IoT Startup Thinxtra Expands LPWAN Network

A major development is underway for Australia and New Zealand’s long range IoT connectivity market. Sydney based startup Thinxtra is seeking to raise $ 20 million to develop the country’s first national IoT network.

Thinxtra is a Sigfox operator that has raised $ 11 million since its inception in 2015. The company has grown rapidly to meet the growing demand for IoT connectivity in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia.

WIth this investment Thinxtra hopes to go head to head with Telstra, Australia’s current leader in telecommunications for the emerging connected device market who is targeting a 2020 roll out for its 5G network to support the influx of IoT devices.

Thinxtra and the Sigfox network currently reaches more than 70 per cent coverage of the Australian population and 83 per cent of New Zealand. The company intends to support the roll out of the Sigfox LPWAN network to cover 95 per cent of both Australia and New Zealand by the end of 2017.

Loïc Barabcourt, the 28 year old CEO of Thinxtra stated “We think that IoT right now is very similar to where the internet was in the 90s when it had just become available to the masses.”

Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Computer Vision Ag startup Prospera Raises $7m

The impact of Artificial Intelligence is now expanding into the domain of agriculture. What was once an intuitive, trial-and-error based system has been turned into data science through advancements in machine learning and “Pragmatic AI”.

Prospera, an Israeli AgTech firm, has developed a system which promises higher crop yields, fewer pests, less waste, and less guesswork in the process of farming.

Prospera’s artificial intelligence system involves a network of cameras and climatic sensors which use machine learning algorithms, neural networks and cloud computing to handle large amounts of data in real time. These cameras and sensors continuously monitor climatic changes, soil nutrient deficiencies, the presence of pests, and numerous other factors that can negatively affect crop health.

Image Credit: Prospera

Pepper leaf analysis

Daniel Koppel, CEO and co-founder of Prospera explained in interview with AgFunder ““The first part is detections and ensuring we are acquiring the right data, The second part of the roadmap, which we are starting to do now, is around making recommendations to farmers on what they need to do to resolve an issue, starting with the simpler actions like when to irrigate. From there, we will move onto automation, and giving instructions to machinery to perform certain tasks.”

Judging by Prospera’s recent $ 7 million investment round, others seem to agree with Koppel’s vision. Prospera is already being used in several greenhouses in Israel, Europe, and North America, with a great deal of success. The application of these networks into full-scale farms is not too far away.

Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Bitcoin IoT Startup Filament’s Funding Totals $16.9M

Bitcoin IoT startup Filament has completed a new funding round in which it raised $ 9.5M venture capital at an undisclosed valuation. It was announced on Feb 23, 2017. So far, the company has completed eight funding rounds that bring its total venture funding to $ 16.95M. The latest round was the biggest after $ 5M Series A funding that took place in May, 2015 led by Bullpen Capital. Other notable investors included Verizon Ventures and Samsung Ventures.

Filament helps industrial companies connect legacy infrastructure. It combines two of the most overhyped technologies, i.e. the Internet of things and block chain—to help oil platforms, farms, and mines monitor their state of infrastructure. The company does it through ‘Tap’, a rugged sensor package that lets its industrial customers wirelessly monitor and control devices or equipment. It also provides a product that it calls ‘The Patch’ which basically adds drop-in wireless connectivity on top of custom hardware.

The company aims to become a pioneer in industrial IoT by applying blockchain and cryptocurrencies to the world of interconnected devices. The fundamental difference Filament is trying to make is that rather than sending sensor data to the cloud, the ‘Tap’ will make transactions and accounting for networked devices happen on the devices themselves. This makes more economic sense to industrial companies that want to avoid the high cost associated to cloud computing and offsite data storage. A typical ‘Tap’ can send small amounts of data up to 9 miles to other ‘taps’ without having to connect with the internet.

Filament from Filament on Vimeo.

