forms is that the OCR can’t really read the forms or actually make them coherent at all. Sometimes these templates will kind of effectively memorize in this box is this piece of data. Textract is going to work across legal forms and financial forms and tax forms and healthcare forms, and we will keep adding more and more of these.

But also these forms will change every few years and when they do something that you thought was a Social Security number in this box turns out now not to be a date of birth. What we have built Textract to do is to recognize what certain data items or objects are so it’s able to tell this set of characters is a Social Security number, this set of characters is a date of birth, this set of characters is an address.

Not only can we apply it to many more forms but also if those forms change Textract doesn’t miss a beat. That is a pretty significant change in your capability in being able to extract and digitally use data that are in documents.

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Google Plus Announces It Will Shutdown After Reportedly Compromising 500,000 User Accounts

Google recently announced that it is shutting down Google+, with the service expected to cease operating by Nov. 2019. The announcement came on the heels of a report that an API bug exposed the profile data of 500,000 Google users using 438 different apps. However, Google claims the issue had been resolved back in March.

The decision to phase out Google+ came after Google launched a review of third-party developer access at the start of the year. The review apparently proved what the company had already known—that consumers and developers are not that interested in the platform. The service reportedly has “low usage and engagement,” with the majority of user sessions lasting less than five seconds.

What Happens to Google+ Now?

Google+ users will have ample time to transition. The phase-out is expected to be completed by August 2019 and the company will be releasing additional information in the next few months on how to migrate data.

However, Google intends to keep Google+ open for enterprise customers. But it will be rolling out new features to keep its enterprise version more secure and effective.

Aside from announcing its phase-out of Google+, the company also said its other services will be receiving privacy adjustments. Some of these adjustments include changes to API that will curtail developers’ access to user data on Gmail and Android. The changes will also ensure that developers won’t be receiving call logs and SMS permissions. Contact and basic interaction data from the Android Contacts API will also be blocked.

Keeping Things Quiet

While the security vulnerability occurred several months ago, it was only revealed recently in a Wall Street Journal report which said the breach exposed information like name, age, gender, occupation, and email address of users who listed their profile as private.

In a blog post, Google explained its decision not to reveal the issue to users.

According to Ben Smith, Google’s Vice President of Engineering, the company did not find any evidence of anyone accessing the profile data. There was also no evidence that the API was abused or that any developer was aware of the bug. Google’s “Privacy & Data Protection Office” also evaluated the issue and decided that none of the “thresholds” they were looking for were met.

Experts say that there’s no legal requirement that obliges Google to reveal the security vulnerability. However, Google’s decision to keep things quiet and a memo shared to the Journal warning senior executives against disclosing the existence of the bug will undoubtedly raise privacy and security questions again.

[Feature image via Google]

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AWS Announces General Availability of Amazon Neptune

Amazon Web Services (AWS)  rolled out its graph database service in a number of egions including US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), and EU (Ireland) on Wednesday. Called “Amazon Neptune,” it is one of several offerings introduced during the company’s annual developer event last November.

Database technology may be a debatable segment of enterprise tech, but for Amazon, it is essential in managing increasingly large data groups across various industries. Graph databases like AWS’s Neptune are designed to analyze and create relationships rapidly between different sets of data. Rather than building several queries to obtain information, a graph database simplifies the operation by using structures like nodes and edges to store related data.

Raju Gulabani, AWS vice president for Databases, Analytics, and Machine Learning, highlighted Neptune’s ease of use and functionality. “We are delighted to give customers a high-performance graph database service that enables developers to query billions of relationships in milliseconds using standard APIs, making it easy to build and run applications that work with highly connected data sets,” he said.

Built to recover from database failures in less than 30 seconds, Neptune is also touted for its flexibility. It has support for graph application programming interface (API) like TinkerPop Gremlin and SPARQL, making the fully managed service compatible with numerous applications. Graph databases are useful in social networking, fraud detection, life sciences, knowledge graphs, and network security, among others tasks. To date, Neptune has many high-profile users, namely, Intuit, Pearson, Blackfynn, and Amazon’s own Alexa team.

