Coffee Briefings are timely deliveries of the latest ITWC headlines, interviews, and podcasts. Today’s Coffee Briefing is delivered by IT World Canada reporter Pragya Sehgal, with files from the rest of the editorial team!
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What’s new this week
Sage acquires SaaS-based retail operating system firm to expand its reach in the retail and ecommerce vertical
The Sage Group, accounting, financial, HR and payroll technology provider for small and mid-sized businesses, yesterday announced that it has agreed to acquire Brightpearl, a cloud native multichannel retail management system for retailers and wholesalers. Sage says the acquisition of Brightpearl, in which Sage already has a 17 per cent minority stake, accelerates its strategy for growth, including scaling Sage Intacct, broadening the value proposition for mid-sized businesses and expanding Sage’s digital network.
Sage noted that the consideration for the 83 per cent of Brightpearl that it does not already own is approximately CA$387 million (£225 million), which will be funded from Sage’s existing cash and available liquidity. The transaction is subject to regulatory clearance and is expected to close in January 2022.
With operations in the U.S. and the U.K., Brightpearl provides a SaaS-based retail operating system, enabling real-time business insights and helping customers automate workflows. The combination of Sage Intacct and Brightpearl is expected to create a solution for retailers and wholesalers which integrates financial management, inventory planning, sales order management, purchasing and supplier management, customer relationship management, fulfillment, warehousing, and logistics management.
Canadians turning to telemedicine to address increasing mental health challenges – study
A recent trends and insights report from Dialogue, a Canadian virtual healthcare and wellness platform, indicates an 85 per cent increase in initial mental health-related consultations in Canada, with total mental health consultations increasing 138 per cent since 2020 compared to other health care specialist categories on the Dialogue platform.
According to a Statistics Canada report, one in four Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring 2021, up from one in five (21 per cent) in fall 2020. As the adoption of telemedicine and virtual services increases in Canada, they are becoming an emerging channel to help people to take control of their mental health.
Dialogue also found that it is the women who are driving increases in virtual mental health consultations in Canada. While the company says its clients are evenly split between men and women (47 per cent and 53 per cent respectively), women have increased their number of mental health-related consultations by 87 per cent compared to 2020, while consultations by men grew by 78 per cent.
Toronto firm launches AI client churn risk predictor for fitness and wellness businesses
WellnessLiving, a cloud-based solution provider offering business management tools for fitness and wellness businesses, last week announced the release of its Isaac AI churn risk predictor. The company says Isaac AI’s machine learning technology analyzes thousands of data points to predict whether any clients are at risk of churning in the next 30 days.
About half of all new gym and fitness members quit within three months, said WellnessLiving chief operating officer and co-founder, Sasha Davids. Isaac AI provides clients with a Client Churn Risk Report that they can add to their WellnessLiving Dashboard. It also allows them to prevent churn using the company’s extensive list of marketing and retention tools, the company explains.
“We worked very closely with Zijiang Yang, a Ph.D. Professor from the School of Information Technology at York University, to create Isaac AI,” said WellnessLiving chief executive officer and co-founder, Len Fridman. “During the course of 12 months, she used millions of data points to create our churn-predicting algorithm. In early 2022, we plan to connect Isaac AI churn predictor to our automated marketing suite to further streamline retention strategies.”
Meta launches AI tech to animate children’s drawings
Meta has announced an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered technology to automatically animate children’s hand-drawn figures of people, bringing these drawings to life in minutes. By uploading them to Meta’s prototype system, the company says parents and children can turn their drawings into moving characters that dance, skip, and jump. Parents can also choose to submit these downloadable and sharable animated drawings to help Meta improve the AI model.
When extracting the humanlike characters within a child’s drawing for processing, the company says it uses Meta AI’s convolutional neural network–based object detection model, Mask R-CNN, as implemented in Detectron2. Mask R-CNN is pretrained on one of the largest publicly available segmentation data sets, but it’s made up of photos of real-world objects, not drawings. To work on drawings, the model needed to be fine-tuned, which the company explains it did with ResNet-50+FPN to predict a single class, “human figure.” In addition, Meta says it uses AlphaPose, a model trained for human pose detection, to identify key points on the human figures that can serve as hips, shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists, and ankles.
More to explore
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Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet performance remained relatively flat in the third quarter, but it’s still besting the median broadband download speeds in five Canadian provinces.
Five months into her role as Canada’s Chief Information Officer, Catherine Luelo swaps stories with ITWC’s CIO Jim Love, as his guest on Leadership in the Digital Enterprise, an ITWC podcast series dedicated to providing insights and resources to executives and entrepreneurs focused on meeting the challenges of a digital world. She also reflects on the critical importance of technology and shares some of the milestones in a career that features a variety of executive positions, including a recent role as Senior VP and CIO for Air Canada.
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