“Above the Trend Line” – Your Industry Rumor Central for 3/3/2020

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Above the Trend Line: your industry rumor central is a recurring feature of insideAI News. In this column, we present a variety of short time-critical news items grouped by category such as M&A activity, people movements, funding news, industry partnerships, customer wins, rumors and general scuttlebutt floating around the big data, data science and machine learning industries including behind-the-scenes anecdotes and curious buzz. Our intent is to provide you a one-stop source of late-breaking news to help you keep abreast of this fast-paced ecosystem. We’re working hard on your behalf with our extensive vendor network to give you all the latest happenings. Heard of something yourself? Tell us! Just e-mail me at: daniel@insideAINews.com. Be sure to Tweet Above the Trend Line articles using the hashtag: #abovethetrendline.

SO much happening in our industry, SO much scuttlebutt. Where to start? Let’s go with new funding news … Qure.ai, a leading healthcare AI startup has announced that they have raised $16M in a funding round led by Sequoia India and supported by MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia (SEA). Qure.ai will use this new capital to drive geographical expansion, expand its product portfolio and to support regulatory clearances. Founded in 2016 by Prashant Warier and Dr. Pooja Rao, and incubated by Fractal, Qure.ai today has presence in over 20 countries and has impacted over 600,000 lives. Using artificial intelligence developed on a database of over 7 million scans, Qure.ai solutions provide fast and accurate interpretations of radiology scans within seconds, reducing time to treatment in the critical moments of care … Tractable, the technology company developing AI for accident and disaster recovery, announced a $25m Series C investment, led by Georgian Partners with participation from existing investors, including Insight Partners and Ignition Partners. The round nearly doubles the total raised by Tractable, to $55m. The investment will accelerate Tractable’s expansion into new markets from the nine countries in which it currently operates. Accidents and disasters affect hundreds of millions of people every year, with a worldwide financial impact exceeding $1 trillion, and recovery for those affected always starts with a visual appraisal. Tractable’s AI uses computer vision to appraise the damage. Models are trained on millions of examples, allowing accurate identification of damage and prediction of repair costs, while improving appraisal efficiency and customer experience … unitQ, the real-time solution for staying on top of product quality across all platforms, languages and regions, announced that it has raised $11M in Series A funding. This round was led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund, with participation from Creandum, XSeed Capital, Bragiel Brothers and BootstrapLabs. Anna Patterson, Managing Partner at Gradient Ventures, will join the board. With this new capital, unitQ plans to hire, invest in new and existing product development, and bring unitQ Monitor to a broader market as it launches out of beta … LinkSquares, provider of the fastest and most comprehensive AI-powered SaaS contract management and analysis tool, announced it has raised $14.5 million in Series A financing led by Jump Capital. New investor First Ascent Ventures and existing investors MassMutual Ventures and Hyperplane Venture Capital also participated in the round. The company has raised $21.4 million to date, and will use the financing to expand its engineering, sales and product teams, as well as build out its solution portfolio … Sourcegraph, a leader in Universal Code Search, has secured $23 million in Series B funding led by Craft Ventures. Sourcegraph Universal Code Search enables developers to explore and better understand all code, everywhere, faster, improving developer productivity with code navigation and contextual code intelligence. With rapidly growing codebases, proliferating numbers of repositories, multiple languages and file formats, and a wide variety of developer tools, developers need a single place to quickly explore and better understand all code faster.

In M&A news we learned … Freshworks Inc., the customer engagement software company, announced the acquisition of AnsweriQ Inc., a provider of ML and AI for larger enterprises that want to better serve their customers. AnsweriQ complements Freshworks’ AI engine, Freddy, by enabling enterprise organizations to fully leverage their existing customer data to scale self-service experiences and automate complex customer workflows. AnsweriQ’s unique ML models leverage AI algorithms against millions of customer interactions to generate automated self-service Q&As and improve next-step escalations. AnsweriQ’s technology augments Freddy’s AI capabilities and helps scale self-service for large enterprises. Freddy will incorporate AnsweriQ’s AI to learn from ticket data and agent actions within the Freshworks Customer-for-Life Cloud and improve customer self-service capabilities. Freddy will extend its capabilities from a knowledge base dependent AI engine to learn from ticket conversations on the fly. Freddy will be able to anticipate customer needs, make recommendations for agents based on the conversations and perform tasks such as refunds and cancellations with no manual input required—significantly improving customer self-service and freeing up agent time to handle more complex requests. 