Amazon Alexa director David Hardcastle pointed out that they use Amazon Neptune to expand the virtual assistant’s knowledge graph of its customers and create associations with data sets. With a well-built knowledge graph, users can discover related information based on their previous and current interests. In turn, this gives a better shopping experience for the customers.

Despite its general availability status, Neptune will only be available online and in other regions in the coming months.

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Cambridge Analytica Announces Closure, Files for Bankruptcy

Cambridge Analytica, the controversial firm embroiled in the mishandling of Facebook user data, has announced its shut down on Wednesday. Its British parent SCL Elections Ltd. will also be shuttered as the data analytics company reported a significant decline in business.  

In a press release, Cambridge Analytica blamed negative media coverage for the data scandal. It lost suppliers and clients while facing mounting legal fees, prompting the company to file for insolvency in the UK and begin bankruptcy proceedings in the US. Moreover, the company stated that it will meet its obligations to its employees, such as severance terms and redundancy entitlements.   

Cambridge Analytica denied allegations of wrongdoing in improperly obtaining Facebook user data. They insisted that efforts to clear the air were ignored as the company continues to be vilified for its data gathering activities, which is common for targeted online advertising.  

“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration,” it wrote.

The company, hired by President Donald Trump’s election campaign, has been accused of inappropriately harvesting data from 87 million Facebook users through a personality quiz. It was later revealed that the data was for targeted political advertising.

Aside from hurting the shares and reputation of Facebook, the scandal also sparked multiple official investigations in the US and Europe. Politicians are likewise calling for stricter regulatory controls over tech companies as they continue to face scrutiny concerning broader data privacy issues.

According to Britain’s data regulator, criminal and civil investigations on Cambridge Analytica will still continue and pursue “individuals and directors as appropriate” despite the firm’s closure. Questions remain about what happens to the company’s intellectual property, including data servers and history. However, regulators emphasized that the political firm is not allowed to delete its data repository after the shutdown.

Established in 2013, the company positioned itself as a provider of consumer research, targeted advertising, and other data-related services to political and corporate clients. The company claimed that it could develop psychological profiles of consumers and voters to influence decisions more effectively than traditional advertising. And with Trump’s win in the 2016 US elections, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix went on to successfully market his company’s services.

After the data debacle, certain individuals involved with Cambridge Analytica, including Nix, have formed a new enterprise called Emerdata. However, details about its business plans remain undisclosed to date.

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Google announces new job posting guidelines & requirements

Google has officially updated its job posting guidelines and says if you violate those guidelines, your site can receive a manual action.

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Dropbox Announces Plans to Integrate Google G Suite Tools into Its Platform

One of the minor inconveniences plaguing the modern day workplace is the proliferation of different apps and tools that might not be totally compatible with each other. Thankfully, users of both Dropbox and Google Suite will have it easier in the near future as cross-platform integration is in the works.

Dropbox recently announced that it plans to partner with Google to integrate G Suite tools to its file sharing and storage service. This is a smart move for the company as it would greatly improve the functionality and ease of use for its service considering that 50 percent of Dropbox users also maintain a G Suite account.

This partnership will allow Dropbox users to easily access useful G Suite features once the integration is completed. For instance, they will be able to open and edit compatible files such as Google Slides, Sheets or Docs directly from Dropbox. For Dropbox Business administrators, the partnership will also allow them to manage Google Docs, Slides and Sheet that are in Dropbox.

On the other hand, G Suite users will also be able to open, edit and even create Google Docs in Dropbox. They can also make the same kind of file manipulations for other G Suite files such as Google Sheets and Slides.

“We want to make it easy for our users to work across devices with the tools they love,” explained Dropbox Vice President of Engineering Tony Lee, reflecting the trend of intercompany cooperation to make their different products work seamlessly with each other. Dropbox also partnered with Microsoft in a similar arrangement a few years back.

