Following closely behind the maturing solar market are two technology trends that are beginning to stabilize and present the opportunity for photovoltaic (PV) systems to be about more than just generation: 1) deployment of storage is consolidating around lithium-ion batteries, and 2) software applied to energy systems is delineating measures of control for consumers and grid operators alike. As the market matures, differentiation will be vital for system integrators, as a limited number of opportunities to develop business models alongside utilities arise. Continue reading
If you’re in San Francisco, you may have gotten an offer on December 14 to “Experience the future, starting today” as you “Take a ride in a Self-Driving Uber”. What’s remarkable about that? The little local startup announced that its hometown fleet of autonomous vehicles would now be carrying passengers, as they have for the last three months in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where its Carnegie-Mellon collaboration is based). The cars will still have an “experienced operator” at the wheel, and will cost the same as the same trip in the company’s human-driven UberX service. What’s also remarkable is that Uber’s program was stopped by the California Department of Motor Vehicles on its very first day. Continue reading
Senseye (client registration required) deployed its equipment prognostics and maintenance management software platform at a major auto manufacturing plant in the U.K. in January 2016. After completing a pilot period, the customer has moved into a first paid commercial phase. Senseye is ramping up to analyze machine health for 12,000 machines across three production lines, including over a thousand robots. The customer contracted major industrial suppliers to instrument machines with sensors and to pull the data into an industrial cloud. Senseye then handles the analytics portion using its IoT-based solution. Senseye claims that the customer previously reviewed analytics offerings from major analytics players, including Microsoft and SAP, but that none offered the level of automation, return-on-investment (ROI), or prognostics that it required. Continue reading
It’s hard to believe, but just ten years ago, “global warming” was an essentially unknown term. Environmentalism was viewed as a moral, social preference with little or no relevance to the business world. Then, a rising tide of awareness and concern (spurred by climate change alarms like 2006’s “An Inconvenient Truth”) led to widespread demands that companies measure and report their environmental progress (like life-cycle analysis [LCA] and corporate social responsibility [CSR]/triple bottom line reporting), and a wave of venture investment in “cleantech” (solar, renewable fuels and plastics, batteries for electric vehicles, etc.). Using Google Trends to plot the rise of these terms, it’s clear that the awareness preceded action. Today, KPMG declares that “almost all” of the world’s largest corporations provide CSR reporting, up from 9% in 2008 and 20% in 2011. Clean technologies as disparate as renewable energy, electric vehicles, and even egg-less mayonnaise are challenging incumbents in utilities, automotive, and consumer goods so profound that they are resorting to scurrilous legal machinations to stop them. Across the board, industry is now paying lots of attention to the once-optional topic of environmentalism. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for just a decade of effort.
If history is repeating, now it seems like awareness is rising around feminism: treatment of women in the workplace, sexual violence, girls and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) education, and other feminist topics are picking up. A Google Trends search on “global warming” and “feminism” (see below) shows that feminism is actually starting to surpass global warming in “interest” (Google’s unit of measure).
Today, feminism is barely measured in CSR or the “people” portion of triple bottom line (maybe because only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women) and there’s not a lot of tech addressing it. Yet as measured by the human and economic toll, unequal treatment of women vastly outweighs global warming. That needs to change, because the numbers are horrifying. A DARA International study of the human and economic costs of climate change blamed 400,000 deaths annually to climate change, projecting the number will surpass 600,000 per year by 2030. Yet women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria, much less climate, according to World Bank data. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than one-third of women worldwide (some 35 percent) experience gender-based violence over the course of their lives. Estimates of the cost range from at least 2% of GDP to as much as 10% – One study estimates total costs linked to domestic violence for the United Kingdom, including reduced well-being, at 10 percent of GDP. These figures show that the social and economic toll of gender inequality vastly outstrips environmental disasters and unsustainable business practices, and moreover does so today – not years or decades from now.
Reporting is an obvious first step. Today, the vast majority of CSR reports focus on environmental, not gender-related factors. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards body, the use of which KPMG describes as “almost universal” among CSR reports, points out “greater reporting needed on equality to close the gender gap”. Melinda Gates recently pointed out how a lack of data “hampers our ability to advance the cause of gender equality,” and announced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)’s plan to invest $80 million over the next three years to improve the way data on the lives of girls and women is collected and used – and has announced a data-centric initiative to turn it into action.
