Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Chinese Unicorns

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The VC market in China has become hotter than hot, with some even suggesting it’s in bubble territory.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, in the first 11 months of this year, 3,418 new venture-capital and private-equity funds in China raised 1.6 trillion yuan (some $241B U.S.), which was more than double the amount of 2015 and more than 10 times that of 2006.

The data, which comes from Zero2IPO Group, estimates about 12,000 investment firms manage 8.5 trillion yuan in capital.

When it comes to so-called “unicorns,” or those startups valued at over $1B U.S., 59 of the 221 around the world come from China (the U.S. has 127, the U.K. 12, and India, 9).

But…

The financing bonanza has also seen startups wage expensive subsidy wars as they try to grab market share before worrying about profits. Nothing exemplifies the trend as much as the bike-sharing apps. First praised for the convenience they brought, bike-sharing apps such as Ofo and Mobike are now scorned for clogging cities with millions of bikes.
– via WSJ

And…

As in the U.S., easy access to capital in China allows startups to stay private longer. For venture capitalists, that means their shares in those startups get diluted and returns dwindle with each successive funding round. By the time of an IPO, the returns can be much lower than initially expected.
– via WSJ

The inevitable conclusion, the “b” word (“b” for “bubble”) is starting to get thrown around in China.

On the other hand, there are 1.4 billion people living in China, some 18.67% of the population. Meaning, there’s lots of opportunity, and plenty of both red and black on the Chinese entrepreneur roulette wheel for VC and angel investors to place their bets.

Written by turbotodd

December 15, 2017 at 9:30 am

Walmart, JD.com, IBM and Tsinghua University Launch a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance in China

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Walmart, JD.com, IBM, and Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies announced today they will work together in a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance that will kick off with a collaboration designed to enhance food tracking, traceability and safety in China,  to achieve greater transparency across the food supply chain.

The four companies will work together to create a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food, using blockchain technology to provide real-time traceability throughout the supply chain.

This will encourage accountability and give suppliers, regulators and consumers greater insight and transparency into how food is handled, from the farm to consumers. This has traditionally been challenging due to complex and fragmented data sharing systems that are often paper-based and can be error-prone.

Walmart, JD, IBM and Tsinghua University will work with food supply chain providers and regulators to develop the standards, solutions and partnerships to enable a broad-based food safety ecosystem in China.

IBM will provide its IBM Blockchain Platform and expertise, while Tsinghua University will act as a technical advisor sharing its expertise in the key technologies and the China food safety ecosystem. IBM and Tsinghua will collaborate with Walmart and JD to develop, optimize and roll out the technology to suppliers and retailers that join the alliance.

As a world leader in global food safety, Walmart works closely with suppliers, regulators, industry partners and the research community around the world. In China, it invests heavily in food safety research through the Walmart Food Safety and Collaboration Center and has promoted food safety, both through its own supplier network, as well as working with JD, which has rich omni-channel food supply chain management experience. The two have been able to leverage JD’s expertise in the application of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data and other new technologies to protect consumers.

Following IBM and Walmart’s announcement in August of a new consortium to enhance food safety, this collaboration brings IBM’s blockchain food safety expertise to China. IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University have piloted the use of blockchain to trace food items, including pork in China and mangoes in the U.S., as they move through the supply chain to store shelves. Recent testing by Walmart showed that applying blockchain reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds.

The collaboration is designed to help ensure brand owners’ data privacy while helping them integrate their online and offline traceability for food safety and quality management channels. Companies that join the alliance will be able to share information using blockchain technology, and plans include them being able to choose the standards-based traceability solution that best suits their needs and legacy systems. 

This will in turn bring greater transparency to the supply chain and introduce new technologies to the retail sector designed to create a safer food environment and enhance the consumer experience.

The insights gained from the work in China will shed light on how blockchain technology can help improve processes such as recalls and verifications and enhance consumer confidence due to greater transparency in China and around the world. 

