The Bulletin
Pega and StepChange launch online tool to tackle COVID-19 debts
Pega is working with debt charity StepChange to launch a new online product that will make applying for financial relief easy in the wake of COVID-19. The tool will be available to UK citizens. Users will need to answer six online questions to assess suitability, before then completing another income analysis. Pega says the product was built in a matter of weeks.
Microsoft to cut down pollution from business travel
Microsoft has announced a new effort to reduce the pollution created from its employees’ business flights. The company will buy credits for sustainable aviation fuel from SkyNRG. SkyNRG will then supply cleaner-burning fuel to Alaska Airlines, who will operate the flights. SkyNRG claims that its fuel, made from cooking oils, emits 75% less CO2 emissions than traditional kerosene-based jet fuels.
SoundCloud founders raise $17.8m for e-bike subscription service Dance
Dance, the Berlin-based e-bike subscription service created by the founders of SoundCloud, has raised €15m in a Series A funding round, just three months after launch. The company plans to use the funds to expand its Berlin pilot programme. “Dance is built for the person interested in saving time, the environment and staying healthy," says Quidenus-Wahlforss, one of the company's co-founders.
Environment credits drive Tesla's fifth consecutive quarterly profit
Increased vehicle deliveries and sales of pollution regulatory credits to other carmakers have led to Tesla reporting a fifth successive profit on its revenue of $8.8bn. Environmental credits sold to rival manufacturers makes up $397m of Tesla’s revenue. The credits have become sought-after following several American states increasing the share of zero-emissions cars that carmakers have to sell.
Yuanfudao gets $2.2 billion from Chinese and international investors
Chinese edtech Yuanfudao has picked up $2.2 billion in fresh investment, valuing the company at $15.5 billion. The money came in two rounds, one led by Tencent and another led by DST Global. Yuanfudao operates live tutoring platforms and online homework services. It raised $1 billion in March. The company, based out of Beijing, says it has 400 million users in China.
UK and Thailand partner on smart cities
The UK is partnering with Thailand on smart cities. Projects are ongoing between the two countries, with the UK helping to create an improved flood management system for Lad Phrao, and also working on a data centre project for Bangkok. It is also delivering smart city workshops across the country, and the pair are teaming up on a "Smart City Handbook". 50% of Thailand's population live in cities.
Ford reveals details of fourth-gen self-driving hybrid vehicle
Ford has released details about its fourth-generation self-driving test vehicle. It has a new battery system, with improved cooling, that allows for a reduction in gasoline consumption. It has also upgraded its sensor suite to provide a 360-degree view, which helps to detect close objects. The test vehicle will be rolled out in several cities in the USA, including Washington DC, Miami and Detroit.
HS1 to become the UK's first renewable-powered railway
The UK has announced that HS1 will become the country's first railway run powered entirely by renewable energy. The service, which links London and Kent, will be powered by wind and solar energy. HS1 is also currently the UK's only high-speed railway. The track is also used by Eurostar and Southeastern High Speed and is part of the route that connects London with Paris and Brussels.
MIT CSAIL uses AI to decypher dead languages
Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed an artificial intelligence solution that can decipher dead languages without knowing its relation to existing ones, and only using a few thousand words. This tool would allow access to a whole body of sources that were previously inaccessible.
eVisit raises $14m for SaaS telehealth platform
eVisit, the SaaS telehealth platform, has raised $14m from its Series A funding round. The startup sells its platform to hospitals and health systems, and delivers several functions including scheduling and waiting room management. eVisit works with some of the biggest healthcare providers in the United States. "This funding will further eVisit’s rapid expansion," said co-founder Bret Larsen.
Microsoft develops eye-tracking AI
Microsoft researchers have developed an assistive gaze-tracker that works with webcams on any device. Gaze tracking can help people living with motor neurone disease, but are very expensive and not widely available. Microsoft has developed one that achieves an error of 1.8073 centimetres, and its model tracks both eyes, alongside 25-by-35 face-grid positions in the captured images.
Maths learning platform Knowledgehook raises $20m
Knowledgehook has scooped $20m in funding for its popular maths learning platform. The Canadian startup's AI-enabled tool, which uses data to track a learner's progress, has been adopted by more than 100,000 schools. This funding round, led by a London-based edtech investment firm, will allow it to reach 50,000,000 students by the end of 2021. It also wants to apply its tech to other subjects.
Australian government to develop drought tool
The Australian government has sent out a tender to build a digital tool for farmers to assess the impact of climate change on drought. The drought resilience self-assessment tool (DR SAT) would help farmers with drought preparedness, and would be part of the government’s Future Drought Fund. The delivery deadline for the tool, which will be rolled out nationally, is June 2022.
