A wave of new users during coronavirus work-from-home lockdowns also brought a new wave of security concerns for the Zoom videoconference platform. On 1 April, the company paused all new product features for 90 days to shift its resources to shore up privacy and security. On 17 June, Zoom confirmed it would roll out free end-to-end encryption for all users.
With the pandemic severely limiting the ability of small farmers to reach consumers directly, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group launched a Rural Support Program in February. That included opening up its Taobao Live service for free so farmers could promote their harvests. One session from Hailuo Farm sold out of 30,000 kilograms (66,139 pounds) of fruit in under two minutes.
After months of lockdown, hair salons and barbershops were eager to open—but the businesses also needed a way to convince wary customers they wouldn’t be endangering their lives just for a trim. So Barbicide rolled out a Certified Safe Service Establishment Program, signifying the shop had agreed to adhere to a set of more than 20 infection control standards.
Part of a strategic alliance between tech titan Microsoft and mega U.S. food co-op Land O’Lakes formed in July, the agtech platform combines edge computing and AI to generate data-driven insights for dairy producers. Along with boosting production efficiencies, the project aims to provide a more transparent supply chain for milk, butter and cheese.
LivePerson upgraded its Maven AI suite to help businesses route customer inquiries, whether that’s to a bot to handle a simple request or to a human to tackle something more daunting. The team also developed an Agent Assist feature that automatically suggests the best bots or knowledge base content to use in a conversation.
Poland’s MakeGrowLab found a way to turn bio-waste into a biodegradable packaging alternative. Made from pure cellulose, Scoby packaging requires no fossil fuels or other toxic substances. The home-compostable material is 40 times stronger than paper and won’t dissolve in water. Brands looking to make a sustainability statement have used it to wrap up everything from shampoo to coffee beans.
OpenAI’s text generator aims to lower the barrier to produce “beneficial AI-powered products.” The new application programming interface (API) helps businesses automate English-language tasks in everything from chatbots to legal research. The software has a vocabulary of nearly 1 trillion words collected from the web and digitized books—and the U.S. company has already lined up beta users ranging from Reddit to Middlebury Institute.
The new platform from U.S. cloud storage company Snowflake was designed to help break down data silos. For businesses looking for help navigating the COVID-19 crisis, the timing of the June release was impeccable: U.S. marketing agency Merkle used it to create interactive dashboards to determine which U.S. counties might be first to recover economically.
As ride-sharing services sweep the globe, digital media startup Firefly launched smart displays for advertising on the roofs of those vehicles. In November 2019, the company unveiled displays that have four times as many pixels as standard LED screens. And with more precise GPS tracking, the new screen can let advertisers target audiences on a block-by-block basis.
This eponymously named insurance platform aims to protect farmers and food businesses by allowing them to manage and mitigate risk (and opportunity) around volatile commodity prices. Launched in 2019 with just 15 commodities, it now covers more than 3,000 untraded commodity indexes from 70 countries.