Box launches Skills out of beta and offers AI consulting services

Last year, cloud storage provider Box launched Box Skills, a suite of third-party apps that add features and functionality to uploaded files, and the Box Skills Kit, a set of APIs, developer tools, and documentation for designing custom Box Skills on platforms like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM’s Watson, and Microsoft Azure. Today, the Redwood City company announced that the latter, which was previously in beta, is now generally available, and unveiled a new program — Box Skills Verified Partners — for enterprise Box Skills providers like IBM and Codelitt.

Resources in the Box Skills Kit, along with sample code and dozens of example Skills, can be downloaded from Box’s developer portal and Github page. Additionally, consulting services from the first set of Box Skills Verified Partners — IBM, Codelitt, Reva Solutions, and Crayon — are available through Box’s sales channels.

“Box Skills leverages the world’s best AI to enhance your content in Box,” Jeetu Patel, Box’s chief product officer, wrote in a blog post. “Box Skills [process files by applying algorithms and] write the outputs of the AI processing to the files in Box as metadata, which is used to enhance several Box capabilities including file preview, search, automation, and more … [T]here are hundreds of AI algorithms that can enhance your data in Box and help you unlock value and insight from your business content.”

IBM’s Watson Natural Language Understanding Skill, for example, automatically tags documents in Box with relevant keywords and concepts, making them easier to find, and Microsoft’s Azure Computer Vision Skill extracts text contained within images. Enabling Skills is very nearly a one-tap process — Box admins pick the folder to which they’d like to apply a Skill, configure the corresponding settings in the Box’s control console, and confirm their choices. All users with access to the folder see the Skill right away, automatically.

“With unstructured data growing at an exponential rate, businesses have a tremendous source of valuable insight. However, this data is untapped largely due to the shortcomings of traditional methods of analysis,” Beth Smith, general manager of IBM’s Watson AI division, said of the news. “Watson uses AI to help organizations unlock these insights and ultimately reimagine how work is done.”

Partners in the Box Skills Verified Partners are equipped to build a variety of custom AI solutions for Box, Patel said, including computer vision-driven digital asset management models, contract analysis systems that makes use of optical character recognition and natural language processing algorithms, and customer onboarding experiences with automatic data extraction. All of the initial services partners worked with Box over the course of months to lay the groundwork for Skills that suit the needs of enterprises, according to Patel.

“Many IT organizations, however, may not have the required resources to build custom solutions,” he said. “Box Skills [Verified Partners] makes it easier than ever before for businesses to apply the world’s best AI technologies to their content in Box.”

On a related note, today also marks the debut of AI-related offerings from Box Consulting, Box’s white-glove program that makes available a team of long-term, in-house cloud content management experts to customers. A new machine learning track will help Box’s enterprise customers “develop an AI strategy” and “identify use cases for AI,” Patel said, and provide services such as ideation workshops, proof-of-concept development, and solution architecture reviews.

Today’s announcements come a week after Box officially launched G Suite integration for all users after a months-long public beta. Notably, it enables Google Docs users to create, edit, and save documents from inside Box without having to use Google Drive.

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