May 19, 2020

Microsoft funds AI navigation app to aid visually impaired

Microsoft
AI
AI accessibility
pauline cameron
2 min
Microsoft funds AI navigation app to aid visually impaired

Microsoft has funded iMerciv’s development of an AI accessibility app designed to help visually or mobility impaired people navigate crowded city streets.

Microsoft has announced its plan to fund 11 organisation’s research under the Microsoft AI for Accessibility programme. iMerciv is a Toronto-based start-up included in the initiative.

The five-year CA$25mn project is aimed to design AI tools that enable people with disabilities. The technology will offer more independence and support to those it could benefit most.

iMerciv is working on MapinHood, a navigational tool for mobile devices that allows a pedestrian to more effectively navigate city streets, aimed at offering assistance for the visually impaired or for people using wheelchairs. The MapinHood app intends to use the funding to pay for Azure machine learning licences to improve learning, storage and virtual machine capabilities along with other AI components needed in the future.

The app will use audio cues to warn users of obstacles on a path such as stairs, low hanging branches, street lamps, benches, water fountains and road signs that could otherwise cause trouble for disabled pedestrians.

“We have built a fully-flexible, customized routing engine that only caters to pedestrians. The MapinHood app is essentially a crowd-sourced mobile mapping platform built for pedestrians by pedestrians,” said Arjun Mali, iMerciv Co-founder.

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Current navigation systems use satellite positioning to best ascertain a user’s location and calculate the shortest and most efficient route to reach a destination, over longer distances. Mali has seen a gap in the solutions offered: users wanting to have a route with more accessibility, cohesively mapped over short journeys, are not being catered to.

Mali plans to make iMerciv’s navigation as interactive and, as the name suggests, as immersive as possible. MapinHood is currently in the alpha stages with testing being conducted through four of iMerciv’s partners. Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, Walk Toronto and Microsoft have all partnered together to contribute to the success of iMerciv, with Microsoft also offering its own AI and machine learning developments.

The company is expecting to have the app in the hands of consumers by March 2020 on iOS and Android, in Toronto and the Greater Toronto area. If you’re interested in the app can visit the website and subscribe for more information.

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Jun 13, 2021

Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl

CMO
Kyndryl
IBM
Leadership
Kate Birch
5 min
Former CMO for IBM Americas Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl. Maria talks about her new role and her leadership style

Former Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Americas, and an IBM veteran of more than 25 years, Maria Bartolome Winans was recently named CMO for Kyndryl.

Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.

With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.

You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?

I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.

We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.

What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?

I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.

The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.

I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.

What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?

When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.

What does success look like to you?

I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.

What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?

I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.

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