Researchers develop tuberculosis prediction tool
A tool that predicts the chances of someone developing tuberculosis (TB) has been developed. Researchers at University College London have created an algorithm out of data from over 80,000 people which they believe will help slow the spread of the disease by identifying those who are at high risk of developing TB. Over 10 million people develop TB every year globally.
EU launches contact-tracing app interoperability gateway
The European Commission has launched a European Union-wide cross-border interoperability to allow national contact-tracing apps to interact with each other so users will only need to install one app even if they travel across the EU. The system was developed and set up by T-Systems and SAP. Germany's, Ireland's and Italy's contact-tracing apps are already linked through the gateway service.
Uber will invest £5m in London public electric vehicle charging points
Uber has pledged over £5m to build public electric vehicle (EV) charging points in some of the poorest boroughs in London, with the aim of encouraging its population to switch to electric cars. Uber claims that the concentration of EV charging points in London is unevenly distributed, being much lower in the areas where the company's drivers typically live, in contrast to more affluent boroughs.
Eat Just and Proterra launch Asia subsidiary and build $120m factory
Eat Just, the agri-tech startup known for its plant-based egg products, is partnering with Proterra Investment Partners Asia to launch a new Asia subsidiary. The agreement also includes the building of Eat Just's first plant protein production factory in Asia, which will be based in Singapore. Proterra will invest $100m in the building of the factory, while Eat Just will provide $20m.
Deloitte releases new home monitoring tool
Deloitte has boosted its healthtech offering with a new "hospital in home" tool. MyPath for Hospital in Home will be added to the ConvergeHEALTH MyPath suite, and will deliver 24/7 patient monitoring and care. The new tech captures data from wearables, supporting bespoke virtual care. Telehealth has soared during COVID-19. Deloitte says the tool will help it deliver "better outcomes".
Facebook open-sources language translation tool
Facebook has made a machine learning-based language translation tool open-source. M2M-100 uses ML to translate directly between any pair of 100 languages. Normal models translate to English first, before then translating into the desired language. Facebook says M2M-100 outperforms English-centric systems on the widely-used BLEU metric. Its AI team has been working for "years" on the project.
Genius Teacher platform gets $2m in angel funding
Genius Teacher, the edtech startup founded by co-creator Advitiya Sharma, has raised $2m in seed funding. The quiz-based platform is aimed at K-12 students and currently has 70,000 users. Sharma wants to build a subscriber-base of 500,000 within the next year. Edtech has boomed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and online learning is expected to increase six-fold by 2022.
Cruise to test electric autonomous cars in San Francisco
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has given GM-backed driverless car startup Cruise permission to test five autonomous cars in San Francisco. Up until now, Cruise had to have a safety driver in the car while conducting tests. “Before the end of the year, we’ll be sending cars out onto the streets of SF — without gasoline and without anyone at the wheel," CEO Dan Ammann wrote in a post.
NASA chooses Nokia to set up a mobile network on the moon
NASA has selected Finland's Nokia to build the first cellular network on the moon as part of their Artemis programme. The programme aims to return humans to the moon by 2024 to build long-term settlements in the satellite. Nokia will partner with Intuitive Machines to deliver the necessary equipment to build the long-term evolution communication system to the moon in late 2022.
AWS and Carrier use data analytics to deliver medicines and prevent food waste
Amazon Web Services Inc. and Carrier Global Corp. have announced a multi-year agreement to leverage analytics in order to prevent food waste and increase access to medicines and vaccines by monitoring the delivery of perishable and temperature-sensitive goods. The two companies will combine AWS’s IoT, analytics, and ML services with Carrier’s refrigeration and monitoring solutions.
Startup Whisper uses AI in hearing aids to self-tune
Whisper, who develops hearing aids that upgrade over time, has announced $35m in series B funding. Based in San Francisco, Whisper has launched its flagship product, Whisper Hearing System. It uses AI to constantly update and stay in-tune with the wearer’s level of hearing over time. The funding round was led by Quiet Capital, and also involved Sequoia Capital, First Round Capital, and IVP.
Ori Biotech earns $30m in new funding
Ori Biotech wants to accelerate cell and gene therapy manufacturing after raising $30m from a Series A round. The cash injection will allow Ori to take its platform, which leverages automation, to market. The investment was led by Northpond Ventures, an experienced VC firm in the science and medical space. Ori says its mission is to "enable patient access to life-saving cell and gene therapies".