Postscapes: Tracking the Internet of Things

Ford pumps $1bn into ex-Google, Uber engineers’ AI startup

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/MoMorad)

Ford has announced plans to invest $ 1 billion over the next five years into an AI startup co-founded by engineers who held positions in Google and Uber’s respective self-driving vehicle teams. 

The engineers who co-founded Argo AI would make an enviable addition to any company looking for their slice of the emerging connected car market. Brian Salesky, CEO of Argo AI, was director of hardware for Google’s self-driving car project. Peter Rander, COO of Argo AI, was engineering lead at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center. 

“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” said Salesky. “We are energized by Ford’s commitment and vision for the future of mobility, and we believe this partnership will enable self-driving cars to be commercialized and deployed at scale to extend affordable mobility to all.” 

Artificial intelligence will be vital to self-driving cars over the coming years to make quick and safe decisions based on unpredictable road conditions. While handling the driving, the in-car AI will also be expected to provide a comfortable ride to passengers in the car and respond to queries such as changing the route or making calls. 

“Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology industries,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership – allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford’s strengths in scaling technology, systems integration, and vehicle design.” 
Every major car manufacturer is looking to emerge a leader in self-driving cars and companies such as Audi, Tesla, Baidu, Nissan, and Toyota all have plans to get their respective technologies out their labs and onto the road by 2020. 

Ford has long been pushing boundaries of autonomous vehicle technology. Back in 2015, we headed out to Ford’s innovation center in Berlin to hear about some of the advancements they’ve made and captured footage of their self-parking and traffic jam assistance features in action. Since then, Ford is sure to have made further advancements, but so have competitors. 

“The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields. “As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future.” 

While the underlying technology is becoming more robust, it’s not quite ready for prime time. Dmitri Dolgov, head of self-driving technology at Waymo, recently said that people have too much trust when they see autonomous car technology working for a short period of time when it’s not yet developed enough to rely on. 

Once the self-driving technology is capable enough for consumers to have faith in, the next obstacle will be complying with national laws and regulations. As we reported last week, the UK has plans for how insurance will evolve to include self-driving vehicles with ‘two-in-one’ policies. 

By the end of this year, Argo AI expects to have more than 200 team members, based in the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters and at major sites in Southeastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California. Argo AI’s initial focus will be to support Ford’s autonomous vehicle development and production. In the future, Argo AI says it could license its technology to other companies and sectors looking for autonomous capability. 

What are your thoughts on Ford’s AI investment? Let us know in the comments. 


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Startup Profile: Better Bluetooth from InfiniteKey

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Bluetooth is being pushed to the max as more devices require low-power connectivity. The wireless standard is inside everything from door locks to headphones, and companies like Apple or hub-maker Cassia are trying to make it even better.

InfiniteKey hopes to join their ranks with a technology that determines exactly where a Bluetooth device is. High levels of accuracy, plus some understanding of other devices in the vicinity, can ensure that Bluetooth becomes so accurate it could be used to unlock your car or exactly pinpoint a person in a building.

Kevin Virta, CEO of InfiniteKey, says the company formed two and half years ago hoping to find a way to let car makers take advantage of Bluetooth in people’s phones to unlock their car doors. However, the technology isn’t secure enough on its own.

Thus, InfiniteKey puts additional sensors around each vehicle to help create unique signatures keyed to special software running on someone’s handset. The result is a virtual key that is so refined it can determine if the person holding the phone is inside or outside the car.

This comes in handy because no one would really want their car to auto unlock when they are inside the vehicle. Or even more pressing, if they were inside their house and checking to see who was outside the door.

Virta says the company is talking to lock manufacturers about better Bluetooth locks, auto makers about using phones as a key fob (even when connectivity is absent) and even with office furniture makers about using Bluetooth to authenticate people in workplaces.

The company spun out of SpinDance (which is a sponsor of the newsletter and podcast) and is now looking for $ 4 million in seed funding that it hopes to close this May.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis