Categories
AI

Google is using AI to update business hours that are out of date on Google Maps

Google has shared how it’s using artificial intelligence, including its restaurant-calling Duplex tech, to try and keep business hours up to date on Google Maps. The company says that if it is confident enough in the AI’s prediction of what a business’s hours should be, it will update the information in Maps.

In a blog post, Google outlines the various factors its AI analyzes to determine whether it should do these updates. First, it looks at when the business profile was last updated, other similar shops’ hours, and Popular Times data to decide how likely it is that the hours are incorrect. For example: if Google sees that a lot of people visit the shop when it’s supposedly closed, that may be a red flag.

Google’s post says that its AI looks at even more data if it determines the hours should be updated. It’ll take into account information from the business’s website and can even scrape street view images (which may show business hours signs) to try and figure out when the business is open. Google says it’ll also check with actual humans, including Google Maps users and business owners, to verify the AI’s predictions — the company says it will even use Duplex in some countries to ask businesses about their hours directly.

Google spokesperson Genevieve Park told The Verge that Google will “only publish business hours when we have a high degree of confidence that they’re accurate.” If the AI thinks the hours may be incorrect but doesn’t have a solid prediction, it adds a notice that the hours may have changed.

Google tries to warn users of potentially inaccurate info, even if it can’t provide the accurate information itself.
Image: Google

Park also said that Google doesn’t explicitly tell users when hours were updated by its AI and explained that AI is used pretty much everywhere else in Google Maps. It seems like Google’s pretty bullish on its AI-driven approach. In its post, the company says it’s “on track to update the hours for over 20 million businesses around the globe in the next six months.”

Google also says it’s piloting another use of AI in Maps to help keep speed limits up to date. In the US, it’ll try to see if its partners have taken images of stretches of road that have speed limit signs and will have AI help its operations team identify the sign and the speed limit posted on it.

While it’s no surprise that Google’s using AI for these problems, it is interesting to see how many interlocking systems are involved. There’s computer vision, pattern recognition in location trends, and analyzing data about similar locations (which, of course, also involves figuring out what the similar locations even are), all to quietly try and keep up with how often businesses change their hours and make sure it knows the speed limit on certain stretches of road.

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Categories
Computing

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 review: all business

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10

MSRP $1,680.00

“The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 isn’t a performer, but excels in battery life and security.”

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Dizzying array of display options
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Above-average battery life
  • Good business support

Cons

  • Touchpad is too small
  • Expensive for the performance

A laptop should be fairly refined by the time it’s hit its 10th generation. That’s particularly true with one as iconic as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the company’s marquee business-oriented thin and light laptop.

Lenovo didn’t mark the X1 Carbon’s 10th generation with a spectacular reworking. Instead, it further refines the celebrated design with a few small but meaningful refinements, as it’s been doing in every generation since its launch.

These small tweaks, alongside an update to Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs, leave this premium business laptop at the top of its game, even if its price still doesn’t make it a particularly realistic mainstream consumer option.

Price and configurations

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 rear view showing lid and logo.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

I reviewed a $1,680 configuration with a Core i7-1260P CPU and a 14-inch 16:10 UXWGA (1920 x 1200) low-power IPS display.

Of course, Lenovo provides several other configuration options with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10. CPUs range from the 28-watt, 12-core/16-thread Core i5-1540P to the 28-watt 14-core/20-thread Core i7-1280P with vPro. As we’ll see in the display section below, there are a dizzying number of display options that make it possible (if challenging) to dial in precisely the desired efficiency and display resolution and quality.

Regarding pricing and using Lenovo’s configurator, things start at $1,320 for a Core i5-1540P, 8GB of LPDDR5 RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, and a 14-inch 16:10 WUXGA (1920 x 1200) low-power, anti-glare IPS display. At the high end, you’ll spend $2,595 for a Core i7-1280P with vPro, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, 4G LTE, and a 14-inch 16:10 WQUXGA (3840 x 2400) anti-reflective, anti-smudge touch display.

These are steep discounts from the retail prices, and they aren’t out of line for the business audience that’s likely to be most interested in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10. In terms of price, it’s less expensive than the more powerful Apple MacBook Pro 14 and around the same price as a similarly configured Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7.

Design

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 front angled view showing display and keyboard deck.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 enjoys the same thin and light chassis as before, constructed of magnesium alloy in the chassis and carbon fiber in the lid. It’s subjected to the usual military testing for robustness as all ThinkPads. Still, like most laptops with magnesium and carbon fiber, there’s some bending in the lid and flexing in the keyboard deck.

In the ThinkPad’s case, though, it’s very minor and most people won’t notice it, but it doesn’t quite live up to the standards of more solid machines like the Dell XPS 15 and the MacBook Pro 14. The hinge is perfectly balanced, light enough to open the lid with one hand but stiff enough to hold the display in place.

The magnesium and carbon fiber do bring a meaningful benefit in terms of the ThinkPad’s weight, which comes in at just 2.48 pounds. It’s also thin at 0.60 inches, with larger bezels for a modern laptop and thus more width and depth than some.

