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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up April 24, 2020

Lux Research

Every day our analysts comb through the biggest industry headlines and provide their analysis on major developments and trends in the news. Our experts evaluate news based on potential importance ranking developments from Truly Disruptive to Ignore.

Each Friday we highlight our Lux Take on the news for the week. Check out our thoughts on the top emerging technology and innovation news, including our researchers' coverage of tech and strategy as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic.

Negative oil prices show that it is in the interest of the oil industry to diversify feedstock

Arij-van-BerkelArij van Berkel, Ph.D., Director, Research | @aivanberkel Ico twitter
Lux Take: Truly Disruptive


"The negative price for May WTI futures (-$40 per barrel) was probably an anomaly, but it also was a symptom of bigger underlying issues that the industry must address. Even though the oil industry theoretically has a diversified product portfolio, the current situation shows that its ability to switch between markets is extremely limited. The industry failed the stress test. It lacks the storage capacity and flexibility in its product mix and production capacity to gracefully handle a demand decrease. It is hard to change those parameters. The industry should focus on diversifying the feedstock for downstream. That way, it can more easily absorb supercheap oil and be more robust against price hikes in the other direction as well."

Researchers at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne developing digital biomarker for COVID-19 based on cough sounds

Danielle Bradnan Lux ResearchDanielle Bradnan, Research Associate @DBradnan Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"The Embedded Systems Laboratory is developing a digital biomarker to be used for the diagnosis of COVID-19 based on cough sounds collected from a smartphone speaker. Cough sounds have long been used in diagnosing respiratory diseases, and more recently, the use of computer vision coupled with sensors in mobile devices has allowed for the development of digital endpoints for clinical trials, such as by the company HealthMode. Digital biomarkers are an emerging technology that allows for earlier and more personalized diagnostics, and companies should be looking to invest in this technology as an accompaniment to current digital health offerings like wearables, digital therapeutics, and telehealth services."

Biobot Analytics raises $6.7 million in seed funding to target COVID-19 detection in wastewater

Abhirabh BasuAbhirabh Basu, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Biobot Analytics' seed round was led by The Engine, AmFam, and previous investors Y Combinator and DCVC. Biobot is analyzing sewage wastewater to test for COVID-19 based on SARS-CoV-2 quantified in sewage. It uses a wastewater-based epidemiology process which includes pasteurization, virus concentration, RNA extraction, and qPCR, to quantify the virus. Biobot has tested wastewater in Massachusetts and claims that while the number confirmed cases in a part of the state between March 18 and 25 was 446, the actual number Biobot modeled was an order of magnitude higher, if not more. Interested companies should monitor the company's progress as it refines its modeling and secures more samples to further validate its process."

Impact Labs, Bright Machines, and iCobots enable Israeli robots to perform automated coronavirus testing

13815-thumb-squareMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important


"Impact Labs, an Israeli robotics company, has developed robotic arms that can substitute for humans during the coronavirus testing process. The arms increase the pace of testing, reduce errors, protect staff from potential exposure, and free up resources. The arms were deployed using Bright Machines' turnkey flexible manufacturing "microfactories," which are preconfigured assembly and test modules that can be dropped into a current facility. In this case, the site is the clinical microbiology lab at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. iCobots and the Israel Innovation Authority also participated in the project. The project demonstrates the value of flexible manufacturing combined with automation driving innovation to adapt to unexpected events."

Shell adds to the growing list of oil majors pledging net-zero emissions by 2050

Holly Havel Lux ResearchHolly Havel, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"As one of the last European oil majors to join the net-zero decarbonization race, Shell has announced its ambition to become a net-zero emissions company by 2050 or sooner. In line with announcements from its peers, Shell also plans to incorporate Scope 1, 2, and 3 level emissions to address all life-cycle emissions of its products from production to final use. The company's long-term strategy will also rely on close collaboration with its customers to help them decarbonize and reduce their internal emissions, which is mutually beneficial for Shell to address its Scope 3 emissions. While a collaborative approach may help drive decarbonization efforts, it will be interesting to see who ultimately takes responsibility for end-use emissions."

Google reportedly developing its own chip for Pixel smartphones and Chromebooks

Jerrold Wang Lux ResearchJerrold Wang, Analyst | @jerroldwang Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important

"The chip is reported as an 8-core ARM processor produced using Samsung's 5 nm process. It is designed to optimize the operation of Google's AI algorithms and improve the performance of Google Assistant for mobile and smart home devices. In-house chip development enables Google to better integrate its software and hardware technologies and reduce reliance on its chip partner Qualcomm. It's not new for major consumer device companies to develop chips, and more examples include Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. Companies should expect that the chip developments by consumer device companies will make the industry more competitive, which may allow other consumer device developers to have stronger bargaining power against the traditional chip developers."

GM shuts down Maven as yet another automaker scales back car-sharing ambitions

Robinson, ChristopherChristopher Robinson, Senior Analyst | @CRobinsonLux Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"The announcement follows significant cutbacks to the Share Now service (formerly Car2Go) operated by Daimler and BMW. While challenges related to  COVID-19 were cited as one reason for the closure, operations were significantly scaled back throughout 2019, and Maven was likely to shut down regardless. Companies with little experience in fleet ownership have struggled to operate car-sharing schemes, while Avis-owned Zipcar has been much more successful, with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars and a fleet size of just over 10,000 vehicles. Companies should interpret this announcement as an indication that automakers will exit loss-making shared mobility bets, rather than an indication that car-sharing won't survive long-term."

Ultra-wideband (UWB) radar sensors are promising for contact-free screening of COVID-19 symptoms

Lisheng Gao

Lisheng Gao, Analyst
Lux Take: Very Important



"The Israeli government is collaborating with Vayyar to adapt the UWB radar sensors to realize remote contact-free detection of vitals signs indicating symptoms of COVID-19. UWB radar sensors using millimeter waves can monitor pulse, heart rate variability, and respiratory rate without touching the patients. Due to the small footprint, the sensor can be easily installed in indoor spaces or used as hand-held equipment. Additionally, the UWB radar sensors can protect the patients' anonymity and prevent cross-contamination caused by direct contact. Companies interested in medical sensors should be aware of the benefits of UWB sensors and consider embracing UWB radar sensor technologies as alternative diagnostic tools into their current portfolio."

Siemens and Uniper partner to decarbonize power generation

Benjamin Torda

Benjamin Torda, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important



"
The German companies announced a partnership on sector coupling and power generation decarbonization. While short on details, hydrogen and green hydrogen were the major theme. We previously noted it was likely that Uniper would focus on its gas grid and generating assets, and its  announcement highlights the potential of existing gas turbines and gas storage facilities to use hydrogen and mentions the role hydrogen could play in coal power plants; Uniper plans to close or convert its German coal-fired power plants by 2025 and reach climate-neutral power generation in Europe by 2035. Companies should realize that using green hydrogen to power turbines is inefficient but will find a use case in avoiding stranded thermal power generation assets."

AkzoNobel's new tool measures color, gloss, and 3D topography of textured powder coatings

14215-thumb-squareTiffany Hua, Research Associate | @tiff_hua Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"AkzoNobel's new tool is aligned with digitalization trends within the coating industry, as we see in increases in coating digital monitoring systems and testing tools. Textured powder coatings have historically been inspected visually for defects and surface quality; however, the Spectro2profiler may change the industry's best practices, as it can analyze 3D topography of the surface texture and measure color and gloss. Furthermore, it is possible that this tool's output data and AkzoNobel's testing standardization can feed into material development through material informatics and machine learning."

Starbucks rolls out new plant-based offerings in China with Beyond Meat, Oatly, and OmniPork (Green Monday)

10085-thumb-square

Thomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance

 

"This comes on the heels of KFC teaming up with Cargill for plant-based chicken in the same market. While that will be for select restaurants over a limited period of time, Starbucks will be making a permanent change across all of its China locations. There is major shift in momentum for plant-based alternatives in Asia, but Starbucks should also be looking to pair plant-based dairy and eggs with plant-based meats. Don't be surprised if it acts on this, perhaps in tandem with Just given its ambitious growth plans for China. Nevertheless, as food service outlets come back online in select markets like China, now is the time to launch new products through those channels, with consumers eagerly looking to return to their usual dining spots."

Didi and AutoX look to begin Shanghai robotaxi pilots by late May

Chad Goldberg - Research Associate at Lux ResearchChad Goldberg, Research Associate
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Operations will be restricted to a 65 km2 operating zone in the Jiading district, and backup drivers will be required to be on board in order to take over as needed. The public pilots will be the first for the country's biggest city, though Didi and AutoX are simply looking to keep up with Pony.ai and Baidu, which already operate passenger transport pilots in Guangzhou and Changsha. While Shanghai pilots have been expected ever since officials issued operating licenses at the end of last year, what is notable in this case is the timing, considering the halt on industrywide operations due to COVID-19. While China has slowly begun to loosen government-mandated restrictions, Lux is skeptical that these pilots will begin in the next month."

Kemin Industries identifies opportunity in Salmonella vaccines by partnering with Pacific GeneTech

13463-thumb-squareLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Pacific GeneTech (PGT) develops a vaccine production platform called Aegis that uses bacteria and yeast engineered with recombinant DNA to present broad-spectrum antigens. Through the deal, Kemin Industries, a global ingredient manufacturer, will gain licensing rights to PGT's Salmonella vaccine for poultry. Kemin will work on registering the vaccine in the EU and U.S. markets before expanding its availability to Southeast Asia and Africa. PGT's Salmonella vaccine establishes immune responses to multiple strains, demonstrating robust activity aiding the effort to reduce antibiotic use throughout the livestock industry. Companies, vaccines and other antibiotic alternatives must protect against rapid evolution to retain market longevity."

Pony.ai temporarily pivots to last-mile delivery service in California during COVID-19 pandemic

Josh Kern Analyst Lux ResearchJosh Kern, Analyst | @josh_kern_ Ico twitter
Lux Take: Low Importance


"
The autonomy stack company is repurposing 10 vehicles that were being used for a robotaxi business in Irvine, California. Now, those vehicles will be used to deliver parcels and groceries between local distribution centers and customers' addresses. While most autonomous vehicle testing has halted in the state in light of the pandemic, Pony.ai decided to pursue a contactless delivery service in partnership with e-commerce company Yamibuy. Companies should see the move as mostly a PR stunt, as the switch to autonomous last-mile delivery requires more intentional design around the interior of the vehicle and operations. Startups that have considered those factors, such as Udelv and Nuro, are better-positioned to handle last-mile delivery."

 
 

 

FURTHER READING:

- Free Access to our COVID-19 Resources

- Blog: Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up April 17, 2020

- Blog: The State of Delivery Innovation Among COVID-19

- Executive Summary: Automating the Last Mile (Free Download)

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