And it’s not yet clear what technology can do for women: certainly, the use of social media has raised awareness of abominable situations like the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls (#BringBackOurGirls), sexism in engineering (#ILookLikeAnEngineer), atrocious abuse by prominent professional athletes, or “light” physical abuse (#TryBeatingMeLightly). But “raising awareness” does not fix the problem. Direct remedies might include Jasmina Tesanovic’s “Internet of Women’s Things” with:
- Wearable cameras integrated in clothing and jewelry, to offer physical protection from abusive partners and college date-rapists, as well as recording of sexism in the office
- AIs that use natural language processing and affective computing for therapy bots (to help men empathize with women), documenting in-class and workplace contributions (where females’ statements are dismissed or appropriated), and presenting fully developed female characters in gaming
- Domestic robots could address the gross imbalance in home labor (where women shoulder their male partners’ share of the work; see the presentation “Robots Come Home – When, How, and Why Domestic Robots Are Entering Our Lives” [client registration required]).
- Digital health monitoring, to provide more data about women’s response to therapies – which is pervasively under-reported in clinical trials.
One of the most promising developments is a growing number of “femtech” initiatives, most of which seek to advance not only technology for women, but technology by women – giving them the skills and networks needed to overcome societal inertia holding them back. They include:
- FemTech Berkeley, A University of California at Berkeley student club for women interested in technology
- The FemTech Project, a network of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries
- The FemTech Network, a group of scholars, artists, and students working at the intersection of technology, science and feminism (see also their school project)
- FemTech Leaders, a global professional community of women in financial technology (fintech)
- FemTech South Africa, a training program for women entrepreneurs
- The Austrian FEMtech database of female experts in technology; see also their listing of femtech research projects
…and that’s just the organizations that happen to have “femtech” in their name. There are thousands of other such organizations laboring on this issue, like Stanford-based She++, Denmark’s CURIE Network, or the Women In Tech branch of Code for Pakistan. These pioneers will be the sources of the femtech equivalents of cleantech’s industry-disrupting technologies, like demand-response smart grid software, renewable plastics, and plug-in electric vehicles.
If the lessons of the environmental movement are a guide, ultimately what will work is an appeal not to morals, but to self-interest: companies and countries that allow women’s potential to go untapped, are destroying their own value. Value that would be tremendously easy and fast to access, to spur economic and social growth. To begin, organizations of all stripes should immediately start measuring, reporting, and sharing best practices; and deploying human and technological solutions to fix the problems they bring to light.
We should not be worried about the lack of obvious technology solutions today, for answers will come. Early responses to global warming were mostly “stop driving” and “turn down the heat” – behavioral changes that mostly only concerned, affluent consumers made. Similarly, feminist programs like the UN’s HeForShe (which is well worthy of support) are mostly preaching to the choir, for now. But engaging with them now will lead to a more structured and strategic view of feminism quickly – with measurement, investment, and technology to turn awareness into billion-dollar business opportunities, and world-changing outcomes.
By: Mark Bünger
On February 3, 2016, Cisco announced its intention to acquire Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion in cash and equity, making it the largest Internet of Things (IoT) platform acquisition to date. Jasper was founded in 2004 and has raised $205.3 million in venture funding – its most recent round was a $50 million Series F round led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings in April, 2014. The $1.4 billion price tag dwarves every other IoT platform acquisition on record, with no other pure-play platform acquisition exceeding $200 million. Other relevant acquisitions include LogMeIn’s acquisition of Xively in 2011 (est. $15 million), Telit’s acquisition of ILS Technology in 2013 ($8.5 million), PTC’s acquisition of ThingWorx in 2013 ($112 million), PTC’s acquisition of Axeda in 2014 ($170 million), and Amazon’s acquisition of 2lemetry in 2015 (est. $100 million).
Jasper (client registration required) has built a cloud platform that enables enterprises to transform product businesses into IoT service businesses. Its flagship “Control Center” solution helps customers manage connectivity and services through a centralized console. A key component of the offering is relationships that Jasper has built with over 120 mobile network operators (MNOs) in more than 100 countries – Jasper integrates cellular connectivity from all of these operators to provide customers with unified global connectivity. Beyond simply providing mobile connectivity, Control Center offers a variety of services including fleet visibility, device provisioning, real-time engagement dashboards, support diagnostics, billing, and business automation.