What can I say? The latest ThinkPad X1 looks precisely like a ThinkPad.

By comparison, the solid aluminum MacBook Pro 14 with a 14.2-inch display weighs 3.5 pounds and is 0.61 inches thick, while being just slightly thinner and shallower in spite of the larger panel. The MSI Prestige 14, on the other hand, is a little wider and a little shallower while weighing a whopping 4.64 pounds and coming in at 0.63 inches thick. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is one of the lighter 14-inch laptops around while being reasonably sized in all dimensions.

Aesthetically, what can I say? The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 looks precisely like a ThinkPad — all-black chassis, minimalist lines and angles, red LED do on the stylized ThinkPad X1 logo on the lid and red TrackPoint nubbin in the middle of the keyboard. It’s a conservative, iconic design that’s recognizable from a distance. Ultimately, it’s more striking than simplistic machines like the Prestige 14 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7, while being less elegant than the MacBook Pro 14. But nobody will be embarrassed taking it into a business meeting.

Ports and connections

Connectivity is mostly solid for a 14-inch machine, with two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, a full-size HDMI 2.0b port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. There’s no SD card reader, which is disappointing.

Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 provide the latest in wireless connectivity, and a Nano SIM slot is optional supporting 4G LTE WWAN.

Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 top down view showing keyboard and touchpad.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10’s keyboard has slightly changed from the standard ThinkPad version. The keycaps are squared off, giving a more streamlined appearance and, in my opinion, a better feel. The switches seemed a bit lighter than many ThinkPads I’ve tested, and that’s an improvement in my book. I’ve usually found ThinkPad keyboards to require too much force. There’s still plenty of travel and a precise, snappy bottoming action, making it an excellent keyboard for long typing sessions. Lenovo also built air intake holes into the keyboard to improve thermal performance, and waterproof seals maintain the keyboard’s spill resistance. The layout remains the same, including the odd swapping of the left Fn and Ctrl keys.

The touchpad is wider than previous models and still hosts two buttons to support the red TrackPoint nubbin in the middle of the keyboard. That makes the touchpad slightly larger than in the past but still smaller than you’ll find on many competitive 14-inch laptops. Its glass surface is smooth and provides reliable support for Windows 11 multitouch gestures. And the TrackPoint works as well as ever for those ThinkPad diehards who prefer it.

Windows 11 Hello passwordless support is provided by a fingerprint reader built into the power button embedded in the deck above the keyboard. The power button’s placement helps avoid accidentally pressing the wrong key, and the fingerprint reader worked quickly and reliably in my testing.

Finally, the webcam is Full HD (1080p) and has a webcam privacy shutter. The webcam provides excellent video quality in normal and low-light environments and should meet anyone’s videoconferencing needs. There are options for a Full HD webcam with infrared for facial recognition and another with Lenovo’s Computer Vision technology.

Performance

Intel’s 12th-gen Core i7-1260P is our most-reviewed CPU over the last several months. It’s popular among thin and light laptops like the Carbon X1 Carbon, and we’ve seen some stratification in the chip’s performance. As a 28-watt, 12-core (four Performance and eight Efficient), 16-thread processor, the Core i7-1260P has provided at least solid productivity performance, but some laptops have performed better than others. The Acer Swift 3 2022 and MSI Prestige 14 are two laptops that provided overall superior performance than the average, while the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is among those providing significantly less performance.

That’s not a surprise given how previous models in the line have handled performance. This ThinkPad was particularly slow in our CPU-intensive benchmarks compared to competitors, including video encoding in Handbrake and the 3D rendering benchmark in Cinebench R23. The laptop’s PCMark 10 Complete result, a measure of a mix of productivity, multimedia, and creative tasks, was also lower than the average and even fell behind the 9th generation model with a Core i7-1165G7.

Performance didn’t live up to this CPU’s potential.

Oddly enough, I used Lenovo’s thermal management utility, and it performed worse in some tests in performance mode than in balanced mode.

Despite having a higher wattage chip inside, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 performed more like the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 with a 15-watt, 10-core (two Performance and eight Efficient), 12-core Core i7-1255U. I can’t say that the ThinkPad suffered from any unusual issues with throttling, at least no more than the rest of the thin-and-light field, but it didn’t perform up to this CPU’s potential.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll notice. It’s still a fast enough laptop for demanding productivity tasks, and it’s faster than Intel’s 11th-gen equivalents in most cases. But the ThinkPad’s ability to handle heavier tasks in creative applications is significantly less than with some other competitive machines.

