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Lux Take on News: Weekly Round-Up October 23, 2020

Lux Research
October 23, 2020

Every day our experts comb through the top innovation headlines and provide their analysis on important updates, trends, and developments across industries. Our experts evaluate news based on potential importance ranking the 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 latest emerging technology and innovation news for this week below.

AI-enabled hearing aid developer Whisper raises $35 million Series B and launches with great promise

McCollum, ColeCole McCollum, Analyst | @cmccoco Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"Although incumbent hearing aid companies like Widex and Starkey are also using AI to help optimize sound and remove background noise, Whisper's approach is notable for two reasons. First, the system uses an external portable hub with microphones and additional processing power, in addition to the hearing aids themselves, to help with sound separation. Second, the company offers its system on a subscription basis of $179 per month, which it claims will help it reinvest in improving the software over time with continual updates. Background noise and poor sound quality are among the top reasons that people choose not to wear hearing aids, and companies should view Whisper's novel approach as a very promising way to address those issues."

Indoor farming continues its high market momentum as BrightFarms raises a $100 million Series E

Krishfield, LauraLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Very Important


"The round, led by Cox Enterprises and joined by repeat investor Catalyst Investors, nearly matches BrightFarms' funding to date and will serve BrightFarms' retail efforts and expansion plans for its hydroponic greenhouses in the U.S. Since its Series D in 2018, BrightFarms has planned construction of three farms (in NC, MA, and TX), adding to its three greenhouses established in the Northeast U.S. This event builds on the recent investments toward the expansion of controlled environment agriculture (CEA). In fact, this is the third announcement of a major funding event in CEA within the past month. Companies, the momentum behind CEA is nothing to shy away from; the opportunity to decentralize herbs and greens production is real."

Solid Power produces and delivers its first-generation 10-layer, 2 Ah cells on a MWh-scale roll-to-roll pilot line

Chloe HerreraChloe Herrera, Research Associate
Lux Take: Very Important


"The cells exhibit improved room-temperature operation and discharge rates up to 5C, and Solid Power will deliver several hundred cells to partners by the end of 2020. The company was producing 2 Ah batteries last year on its pilot roll-to-roll production line but has since improved battery performance. In particular, the 5C discharge rate was increased from 1C last year, though Solid Power did not disclose effects on efficiency or rate capability. Solid-state batteries (SSBs) are typically limited by slower charge/discharge rates, but lithium metal anodes can enable higher rates. Solid Power leads in SSB production, having successfully completed roll-to-roll production and cell stacking, a feat that competitors continue to struggle with."

Rockwell acquires Oylo, deepening its industrial control security assessment capability

13815-thumb-squareMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Oylo, a privately held industrial cybersecurity services provider based in Barcelona, Spain, was acquired by Rockwell. The move broadens Rockwell's industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity services, providing turnkey implementations, managed services, and incident response. The move complements Rockwell's June 2020 acquisition of Avnet Data Security, focusing on network security. As industrial IoT continues to expand, more machines are brought online with diverse security requirements. Additionally, increasing cloud-based solutions are introducing a greater need for end-point protection. Those interested should consider Rockwell as a more complete security provider to complement its industrial controls offerings."

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GM and Hyundai Mobis invest $50 million in head-up display startup Envisics

Lewie Roberts Lux Research

Lewie Roberts, Senior Research Associate | @roberts_lewie Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"
Airbus previously launched a competition to search for talent in the quantum computing space, tasking entrants to solve problems related to the aerospace industry. Now, the finalists in the competition come from Capgemini, Machine Learning Reply, Origin Quantum, the University of Montevideo, and Bosch (a single deep learning engineer named Niels Backfisch). Companies should take note of these finalists, as they highlight experts outside of the usual companies named when discussing quantum computing experts."

Eat Just and Proterra Asia partner to establish manufacturing facility in Singapore

10085-thumb-squareThomas Hayes, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"A consortium led by Proterra Asia will invest up to $100 million, while Eat Just will provide up to $20 million. The facility will produce thousands of metric tons of mung bean protein, the key ingredient in Just Egg, and bolsters existing manufacturing capacity in the U.S. and Germany. This comes only a month after Beyond Meat signed an agreement to create two manufacturing facilities in China, signaling the bullish views from these plant-based companies on the Asia market and the need to create local production capabilities. With others likely to follow suit, this opens up joint venture opportunities that companie should seize as rising insurgents like Eat Just look to scale big and scale fast."

New "Less Than One-Shot learning" technique may help deep learning models learn more efficiently

McCollum, ColeCole McCollum, Analyst | @cmccoco Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"A new technique called "Less Than One-Shot learning" is gaining attention for holding the potential to reduce the resources required to train deep learning models. The technique works by compressing a large dataset into a small synthetic dataset that manages to capture most of the underlying information contained in the large dataset. While the approach currently doesn't reduce the initial amount of data needed, the compressed datasets may help, in the near term, to reduce the computational resources required to train or update a model. Longer-term, companies should expect this research direction to potentially yield systems that can learn from much smaller initial datasets as models like GPT-3 have demonstrated with "few-shot learning.""

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Algae developer Provectus raises $3.25 million in seed funding

Krishfield, LauraLaura Krishfield, Research Associate | @LKrishfield Ico twitter
Lux Take: Average Importance


"Provectus Algae develops an autonomous algae production platform, called Precision Photosynthesis, that optimizes strain-specific growing conditions for increased productivity. Led by Vectr Ventures, the round attracted investments from Maropost Ventures and other undisclosed investors and will support Provectus' efforts in developing algae-based ingredients for the agricultural, food, and animal health industries. This news builds off of $350,000 in grant funding that has enabled the company to move from the bench to research scale. Companies, the question of automation to unlock commercial-scale algae production is an interesting one, but the balance between scale and operating costs is critical and largely varies across different systems."

L'Oréal's creation of digital division appears to focus on product personalization rather than an end-to-end strategy

13815-thumb-squareMichael Sullivan, Analyst
Lux Take: Average Importance


"L'Oréal announced a change in CEO and the formation of a digital division in response to the rise in online sales – growing 65% to one-quarter of the company's revenue. The shift signifies the continued focus of large consumer product companies on using digital solutions to personalize the product buying experience. L'Oréal offers virtual try-ons, diagnostics, teleconsultants, and live streaming shopping experiences to surround products with digital options. Lacking in the announcement was transforming manufacturing, which CPG companies have been slow to do, creating a gap between product personalization and less flexible production practices. Companies should consider the value of end-to-end transformation for personalization."

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