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ArchiTECHt Weekly: AWS makes its move to the edge; AI showdown: China vs. Canada?

Say what you will about Amazon Web Services, but the company is not afraid to take some risks. (Perha
ArchiTECHt Weekly: AWS makes its move to the edge; AI showdown: China vs. Canada?
By ARCHITECHT • Issue #1 • View online
Say what you will about Amazon Web Services, but the company is not afraid to take some risks. (Perhaps when you own a market like AWS does, it becomes a little easier to throw caution to the wind.) Case in point: the IoT Button Enterprise Program AWS announced on Thursday, which stretches the definition of cloud to its edge. Or maybe just to the edge.
Essentially, AWS is selling enterprises buttons that look a lot the Amazon Dash button, only with custom branding. And instead of ordering Tide or milk or whatever, a press of the button triggers whatever function the company has programmed it to do. That could be a back-office task, or a consumer-facing service.
Here are the examples AWS provides of how one might use the new buttons:
Reordering services or custom products such as pizza or medical supplies
Requesting a callback from a customer service agent
Retail operations such as a call for assistance button in stores or restaurants
Inventory systems for capturing products amounts for inventory
Healthcare applications such as alert or notification systems for the disabled or elderly
Interface with Smart Home systems to turn devices on and off such as turning off outside lights or opening the garage door
Guest check-in/check-out systems
The IoT button idea was audacious to begin with, and even more so when it’s targeted at enterprise customers. It’s also brilliant—just like the idea to start AWS in the first place when the whole world thought of Amazon as a bookseller. The buttons, along with the AWS Greengrass service the company announced at re:Invent in December, are early efforts to own the edge while everyone else is still fighting to get a piece of the centralized cloud (while, of course, still making money on the cloud backend).
If the Internet of Things really is the future, that is a great position to be in.

The IoT Button. Source: Amazon Web Services
The IoT Button. Source: Amazon Web Services
Big $$ pour into Chinese, Canadian AI efforts
Most Americans might think of companies like Google and Facebook when they think about who’s leading the charge in artificial intelligence, but across the pond from Silicon Valley, Chinese companies are not lying down. Chinese search (and general web) giant Baidu made two big splashes on Monday by announcing its new augmented reality lab, as well as the hiring of former Microsoft SVP Qi Lu as Baidu President and COO. According to a quote from Lu in Baidu’s press release, AI will be a major focus of his new role:
“Baidu is well known as one of China’s top technology companies, and is already recognized on the global stage as a leader in AI. I am excited to help realize Baidu’s visionary AI strategy. To be part of Baidu’s evolution into a world-class technology company for the AI-era is a tremendous opportunity.”
MIT Technology Review published a short post detailing some of the other big AI investments Chinese companies have made recently.
I’ll also draw a connection to Alibaba’s $800 million sponsorship deal for the Olympics, which Bloomberg reports is in part to “showcase its nascent cloud computing business on an international stage.” In part because it’s more evidence that Chinese companies do not want to lose their customers to American competition and unload the cash truck in order to prevent it, but also because I expect Alibaba’s cloud story will have an AI element, as well.
These types of figures make Microsoft’s $7 million investment in Montreal AI research institutions look small. But on the other hand, the company did just acquire a deep learning startup from down the road in Waterloo last week. The draw of Montreal, of course, is less about its economic opportunity and more about the network of AI researchers and entrepreneurs hanging around, thanks in large part to deep learning pioneer (and new Microsoft adviser) Yoshua Bengio.
WIRED has a good profile of Maluuba, the company Microsoft acquired, as well as the type of natural-language research it was doing and why Microsoft is so excited about it.
Qi Lu: Source: Microsoft
Qi Lu: Source: Microsoft
This week on ArchiTECHt
The economics of private clouds, the rise of ‘serverless’ and the business case for carjacking
Stitch Fix CTO talks data science, modern architectures and moving up the engineering ladder
Listen to the ArchiTECHt Show podcast
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What's news in the cloud
What's news in (big) data
Sagely advice
News from underneath your fave applications
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ARCHITECHT delivers the most interesting news and information about the business impacts of cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other trends reshaping enterprise IT. Curated by Derrick Harris.

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