LG Chem in talks to produce joint-venture EV batteries for automakers
LG Chem, the South Korean electric vehicle (EV) battery maker, is in conversations with a “a couple of automakers” about producing EV batteries in joint-ventures. LG Chem already has joint-ventures with GM and Geely, and is now looking to expand with two further partnerships with unnamed automakers. LG Chem has also announced it is looking to build a second battery factory in Europe.
Foxconn to supply 3 million electric vehicles by 2027
Apple's assembler Foxconn has announched its plans to provide components or services to 10% of the world's electric vehicles (EVs) by between 2025 and 2027, accounting to about 3 million cars. In addition, Foxconn has launched the new “MIH Open Platform,” to support EV manufacturers. William Wei, an executive at Foxconn, said the company’s aim is to become "the Android of electric vehicles".
EuroHPC project unveils four new AI supercomputers
EuroHPC, a joint venture between governments and the European Union, is to have access to four new AI supercomputers. The machines, built by Cineca and powered by Nvidia, will offer advanced AI capabilities to science and industry. The EU wants to build one of the world’s most advanced supercomputing ecosystems. It will analyse genomes and model weather patterns, among other use cases.
Think tank warns UK public sector at risk from cyber attacks
The UK’s public sector suffers from cyber security failings that leave the country at risk, according to a new report from Reform. The British think tank aims to reform the way public services are delivered, and warns that the increase in remote working due to COVID-19 has left the public sector vulnerable. The report was written in conjunction with IT firm DXC Technologies.
Savana targets international expansion after $15m Series B
Spanish healthtech firm Savana is looking to expand internationally after a Series B funding round. The startup uses machine learning to convert clinical notes into ordered patient information. It has raised $15m from this latest round. Savana's platform is currently used in Europe, the United States and Canada. "Savana's potential positive impact on society is massive," said its CEO.
Nokia's COVID-19 automatic system controls temperature and mask usage
Nokia has presented its automated, zero-touch elevated temperature detection solution designed to protect against COVID-19. The system uses a thermal camera and real-time video analytics to determine whether a person is wearing a mask or showing COVID-19 symptoms. The system is already in use in Nokia's factory in Chennai, India, where it has screened over 200,000 people.
Edtech firm Brighteye raises $54m
Brighteye Ventures, one of the Europe’s largest edtech venture capital firms, has raised $54m in a second funding round. Brighteye invests in startups that use technologies to enhance learning. It will use the latest funding to invest in 15-20 companies over the next three years. Launched in 2017, Brightseed says it will also increase its advisory team from three people to 10 over the next year.
Honeywell and Vertiv team up for sustainable data centres
Honeywell and Vertiv have agreed a new collaboration around data centre sustainability. The pair will work together on solutions that stand to optimise sustainability and efficiency in data centres. Vertiv already delivers tools to hyperscale and enterprise data centre providers. "There is need and opportunity for data centres to be more efficient, reliable and sustainable," said its CEO.
Alphabet X launches 'Mineral' to explore autonomous farming
Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. has launched 'Mineral', a new division to tackle sustainable food production. 'Mineral', has developed a prototype robot that can inspect individual plants in a field without disturbing them, to collect data about how crops grow. "We hope that better tools will enable the agriculture industry to transform how food is grown," protect leader Elliott Grant said.
Facebook AI research unit targets renewable energy storage
Facebook’s Open Catalyst Project has partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to search for more efficient methods of storing and using renewable energy. Using AI to discover new electrocatalysts, Facebook and the university’s department of chemical engineering will look at using chemical reactions to convert excess solar and wing energy into easily-stored fuels.
Microsoft and Equinor join forces in Norway CO2 storage project
Microsoft has signed a memorandum of understanding with Norwegian energy company Equinor to explore the use of a CO2 transport and storage facility in Norway. Microsoft has pledged to invest $1b in carbon removal tech, and wants to be carbon negative by 2030. Norway has embarked on a wider project called Northern Lights, which aims to develop carbon capture technology and store CO2 below the sea.
EV startup Arrival earns $118 million investment from BlackRock
BlackRock, the US funds manager, is investing $118 million into Arrival, the electric vehicle startup. UK firm Arrival specialises in electric commercial vehicles, such as vans and buses. The cash injection, which values Arrival at $3 billion, will allow it to open its first plant in the United States. In January, UPS placed an order of 10,000 Arrival vans, with the potential for 10,000 extra.
App that helps farmers cope with climate change wins IBM award
Agrolly has won IBM's Call for Code Global Challenge 2020. The challenge had asked developers to create solutions that fight back against climate change and COVID-19. Agrolly's app supports small-scale farmers by filling information gaps, enabling them to make more informed decisions. The startup will receive a grant of $200,000, along with support from IBM and the Linux Foundation.