When we profiled Jasper last month, we were very impressed with the company’s technology and service platform – Jasper is one of the few firms that has an established approach for managing cellular communications for IoT services (client registration required). Continue reading
In 2015, Lux Research analysts profiled 1,189 companies across 20 different emerging technologies. As the year end approaches, we polled the analyst team to select the top 10 companies we covered in 2015 that are poised to make a significant impact on their target industries. These companies may be targets for partnership, investment, or acquisition, but their success also points to new growth areas and business opportunities that clients can capitalize on.
As always, each firm gets a “Lux Take” that ranges from “Strong Caution” to “Strong Positive,” to provide a bottom-line assessment of its prospects, with a “Wait and See” rating for companies that still face too much uncertainty for a definitive call. Full access to the detailed information and analysis in the profiles is for clients only, but the list with a brief explanation of each is available here for everyone.
- NeuroSky (Positive – BioElectonics; Sensors) — NeuroSky develops a number of bioelectrical signal detection and processing systems, most notably its electroencephalography (EEG) sensors that have enabled mind-reading brain-computer interface devices like Uncle Milton’s Star Wars Force Trainer – and will also enable future diagnostic and monitoring solutions as health care shifts to digital technologies.
- Organica Water (Positive – Water) — In addition to providing significant reductions in energy consumption, sludge production, and overall footprint for wastewater treatment, Organica builds low-cost greenhouses around its treatment plants to reduce odor, allowing it to locate plants closer to wastewater sources and enabling cost-effective reuse within cities.
- PFP Cybersecurity (Strong Positive – Connected Objects and Platforms) — PFP uses a physics-based approach to detecting cyber threats by analyzing the electrical patterns of processors, ideal for securing for Internet of Things (IoT) devices that can’t support modern security software or are limited by memory or compute constraints.
- Norsk Titanium (Positive – Advanced Materials) — 3D printing is best known for producing customized but pricey plastic pieces – Norsk’s plasma arc deposition allows it to 3D-print parts from titanium that are up to 70% cheaper than those made via conventional machining methods, due to greater material utilization.
- Nutrigenomix (Positive – Food & Nutrition) — Offering genetic testing to provide individualized recommendations on seven specific dietary components, Nutrigenomix is a step in the right direction for personalized nutrition.
- Fulcrum BioEnergy (Positive – Alternative Fuels) — Biojet fuel and renewable diesel are going to be major plays in 2016 and Fulcrum is well positioned to make both fuels from municipal solid waste (MSW) – it has strong partnerships along its entire value chain, and is the only Fischer-Tropsch biojet process developer with proven production at some scale.
- Zerlux (Positive – Exploration and Production) — The use of lasers in the oil and gas industry isn’t widely known, but Hungarian player Zerlux is a leader, with high-powered lasers for well stimulation, hard-scale removal, and subsea pipeline remediation.
- Hillcrest Labs (Positive – Sensors) — As the number of sensors in products from cars to mobile phones continues to grow, sensor fusion – integrating the interpretation of data from different sensors – is becoming more critical; strategic relationships with Bosch, Atmel, and ARM position Hillcrest to be a dominant player in this market.
- ENS Europe (Wait and See – Intelligent Buildings, Sustainable Building Materials) — More efficient electrostatic filters from ENS Europe can help clean indoor air, much like a HEPA filter does, but the technology has the potential to scale up to clean smog and address other city-wide air quality issues.
- AgDNA (Positive – Agro Innovation) — Finding successful business models for precision agriculture has been challenging, but AgDNA has been able to get traction licensing its technology – which integrates data from existing equipment into a decision-support system for growers – to OEMs like John Deere.
Other notable companies nominated by the analysts earned an honorable mention:
- Alsentis (Positive – Wearable and Flexible Electronics; Sensors) — Touch screens don’t work in high-noise environments – with wet surfaces or gloved hands – but Alsentis is changing that with its multi-touch sensor chips, used now in industrial and automotive applications with planned release for consumer devices in 2016.
- Elevance Renewable Sciences (Positive – Bio-based Materials and Chemicals, Alternative Fuels) — Elevance already has commercial scale production of specialty chemicals from crude palm oil (CPO), and is planning to expand by building or retrofitting plants in the U.S. and in Malaysia – notably deploying its technology outside the “conventional” regions of Europe and the Americas.
