Specialization is key in an exploding AI chatbot market

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Amid an exploding market for AI chatbots, companies that target their virtual assistants to specialized enterprise sectors may get a firmer foothold than general chatbots, according to Gartner analysts. That’s not news to Zowie, which claims to be the only AI-powered chatbot technology specifically built for ecommerce companies that use customer support to drive sales – no small feat in an industry in which customer service teams answer tens of thousands of repetitive questions daily. Today, the company announced it has secured $14 million in series A funding led by Tiger Global Management, bringing its total to $20 million.

Chatbots — sometimes referred to as virtual assistants — are built on conversational AI platforms (CAIP) that combine speech-based technology, natural language processing and machine learning tools to develop applications for use across many verticals. 

The CAIP market is extremely diverse, both in vendor strategies and in the enterprise needs that vendors target, says Magnus Revang, a Gartner research vice president covering AI, chatbots and virtual assistants.

The CAIP market is comprised of about 2,000 vendors worldwide. As a result, companies looking to implement AI chatbot technology often struggle with vendor selection, according to a 2020 Gartner report coauthored by Revang, “Making Sense of the Chatbot and Conversational AI Platform Market.

The report points out that In a market where no one CAIP vendor is vastly ahead of the pack, companies will need to select the provider best fit for their current short and midterm needs. 

The secret sauce in the AI chatbot market

That is Zowie’s secret sauce: specialization. Specifically, the company focuses on the needs of ecommerce providers, Maya Schaefer, Zowie’s chief executive officer and cofounder, told VentureBeat. The platform enables brands to improve their customer relationships and start generating revenue from customer service. 

Plenty of other CAIPs provide services for companies that sell products. But their solutions are also targeted to other verticals, such as banking, telecom and insurance.  Examples include Boost AI, Solvvy and Ada. Other chatbots — Ada is an example — can also be geared for use in the financial technology and software-as-a-service industries to answer questions, for instance, about a non- functioning system.

Zowie is built using the company’s automation technology, ‘Zowie X1’, to analyze the meaning and sentiment to find repetitive questions and trends. 

Zowie claims to automate 70% of inquiries ecommerce brands typically receive, such as “where’s my package?” or “how can I change my shipping address?” she says. The solution also includes a suite of tools that allows agents to provide personalized care and product recommendations, she says.

For example, if a customer says, “I would like help choosing new shoes” the system hands the request to a live product expert.

Before implementation, the platform analyzes a customer’s historical chats, frequently asked questions and knowledge base to automatically learn which questions to automate. It uses AI capabilities to analyze new questions and conversations, delivering more automation. 

By analyzing patterns, the AI chatbot can tell when something new or unusual is happening and alerts the customer service team, Schaefer said.

Live agents may also have difficulties upselling customers, so Zowie gives unique insights about customers to agents–what product they are looking at, did they order before and if so, what did they order – and has a direct product catalog integration which enables agents to send product suggestions in the form of a carousel, she added.

Time to optimization

In 2019, Schaefer and cofounder Matt Ciolek developed the all-in-one, modular CAIP designed for building highly customizable chatbots. Schaefer estimates that within six weeks of implementation, Zowie answers about 92% of customer inquiries such as “where’s my package?” and “what are the store hours?”

“Managers and agents don’t have to think about how to improve customer experience — our system will detect new trends and propose how to optimize the system automatically,” she said. “In a way, we automate the automation.”

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How to use your phone as a two-factor authentication security key

If you want to verify your Google login and make it harder to access by anyone but yourself (always a good idea), one way is to use your iPhone or Android smartphone as a physical security key. While you can set up a third-party 2FA app such as Authy or even use Google’s own Authenticator, these require that you enter both your password and a code generated by the app. Google’s built-in security allows you to access your account by just hitting “Yes” or pressing your volume button after a pop-up appears on your phone. You can also use your phone as a secondary security key.

Use your phone to sign in

To set this up, your computer should be running a current version of Windows 10, iOS, macOS, or Chrome OS. Before you start, make sure that your phone is running Android 7 or later and that it has Bluetooth turned on.

  • While it’s unlikely you have an Android phone that doesn’t have a Google account associated with it, if you’re one of the few, you need to add a Google account to your phone by heading into Settings > Passwords & accounts, scroll down to and select Add account > Google
  • Once that’s done, open a Google Chrome browser on your computer
  • Head into on Chrome and click on Use your phone to sign in

  • Enter your account password. You’ll be asked to satisfy three steps: choose a phone (if you have more than one), make sure you have either Touch ID (for an iPhone) or a screen lock (for an Android), and add a recovery phone number.