Geekbench
(single / multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
PCMark 10
Complete
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
(Core i7-1260P)
Bal: 1,531 / 8,209
Perf: 1,580 / 8,342
Bal: 133
Perf: 138
Bal: 1,538 / 6,993
Perf: 1,538 / 6,783
4,982
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
(Core i7-1165G7)
Bal: 1,327 / 5,201
Perf: 1,556 / 5,490
Bal: 170
Perf: 190
Bal: 1,469 / 4945
Perf: 1,463 / 4,968
5,147
MSI Prestige 14
(Core i7-1260P)
Bal: 1,505 / 10,041
Perf: 1,477 / 10,604
Bal: 114
Perf: 97
Bal: 1,553 / 8,734
Perf: 1,567 / 10,450
6,201
Acer Swift 3 2022
(Core i7-1260P)
Bal: 1,708 / 10,442
Perf: 1,694 / 10,382
Bal: 100
Perf: 98
Bal: 1,735 / 9,756
Perf: 1,779 / 10,165
5,545
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
Bal: 1,650 / 8,080
Perf: 1,621 / 8,544
Bal: 116
Perf: 120
Bal: 1,587 / 7,682
Perf: 1,611 / 8,078
5,537
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(Core i7-1260P)
Bal: 1,485 / 7,732
Perf: 1,472 / 10,276
Bal: 152
Perf: 94
Bal: 1,536 / 6,793
Perf: 1,536 / 9,124
4,910
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
(Core i7-1255U)
Bal: 1,703 / 6,520
Perf: 1,685 / 6,791
Bal: 153
Perf: 141
Bal: 1,729 / 6,847
Perf: 1,773 / 7,009
5,138
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 6800U)
Bal: 1,417 / 6,854
Perf: 1,404 / 7,223
Bal: 112
Perf: 111
Bal: 1,402 / 8,682
Perf: 1,409 / 8,860
5,647

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 utilizes Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, and it was an average performer in both the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark and Fortnite at 1200p and epic graphics. You’ll want to limit your gaming to older titles and esports.

3DMark
Time Spy
Fortnite
(1080p/1200p Epic)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,816
Perf: 1,820
Bal: 17 fps
Perf: 16 fps
MSI Prestige 14
(RTX 3050)
Bal: 4,438
Perf: 4,451
Bal: 23
Perf: 26
Acer Swift 3 2022
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,967
Perf: 1,967
Bal: 19 fps
Perf: 19 fps
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,899
Perf: 1,886
Bal: 17 fps
Perf: 16 fps
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,740
Perf: 1,959
Bal: 15 fps
Perf: 19 fps
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,492
Perf: 1,502
Bal: fps
Perf: fps
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Radeon graphics)
Bal: 2,110
Perf: 2,213
Bal: 19 fps
Perf: 19 fps

Display and audio

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Lenovo offers a mind-boggling assortment of display options for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10. There are seven 14-inch 16:10 panels to choose from, differentiated by an alphabet soup of acronyms. First, there are three WUXGA (1920 x 1200) LP (low-power), AG (anti-glare) panels, one non-touch and two touch-enabled. One of the WUXGA displays with touch includes Lenovo’s Privacy Guard feature. Next is a 2.2K (2240 x 1400) AG IPS screen, followed by a 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED AGARAS (anti-glare, anti-reflection, anti-smudge) display. Finally, there are two WQUXA (3840 x 2400) IPS displays, one LP AG non-touch and one LP AOFT (Add-on Film Touch) AGARAS touch.

Whew.

My review unit was equipped with the WUXGA LP AG touch display, which seemed fine during my testing. It was plenty bright, colors seemed dynamic without being oversaturated, and blacks were deep for an IPS panel.

My colorimeter confirmed my subjective experience. The display hit 411 nits of brightness, which is well above our 300-nit threshold and more than bright enough for any indoor lighting condition you’re likely to face. Its contrast was also excellent at 1660:1, well about the 1000:1 we like to see in premium displays. That resulted in true blacks, for example, text that pops on a white background (my personal standard) and plenty of detail in dark images.

Colors hit the premium laptop average of 98% of sRGB and 76% of AdobeRGB, although I’ve seen more displays lately falling in the 80s for AdobeRGB. Color accuracy was okay at a DeltaE of 1.96, below the 2.0 mark that’s the minimum for creative work but still higher than I like to see. The MSI Summit E14 Flip and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 had wider and more accurate colors.

This is an excellent display for productivity workers and media consumers, but it falls short of what creators are looking for. However, Lenovo offers so many display options that certainly anybody can dial in a display that will meet their needs.

Brightness
(nits)
Contrast sRGB gamut AdobeRGB gamut Accuracy DeltaE
(lower is better)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
(IPS)
411 1660:1 98% 76% 1.96
MSI Prestige 14
(IPS)
317 1820:1 97% 72% 3.67
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(IPS)
386 1900:1 100% 81% 0.78
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(IPS)
516 1320:1 100% 89% 1.10
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(OLED)
406 28380:1 100% 95% 0.87
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon
(OLED)
397 27590:1 100% 96% 0.88

Two downward-firing speakers put out a surprising amount of volume, and the quality was better than I expected. Along with clean mids and highs without distortion, I heard a touch of bass. The speakers were strong enough for Netflix binging sessions and informal music listening, although a good pair of headphones will still provide the best quality.

Battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 side view showing lid and ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

My review unit used a 28-watt CPU and a low-power WUXGA (also known as Full HD+) display. Its 57 watt-hours of battery capacity is a little light for a 14-inch laptop, especially compared to the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 with its 75 watt-hour battery. I wasn’t expecting all-day battery life.

After running our suite of battery benchmarks, I came away mostly impressed. Its 7.5 hours in our web browsing test that cycles through a series of complex websites is about half an hour less than we like to see, but it was competitive among our comparison group. The Yoga 9i Gen 7 lasted longer, as did the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 (with 71 watt-hours) and the AMD-equipped Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED with a power-hungry display. Even so, the ThinkPad did okay. In our video test that loops a local Full HD Avengers trailer, it lasted for 14.5 hours, a strong score likely thanks to its low-power display. And finally, in the PCMark 10 Applications test that’s the best indication of productivity battery life, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 made it to 10.75 hours, an above-average result.

Overall, the ThinkPad’s battery life is pretty good, promising a full day’s work unless you push the CPU. You’ll get less out of some of the available higher-resolution displays as well as the OLED option, but stick with this display and you won’t need to carry your charger with you.

Web browsing Video PCMark 10
Applications
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
(Core i7-1260P)
7 hours, 39 minutes 14 hours, 34 minutes 10 hours, 42 minutes
MSI Prestige 14
(Core i7-1260P)
5 hours, 11 minutes 6 hours, 2 minutes 7 hours, 2 minutes
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
10 hours, 10 minutes 16 hours, 12 minutes 10 hours, 33 minutes
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(Core i7-1260P)
7 hours, 23 minutes 9 hours, 0 minutes 7 hours, 54 minutes
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
9 hours, 10 minutes 12 hours, 45 minutes 8 hours, 32 minutes
Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
(Core i7-1255U)
6 hours, 42 minutes 11 hours, 6 minutes 8 hours, 43 minutes
 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 6800U)
8 hours, 4 minutes 13 hours, 13 minutes N/A

Our take

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is a well-built and highly configurable laptop with options for the kind of management and security that businesses crave. For that audience, it’s a solid offering at a fair price.

For anyone else, the ThinkPad’s performance is lacking and it doesn’t offer as much to justify its high price. ThinkPad fans will love it, but other mainstream buyers should do their shopping first.

Are there any alternatives?

Dell’s Latitude 7430 is a likely alternative for the business market, offering similar management and security and a similar pricing scheme. It doesn’t offer the same breadth of display offerings as the ThinkPad.

Lenovo’s Yoga 9i Gen 7 is a strong competitor for the mainstream market, offering a more stunning design, the flexibility of a 2-in-1, better performance, and similar battery life. It costs a bit less as well.

Finally, Apple’s MacBook Pro 14 is a compelling option that’s exceptionally well-built and offers superior performance and battery life. It offers just one display option, but it’s as good as anything Lenovo has to offer. You’ll spend a bit more at the high end, though.

How long will it last?

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is well-built and should last for years of typical abuse. Its components are fully updated and will keep Windows 11 humming along. I’m glad to see the three-year warranty, which should be included with all business class and premium laptops.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you’re a businessperson who will benefit from plugging into an enterprise environment or a ThinkPad fan who’s looking for the latest and greatest.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

Leaked documents show the hoops Roblox jumped through to do business in China

In late June, Blizzard launch mere days before the game was set to debut in the country after co-developer NetEase seemingly drew the ire of government censors over an ill-advised social media post. The episode was a reminder of the tightrope act foreign game developers often have to pull off to release their games in China.

Now, newly published documents by  offer a rare insight into the steps some companies will take to comply with China’s censorship laws. The publication obtained an internal presentation created by Roblox in 2017 as the company was working toward entering the Chinese market.

In addition to highlighting the lengths Roblox was prepared to go to appease Chinese censors, the documents reveal the risks the company was willing to shoulder. One of the presentation’s more interesting insights is that Roblox expected its game would be hacked, likely by whatever firm it partnered with to bring Roblox to China. “Expect that hacking has already started,” states one bullet point. “Expect it to ramp up after a deal is signed, possibly even by partner.”

There’s no evidence Tencent, the company Roblox eventually partnered with, ever targeted the game, but the company clearly had reservations about working with the tech giant. The slides warn a relationship with Tencent would require Roblox to “keep our guard up.” Additionally, they show Roblox also considered working with NetEase and even had a favorable assessment of the company. “Direct, down-to-Earth, flexible problem solvers, acting in the interests of a joint venture,” one slide states. It’s unclear why Roblox ultimately went with Tencent over NetEase, but the fact the former promised the “fastest way to mega acquisition” probably played a part in the decision.

Roblox did not immediately respond to Engadget’s request for comment, but the company did share a statement with Motherboard.

“The slide you reference was from 2017, before we had a formal joint venture relationship in place,” a Roblox spokesperson told the outlet. “As normal for a company entering into a new market, we consider risks and opportunities and plan for them.” The spokesperson added the company’s policy is to comply with the laws of the regions where it operates.