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2017 at 11:25 am

IBM Announces Quantum Computing Collaboration

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IBM today announced the first clients to tap into its IBM Q early-access commercial quantum computing systems to explore practical applications important to business and science.

They include JPMorgan Chase, Daimler AG, Samsung, JSR Corporation, Barclays, Hitachi Metals, Honda, Nagase, Keio University, Oak Ridge National Lab, Oxford University and University of Melbourne.

These 12 initial organizations join the newly formed IBM Q Network, a collaboration of leading Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and national research labs working directly with IBM to advance quantum computing. The IBM Q Network will also foster a growing quantum computing ecosystem based on IBM’s open source quantum software and developer tools.

 

The IBM Q Network provides organizations with quantum expertise and resources, and cloud-based access to the most advanced and scalable universal quantum computing systems available, starting with a 20 qubit IBM Q system. IBM also recently built and measured the first working 50 qubit prototype processor.

IBM anticipates that access to this prototype will be offered to IBM Q Network participants in the next generation IBM Q System.

IBM Fosters Growing Quantum Ecosystem

Through the publicly available IBM Q Experience, over 60,000 users have run more than 1.7 million quantum experiments and generated over 35 third-party research publications using the world’s first series of quantum computers available openly on the web.

The IBM Q Experience enables registered users to connect to IBM’s quantum processors via the IBM Cloud, to run algorithms and experiments, work with the individual quantum bits, and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing. Developers also have access to IBM’s open quantum software development kit, QISKit, to create and run quantum computing programs.

The IBM Q Experience will also play a significant role in an initiative IBM is undertaking with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  IBM will support MIT in producing a leading edge, comprehensive curriculum for executives, engineers, scientists and researchers to understand and leverage the upcoming quantum computing revolution

The first courses are anticipated to go online in the first half of 2018 via the edX platform. The curriculum will include a set of MIT created massive open online courses (MOOCs) that will be offered both for free and for a fee to learners who desire an MIT issued certificate of completion. The curriculum will also include a comprehensive professional development curriculum (MIT ProX courses). These latter courses will include online labs on quantum computing, which will utilize the public IBM Q Experience quantum computers.

In addition to supporting the quantum curriculum, IBM has started working with MIT to explore the intersection of quantum computing and machine learning as part of the recently launched MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. Together, IBM and MIT scientists are investigating the “Physics of AI”, which involves new research into AI hardware materials, devices and architectures.

Focus areas include using AI to help characterize and improve quantum devices, and researching the use of quantum computing to optimize and speed up machine-learning algorithms and other AI applications.

IBM Research is announcing a series of prizes for professors, lecturers and students who use the IBM Q Experience and QISKit in the classroom or for their research. Awards will be made available for developing open source course materials for a lecture series; building Jupyter Notebook tutorials with QISKit; contributing specific code modules to the open source QISKit SDK and to students who publish a scientific paper that makes use of QISKit. For details visit https://qe-awards.mybluemix.net.

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2017 at 9:11 am

Posted in 2017, ibm, mit, quantum computing

Apple Invests In Laser Chipmaker

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Great news for Sherman, Texas!

CNBC is reporting Apple is investing $390 million into Finisar, a company that makes chips used by Apple products for depth and proximity sensing.

The company will use the money to reopen a shuttered plant in Sherman, Texas, and create 500 jobs.

More details here:

Finisar will transform a shuttered, 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, into a high-tech facility developing VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser) chips. These chips enable depth and proximity sensing, helping to power some of Apple’s new features, including Face ID, Animoji, and ARKit, which is the set of tools that allow developers to create augmented reality apps. There are three VCSELs in every iPhone X. VCSEL chips also are used in Apple’s AirPods, but those chips are not made by Finisar.
– via CNBC

And as to how Finisar’s products are used…

Finisar’s primary products are transceivers and transponders that enable high-speed voice, video and data communications for networking, storage, wireless and cable TV applications. The company, founded in 1988, is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California, and employs 14,000 people. In addition to Apple, its customers include Cisco, Huawei, IBM and Hewlett Packard Enterprise
– via CNBC

Sounds to me like a ramp up for Apple’s aggressive augmented reality strategy!

Written by turbotodd

December 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Grocery Targets

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Not to be outdone by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, Target has announced plans to acquire grocery delivery platform Shipt for $550M in cash, according to a report from Recode.

Shipt clients pay $99 a year for unlimited deliveries from a selection of partners that include Harris Teeter, Meijer, and Texas grocery giant H-E-B, and operates in 72 cities currently, with plans to be in 140 markets by the end of next year.

Target plans to join the Shipt online marketplace, while Shipt intends to keep serving its other retail partners. Eventually, Target will offer the Shipt same-day delivery service on Target.com and the Target app.
– via Recode

The deal also marks the latest move by Target to modernize its logistics and fulfillment efforts. The company recently launched its own curbside pickup tests at about 50 stores, after initially working with a startup as a partner in previous years. It is also expanding how many of its stores serve as mini-fulfillment centers to source inventory for online orders. Starting early next year, Target customers who want to order their groceries through the Shipt service will have to pay for a Shipt membership and order through the startup’s website or app. By summer, about half of Target’s 1,800 stores will have joined the Shipt platform; by next holiday season, just all Target stores should be on board.
– via Recode

Written by turbotodd

December 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

IBM and Blue Prism Deliver Digital Workforce Capabilities

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Blue Prism and IBM have joined forces to deliver a secure, scalable and easy-to-use ​D​igital ​W​orkforce for ​e​nterprises worldwide.

Clients across a range of Industry segments are utilizing blue prism to drive Innovation and improve overall customer service.

Walgreens, for example, is now using robotic processing automation to support its HR function, which meets the company’s high standards of security and governance while allowing employees to put more focus on their customers and patients.

With an enterprise-wide automation offering for my ​I​BM and blue prism, organizations can help scale and manage workloads with ​ease​ while freeing up existing employees to spend more time on strategic tasks.

This results in business​es ​having more time to focus on improving customer engagement, ​i​nnovation and accelerating transformation within the business IBM has been working for three years deploying Blue Prism software robots in its own cost saving initiatives in application and infrastructure outsourcing, as well as transforming internal operations. Together IBM and Blue Prism have completed multiple client contracts across the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.

Blue Prism’s Operating System for the Digital Workforce incorporates investments in over a decade of software development and includes insights from more than 450+ global enterprise customers.

These include leading Fortune 500 companies in highly regulated industries, including finance, insurance, utilities, telecom, healthcare, retail and manufacturing. An RPA pioneer & industry leader, Blue Prism pioneered the Digital Workforce Operating System, invented the term RPA in 2012 and was recently acknowledged by MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 smartest companies globally.

Written by turbotodd

December 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

Posted in 2017, ibm

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AI On A Friday

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Well this week went fast.

I was scanning the tech headlines and saw a number of tidbits on AI in the news.

First, from ZDNet: Qualcomm and Baidu have formed a strategic collaboration to optimize Baidu’s DuerOS conversational AI system and create a better AI voice and smart assistant solution for smartphones and IoT devices. More details here.

CNBC is reporting that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, was talking up the company’s work to develop custom hardware for AI on Thursday during a talk at a company party for academic and industry researchers.

The specialized hardware could one day be used inside Tesla vehicles to do the computing work necessary for autonomous driving.

And just yesterday, IBM unveiled its next-generation Power Systems Servers incorporating its newly designed POWER9 processor that is built specifically for compute-intensive AI workloads.

The new POWER9 systems are capable of improving the training times of deep learning frameworks by nearly 4X, allowing enterprises to build more accurate AI applications faster.

Written by turbotodd

December 8, 2017 at 9:25 am

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