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.

 

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.

The Future Of Farming Is Here?

vertical-farmImagine a farm scenario that increases productivity by 130%, uses 95% less water, involves no pesticides and can be harvested 24 times per year, rain, snow or shine.

Aerofarm, a new jersey based vertical farm company has become a pioneer in this type of farming. What’s driving the explosive growth in this areas…the globe climate changes which are driving significant draught scenarios in many places where farming flourished. Aerofarm isn’t the cheapest game in town. Not yet at least. They will need to invest significantly in the latest robotics and automation capabilities to drive costs down significantly. They are facing high energy costs of running the plants, facility costs of building out the factories with optimized fixtures…all leading to a premium, yet higher quality, sales price initially.

Carnegie Mellon’s University of Computer Science is aggressively working to address the paradigm shift in how we grow food….using government grants to invest heavily in the development of sensing technology, robotics and AI technologies to improve overall crop management using data driven decision making. This is a big market opportunity with growth of agricultural robots set to increase from 32,000 units in 2016 to almost 600,000 units by 2024…creating a ~$75B market.

Implications will change how large scale suppliers invest for the future…quickly retiring old farming techniques susceptible to further climate impacts with faster, better and more scalable solutions. Orange groves, apple orchards and generally vegetables of any type will be produced at scale in a fraction of the time as traditional impacts.

Solar Skin Creates Opportunities For Autonomy.

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Here’s a pretty advanced one. Smart skin…designed for amputees to help return certain senses relative to feeling pressure, temperature and dampness. University of Glasgow has developed exactly that and is using solar power to fuel the system, providing greater independence and portability  by removing the need for a connected power source.  “Graphene” is the secret…a flexible material that can now cover covered with a flexible with durability greater than that of steel, and is electrically conductive and transparent.

The material draws and converts power from the sun’s rays sufficient enough to power to support movement of prosthetic hands. While the power is used in real time, they will eventually determine a way to store it efficiently when sunlight is available.

Thinking bigger picture here….you could create autonomous everything….from prosthetic limbs to life like pets to robotic workers in the fields based on advancements in bendable electronics and sensing technologies.