You’ll be asked to satisfy three steps.

You’ll be asked to satisfy three steps.

You’ll then be run through a test of the system and invited to turn it on permanently.

Use your phone as a secondary security key

You can also use your phone as a secondary security key to ensure that it is indeed you who are signing into your account. In other words, to get into the account, it will be necessary to be carrying the correct phone with a Bluetooth connection.

  • If you don’t have two-step verification set up yet, go back to your account security page, click on 2-Step Verification and follow the instructions. The TL;DR is that you’ll need to log in, enter a phone number, and select what secondary methods of verification you’d like.
  • Scroll down the list of secondary methods and select Add security key.
  • And again, select Add security key.

You can choose your phone, a USB drive or an NFC key to act as a security key.

You can choose your phone, a USB drive or an NFC key to act as a security key.

  • You’ll be given the choice of adding your phone (or one of your phones, if you have more than one) or a physical USB or NFC key. Select your phone.
  • You’ll get a warning that you need to keep Bluetooth on and that you can only sign in using a supported browser (Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge).

That’s it! You’ve set up your phone as a security key and can now log in to Gmail, Google Cloud, and other Google services and use your phone as the primary or secondary method of verification.

When you sign in to your Google account, your phone will ask you to confirm the sign-in.

When you sign in to your Google account, your phone will ask you to confirm the sign-in.

Your phone will then confirm your ID with your computer using Bluetooth.

Your phone will then confirm your ID with your computer using Bluetooth.

Just make sure your phone is in close proximity to your computer whenever you’re trying to log in. Your computer will then tell you that your phone is displaying a prompt. Follow the directions to verify your login, and you’re all set!

Update March 29th, 2021, 11:20AM ET: This article was originally published on April 12th, 2019, and has been updated to account for changes in the Google interface.

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Digitizing Spaces: Why keeping a digital copy of your physical space is key

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The was contributed by Jon Mason, cofounder, and CEO of Hotspring

Every industry is currently riding the wave of ‘digital transformation’. Whether to increase efficiency and productivity or enable teams to operate remotely, most companies have been forced to reevaluate their operations in response to the pandemic. According to Flexera, 54% of companies worldwide said they are now prioritizing their digital transformation in 2021. But digitization doesn’t have to be like boiling the ocean. It’s never been quicker and more cost-effective to build out digital doubles which can provide the foundation for further development.

Many industries are in the midst of their digital transformation and are looking for ways to accelerate digitization within their businesses. Over the last decade, the evolution of 3D mapping technology has come on leaps and bounds. In fact, the global 3D mapping market is expected to grow by 15% to $7.6 billion by 2025. What once might have cost thousands of dollars and needed countless hours of work can now be produced on a digital tablet in minutes. For example, digitizing a physical space with a company like Matterport might only cost a couple hundred dollars. It has never been more accessible.

One early developer of this technology, and arguably one of the most important, is Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC). As you can imagine, the need to be efficient when coordinating a large-scale construction project amongst a number of different vendors and stakeholders is key. By using an intelligent 3D model-based process that efficiently plans, designs, constructs, and manages building and infrastructure, Building Information Modelling (BIM) has become an integral part of how this industry operates. In fact, the BIM software market’s global value is expected to almost triple and reach $15 billion by 2027.


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As more companies start to realize the true value of investing in virtual assets, transforming large physical spaces into explorable 3D ‘digital twin‘ models that are easily accessible, provide valuable insights into the physical asset and offer opportunities for innovation. What was once an exclusive tool within the AEC industry, 3D mapping technology now offers a number of benefits for a wide variety of industries including real estate, event planning, property development, education, pharma, retail, and more.

Digitizing spaces removes physical limitations

When you digitize a space, you unlock a whole host of possibilities and one of the more common advantages is the removal of physical limitations. Picture walking through a virtually built environment that has a near unlimited amount of detail, allowing you to see varied interiors featuring different color patterns and decor, or the ability to view the location at various times of the day. 3D mapping technology has the power to construct a vividly powerful virtual experience based on the intentions of an architect or designer, bringing their vision to life in minute detail and making it accessible to a range of stakeholders.

