AFTERWORD: ALEXA meetup 2019, second edition

AFTERWORD: ALEXA meetup 2019, second edition

At Haarlem.Tech, we love technology, we live technology, so much so in fact that we totally forgot about the other thing that unites crowds and connects humans: football. On Tuesday April 16, while the Ajax football club were offering an unexpected victory to their many fans, we and the Haarlem.Tech community were having another fun evening meetup about Artificial Intelligence, wondering where everyone else was at.

Not to worry, a few people still showed up, and there was pizza leftover which, let’s face it, is worth missing football for any day.  For those of you who couldn’t make it to the meetup, let’s summarise a bit what was said and how we ended up somehow discussing the eventual future robot uprising with pints of delicious Dutch beer in our hands.

About Alexa

Complete science fiction just a couple of decades ago, speech recognition is today one of the most remarkable advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence. Thanks to Voice Command Devices, humans are now able to have live conversations with virtual assistants on smartphones and smart speakers, without even pressing a single button. The ultimate goal in the quest to humanise technology is to teach computers to mimic human interactions in the most natural way possible, with emotions and the whole shebang. Can you imagine if your home assistant device could order you to do the dishes or complain about your smelly feet, just as realistically as a real human girlfriend would? Well, this might be happening sooner than we think…

At the meetup, we focused on one particular virtual assistant, pioneer and very successful on the market: Alexa, developed by Amazon Web Services. Alexa is a superstar as far as Voice User Interface (VUI) goes; it is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making lists, setting alarms and scheduled reminders, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, providing real-time information such as news, traffic, sports or weather… it can even control several smart devices inside your house and be used as a home automation system, managing lighting, home security, temperature, etc. If Alexa is currently “only” programmed to understand English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese, it was announced by Amazon in January 2019 that over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have already been sold.

And it’s not going to stop there. The possibilities are endless. Alexa is so versatile that users can extend their Alexa’s capabilities by installing “skills” – aka, additional functionality – themselves. Literally anyone can go ahead and build an Alexa Skill. Amazon has made available to the public an extensive collection of tools, tutorials, and APIs to help users taking their first steps within the fascinating world of machine learning. It could be you, check it out here.


We invited Alexa experts to give presentations at the meetup and with them we discussed the different levels of software infrastructure for the Alexa Voice User Interface, and how user-friendly it really is.

Our first speaker, who kindly came all the way from Madrid just for us, was Alexa Technical evangelist German Viscuso. Experienced developer, technical writer and consultant, he is dedicated to make technology approachable to others and develop communities around it. During his talk, German explored with us some of the exciting things that may well be in Alexa’s near future. He mentioned for instance Alexa latest text-to-speech system, which uses a generative neural network and can learn to employ a newscaster style from just a few hours of training data. Or the new whisper mode which is available since 2018, and is quite handy when you want to speak to Alexa without disturbing your wife sleeping next to you. When it comes to make its spoken delivery as natural as possible and sound almost human-like, Alexa is learning fast. And it’s just the beginning!

Our second speaker was Jieke Pan, passionate about team leadership and extreme programming, and director of engineering at Mobiquity Inc, a digital consulting company that partners with the world’s leading brands to design and deliver compelling digital services for their customers. Jieke told us specifically about the GoodNes skill that Mobiquity developed for the giant Nestlé using Alexa VUI: GoodNes combines voice and visual to create a smart cooking assistant and provide the ultimate cooking experience to users.

Things to look forward to

Although so far virtual assistants continue to speak in a relatively robotic, monotonous, emotionless way, it won’t be too long until the programming wizards of planet Earth manage to develop the technology to give the perfect illusion of a natural, spontaneous conversation, hence creating the ultimate user experience. All the big boys in the market are working hard on this and Amazon Alexa is no exception. Their latest text-to-speech system, which uses a generative neural network, can learn to employ a newscaster style from just a few hours of training data. The new whisper mode is available since 2018, and is quite handy when you want to speak to Alexa without waking up your wife next to you. These are just two examples of how fast Alexa is changing, and it’s just the beginning!

While enjoying our well-deserved post meetup drinks, we had lively debates and very interesting discussions regarding the future of Artificial Intelligence and how far humans are going to take it. It was overall a great evening.

Thanks for reading and we hope you can join us at the next meetup!

GDPR will change data protection – here’s what you need to know

GDPR will change data protection – here’s what you need to know

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, will overhaul how businesses process and handle data. need-to-know GDPR guide explains what the changes mean for you.

In less than a year, Europe’s data protection rules will undergo their biggest changes in two decades. Since they were created in the 90s, the amount of digital information we create, capture, and store has vastly increased. Simply put, the old regime was no longer fit for purpose.

