ALEXA AND THE FUTURE OF AI
If Amazon's Paul Cutsinger is right, voice technology and artificial intelligence will soon rule as the primary interface with devices and computers. "We need to focus on how things sound, not how they look, " he told the audience at the recent Kairos Global Summit. Cutsinger also talked about "ambient computing" in which today's simple interactions (such as "Alexa, turn on the lights") will be replaced with rich and layered discussions. But he warned that we will need to change the communications methods for it to work because the words we use for speech vs writing are different. That's where AI comes in. A device like Alexa will be taught new skills to make written words more conversational.
NEW ANGLE ON VALUE OF DATA
Mark Cuban described Amazon at a recent CEO Summit as "the world's greatest startup" because they were "leveraging their data to build more startups." There's a lesson here for all the IoT companies with great designs on making a ton of money with data. The money isn't in the platform to collect the data or even in the raw data itself: it's in the knowledge of the inefficiencies in a process or system and how to improve it with rapid access to the right data.
- Sensoro, a Seattle-based IoT sensor device and network technology startup, has raised $18 million in Series B funding from Bosch, Sumitomo and Tsing Capital.
- Chemical giant BASF has acquired ZedX Inc., a Pennsylvania-based agricultural tech firm specializing in analytics around agronomy ZedX has developed agronomic weather, crop, and pest models which can optimize crop production. One example is a model which looks at weather and environmental conditions to identify the right window of application for a BASF herbicide
- Farmnote, a Japanese startup in livestock monitoring has raised $4.6 million. Investors included industrial giant Sumitomo Corporation. Farmnote has developed a wireless device which cattle wear and sends information about each animal’s activity in real time. Farmers get alerts when cattle are unwell, ovulating, or giving birth.
- ADM Capital Europe has held a $100 million first close on its first fund focused on agritech businesses in Europe, Australia and Asia, according to Private Equity International. The total fund size target is $500 million.
- Rabobank has launched a food and agriculture-focused venture capital fund, via its Rabo Private Equity platform. www.rfaif.com
HOW MACHINE LEARNING IS IMPACTING RETAIL PRICING
Increasingly sophisticated machine learning algorithms are being used to constantly adjust pricing in both brick-and-mortar stores and online retail sites. Pricing spreads on one item can vary more than 50% in less than 24 hours based on perceived supply and demand. A detailed article in a recent issue of The Atlantic explains retailers are being forced to use these tools to set optimal pricing because their already tight margins are under more threat from consumers' easy access to pricing information. Retailers are collecting immense amounts of data on transactions and combined with metadata (temperatures, day of the week, seasonal factors, etc) to price optimally. Many of the models they use will adjust pricing rapidly in response to real-time feedback. Not surprisingly, economists and data scientists have moved to the top of the recruiting list at all major retailers. One economist told The Atlantic the current data technology is giving them “the ability to experiment on a scale that’s unparalleled in the history of economics.”
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