Startups: Directly Automating Support; Butterfly Brings UltraSound to a Smartphone

Two startups: Directly uses AI to better automate customer service; Butterfly Network uses AI to turn a smartphone into an ultrasound device.

By AI Trends Staff

Expectations for customer service are higher today than a year ago, with the coronavirus pandemic fueling online shopping and challenging enterprise customer service operations, according to Customer Thermometer. That puts companies offering automation solutions in the right place at the right time.

Directly of San Francisco, cofounded by Antony Brydon, Jean Tessier and Jeff Patterson, offers a platform to integrate into call centers and provide a mix of automation and human support. Directly recently added $11 million in funding to bring its total investor commitment to $66.8 million, according to Crunchbase.

The Directly platform is trained by thousands of subject matter experts to analyze call center interactions and provide a degree of automation, according to a recent account in VentureBeat. The platform is designed to integrate with other customer relationship management platforms, including Microsoft’s Bot Framework, the Einstein Bot from Salesforce, and Dialog Flow from Google. These match chatbots and human agents with customers across channels.

The Directly API enables clients to insert automatic answers into messaging channels to resolve issues in real time. The AI-powered expert determines which questions are best handled by a network of subject matter experts who provide live assistance over channels.

Client Microsoft worked with Directly to build a network of Excel and Surface hardware users who could answer questions directly. The experts receive a cash incentive while Directly gets a 30% cut. The AI identifies the top performers on specific topics, which benefits those performers in the long run. Experts may get paid an average of $200 per week, with the top 5% making $2,000 or more per week, Directly has said.

“We prioritize the team over everything else,” stated Directly CEO Michael de la Cruz, in emailed comments to AI Trends. “And we solve a business problem of trying to make AI work.”

Michael de la Cruz, CEO, Directly

“Our platform helps identify and reach out to experts, folks that have a lot of contact  with the business problem. We collect that knowledge and fold it into a company’s AI.”

Directly reaches the market with a direct sales force and, more recently, through partnerships with providers of virtual agents using AI who can leverage the Directly platform for their own customers. These include and Smart Action, independent providers of virtual agent technology.

The company is said to be growing 10% per month over the last six months. “Business is good,” said de la Cruz. “Although there is a contraction in the economy, demand for customer service is high, so we are benefiting from the increased demand.”

Butterfly Networks Brings Ultrasound to a Smartphone

Butterfly Network, founded in 2011, offers technology to make a smartphone into an ultrasound machine for use by medical professionals. The late stage venture has raised $350 million so far, according to Crunchbase.

Butterfly was founded by Jonathan Rothberg, a biotechnology entrepreneur who previously led two companies that developed machines for sequencing DNA. Investors include Fidelity, the Gates Foundation and Fosun Pharma, a Chinese drugmaker.

Jonathan Rothberg, Founder, Chairman, Product Architect and CEO, Butterfly Network

The ultrasound device, called the iQ, referred to as Ultrasound on a Chip, is priced at approximately $2,000, plus a monthly service fee that varies by type of use. The inspiration for the iQ was personal for Rothberg, whose daughter suffered from a disease called tuberous sclerosis (TSC), which causes patients to develop tumors throughout their bodies, according to an account in Forbes. Seeing the needed treatment equipment as unwieldy, and having heard a talk on AI by MIT physicist Max Tegmark, he thought there must be a better way. He recruited one of Tegmark’s students, Nevada Sanchez, as a cofounder, and launched Butterfly Network.

Today, the iQ is in the forefront of point of care tests (POCTs), medical diagnostic testing at or near the point of care. The company is reported to have sold over 30,000 units in 2019. Dagta in the Butterfly Cloud and in the Butterfly iQ app is AES 56-bit encrypted. Butterfly Cloud is protected by HTTPS, TLS 1.2 encryption. SOC II certification secures access to the data.

The device is winning converts in the medical community. Dr. Cian McDermott, a consultant in Emergency Medicine and co-director of Emergency Ultrasound Education at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, stated in a recent account in the Irish Times,  “When I’m using the Butterfly device, I’m not trying to replace what the radiologists are doing. Point of care ultrasound is done by physicians treating patients at the bedside and interpreting and integrating the images to their care live in real time.”

One doctor called attention to the limitations of the POCT device compared to a full radiological examination. Dr. David O’Keeffe, consultant radiologist at University Hospital Galway, stated, “When non-radiologists, for example, undertake ultrasound examination of the abdomen, it is very easy to confuse loops of bowel with gallstones.”

Read the source articles in VentureBeat, SingularityHub, Forbes and in the Irish Times.