The solution is the mutually agreed European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will come into force on May 25 2018. It will change how businesses and public sector organisations can handle the information of customers.

— Read the full article on:

More info on the European Union Website

Want to find out what this means for you, come and discuss GDPR with us on the Pillar Meetup.

EvoSwitch Wins ”Best Energy Solution’’ award at Datacloud Awards 2017

EvoSwitch Wins ”Best Energy Solution’’ award at Datacloud Awards 2017

New banner for technology and digital economy hub Haarlem.Tech

Eric Boonstra (Chief Executive Officer EvoSwitch) and Patrick van der Wilt (Commercial Director EvoSwitch) receive the ‘Best Energy Solution Award’ on behalf of EvoSwitch

Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 7 June 2017 – EvoSwitch, a provider of 100% carbon-neutral operated colocation data centers in the Europe and the U.S. with its partner-rich cloud interconnection platform, EvoSwitch OpenCloud, has been awarded the ‘Best Energy Solution’ award at this year Datacloud Awards 2017 in Monaco (June 6-8). This award recognizes EvoSwitch’s achievements with regards to the company’s in-house engineered, free cooling based data center technology with ultra-low PUE figures – as being deployed in EvoSwitch’s data center campus in Europe (Amsterdam region).

At the Datacloud Europe 2017 ceremony yesterday evening in Monaco, EvoSwitch was one of four contenders for the ‘Best Energy Solution’ award. Other companies selected by the panel of judges include Asperitas, EcoCooling and NLDC. Datacloud Europe is BroadGroup’s annual networking and deal-making event for the European cloud and data center industry.

As an owner/operator of carbon-neutral data centers in Europe (Amsterdam region) and the U.S. (Washington DC area), EvoSwitch has designed and engineered its energy-efficient ‘free cooling’ concept in-house to address demanding and multi-tenant requirements for colocation and cloud-usage. During the award ceremony yesterday evening in Monaco, Eric Boonstra (Chief Executive Officer EvoSwitch) and Patrick van der Wilt (Commercial Director EvoSwitch) were representing EvoSwitch to see if their energy-efficient data center design with ultra-low PUE figures would be selected as a winning solution. Now it’s confirmed that EvoSwitch’s data center innovation may call itself an ‘award-winning’ technology.

Datacloud’s Best Energy Solution award recognizes a data center facility, a team or an individual with a demonstrable track record of implementing an innovative approach. The panel of judges was looking to identify a business that has significantly demonstrated the use of a disruptive energy innovation within the data center environment, preferably providing an exemplar of innovation in energy management to the ‘global’ data center industry.

“The Datacloud Awards celebrate some of the best companies, individuals and technologies in this increasingly challenging and competitive industry,” said Gerd J. Simon, chairman of the Judges Panel. “The Best Energy Solution award was a hotly contested category, with entries of outstanding quality reflecting the amount of change and innovation that is happening in the industry right now. We congratulate EvoSwitch on their achievement.”

New banner for technology and digital economy hub Haarlem.Tech

European and U.S. Colocation Data Center Provider EvoSwitch Wins ‘Best Energy Solution Award’ at Datacloud Awards 2017.

Modular Data Center Design

EvoSwitch’s energy-efficient data center technology has quite an “innovative” design that’s now being awarded with the first prize for Best Energy Solution at BroadGroup’s Datacloud Europe 2017 event. EvoSwitch’s innovation is a highly modular, containerized architecture that has been awarded legally registered patents. The integrated, flexible data center infrastructure is not only intensively optimized for energy-efficiency, but also for operational efficiency and ultra-short lead times for data center deployment.

“By winning this data center energy-efficiency award, we’re proud to show that EvoSwitch is perfectly positioned to meet the dynamic hybrid cloud and IoT-driven needs of customers worldwide,” said Eric Boonstra, CEO of EvoSwitch. “EvoSwitch being awarded the first prize for Best Energy Solution at the Datacloud Europe event, is another proof that we’re on the right track with our innovation and engineering efforts at our colocation data center campuses in Europe and the United States. In line with EvoSwitch’s strong growth, strategic ambitions and growing demand for our innovative data center approach, we expect to come up with further major announcements very soon.”

Lianne Dijkhuizen from community hiking of 2600 miles in Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexican to Canadian border

Lianne Dijkhuizen from community hiking of 2600 miles in Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexican to Canadian border

This is the moment! Lianne Dijkhuizen from Haarlem, our community member and ambassador of is ready to start her adventure in Pacific Crest Trail. Our small girl is going to hike 2600 miles from Mexican to Canadian border.


Solar panels, smartphone with e-paper screen as an advice from Haarlem.Tech and tech support for Lianne blog, integration with GPS-tracker from . Follow updates, challenges and beautiful photos on on her blog


And some crowdfunding is always handy! Help Lianne on PCT




Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!