Using a mix of 360-degree cameras and photogrammetry, 3D mapping technology can stitch together any captured footage of a space to create a singular model that is not only a virtual walkthrough but also a dimensionally accurate model of that space. This can then be brought into Unreal Engine, or a similar 3D visualization tool, to unlock new ways of experiencing the premises without actually having to be physically in that space.

Whether you’re selling a new apartment in New York, renting a holiday home in Cancun, or inviting guests to book hotel rooms in remote locations, potential customers need to be able to view the property. By creating a digital double of the space you remove all geographical constraints and open up the possibility for people to immerse themselves in the space from anywhere around the world. As surveyed by Planet Home Study, 75% of buyers agree that a virtual home tour is a major deciding factor in whether they would buy a property or not.

One company utilizing this technology is a spatial data company that bridges the physical to the digital and is able to take an existing space, scan it and upload it into the digital world. Utilizing 3D mapping technology empowers the users to capture and connect rooms to create truly interactive 3D models of spaces. This new technology has been hailed as a new platform for helping the real estate business to expand, particularly during the pandemic COVID-19.

Create a unique user experience by digitizing spaces

Another key benefit of having a digital copy of your physical space is the ability to create unique and innovative experiences. In an HBR survey, 40% of respondents said that customer experience was their top priority for digital transformation. Since every experience with a customer impacts their overall perception of a brand, taking an approach that focuses on relationships with customers is a wise move. So how can having a digital space help?

Staging an event or experience in a physical space may be the norm, but if access to the event is limited by location then you’re potentially excluding a vast number of potential customers. However, if the event is held in a virtual capacity, you tap into the freedom to expand not only the audience but also the levels of creativity behind the experience. For example, customers could meet with fashion designers in a virtual store or attend a virtual concert from their favorite artists – like one recently reformed band has planned to do.

From a business perspective, creating a digital copy of your premises offers cost-saving opportunities for all enterprises, increases productivity, and elevates their creativity. For outlets like supermarkets, that traditionally rely on their physical location, the advantages of creating a digitized space may not be immediately obvious. However, by virtually mapping all of your locations you can work on crafting campaigns that can be rolled out across all stores at once, allowing you to visualize the look, arrange fittings, and implement various installments at the push of a button.

Obstacles and misconceptions

As you can see, there are a ton of advantages for businesses when they embrace the digitization of their spaces, so why aren’t more people opting in? The immediate answer is simply lack of awareness; it’s just not something that people are thinking about. The truth of the matter is, most people don’t realize how amazing these virtual renderings can look. When people think of digital space, they automatically think of traditional architectural renders which at times have looked unrealistic. Thanks to the advancements in 3D mapping technology, these digital twins are now incredibly photorealistic. Companies like Cushman Wakefield, a global leader in the commercial real estate industry, have been working to help create highly accurate 3D digital twins of their properties for 24/7 virtual tours.

Traditionally it’s also been quite expensive to go through this digitization process and getting funding for a large-scale project like this is difficult. But as we mentioned previously, what once used to cost quite a lot can now be done much cheaper with the right services. In fact, Cushman Wakefield realized an estimated 53% cost savings by providing an alternative to purchasing cameras and individually training employees to scan such a large volume of digital twins.

However, it should be noted that this technology is still in constant development and can sometimes be limited in its application. At present, some companies only allow users to view these doubles from specific vantage points, which limits the lengths to which it can be truly immersive. By hiring creatives with the right skill set, businesses are empowered to generate digital copies of their spaces. As the world adapts to a hybrid working model in the wake of the pandemic, there are companies that connect creative talents from around the world with the companies that require their services. By marrying these digital doubles with highly-skilled artists, they can be transformed into fully immersive and interactive experiences.

Another common misconception is that VR or AR is required for it to be immersive and engaging and that this could be a blocker, but according to Statista, experts believe that demand for VR/AR headsets will increase almost eight-fold by 2025. But even if you don’t own a VR or AR headset, these digital spaces are still accessible through web browsers, mobile apps, or in-store. While not as immersive, it is still completely photo-realistic and allows users to experience a digitized space.

One such business utilizing this VR and AR technology is beauty powerhouse L’Oreal. Their teams have developed an app that allows customers to virtually apply makeup, such as nail polish and lipstick, to themselves with their smartphones. They’ve now incorporated this technology into their stores via “magic mirrors” which allow customers to virtually apply the makeup and order the products they prefer directly from the device. With the beauty industry becoming such a lucrative market, we expect to see more brands taking their lead.

What does the future hold?

While there is plenty of room for growth and expansion in the digitization space, the question remains: where do we go from here? The big buzzword on everyone’s lips at the moment is “the metaverse” — a collection of various online worlds in which physical, augmented, and virtual reality converge. Think of it as an online forum where people can interact with one another, go to work, buy goods and services, or even attend events. And while the metaverse as we’ve described above may not be a reality right now, there are businesses like Facebook that are actively trying to make this concept a reality.

Dubbed the next evolution of the internet, everybody is under the impression that we will be spending more and more of our time in this metaverse soon enough. Where your digitized space may once have been a solitary experience, it may soon grow to become a bustling and interactive marketplace where friends and colleagues can join together to experience what your business has to offer. Creating a digital copy of your physical space can help future-proof your business for what could be coming tomorrow.

Jon Mason is the cofounder and CEO of Hotspring



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Yubico key organizer keeps your house keys tidy and your YubiKey security key safe

Yubico has teamed up with Keyport on a new key organizer that’s designed to safely stash your YubiKey security key (a small dongle that can act as an extra layer of security for your logins) alongside your house keys in one compact little enclosure.

It’s a neat idea. My house keys have to put up with a lot of abuse from being carried around in my pockets and stuffed in the bottom of backpacks. And while I’m not too worried about a set of metal keys surviving this kind of treatment, I wouldn’t say not to a little more protection for a USB dongle that I need to access my most secure accounts. YubiKeys are built like tanks, but nothing’s invincible.

The $25 Yubico x Keyport Pivot 2.0 key organizer appears to have been released earlier this month, and it’s functionally a very similar accessory to Keyport’s existing Pivot 2.0 organizer. The differences appear to amount to a small Yubico logo on its outside, and Yubico’s website also notes that this version doesn’t include Keyport’s lost and found service.

Alongside a YubiKey security key, the organizer has space for up to seven other key-sized items. As well as keys, Keyport sells a variety of tools that are designed to sit in its holders, like multi-tools, mini-flashlights, and pens. Compatible YubiKeys include the 5 Series, as well as its new Bio Series, which are activated using a fingerprint.

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DDR3 vs. DDR4 RAM: Key Differences Explained

DDR3 RAM had a long run after its 2007 release, powering mainstream laptops and desktop computers for many years. However, in 2014, DDR4 RAM was released to the public and has since become the most common memory type in desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets. With major changes to its physical design, specifications, and features, motherboards with DDR4 slots cannot use DDR3 RAM, and DDR4 RAM can’t be put into a DDR3 slot. Neither is compatible with the newer DDR5 memory.

DDR4 versus DDR3 RAM

DDR4 tends to run at 1.2 volts by default, whereas DDR3 runs at 1.5V. While it may not seem like much, that’s a 20% improvement in efficiency between generations. For most home users, the difference in voltage ultimately results in lower power consumption and heat generation, which can be especially important in laptops where it can impact battery life.

DDR4 is not just more power efficient — it’s a lot faster, too. DDR3 specifications range between 800 to 2,133 MTps (millions of transfers per second). In comparison, DDR4 RAM ranges between 2,133 to 3,200 MTps, not to mention the faster kits available through XMP and overclocking.

When purchasing RAM, you can identify the speed by its name, e.g. Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR4-3200. This indicates it is DDR4 RAM at 3,200 MTps.

MTps versus MHz

To avoid any confusion, it’s worth clearing up the difference between MTps and MHz. Some companies will advertise RAM in MTps and others in MHz.

MTps (millions of mega transfers per second) measure the bus and channel speed based on effective cycles per second. MHz (megahertz per second) measures the transmission speed of a device in one million cycles per second.

Generally, DDR RAM is measured in MTps, whereas SRAM (static RAM) is measured in MHz since it cannot produce more than one operation per second. DDR3 RAM operating at 1066.6MHz will be presented as DDR3 2133. As DDR, or double data rate, RAM has two processes running simultaneously, the 1066.6MHz is doubled to equate to 2133MTps.

Essentially, MHz and MTps are the same things, but it’s important to be aware of how a manufacturer represents their measurements.

Is DDR4 faster than DDR3 RAM?


DDR4 can and does run much faster than even the best DDR3, but there is some crossover.

