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Unison pushes for four-day work week for NHS staff and police

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Government Borrowing in May Reaches Post-Covid Peak
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Government Borrowing in May Reaches Post-Covid Peak

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SoundHound AI has enhanced its AI-based food ordering capabilities with the acquisition of Allset, an online ordering platform that connects restaurants and local customers.

Financial terms of the deal, announced Thursday, were undisclosed.

Allset is a food ordering platform designed for local pick-up, working with nearly 7,000 restaurant partners nationwide, including Joe & The Juice and Charleys Cheesesteaks.

Speech-to-meaning

SoundHound, a voice AI and speech recognition company, was founded in 2005 and went public in 2022. The company develops speech recognition, natural language understanding, music recognition, and search technologies.

In 2023, SoundHound generated $45.9 million in revenue, a 47% year-on-year increase. The vendor is growing but not yet profitable.

As part of Nvidia’s broader strategy of investing in AI-related tech companies, the chip maker has invested $3.7 million into SoundHound, in return for a 0.6% stake.

SoundHound’s Vehicle Intelligence product, powered by Nvidia Drive, allows drivers to ask questions related to maintenance, safety, and other vehicle-specific information using natural speech.

SoundHound markets itself as an independent voice AI platform, offering customers the ability to create their own branded voice experiences rather than relying on voice assistants from bigger vendors.

Allset

SoundHound said the deal to buy Allset will advance its plans to enable voice-enabled food and drink ordering across millions of cars, TVs, and smart devices. Its voice ordering technology works across multiple channels, including via phone, drive-thru, kiosk, and mobile app.

More than 10,000 restaurant locations use SoundHound’s platform to understand speech in a range of major languages, learn any restaurant’s menu, process orders directly to the point of sale (POS), and answer customer FAQs.

“Allset will help SoundHound bring voice AI solutions to even more restaurants looking to improve operational efficiency,” Keyvan Mohajer, CEO and co-founder of SoundHound AI, said in a statement on the deal.

For example, SoundHound has been working with White Castle, the US-based fast-food hamburger joint, to offer voice AI ordering technology at select White Castle drive-thrus for a year, with plans to roll out the technology to 100 locations by the end of 2024.

Many in the fast-food industry are looking to use AI technology to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Using an AI system that provides a consistent, interactive ordering experience is a big ask.

Super size snags at McD’s

McDonald’s recently ended its trial of AI-powered drive-thru technology developed in partnership with IBM. McDonald’s had been testing IBM’s AI-powered voice recognition technology at around 100 US drive-thru locations for around two years.

The technology has numerous glitches, chiefly around the misinterpretation of customers’ orders to sometimes comical effect.

Hard to swallow mistakes included adding bacon to ice cream and putting excessive quantities of items on orders (e.g., hundreds of chicken nuggets on a single order). People took to social media with tales of “fighting the McDonald’s robot” and similar.

The automated order taking system — which evidently had problems picking up on accents and dialects, noise and cross-talk from neighboring drive-thru stations — will be dropped from the end of July, Restaurant Business reported.

IBM has yet to respond to a request for comment from Computerworld but reportedly said it looks forward to working with the fast food restaurant chain on a variety of projects in the future.

Bill Conner, CEO of mobile technology developer Jitterbug, told Computerworld that teething problems with new technologies are to be expected. Waiting for technologies to mature is unwise, since slow adoption of AI technology is likely to leave businesses at a competitive disadvantage, Conner argued.

“The future of application development, orchestration, and automation is based on an AI evolution, not a revolution,” Conner said. “Even the most agile organizations need a smart, measured approach to infusing AI capabilities into their business and infrastructure.”

As employee experiences become increasingly digitized, the digital employee experience (DEX) is becoming the primary interaction you and your workers have, whether in person, remote, or hybrid. That’s why the technologies that enable whatever mission you happen to be on have become so important, as the tech is by definition an essential component in any digital employee experience.

We know because they told us

We already know this because big enterprises like SAPSalesforceCiscoIBM, and many others have told us that when given the choice, employees will choose an Apple product as their primary workplace device. We also know that, for example, sales of portable Macs absolutely boomed during the pandemic, when every office-based worker transitioned to become a home-based employee in a matter of weeks. 

Once the pandemic seemingly ended, those home-based workers became mobile employees, and later — sometimes reluctantly — turned into hybrid workers. 

In that sense, the importance of Apple’s products has already been proven. These devices, whether Mac, iPhone, or iPad, have already been used on a global scale to maintain businesses remotely in real time — as will visionOS devices in their time. 

That success continues to translate into increasingly large deployments across industries you might not have considered to be natural Apple users before, from retail to engineering and beyond. 

Empowering good business with DEX

Of course, business leaders recognize the changing workplace, with 24% of leaders already seeking to unlock improved DEX and productivity. The analysts at Gartner say digital workers who are happy with the tools and applications provided for work are 1.6 times more likely to stay.

While not everyone is an Apple user, sundry TCO studies suggest that businesses that do adopt those products realize significant benefits in terms of support costs, device longevity, employee retention, and productivity.

But at its core, Apple’s key offer to business is the same one it offers to consumer users: a user interface that, for the most part, gets out of the way to enable the user to get what they want to get done as effectively as they can.

That’s the whole point of smart DEX strategy — to equip and empower employees so they can stay focused on their task and not get bogged down by tech.

This secret sauce is compelling to any busy person, and the savor gains gusto on strength of Apple’s full platform — by which I mean that on mobile, tablet, or computer you get a similar DEX.

This familiarity is critical, as it makes it easier to complete tasks on whatever device makes the most contextual sense for a person at any point in time. In essence, the provision of consumer-simple technologies capable of delivering enterprise-class results to employees who can work from anywhere empowers immense business flexibility. 

Infrastructural change

The other post-pandemic benefit supporting the trend comes through the rapid evolution of device management of Apple devices since the pandemic first hit.

Sure, there was already a healthy industry of device management vendors (including Apple itself), but the company took note of enterprise pain points and introduced tools to address them. Think zero touch, declarative device management, improvements to activation lock, and even the recent introduction of a dedicated (and provisionable) password app based on the company’s existing iCloud Keychain. 

The result? 

At the front end of business, DEX improves through employee-driven adoption of Apple’s products.

But the company has also been speaking with both Windows- and Apple-familiar IT admins to figure out how to enable good experiences for them. It’s now truly possible to ship hardware to new hires, who can safely and effectively start their managed employee experience with a single login to their new device — and for IT to manage the entire transition through a single pane of glass.

Please follow me on Mastodon, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

From the editors of Computerworld, this enterprise buyer’s guide helps IT staff understand what the various business PC hardware and sourcing options are for their organizations and how to choose the right solution.

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