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PHOTO: Igor Ovsyannykov

Facebook held its F8 annual developer conference in San Jose, Caif. this week under the lingering cloud of the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting incident. Mark Zuckerberg addressed the incident head-on in his opening keynote before moving on to announcements, including an update to Workplace by Facebook. 

As a reminder, Facebook launched Workplace in 2016. Workplace can be used to communicate via groups, to chat with colleagues and offers the social networks features in a corporate environment. At the conference, Facebook announced more than 50 new integrations with SaaS offerings like Jira by Atlassian, Microsoft SharePoint, Kronos for HR among others to extend the environment. Facebook claims 30,000 organizations are currently signed up to Workplace and is betting on boosting that number by adding functionality through these vendors.

The announcement follows on the heels of several announcements made at last year’s F8 conference, which enabled Workplace to deploy customized bots and integrate cloud services like Box and Dropbox. This year's new additions are expected to make integrations and deployments of bots a lot easier.

Another announcement worth noting is the release of a significant upgrade to the Messenger Platform that will provide businesses with the ability for brands to incorporate augmented reality (AR) into their Messenger experiences. The result is when a person interacts with your business in Messenger, you can prompt them to open the camera, which will be pre-populated with filters and AR effects that are specific to your brand.

Facebook referenced the recent scandal in updates designed to reassure people about the safety of their data and profiles, including announced plans to build Clear History. Clear History will give users insight into the websites and apps that send information when you use them, the power to delete this information from your account, and makes it possible to turn off Facebook's ability to store the data associated with your account going forward. It will take a few months to develop, but it is on the way. It is also likely there will be other concessions to privacy concerns in the coming months.

In all, it was a good couple of days for Facebook with much of the coverage positive. The only reason this is significant is that for the coming months and years, Facebook will be dogged by what happened and moves to put all this behind it are always interesting.

Vonage Brings Vee Communications Bot To Workplace

One of the partnerships also announced at F8 was between Holmdel, N.J.-based business communications provider Vonage and Workplace. The partnership has resulted in a new chatbot called Vee for Workplace by Facebook.

Through simple commands, the chatbot use cloud-based APIs via Nexmo, the Vonage API Platform, and Vonage's Unified Communications APIs, to integrate cloud communications features directly into the Workplace collaboration platform. This includes the ability to initiate and manage conferencing and calling. In addition, Vonage Business Cloud customers receive real-time interactive call alerts, can respond to calls with SMS quick replies, and redial callers at their convenience, all from within Workplace.

Vonage allows users to pull Vee into a post, which allows them to start an AI-powered conference bridge. Vee provides reply buttons to highlight or add comments to the meeting transcription and recording. At the end of the call, users will receive highlights, actions, meeting analytics, and the ability to share with the broader Workplace group.

To enhance the whole experience, Vonage has partnered with bot providers like Converse.ai (acquired by Smartsheet), that have embedded Vonage building blocks into their framework. This allows further customization of the collaboration ecosystem.

OpenText Enhances Digital Workplace Offering

Meanwhile, Waterloo, Ontario-based OpenText has also been improving its digital transformation and workplace capabilities with the release of OpenText Release 16 Enhancement Pack 4 (EP4). The new EP4 adds security, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) support and extended cloud support to the OpenText EIM platform.

EP4 is designed to simplify the move to a hybrid or managed cloud environment, while the new cloud connectors continue to place the OpenText ecosystem at the center of digital business, while working with best-in-breed technologies.

“Building any business requires companies to develop and maintain trust with their customers and suppliers. Intelligent and connected enterprises must effectively use, protect, and steward their information in a secured manner,” Mark J. Barrenechea, OpenText Vice Chair, CEO and CTO said in a statement.

EP4 also adds new automation capabilities with AppWorks, previously known as OpenText Process Suite, by providing a low-code development experience and support for developers, enabling them build new processes.

It also further deepens integrations with leading process applications to strengthen compliance with automated capture of metadata, enhances cloud readiness and advances analytics and reporting. Finally, TeamSite will take advantage of machine intelligence capabilities to extract concepts and is now enabled with “Search Engine as a Service” and “Taxonomy as a Service” capabilities. 

The company announced other additions here, all of which upgrade OpenText’s digital workplace suites, platforms and apps and continue the process of bringing the functionality that the company bought through acquisitions into the wide OpenText portfolio. For those using OpenText, Release 16 EP4 is available now.

Cisco Buys Accompany

Also, this week, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco just announced an agreement to buy Los Altos, Calif.-based Accompany for $270 million in cash and assumed equity awards. 

Accompany uses artificial intelligence to gather information from social networks, newsfeeds and news articles to bios about people. The profiles serve as meeting-prep dossiers for executives or sales people. Founder and CEO Amy Chang has compared the product to a digital chief of staff or personal assistant, giving executives the context they need before conversations and meetings. Cisco says it will pull Accompany into its existing collaboration products.

LucidWorks Raises $50 Million

Finally, this week, San Francisco-based Lucidworks announced it has raise $50 million in funding from Silver Lake Partners, Shasta Ventures, Granite Ventures and Allegis Capital based around its new AI-driven category called “Smart Data Experiences."

Lucidworks is an enterprise search technology company that develops a business application development platform for open source Apache Lucene and Apache Solr. Its platform enables companies to incorporate intelligent search features into their products without having to build their own systems from scratch.

“We’re building around the idea of ‘smart data experiences.’ As a company, this is the direction that guides us beyond artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks, and all the other buzzwords,” Lucidworks CEO, Will Hayes said in a statement.  “We want to solve the ‘last mile’ problem in AI — how to ensure that the users who can most benefit from insights can discover them without having to be PhDs in data science.”

The $50 million will be used to expand its enterprise product offerings and support its customers in building smarter search.