In terms of transfer rate, DDR4 is capable of a higher million transfers per second. However, MTps isn’t the only specification to consider when purchasing RAM.

Timings, like Column Access Strobe latency (CL), also play an important part in the overall memory performance. CL determines the number of clock cycles it takes for RAM to deliver data requested by the CPU.

To put it into context, fast clock speeds don’t necessarily mean faster RAM. High latency can drag the results down slightly, so it’s worth comparing all the specifications to find the right type of RAM for your requirements.

Taking Corsair’s Vengeance DDR3 kits and pitting them against their Vengeance LPX DDR4 kits, there’s a clear difference in performance and speed.

a comparison of corsair's ddr3 vs ddr4 read and write performance

While read/write speeds are marginally lower on their DDR4 kits compared to DDR3 at 2,133MHz, it’s important to remember this is the entry-level speed for DDR4.

a comparison of corsair's ddr3 vs ddr4 ram in latency tests

Latency-wise, DDR3-1600 has a higher latency than any DDR4 kit. At 2,133MHz, the DDR4 kit is slightly higher than DDR3-2133, but as the memory clock speed increases, the overall latency decreases, even if the timings are looser.

Ultimately, DDR4 is faster than DDR3 RAM. It also offers more performance at a lower cost-per-dollar compared to any DDR3 RAM, except at its entry-level 1,600MHz.

High-Frequency DDR4 RAM

High-frequency DDR4 RAM like the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB is capable of reaching speeds of up to 4,000MHz. Gamers who want to push their machines to achieve the best performance can overclock their RAM for demanding systems.

However, manufacturers like HyperX have pushed the boundaries even further with their HyperX Predator DDR4 family of RAM, which is available between 2,666Mhz to 5,333Mhz.

In fact, in April, they achieved the world overclocking record of 7,200MHz with their HyperX Predator DDR4 memory.

Why DDR3 and DDR4 don’t work together

High performance DDR3 ECC computer memory

One of the main differences between DDR3 and DDR4 RAM is the layout of the physical pins. DDR3 RAM uses a 240-pin connector, whereas DDR4 uses a 288-pin connector. A motherboard with DDR4 compatibility won’t work with DDR3 RAM and vice versa. The connector pins are different so that you can’t accidentally install the wrong type of RAM.

The different voltage demands also mean that a system designed with DDR4 in mind wouldn’t provide the correct voltage for DDR3 at default and may not even be designed with that voltage capability in mind.

The difference between DD4 and DDR3 pricing

When DDR4 first came to the market, the price gap was significant. However, with more compatible motherboards and CPUs, DDR4 RAM has dropped in price.

But compared to DDR3, DDR4 RAM is often more expensive. It’s not a huge difference, especially if you’re buying a couple of modules. However, if you need a large amount of RAM, the costs can add up pretty quickly.

What about DDR5 RAM?

DDR5 RAM was released in 2020 but has yet to make a significant impact on the market.

With the release of Intel’s Alder Lake CPUs, it would be safe to say DDR5 will become more widely available in late 2021 and 2022.

DDR5 specifications start at 4,800MHz and cap at 6,400MHz, with the potential for faster clock speeds in the future.

Choosing the right RAM

DDR3 versus DDR4 RAM comes down to the hardware in your system. If you’re using an older motherboard and CPU, your option will likely be DDR3.

However, if you already have a compatible motherboard and CPU or are thinking of investing in one, DDR4 RAM is a more future-proof choice.

It’s slightly more expensive, and in very few cases at lower clock speeds it may not be as fast as DDR3 RAM, but it will be supported by the latest hardware.

Editors’ Choice

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Virtru launches zero-trust key management for entire Google ecosystem

Virtru, a well-known name in data encryption and privacy, has launched an external zero-trust key-management solution expressly for admins of the Google Cloud Platform (GCPs).

Virtru’s cloud-based software protects data throughout its lifecycle as it travels through email and file-sharing platforms, including SaaS solutions, cloud environments, and a diverse range of file ecosystems. It is designed to smooth out a normally thorny and painstaking routine for security admins.

Virtru enables admins to manage encryption keys separately from data. This allows them to mitigate breaches, prevent unauthorized access, and ensure no third party can access the data — Google and Virtru included — without disturbing data stores. Users also have choices on how they want to host their encryption keys: on-premises, in a private cloud, fully hosted, or as optional HSM integrations.

Advantages of managing encryption keys separately from data

With the help of the external key-management solution, enterprises can securely manage their encryption keys independently of their data across Google Workspaces, GCPs, and other cloud applications. The solution safeguards the information in data lakes, databases, and other various containers that pass through Google’s cloud computing services and AI capabilities.

With Virtru, all data moving across the Google ecosystem has a single global framework and policy language, irrespective of where the data source is generated. It could be created by users, devices, or systems.

Virtru’s cofounder and CEO John Ackerly said that this solution directly addresses a widespread lack of security in “leveraging big-data cloud computing.”

Zero-trust security for Google portfolio

The zero-trust data standard of the solution means that Google users can now optimize the GCP by extending data sovereignty from collaboration suites to cloud applications, as use cases dictate.

“Virtru is now the only Google partner bringing data security to the entire Google portfolio, including key management, supporting regulations like ITAR in the U.S. and Schrems II in the EU,” Ackerly said in a media advisory.

Although Virtru has been a longstanding partner of Google for data protection and Google-recommended encryption key management, the new solution extends its jurisdiction to Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Virtru leverages the open Trusted Data Format (TDF), a well-known encryption technology that is also used by the U.S. National Security Agency, to build these solutions.

Developers will likely be pleased to know that the solution also has integration compatibility with Google Cloud Platform’s Kubernetes Engine, Secret Engine, Compute Engine, BigQuery, Dataflow, Cloud SQL, and Pub/Sub. Virtru’s Data Protection Gateway, working in conjunction with Google Cloud EKM, is also compatible with enterprise applications like Salesforce, Zendesk, and Looker.

The company said its service is used to secure more than 7,000 customers and enhances collaboration capabilities for a network of more than 260,000 domains. The average number of emails and files that draw protection from Virtru’s platform exceeds an average of 2 million per day.

Virtru’s client base includes companies and institutions such as Next Insurance, DNA Worldwide, the state of Maryland, and the Ivy League institution, Brown University.


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Google’s new Titan security key lineup won’t make you choose between USB-C and NFC

Google announced updates to its Titan security key lineup on Monday, simplifying it by removing a product and bringing NFC to all its keys. The company will now offer two options: one has a USB-A connector, one has USB-C, and both have NFC for connecting to “most mobile devices.” The USB-A key will cost $30, and the USB-C key will cost $35 when they go on sale on August 10th.

One of the biggest changes in Google’s new lineup is an updated USB-C key, which has added NFC support. Google’s previous USB-C option, made in collaboration with Yubico, didn’t support the wireless standard. Now, the choice between USB-C and A is easy, as there aren’t features that one has that the other doesn’t. It’s simply a matter of what ports your computer has. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Yubico was involved with the new key.

According to Google’s support document, its Titan security keys can be used to protect your Google account as well as with third-party apps and services that support FIDO standards, such as 1Password. They, and other security keys from companies like Yubico, can act as second factors to secure your account even if an attacker obtains your username and password. They also fight back against phishing since they won’t authenticate a login to a fake website that’s trying to steal your credentials. The Titan keys also work with Google’s Advanced Protection Program, which is designed to provide extra security to people whose accounts may be targeted.

Google’s current USB-A security key already includes NFC and sells for $25. The USB-A plus NFC key that Google lists in its blog post will sell for $30, but it comes with a USB-C adapter. The USB-A key currently listed on the store doesn’t include one, unless bought as part of a (sold-out) bundle, according to Google’s spec page.

Google’s NFC / Bluetooth / USB key, which was made available to the public in 2018, will no longer be sold as part of the updated lineup. It’s already listed as sold out on Google’s store page. Google’s blog post says that it’s discontinuing the Bluetooth model so it can focus on “easier and more widely available NFC capability.”

While the updated Titan Security Key lineup seems to lack a Bluetooth option, it’s nice to see that the USB-C key is getting NFC. If you’re living the MacBook / iPhone lifestyle, you’ll be able to use the updated USB-C plus NFC key without any dongles. Google says in its blog post that the Bluetooth / NFC / USB key will still work over Bluetooth and NFC “on most modern mobile devices.” Google’s Titan Security Key store page currently lists the old models, but Google’s post says the updated lineup will be available starting on August 10th.

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Marketing automation is key to reducing workloads, Zapier says

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From calendar events to email management, automation plays a major role in workflows across industries. A little more than half of marketers used automation in team communication, according to a recent poll by Zapier.