The recent weeks have been eventful for the San Francisco-based file hosting and syncing company. Just last week, Dropbox went public in a bid to raise $ 500 million in fresh funding to finance its latest R&D efforts.

[Featured image via Dropbox]

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Microsoft Announces Huge Price Cut for Azure Cloud Services, Now Just $100 Per Month

Microsoft Azure customers were pleasantly surprised today. The cloud computing company just announced that it has substantially dropped the price for its Azure Standard support to just $ 100 per month, making it the most affordable support package among the big three cloud computing firms.

The price slash of the Azure Standard support, which was previously priced at $ 300 per month, was announced in a post via Microsoft Azure’s website. Despite the drop, however, the company promised an even faster initial response time of 1 hour, which was previously set at 2 hours, for critical cases. The company also promised the continuation of the current package’s feature of unlimited 24/7 technical and billing support for the client’s entire organization.

The price cut is being offered to eligible Azure customers. These are customers who purchased the Azure Standard support package directly from the Azure.com site under the Microsoft Online Subscription Agreement (MOSA).

However, the $ 100 per month offer is not applicable to all regions. For still unspecified reasons, customers based in Germany are apparently not included in the price cut.

Azure’s drastic price reduction for its Standard support could start a price war among the big three players in the cloud computing industry. It is possible that competitors Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as Google Cloud Platform, might be forced to introduce price cuts of their own to make the pricing of their services even more competitive.

At $ 100 per month, the AWS Business plan costs as much as the new Azure Standard support. However, that is only the starting price because clients usually end up paying more for additional charges based on their monthly usage fees.

Meanwhile, Google is charging a higher monthly rate for its standard support at the moment. Basic support costs $ 150 per month and its response time for business critical issues is even slower at 4 hours compared to 1 hour for Azure customers.

[Featured image via Microsoft]

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Microsoft Announces its Acquisition of Avere Solutions

Competition among big players in the emerging but profitable cloud computing segment is about to heat up. In a recent announcement made on Wednesday, Microsoft confirmed its acquisition of storage solutions firm Avere, a move specifically targeted to boost revenue by addressing the unique needs among companies in the middle of transitioning to a cloud-driven framework.

As Microsoft puts it, Avere is “a leading provider of high-performance NFS and SMB file-based storage for Linux and Windows clients running in cloud, hybrid and on-premises environments.” In other words, Avere will cater to companies who are still in the process of moving to purely cloud-based systems by providing solutions that allow them to use cloud computing resources while still utilizing on-premises data storage.

Of course, it is also a brilliant marketing move for Microsoft’s cloud computing business. By offering this type of service early on, it is more likely to retain the businesses of these companies even after they reach the end of the cloud migration process.

In addition, Avere is currently working with Amazon Web Services and the Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft’s top two competitors in the cloud computing business. Microsoft’s acquisition of Avere presents a rare opportunity to increase market share if it can somehow manage to lure in those companies currently being served by Avere.

Microsoft’s business thrust in its cloud computing division can be described as a hybrid approach when compared to that of Amazon and Google. Its Azure Stack private cloud software basically offers the same features as that of the Azure public could. At the same time, the company still offers database and server software for corporate data centers.

Microsoft prides itself on offering the most flexible solution, a feature that could be of immense help for businesses still in the process of transitioning to a purely cloud-driven framework. Avere CEO Ron Bianchini had this to say about Microsoft:

 “Over the years, Microsoft has made significant investments to provide its customers with the most flexible, secure and scalable storage solutions in the marketplace and has made Azure the natural home for enterprise applications. This shared focus on large enterprise applications makes Microsoft a great fit for Avere.”

At the moment, Microsoft has not disclosed the amount it had to shell out to acquire Avere. The deal could be finalized in the coming months after passing through the customary approval process.

Featured Image by Microsoft

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Google announces new online-to-offline features on the cusp of the holiday shopping season

The announcements are aimed at giving brick and mortar retailers greater visibility on Google search properties.

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