We also heard of a number of new partnerships, alignments and collaborations … AI-powered visual inspection pioneer Neurala announced a collaboration with Optelos, the developer of the industry’s first patented enterprise SaaS platform designed to fully operationalize digital asset inspection and management. Neurala’s AI will be integrated with Optelos’ platform to deliver AI-powered industrial inspections, increasing the productivity for asset inspectors while reducing the time from defect identification to remediation – saving time and money while reducing risk … Infor, a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry, announced it is partnering with Snowflake, the cloud data platform, to help enterprises build automated data warehouses using the Birst full-stack analytics and BI platform. Birst is a single, integrated, end-to-end platform for building automated data warehouses natively on Snowflake, eliminating the need for separate ELT/ETL (extract, load & transform, and extract, transform & load), data modeling, data preparation and analytics tools. In addition, the Birst platform will provide enterprise data governance and fine-grained control/security, at the row and column level, within Snowflake, along with auditing and built-in usage tracking … Infoworks.io, a leader in Enterprise Data Operations and Orchestration (EDO2) systems, announced that Databricks selected Infoworks DataFoundry for Databricks’ Data Ingestion Network, an ecosystem of data integrations launched today featuring partner solutions for the Databricks Unified Data Analytics Platform. In related news, Infoworks announced separately today general availability of DataFoundry 3.0 with native Databricks support … StreamSets®, provider of the DataOps platform, announced an expansion of its partnership with Databricks by participating in Databricks’ newly launched Data Ingestion Network. As part of the expanded partnership, StreamSets is offering additional functionality with a new connector for Delta Lake, an open source project that provides reliable data lakes at scale. With it, users can configure their pipelines to write data from any source moving in batch or streaming mode directly into Delta Lake. Now, data teams can deliver all of their data in a shorter time frame, driving BI, analytics and ML … DataRobot, a leader in enterprise AI, and Snowflake, the cloud data platform, unveiled a new integration designed to make customers more successful with AI. The new integration dramatically simplifies the movement of data between DataRobot and Snowflake to better serve joint customers, allowing them to go from data to value faster than ever before … ASG Technologies, the provider of integrated and flexible end-to-end solutions for the information powered enterprise, announced that it has partnered with 4th-IR, which empowers innovators to transform their industry by making AI solutions accessible, affordable and easy to use. Under the terms of the partnership, as an ASG Business Partner, 4th-IR will bring ASG Data Intelligence—which helps enterprise organizations by capturing and governing information supply chains that empower stakeholders to find, understand, share and analyze trusted data—to customers in the financial services, healthcare and life sciences fields … Qlik announced it has expanded its partnership with Databricks, joining Databricks’ Data Ingestion Network. Qlik Data Integration simplifies loading data into Delta Lake, an open source project that provides reliable data lakes at scale, accelerating the creation of lakehouses for analytics and machine learning (ML). Lakehouse, a new data management paradigm, combines elements of data lakes and data warehouses, enabling business intelligence (BI) and ML on all of a business’s data … DDN®, a leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and multicloud data management, has collaborated with Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, to enhance weather prediction capabilities for the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). ECMWF will be equipped with an enhanced computing capacity to help predict the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events significantly ahead of time, with an improved infrastructure comprised of more than 91PB of DDN EXAScaler® storage, connected to BullSequana XH2000 supercomputer from Atos.

The new people movement category we heard … Aiven, a startup that combines the best open source technologies with cloud infrastructure, announced that Larry Irvin joined the company as the new VP and general manager of its Americas operation. Irvin will be based out of Boston and head up the sales teams across the region with the goal of building out a sales network throughout the Americas, starting with Boston. He is the first major addition to the Aiven executive leadership outside of the company’s headquarters in Helsinki, Finland … SoftIron Ltd., a leader in purpose-built and performance-optimized data center appliances, announced the appointment of Mark Chen to the role of Chief Security Officer. An original co-founder of the company, Mark previously served as the company’s Chief Scientist before a professional sabbatical, and returns to lead the company’s unique secure provenance strategy, aimed at reinforcing the company’s security against root-level hardware and software compromises by both foreign and domestic actors … Kinetica, a leading Active Analytics Platform for the modern digital economy, announced the appointment of Tom Addis as Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) today. The new hire will further support Kinetica’s rapid growth, and will lead the expansion of Kinetica’s enterprise sales globally. The company also announced the appointment of Dean Neese as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) today. The new hire reflects an intentional strategy of hiring seasoned executives to scale the company and to support Kinetica’s relationships within the G2000 … Splice Machine, provider of the intelligent SQL data platform to power intelligent applications, announced that Phil Fasano has joined its board of directors. Fasano is a sought-after Fortune 100 C-Level strategist with over 30 years of experience in the financial services, technology, insurance and healthcare industries … Samasource, a leader in providing secure, high-quality training data and model validation for AI technologies, announced the addition of Duncan Curtis to its leadership team as Vice President of Product, along with the exponential growth of its new AI Research and Development Center in Montréal, Canada. Curtis joins the company amid this expansion to further drive Samasource’s technology vision and strategy.

As for new customer wins we learned … Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company (NASDAQ: AMZN), announced that Second Spectrum, the Official Optical Tracking and Analytics Provider of sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the English Premier League, has chosen AWS as its preferred cloud, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) provider. Second Spectrum has also selected AWS media services to help deliver new kinds of live game-watching experiences to fans. Second Spectrum uses AWS’s industry-leading services to help sports leagues and their media partners deliver analytics, visualizations, and easily searchable video clips during games and matches to enhance the fan experience and provide teams with deeper competitive insights. For example, Second Spectrum leverages AWS to produce and deliver Clippers CourtVision, an augmented reality, livestreaming product for the Los Angeles (L.A.) Clippers that displays player tracking information, real-time stats, and explanatory animations for fans watching from desktops and mobile devices … VoltDB, the enterprise-grade data platform that meets the real-time streaming data requirements of 5G-powered applications, announced that it has been selected by Dream Sports to power Dream11, its flagship brand. Dream11, India’s largest fantasy sports platform, became a Unicorn in April 2019. With VoltDB, Dream11 delivers high performance at scale without compromising on accuracy or reliability, ensuring an engaging experience for its more than 75 million users.

And finally, we received a commentary on the ethical use of AI by Suraj Amonkar, VP/Fellow at Fractal:

“The Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence Act, as I understand it, puts a limitation on the use of Artificial Intelligence Technology for facial recognition, as it can lead to privacy intrusion and interfere with people’s democratic rights. As a proponent of the technology, I do not believe in a complete moratorium. Facial Recognition can be decisive in reducing crime rates, aiding forensic investigations, finding missing people and victims of human trafficking, identifying perpetrators of crime on social media and tracking them, amongst other used cases. Limiting its use or delaying it means we are letting go of all the benefits it brings. Of course, there is a need to regulate this technology but that’s the case with every other technology area like deepfake, etc.”

“Unfortunately, people forget the benefits. This is a wildly successful technology that’s been used to stop terror attacks. It’s been used to take criminals off the street. It lets us have paperless, frictionless travel when we’re going through airports. It decreases lines and wait times.”

“The onus is equally on providers of this technology, as well. For example, some facial recognition technologies have encountered higher error rates when seeking to determine the gender of women and people of color. This makes it especially important that all tech companies continue the work needed to identify and reduce these errors and improve the accuracy and quality of facial recognition tools and services. It’s equally critical that we work with customers closely to ensure that facial recognition services are deployed properly in ways that will reduce these risks. Over time, we believe that well-functioning market forces can encourage the technology innovation that is needed.”

“To summarize, I think the immediate need is to allow law enforcement agencies to use the technology for areas that involve serious threats to human life or can aid in saving lives, without any further delay. We can look at legislations framing laws for use in other areas, but facial recognition technology should be used for making people’s lives better.  All the benefits should not get lost in the negativity.”

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