About 42% of marketers reported using automation to identify and target customers. More than a quarter of them used it to schedule emails, and about a third used marketing automation to send tailored messages, manage a subscriber database, or notify their team members of events. Automation saves marketers about 25 hours per week, according to Zapier.

Zapier took a look at how various professionals use automation in their roles. It polled 1,500 workers in marketing, IT, accounting, human resources, and sales or customer service in small to medium businesses across the U.S.  Zapier released its report on Monday.

In IT, 51% of the workers polled used automation to manage emails. Many also used it to communicate with colleagues (46%), update project lists (42%), meet deadlines using a calendar (39%), and test proof of concepts (33%). They save about 20 hours a week, Zapier said.

About 43% of accountants use automation to import hours into payroll, according to Zapier. Around 40% used it to communicate with their team, collect receipts, and streamline purchase and budget approvals. This saves them about four hours a week.

Meanwhile, about four in 10 sales and customer service professionals used automation to message their team members about a lead or a customer, message a lead or a customer, and collect invoices and payments. About a third used automation to forecast sales and for CRM hygiene.

Automation saves sales representatives about four hours a week and customer service representatives about 16 hours a week, according to the poll.


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Diverse AI teams are key to reducing bias

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.

An Amazon-built resume-rating algorithm, when trained on men’s resumes, taught itself to prefer male candidates and penalize resumes that included the word “women.”

A major hospital’s algorithm, when asked to assign risk scores to patients, gave white patients similar scores to Black patients who were significantly sicker.

“If a movie recommendation is flawed, that’s not the end of the world. But if you are on the receiving end of a decision [that] is being used by AI, that can be disastrous,” Huma Abidi, senior director of AI SW products and engineering at Intel, said during a session on bias and diversity in AI at VentureBeat’s Transform 2021 virtual conference. Abidi was joined by Yakaira Nuñez, senior director of research and insights at Salesforce, and Fahmida Y Rashid, executive editor of VentureBeat.

Changing the human variable

In order to produce fair algorithms, the data used to train AI needs to be free of bias. For every dataset, you have to ask yourself where the data came from, if that data is inclusive, if the dataset has been updated, and so on. And you need to utilize model cards, checklists, and risk management strategies at every step of the development process.

“The best possible framework is that we were actually able to manage that risk from the outset — we had all of the actors in place to be able to ensure that the process was inclusive, bringing the right people in the room at the right time that were representative of the level of diversity that we wanted to see and the content. So risk management strategies are my favorite. I do believe … in order for us to really mitigate bias that it’s going to be about risk mitigation and risk management,” Nuñez said.

Make sure that diversity is more than just a buzzword and that your leadership teams and speaker panels are reflective of the people you want to attract to your company, Nuñez said.

Bias causes harm

When thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion work, or bias and racism, the most impact tends to be in areas in which individuals are most at risk, Nuñez said. Health care, finance, and legal situations — anything involving police — and child welfare are all sectors where bias causes “the most amount of harm” when it shows up. So when people are working on AI initiatives in these spaces to increase productivity or efficiencies, it is even more critical that they are thinking deliberately about bias and potential for harm. Each person is accountable and responsible for managing that bias.

Nuñez discussed how the responsibility of a research and insights leader is to curate data so executives can make informed decisions about product direction. Nuñez is not just thinking about the people pulling the data together, but also the people who may not be in the target market, to give insight into people Salesforce would not have known anything about otherwise.

Nuñez regularly asks the team to think about bias and whether it is present in the data, like asking whether the panel of individuals for a project is diverse. If the feedback is not from an environment that is representative of the target ecosystem, then that feedback is less useful.

Those questions “are the small little things that I can do at the day to day level to try to move the needle a bit at Salesforce,” Nuñez said.

Company-level changes

Research has shown that minorities often have to whiten their résumés in order to get callbacks and interviews. Companies and organizations can weave diversity and inclusion into their stated values to address this issue.

“If it’s already not part of your core mission statement, it’s really important to add those things … diversity, inclusion, equity. Just doing that, by itself, will help a lot,” Abidi said.

It’s important to integrate these values into corporate culture because of the interdisciplinary nature of AI: “It’s not just engineers; we work with ethicists, we have lawyers, we have policymakers. And all of us come together in order to fix this problem,” Abidi said.

