Cortana Fans Can Now Chat With the Microsoft Virtual Assistant in Skype

Today’s topics include Microsoft’s integration of Cortana as a Skype contact; Dell’s creation of an internet of things division and investment of $1 billion into its IoT strategy; Arity’s launch of mobility intelligence tools for the shared ride industry; and Microsoft’s improvements to Outlook calendar management.

Microsoft is rolling out a new Cortana in Skype feature for iOS and Android that enables users to chat with Cortana and get answers to day-to-day questions without bringing up a search engine, digging through an inbox or consulting a calendar.

"Now, you can have natural conversations in one-on-one chats with Cortana—just like you would with your friends, family, and coworkers," blogged Microsoft Skype staffers on Oct. 9. Cortana in Skype can also insert herself into Skype chat conversations with contacts of the human variety and provide in-context assistance.

Although Cortana automatically appears in Skype, users will need to grant the feature permission to access a user's location and the contents of their chat sessions to generate smart replies and local suggestions. Cortana only works in Skype's text chat feature, not during voice and video calls.

On Oct. 10, Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell unveiled a program that includes the creation of a new internet of things division as well as a plan to invest $1 billion over the next three years to, among other things, develop new IoT products and services.

The aim is to move IoT beyond its initial phase, which focused more on network connectivity, into the next era that will leverage emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.

According to Dell, the data generated by all these connected systems—and the ability to quickly analyze, parse, apply intelligence to and react to the data—is the key to IoT going forward. “The potential of the internet of things and artificial intelligence is when they come together as one interdependent ecosystem from the edge to the core to the cloud,” Dell said.

Arity, a Chicago-based startup founded by Allstate, has launched a suite of tools to enable rideshare companies to optimize efficiency and grow their businesses by utilizing insights derived from driver analytics. Shared Mobility Solutions is a smartphone app that uses more than 26 billion miles of historical driving behavior data and years of transportation expertise to determine personal driving metrics.

“The industry has been pulling data out of cars and trucks for about 20 years—for aggregate insurance purposes—but it was never really cost-effective for a personal user,” Arity President Gary Hallgren told eWEEK.

Allstate spun out Arity as its own business entity in 2016 to market this application to other insurance companies. Arity’s suite of services are designed to mitigate operational inefficiencies and assess risk, driver behavior and economic value to a shared-use platform.

Microsoft has added the ability to view and edit shared calendars in its Outlook mobile apps, allowing users to create shared calendars and accept invitations while on their phones. And for users who manage Outlook calendars on behalf of others, Microsoft is now allowing them to use their phones to accept delegation requests and manage delegated calendars, viewing and editing events just as they would in their own calendars.

Also new is the ability to accept or decline an invitation to a single event within a series without accepting them all. Borrowing a feature from the Outlook app for iOS, the Android version now enables users to view their colleagues' availability while scheduling a meeting.

Finally, Microsoft is adding support for Meetup, allowing users to keep track of upcoming Meetups in the Outlook calendar.