AI to enable COVID-19 detection at the edge
Artificial Intelligence startup has teamed up with chipmaker Xilinx to release an X-ray classification model that improves prediction rates for COVID-19. The model is also said to work for pneumonia prediction rates. The open-source model uses AI at the edge, using 500 COVID-19 X-rays and 30,000 pneumonia X-rays. The model uses AWS SageMaker, and can be deployed using AWS IoT Greengrass.
HMRC to use Fujitsu VME platform
The UK’s HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has agreed a five-year contract with Fujitsu to use its virtual managed environment platform. The contract is worth £168.8 million and the VME platform will host 13 HMRC applications. These applications include VAT applications, non-VAT accounting, and self-assessment. Fujitsu will also provide IT support to HMRC’s 65,000 employees.
Blue Origin successfully launches and lands New Shepard reusable rocket
Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos, has successfully launched and landed the New Shepard sub-orbital rocket. The rocket, made from reusable materials, was launched from Blue Origin's West Texas testing facility. The flight also tested NASA'S active landing sensor system, which will be used to build an autonomous, precise and flexible landing system for future Moon landing vehicles.
Softbank invests $215 million in e-learning plaftorm Kahoot
Japan's SoftBank Group has invested $215 million in Norwegian startup Kahoot, taking a 9.7% stake on the company. Kahoot has developed a user-generated gamified e-learning platform, a service in increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kahoot has said that it plans to use the newly raised funds to fuel growth through new partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions.
Indonesia will create a public company to develop EV batteries
The Mining Industry of Indonesia has announced that a group of the country's state-owned companies will form a venture to develop EV batteries for electric vehicles. MIND ID, Aneka Tambang, Perusahan Listrik Negara and Pertamina, would all be part of the new venture, called Indonesia Battery Holding. Indonesia is the world's largest producers of nickel ore, a key component of EV batteries.
Salesforce donates $700,000 to UK charities to help close digital skills gap
Salesforce is donating $700,000 to two UK charities, supporting their work to close the digital skills gap. Big Education Trust and Catch22, which work with underserved and underrepresented communities, will receive the funding. With Big Education Trust, Salesforce has created a new education leadership programme. With Catch 22, it will look to develop pathways for unemployed young adults.
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Quil to launch remote health monitoring
Telecoms company Comcast and Independence Health Group are to release a new platform through their joint venture, Quil Health. Its new system, Assure, helps to connect care-givers and loved ones. It includes voice-activated tech, caregiver coordination and activity-monitoring sensors. The sensors send real-time alerts, while the speakers allow caregivers to communicate through in-house speakers.
Intel and India set up research centre to apply AI for public good
Intel has linked up with India's government to build a new AI research centre in Hyderabad. They are aiming to apply AI to "population-scale" problems such as healthcare and smart mobility. The International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad and Public Health Foundation of India are also involved. One of the project's aims is to create national assets around data and infrastructure.
Cambridge University scientists reveal VR tool for human cells
Software company Lume VR and Cambridge University researchers have revealed a virtual reality tool that allows scientists to ‘walk’ inside human cells. vLUME will allow researches to view a cell’s entire roadmap. Lume CEO Alexandre Kitching says: “It allows scientists to visualise, question and interact with 3D biological data, in real find answers to biological questions faster.”
Huohua Siwei bags $100 million as edtech demand surges
Huohua Siwei has been supported by Tencent in a fresh funding round worth $100 million. The company operates a number of different learning apps in China. It previously raised $150 million from an E1 round only in August. This latest round was also joined by joined by Carlyle Group as well as edtech company Yuanfudao. Huohua Siwei's services attract in excess of 85,000 daily learners.
H&M signs hosting deal with EcoDataCenter
Clothes retailer H&M Group has agreed a multi-year deal with eco-friendly data centre operators EcoDataCenter. The agreement covers all of northern Europe. H&M wants to become climate-positive by 2040, and EcoDataCentre’s facility in Falun, Sweden, is the world’s first climate-positive datacentre. Excess heat from the facility is used to warm buildings in the local area.
Microsoft and Team Gleason to make technology accessible for people with ALS
Microsoft has announced its collaboration with Team Gleason, the nonprofit organization founded by NFL player Steve Gleason, for Project Insight. This project aims to create an open dataset of facial imagery of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). “What has been most impressive is the focus on the needs of the user and not the benefits of the company,” Gleason told ALS News Today.