Additionally, commitments by companies to help fix gender and minority imbalances also provide an end goal for recruitment teams: Intel wants women in 40% of technical roles by 2030. Salesforce is aiming to have 50% of its U.S. workforce made up of underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, LGBTQ+ employees, people with disabilities, and veterans.


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Transform 2021: Manufacturing’s key themes

Where does your enterprise stand on the AI adoption curve? Take our AI survey to find out.

Join manufacturing leaders at Transform 2021, the industry’s premier AI digital event, hosted July 12-16. Transform gathers thought and action leaders from a range of manufacturing and industrial companies seeking to move into the future of work using AI for highly informative sessions, focused roundtables, and unbeatable networking opportunities.

Hear from top manufacturing industry experts on strategy and technology in the main application areas of AI/ML Automation Technology, RPA, data analytics, conversational AI, intelligent AI assistants, AI at the edge, IoT, computer vision, AR/VR, & robotics.

Register today to join manufacturing leaders at Transform 2021. Find the full agenda online, or keep reading to discover all of the manufacturing vertical’s key topics throughout Transform 2021.


Monday, July 12, 2021 – 9:40 am – 10:05 am (America/Los Angeles)

Constructively disrupting supply chain & retail execution: How Procter & Gamble is leveraging AI to do this – and what you can learn from it.

P&G leverages data and applied machine learning to constructively disrupt their business and fuel their integrated growth strategy. Their algorithmic digital solutions allow them to better engage with their consumers, partner with retailers to grow their categories, create superior product experiences, and increase the resiliency and efficiency of their operations. This requires advanced machine learning algorithmic capabilities, the data and automation foundations to exploit them, and business culture to embed AI into decision processes and ways of working.

As an example, P&G leverages data and analytics capabilities to improve on-shelf availability across the physical and digital shelf. Their teams embed smart algorithms into key points of their supply chain to proactively identify out-of-stock conditions and send actionable alerts to their Supply Chain and Sales teams. AI algorithms ensure they have the right assortment of products in the right stores to serve consumers. The pro-active insights delivered to their business teams enable them to ensure that the right products are on the shelf when and where consumers want to shop for them.

Hear from Guy Peri, the Chief Data & Analytics Officer of P&G on how they went about implementing this and other data & AI-powered solutions and the technical, organizational, and business lessons learned from them.


Guy Peri, Chief Data & Analytics Officer – Procter & Gamble

Jaime Fitzgibbon, Founder, and CEO – Insights


Thursday, July 15, 2021 – 9:40 am – 10:05 am (America/Los Angeles)

More Power to AI; How Duke Energy used computer vision and robots to improve processes and cut costs by $74M

Duke Energy wanted to explore emerging data science tools to tackle some of the utility industry’s biggest issues – flat growth, rising costs, and potential disruptors. In 2015, the company’s drone team started flying advanced drones with infrared cameras to capture thermal imagery designed to detect solar panel faults. Previously, field technicians in protective gear walked around solar farms and attached leads to energized panels to evaluate solar panel output – a process that could take weeks to complete. However, this still left the manual effort of humans having to process large quantities of images to identify the faulty panels. While looking for AI solutions to develop, Duke Energy decided to combine computer vision with drone flights to inspect solar panels. AI models, coined Mobile Observation Vehicle and Equipment Solutions (MOVEs), were developed to process these images in minutes and successfully identify faulty panels. With an overall 91% accuracy, the model saved the company nearly 9,000 hours of work in 2020.

With the success of the AI model for drone images, the company created a one-stop shop with a sole focus on AI solutions. With a broad team of data scientists, AI specialists, and the Machine Learning Ops team, Duke Energy’s digital transformation program takes ideas from development to deployment. The company is now using AI to improve the customer experience, enable predictive maintenance, schedule crews more efficiently and automate repetitive, time-consuming, or dangerous work. Since the outset of its digital transformation program in 2018, the company has achieved $73.8 million, launched 39 products, and saved more than 385,000 man-hours. Duke Energy’s Chief Transformation Officer will talk about the business, technology, and organizational challenges it faced in the digital transformation journey and how AI is helping to accelerate business transformation for a better customer experience.


Bonnie Titone, CIO – Duke Energy

Hari Sivaraman, Head of AI Content Strategy – VentureBeat


Register today to join manufacturing and industrial leaders at Transform 2021.


VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact.

Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

Become a member

Repost: Original Source and Author Link