Monsanto’s Deep Learning Agenda

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Monsanto has long been a significant player in modern day agriculture and a forward thinker relative to modern day farming techniques supported by data.

In its latest move, Monsanto is partnering with a company called Atomwise to leverage deep learning and AI to identify and solution for molecules that can help better protect crops against disease and pests. The approach has inverted traditional thinking off trying to kill off disease…in this approach they are looking to find defenders of disease before it emerges.

 

Here’s the punch line….it takes an average of 11 years for a crop protection market and costs ~$250 Million to produce…this could greatly reduce the time and costs required while helping the industry attack negative forces before they become devastating and costly.

Uber Freight Launches Commercially

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Uber has officially entered the trucking arena as long speculated by analysts.

Called Uber Freight, this new service focuses on driving logistics between trucking companies and independent operators to identify and disperse drivers against loads that need to be hauled from point to point.

They are leveraging the same technology platform as consumer Uber and the app is said to look very similar, albeit with a few more questions about load type and size. Uber claims it is simplifying a highly manual process (phone calls back and forth coordinating drivers and schedules) and bringing transparency to pricing for drivers. Drivers love the service as it accelerates cash flow by providing much faster settlement windows for pay.

Question will be if this is a bridge to autonomous trucking which Uber is also investing heavily in….given them an early look at truck logistics and volume of shippments across geographies.

 

Dot.com Giants Battle Over Physical Presence.

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As Amazon and Walmart go head to head in an arms race to win over the consumer direct market, we are seeing a high stakes game of trial and error play out right in front of our eyes. Good news is they are focused on consumer value propositions and enriching them through convenience and simplicity….at the heart of the consumer today.

This week, Walmart’s Jet.com announced it will trial a brick and mortar grocery play to see how consumer react to a food retail concept store. Jet.com’s value proposition is the delivery of fresh produce right to your door without the need to even be home to receive it.

Walmart acquired the Jet brand as an accelerator for competing directly with Amazon’s Fresh grocery play and pickup services. All of which can and will be used to extend Walmart’s digital footprint where they have invested heavily in online ordering, store based pick up and new partnerships with Uber and Lyft for home deliveries.

Amazon’s Alexa Is Dominant Platform By Far

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Amazon continues its dominate run to take over the world and become our one and only retailer. Growth has come from many different elements of Amazon’s ever expanding business models and while it stumble early on with hardware (the horrible Amazon One phone), it has seen the patience pay off with Alexa.

Recent reports suggest Amazon has a 70.6% share of the voice digital assistant space….virtually leaving all competitors to fight for the remaining balance (including Apple and Microsoft.)

In 2017, 35.6 Million consumers in the US will use the voice activated assistant devices, up ~130% from prior year and growing. These figures are supposed to hit the exponential curve as the hardware integration begins to penetrate automotive and appliance markets where consumer value is immediate.

Analysts expect Amazon to give back some market share as Google Home and others scale, but dominate it will remain and who knows…with additional advancements in hardware it will be hard to catch.

 

Big Data Meets Bike Pedals

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Big data comes in many forms and continues to solidify its place as the world’s most precious resource. It is being gathered in virtually every digitized experience…including the growing bike rental economy in China.

Mobike, China’s next promising unicorn, is looking to map how you enjoy your leisure time on bicycles. With a new investment round totaling $300M USD, Mobike is quickly looking to expand its fleet and charge riders a nominal rental fee for access to what they do and when they do it.

They have recently unlocked a number of insights about behavior shifts on holidays and weekends and can use this data to predict where people will ride and generally at what time of day, with whom and how far….think local marketing in real time.

They can even map users as the y migrate from city to city in the region and their pedal behavior. They are taking all of this information and building a scalable Artificial Intelligence play that could scale to the likes of Uber like status.

 

 

Apple Sucking Autonomous Vehicles?

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Google Ventures (now know as GV) continues its march to leverage and be involved in all things digital. This time they are leading the investment round in Abundant Robotics, a company building apple picking robots that could eventually handle harvesting a multitude of crops. The breakthrough is how they have tackled some of the challenges of picking the apples using vacuums…helps to avoid becoming a manufacturer of apple sauce with traditional hand grabbing mechanisms.

This space has exploded recently and Abundant Robotics joins a growing group of hardware manufacturers developing autonomous equipment for use on farms, both on the ground and in the sky. Others players include Harvest Automation, Deepfield Robotics and the Autonomous Tractor Company

Agriculture in the U.S. and much of the world is facing a tremendous labor shortage today. Meanwhile, the World Bank estimates we’ll need to make 50 percent more food by 2050 to sustain the growing, global population, with climate change decreasing crop yields by 25 percent outdoors.

Facebook Translates Your Thoughts Into Text

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Facebook has many ambitions, some of which are obvious, some of which are not so obvious. Yesterday, Facebook announced its intention to build a brain computer interface that could allow people to type a message with just your mind.

Essentially….FB uses a technology to that scans your brain more than 100 times per second to detect you silently speaking and translate that into text. If you stop for a moment when you are typing an email, you will notice you are silently speaking what you are typing…this is what they are picking up on (try it and you’ll get it.)

They apparently have about 60 engineers working aggressively on the concept and have working prototypes of individuals being able to type 8 words per minute. They believe they can eventually accelerate this to 100 words per minute (well above typing speeds for average workers.) The applications are endless…help for people living with complete paralysis, people who suffer strokes and lose mobility skills to augmented and virtual reality controls.

FB is running all of this (and much more) through their Building 8 program and in partnership with UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Ultimate goal is to be able to solve the need for implants and to deliver non-surgical solutions at scale across a broad set of use cases.