In the end, whatever plans Roblox made to ensure a smooth entry into the Chinese market were not enough. Five months after Roblox launched within the country, the company temporarily to take “important transitory actions.” If you want to read more about the factors Roblox considered before entering China, make sure to read Motherboard’s full report.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
Computing

This Dell business laptop deal is a great bulk buy for your office

If you’re looking through the Dell laptop deals for a relatively cheap general-use laptop, the Latitude 3420 is on sale at Dell right now for just $699, down from the original $1,159 retail price, which is a nice little $460 discount. This makes it an excellent bulk purchase for a company that needs good productivity laptops.’

Why you should buy the Dell Latitude 3420 Laptop

Among the nicest things about the Latitude 3420 are the 14-inch FHD display and its weight of only 3.36 pounds, which makes it a smaller laptop and easier to put in a bag or carry around by hand. That’s handy for a work environment where a person may be taking the laptop home every night. The CPU is an 11th-generation i5-1135G7, a nice midtier CPU that can easily handle the majority of productivity tasks such as slideshows, tables, and word processor apps. It can also reasonable handle transcoding for streaming or playing video for meetings and presentations, which is a nice little plus. There’s also a 720p camera in the front for those who work remotely or often have online meetings, plus a workable microphone that should be enough for most calls and conversations.

RAM comes in at 8GB, which should be enough to have at least a few apps and browser tabs open at the same time — and assuming it isn’t being abused, it should be enough for most work needs. Storage is also good at 256GB, although you can always plug in an external hard drive through one of its three USB ports and still have space left over for a mouse or even a printer. Connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, so it’s future-proofed and will allow for a great internet connection even at a distance. Finally, there’s Windows 10, although it also comes with a Windows 11 license if you want to go that route.

All in all, the Latitude 3420 is a great business laptop that’s small, lightweight, and has some great specs that make it versatile for the workplace at a good budget. And at just $699 from Dell, it’s a good bulk purchase for a small or medium-size company. If you want something a bit more powerful and lightweight, there are some great Dell XPS deals to look at, although they’re generally more expensive, or you can look at our general laptop deals for something from another brand.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Game

‘Axie Infinity’ is back open for business following $625 million hack

After a massive $625 million hack, the cryptocurrency pay-to-earn game Axie Infinity is once again open for business. The hack took advantage of flaws in the Ronin network, an Ethereum sidechain the game’s owner, Sky Mavis, propped up to facilitate faster transactions. Surprisingly, the news today is that Axie Infinity will… continue to use Ronin, which has been revived after a few audits. In a blog post, the company described a new “circuit-breaker” system designed to flag “large, suspicious withdrawals,” withdrawal limits and human reviewers. It also promised players that a new land staking feature — which claims to allow the game’s owners of digital land to earn passive income — will be released later this week.

In March, a group of hackers pilfered nearly 173,600 Ethereum and nearly 26 million USDC (worth roughly $26 million) from the game’s network. US officials have since linked the North Korean-backed hacking group Lazarus to the heist. Last week Sky Mavis said it would begin reimbursing the victims of the hack — but didn’t account for Ethereum’s drop in value over the past three months, which means that users would only recover about a third of their losses. In all, Sky Mavis is returning $216.5 million in funds to its users.

Moving forward, Axie Infinity players are warned not to send funds directly to Ronin Bridge’s smart contract address. “The Ronin Bridge should only be accessed and used for deposits/withdrawals through the Ronin Bridge UI. Any funds sent directly to the Ronin Bridge’s contract addresses will be permanently lost,” wrote the company in its post.

Esports.net recently pointed out a flaw in Axie Infinity’s design — a drop in the number of players causes the value of its in-game currency to plummet. Bloomberg noted earlier this month that the game’s user base has declined by 40 percent since the hack. As of this writing, the value of AXS is at $15.30 (a drop from its high of $160.36 in July 2021) and the value of SLP is at 0.0039 (down from an all-time high of 0.364).

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Categories
Security

Apple Business Essentials now available for small businesses

The Business Essentials subscription service that Apple announced and introduced in a limited beta late last year is now available for any small business. This is Apple’s vertical integration of device management and cloud storage under the Business Manager platform that companies already use to buy and manage their Apple hardware, which is designed for organizations with fewer than 500 employees. Now that it’s officially launched, it also includes an optional new business tier of AppleCare Plus hardware coverage with 24/7 support and the ability to call an Apple-trained tech onsite in as little as four hours.

The subscription ties traditional IT services into one portal with a rate starting at $2.99 per employee per month. Apple is opening its doors with a two-month free trial, which is available for companies that were already part of the beta test.

Businesses that could use this package, or a third-party setup like it, probably already have access to Apple’s Business Manager portal. It’s how businesses (and similarly, schools with Apple School Manager) can reserve and distribute managed Apple IDs, so employees can’t accidentally make a personal Apple ID account. It can also automatically procure devices purchased directly from Apple, acquire software licenses in the App Store, sync directories (Microsoft Azure), and more.

The biggest change for those tasked with IT management comes on the deployment and management side: small business customers can use Apple’s service to push pre-configured packages directly to employees’ devices with their Wi-Fi / VPN settings, mandated FileVault encryption, and apps. Then employees can view their setups, access support, or track repairs via the Business Essentials app. Previously, getting deployment and management features on Apple devices required another service and the expertise to use it. The biggest thing this setup can’t do, though, is work with mobile or desktop devices that aren’t made by Apple.

Max out the subscription to $24.99 per month for one employee.

For small businesses that are looking for a simplified and linear approach to Mac management, or who don’t have the capacity in IT personnel, Apple’s new solution might be compelling. The starting price of $2.99 per month, per employee, covers one device and 50GB of iCloud storage, then jumps to $6.99 for 200GB and $12.99 for 2TB.

AppleCare Plus for Business Essentials is an additional $7 per month for the single device tier (covers one repair or replacement) or an additional $13 per month for the three devices and 200GB iCloud tier (covers two repairs or replacements). At the maximum, a single employee can cost $24.99 per month with three devices, 2TB iCloud storage, and AppleCare Plus for Business Essentials (a cost savings of $1 a month on the AppleCare).

IT managers can enroll in the new service by navigating to the company’s existing Apple Business Manager site and clicking on the newly added “Subscription” menu on the sidebar. Once enrolled, new sidebar menu options including Service & Support and Collections will appear. Other features include the ability to have employees set up business accounts on their own computers or phones, without the worry of risking business or private data — Apple’s solution allows for personal data to be “cryptographically separated” from work data.

Apple’s new service presents an alternative to established solutions like Jamf, which is used by thousands of businesses and universities, works with Apple’s Business / School Manager platforms, and has much more comprehensive features including security software solutions. But for small businesses that just need to just easily enroll newly purchased Apple hardware, provide basic onboarding support, and only need to distribute software from Apple’s App store repository, Apple’s Business Essentials certainly might cover — well — the essentials.

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Categories
AI

Report: AI has assisted half of all business owners during the labor shortage

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A new report from Unsupervised indicates that one in two business owners implementing AI say it has helped their business during the labor shortage.

As companies continue to see high turnover rates, business owners can benefit from AI handling the duties traditionally managed by human employees, especially if employers are struggling to hire new workers. According to the study, the top tasks that business owners are optimizing via AI include chatbots, content creation for emails and advertisements, and managing inventory.

However, if businesses increase AI implementation, they will also need to ensure they are properly staffed with employees who are trained and knowledgeable on their AI programs. The Unsupervised report found that 40% of business owners feel they are lacking in regards to having AI expertise on staff.

How are businesses using AI technology? The most commonly used AI technologies include natural language processing at 36%, robotic process automation at 22%, computer vision at 18%, deep learning at 16%, conversational interfaces at 15%, and physical robotics at 13%. The top three tasks that business owners are optimizing with AI include creating content for emails and ads for customers at 47%, chatbots at 44%, and managing inventory at 35%.

Above: The top tasks business owners are optimizing via artificial intelligence are content creation for emails and advertisements, chatbots, and managing inventory. Overall, 1 in 2 business owners using AI say it has helped their business during the labor shortage.

Image Credit: Unsupervised

While AI can complement human workers or “fill in” for certain jobs, it is crucial to have skilled professionals with holistic knowledge of the AI programs the business has implemented. If a perceived difficulty in hiring AI-trained professionals continues, business owners must quickly adapt with methods such as strategic hiring, streamlined training, or even outsourcing.

The notion of implementing AI for business needs is growing: 18% of business owners want to ramp up their use of AI in the future, and one in five are currently in the process of implementing AI for the first time. The trade-off is needing fewer employees capable of what AI can handle, but needing more employees skilled in AI programs.

Unsupervised used several data sets to examine the use of AI among businesses and capture the current AI and business landscape, including the 2021 AI Index Report, International Data Corporation, Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, and CB Insights, in order to explore AI startup funding. Unsupervised also surveyed 520 business owners about their attitudes toward implementing AI in their business via Prolific.

Read more in the full report by Unsupervised.

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Categories
AI

Video-level computer vision advances business insights

This article was contributed by Can Kocagil, data scientist at OREDATA.

From spatial to spatiotemporal visual processing

Instance-based classification, segmentation, and object detection in images are fundamental issues in the context of computer vision. Different from image-level information retrieval, the video-level problems aim at detection, segmentation, and tracking of object instances in spatiotemporal domain that have both space and time dimensions.

Video domain learning is a crucial task for spatiotemporal understanding in camera and drone-based systems with applications in video-editing, autonomous driving, pedestrian tracking, augmented reality, robot vision, and a lot more. Furthermore, it helps us to decode spatiotemporal raw data to actionable insights along with the video, as it has richer content compared to visual-spatial data. With the addition of temporal dimension to our decoding process, we get further information about

  • Motion
  • Viewpoint variations
  • Illuminations
  • Occlusions
  • Deformations
  • Local ambiguities

from the video frames. Because of this, video-level information retrieval has gained popularity as a research area, and it attracts the community along the lines of research for video understanding.

Conceptually speaking, video-level information retrieval algorithms are mostly adapted from image-level processes by adding additional heads to capture temporal information. Aside from simpler video-level classification and regression tasks, video object detection, video object tracking, video captioning, and video instance segmentation are the most common tasks.

To start with, let’s recall the image-level instance segmentation problem.

Image-level instance segmentation

Instance segmentation not only groups pixels into different semantic classes, but also groups them into different object instances. A two-stage paradigm is usually adopted, which first generates object proposals using a Region Proposal Network (RPN), and then predicts object bounding boxes and masks using aggregated RoI features. Different from semantic segmentation, which segments different semantic classes only, instance segmentation also segments the different instances of each class.

Instance segmentation example

Above: Left figure: Semantic segmentation. Right figure: Instance segmentation.

Video classification

The video classification task is a direct adaptation of image classification to the video domain. Instead of giving images as inputs, video frames are given to the model to learn from. By nature, the sequences of images that are temporally correlated are given to learning algorithms that incorporate features of both spatial and temporal visual information to produce classification scores.

The core idea is that, given specific video frames, we want to identify the type of video from pre-defined classes.

Video captioning

Video captioning is the task of generating captions for a video by understanding the action and event in the video, which can help in the retrieval of the video efficiently through text. The idea here is that, given specific video frames, we want to generate natural language that describes the concept and context of the video.

Video Captioning Example

Above: Video captioning example

Image Credit: Can Kocagil

Video captioning is a multidisciplinary problem that requires algorithms from both computer vision (to extract features) and natural language processing (to map extracted features to natural language).

Video object detection (VOD)

Video object detection aims to detect objects in videos, which was first proposed as part of the ImageNet visual challenge. Even though the association and providing of identity improves the detection quality, this challenge is limited to spatially preserved evaluation metrics for per-frame detection and does not require joint object detection and tracking. However, there is no joint detection, segmentation, and tracking as opposed to video-level semantic tasks.

Video Object Detection Example

Above: Video object detection

Image Credit: Can Kocagil

The difference between image-level object detection and video object detection is that the time series of images are given to the machine learning model, which contains temporal information as opposed to image-level processes.

Video object tracking (VOT)

Video object tracking is the process of both localizing the objects and tracking them across the video. Given an initial set of detections in the first frame, the algorithm generates a unique ID for each object in each timestamp and tries to successfully match them across the video. For instance, if I say that the particular object has an ID of “P1” in the first frame, the model tries to predict the ID of “P1” of that particular object in the remaining frames.

Video object tracking tasks are generally categorized as detection-based and detection-free tracking approaches. In detection-based tracking algorithms, objects are jointly detected and tracked such that the tracking part improves the detection quality, whereas in detection-free approaches we’re given an initial bounding box and try to track that object across video frames.

Video Object Tracking example

Above: Video object tracking

Video instance segmentation (VIS)

Video instance segmentation is the recently introduced computer vision research topic that aims at joint detection, segmentation, and tracking of instances in the video domain. Because the video instance segmentation task is supervised, it requires human-oriented high-quality annotations for bounding boxes and binary segmentation masks with predefined categories. It requires both segmentation and tracking, and it is a more challenging task compared to image-level instance segmentation. Hence, as opposed to previous fundamental computer vision tasks, video instance segmentation requires multidisciplinary and aggregated approaches. VIS is like a contemporary all-in-one computer vision task that is the composition of general vision problems.

Video Instance Segmentation Prediction example

Above: Video instance segmentation prediction

Image Credit: Can Kocagil

Knowledge brings value: Video-level information retrieval in action

Acknowledging the technical boundaries of video-level information retrieval tasks will improve the understanding of business concerns and customer needs from a practical perspective. For example, when a client says, “we have videos and want to extract only the locations of pedestrians from the videos,” you’ll recognize that your task is video object detection. What if they want to both localize and track them in videos? Then your problem is translated to the video object tracking task. Let’s say that they also want to segment them across videos. Your task is now video instance segmentation. However, if a client says that they want to generate automatic captions for videos, from a technical point of view, your problem can be formulated as video captioning. Understanding the scope of the project and drawing technical business requirements depends on the kind of insights clients want to derive, and it is crucial for technical teams to formulate the issue as an optimization problem.

This article was contributed by Can Kocagil, data scientist at OREDATA.

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Categories
Computing

Apple Launches Business Essentials For Mac IT Management

Apple is now targeting small businesses with a new subscription following the company’s success with its Apple One service for individuals and families. Like Apple One, the new Apple Business Essentials subscription includes iCloud storage, but the business-oriented offering swaps out consumer services — like Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+, and Apple News+ — for device management and onboarding services. as well as access to Apple Support.

Apple’s Business Essentials plan covers all Apple hardware, including the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and it includes setup, onboarding, backup, security, repairs, and updates. Apple is positioning its Business Essentials service as an IT service for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The Cupertino, California, maker of the Mac and iPhone is targeting Apple Business Essentials for small and medium businesses with up to 500 employees. The service launches today in the United States and will be available to SMBs for free while it is still in beta. When it exits beta in spring 2022, pricing will range from $3 per seat per month to $13 per seat per month. The pricing range takes into account the number of devices a user has as well as the amount of iCloud storage for the plan. Up to 2TB of iCloud storage is available on the highest-tier plan.

With its mobile device management service, Apple Business Essentials has a section called Collections within the app that employees can use to download apps that are required for their workflow, including Microsoft Office, Cisco Webex, and more.

“When employees sign in to their corporate or personally owned device with their work credentials, Collections automatically pushes settings such as VPN configurations and Wi-Fi passwords,” Apple detailed of its new service. “In addition, Collections will install the new Apple Business Essentials app on each employee’s home screen, where they can download corporate apps assigned to them, such as Cisco Webex or Microsoft Word.”

If an employee leaves, the Business Essentials service also makes it easy for SMB owners to reassign old devices to new users or issue new devices to new users.

Business Essentials is notable in that it will bring a more managed IT experience that employees at larger corporations have relied upon to the world of small businesses. In addition to device management and hardware support, Apple will also allow small businesses to bundle its AppleCare+ optional extended warranty services to Business Essentials starting in the spring. Employees will have access to two device repairs per year on their plan, and the repairs can be initiated directly within the Apple Business Essentials app. Apple will also offer on-site repair services in addition to mail-in repairs with its small business offering, and technicians can arrive on site in as little as four hours.

Apple has been making an aggressive push into its services business, which includes Apple Music. In its most recent earnings report, the company announced that its net sales from the services business grew by more than 27% year-over-year for the fiscal year ended September 25, 2021. Apple reported that its services businesses generated $68.4 billion, compared to $297.4 billion for products.

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Categories
AI

CapGemini on the potential of data ecosystems to drive business value

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Companies can learn a lot from each other’s data. By sharing, exchanging and collaborating with data, in what Capgemini calls data ecosystems, organizations would be able to generate more revenue, boost customer satisfaction, improve productivity, and reduce costs.

CapGemini’s chief data architect, Steve Jones, and artificial intelligence and analytics group offer leader Anne-Laure Thieullent discussed the business impact of AI and data ecosystems with Maribel Lopez, founder and principal analyst at Lopez Research, during VentureBeat’s Transform 2021 virtual conference on Monday.

Mastering data

The CapGemini Research Institute released a report on analyzing companies’ grasp of data. The report focused on two factors — data behaviors and technology. Data behaviors refers to how companies use technology to make decisions and how development of data literacy skills are set up through the business to democratize the use of data, Thieullent explained. The second factor looks at the the technology the companies used, or how they have progressed in using machine learning techniques on their values forecasts or analytics.

CapGemini’s researchers found that only 16% of organizations could be classified as advanced along both factors. These so-called data masters are 22% more profitable than their peers, and they generated 70% more revenue on average per employee, the report found.

Taking data and AI systems seriously

When did companies begin to take data and AI seriously? Part of the interest came about because of the hype around AI, Thieullent said.

“With the fear that jobs like legal, marketing, HR, and finance are going to be disrupted by AI and automation, business leaders have started to really get into tech and understand how they could master their own destiny,” Thieullent said.

Many businesses have also become more interconnected. For example, retailers that want to understand their customers’ buying patterns can learn a lot by looking at the data collected by their logistic partners. In the pharmaceutical industry, companies can learn from each other’s research and development efforts.

“What if you could learn from drug discovery data from many pharma companies in order to bring to market safer drugs faster?” Thieullent asked.

Recognizing the value of data ecosystems

Thieullent defined a data ecosystem as “partnerships among organizations that allow them to share data and insights to create new value.” The potential of ecosystem-based data sharing can reach more than 9% of the total annual revenue of an organization, she noted.

Companies that deeply engage in data ecosystems generate more sales from fixed assets and twice the market capitalization, Thieullent said.

The benefits also go beyond finances: CapGemini found that data ecosystems can improve customer satisfaction by 15%, increase efficiency by 14%. and reduce annual costs by 11%.

One of the reasons companies began sharing data was because they saw what AI can do with the data, CapGemini’s Jones said. For instance, forecasting the supply chain can involve data related to weather, logistics, and manufacturing. This kind of interconnectivity has pushed companies to look beyond the limitations of their businesses.

“They’re recognizing that they can actually have business decisions and make optimizations which are driven by things that aren’t under their control, that aren’t what they know,” Jones said.

Starting internally

Companies should start from within, and consider what success looks like for different teams and striking a balance. For the chief information officer, it’s about changing people’s mindsets to think of data as an asset and not just what system or table the data comes from, Jones said.

Jones’ advice: “Stop sweating the data technology. Stop sweating the infrastructure technologies. Industrialization, standardization, and looking at how you govern data as an asset, not table storage mechanisms.”

Thieullent urged companies to start thinking about the data they don’t have and who they can work with to get it. “Think of what you could do if you had access to the data to better know your end customer and build new products,” she said.

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