- Mapdwell (Wait and See – Solar) — Using Lidar data and an online portal, Mapdwell allows consumers to estimate the solar potential of any rooftop in cities it covers, helping to bring down soft costs associated with customer education, targeting, and system design.
- Sakti3 (Caution – Energy Storage) — Solid-state batteries are one of the key technologies for enabling higher density energy storage beyond the current Li-ion batteries today; while its unproven production process is reason for caution, its acquisition by Dyson later in the year could give it the boost needed to make the leap to commercial production.
- EasyMile (Positive – Autonomous Systems 2.0) — Lightweight, driverless, electric automobiles could revolutionize urban transport and change the current paradigm of car ownership. EasyMile – a joint venture of Ligier Group and Robosoft – is developing autonomous shuttles that could be the basis for future personal rapid transit systems.
In an insight published in September (client registration required), Lux Research highlighted some of the new security challenges brought on by developments in the Internet of Things. Days later, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched its Leveraging the Analog Domain for Security (LADS) program, echoing our concern that “[m]any [IoT] systems run on home-grown, custom operating systems cannot support modern security software. Other components simply cannot handle the additional memory, compute, or power requirements.” DARPA allocated $36 million in grant funding for organizations that are developing novel approaches for threat detection based on analog device signals – voltages, currents, frequencies, pressures, and other physical parameters that may demonstrate anomalous behavior that could be attributed to a breach.
Once a device has been compromised, the computing unit that executes security logic has also been compromised – in recognition of that notion, “[t]he LADS program seeks to enable a new protection paradigm that separates security monitoring functionality from the protected system, such that even a full compromise of the latter cannot lead to compromise of the monitoring logic. This separation is important for low resource embedded and mission-specific devices (EMSDs), where a single compromise can defeat all protection mechanisms. The decoupling also enables an independent set of resources to be introduced and used for security purposes, unconstrained by the design considerations and implementation of the protected device.” The idea is to allow a separate monitoring platform to understand the software running on a device and profile its impact on the physical systems within the device (like which part of the memory is being accessed). Once a profile of the typical physical behavior of the device has been well established, security breaches should be identifiable through observation of anomalous behavior. While the program is specifically targeting technologies that can secure EMSDs, DARPA recognizes that techniques developed can be applied to traditional information technology (IT) devices, as well.
This approach is not entirely new and has been employed with some success in traditional IT infrastructures; however, the overwhelming majority of existing security solutions have been software agents deployed on device operating systems and network inspection techniques. One interesting approach has been developed by startup PFP Cybersecurity (look for a profile in an upcoming journal), which provides a physics-based, endpoint security solution with alternating current, direct current, and electromagnetic interference sensors. This solution uses machine learning and data analytics to detect tiny anomalies in power patterns to catch attacks. These types of analog emissions solutions will complement other hardware-based methods, like trusted platform modules (TPMs) – dedicated microprocessors designed to secure hardware by integrating cryptographic keys into devices, used for device identification, authentication, encryption, measurement, and device integrity.
Another innovative hardware-based security solution that has been gaining traction is Intel’s Enhanced Privacy ID (EPID) technology, which has been incorporated into Intel chipsets since 2008, and was adopted by Microchip and Atmel in August of 2015. Guy AlLee, IoT Security Product Manager for Intel, recently explained to Lux that this identity and authentication platform is broadly applicable for IoT devices – it leverages a hardware-based identity that is burned into the processor at manufacture, similar to a person’s fingerprints. EPID allows developers to establish a basis for trust, authentication, inclusion in relevant system relationships, and authorization for data access. An interesting differentiator is that the technology provides anonymity by allowing a device to be verified as part of an approved group rather than by its individual private key – this feature helps to clarify the distinction between security and privacy, which sometimes combat rather than complement each other. Guy pointed out that we have entered a new paradigm, explaining that “until recently, we were worried about protecting the data, now we have to protect the control of the devices.”
While the growing need for mobile device security has yielded numerous innovations over the past decade, the IoT will need new approaches to keep pace with attackers. We expect to see rapid developments in hardware-based security, from both incumbents and startups, along with massive investments from venture firms and grants from government organizations. Clients developing IoT strategies should look to partner with innovative providers of hardware-based security platforms.
Thin-film batteries (TFBs) offer slimmer form factors and added flexibility over incumbent energy storage, but they are also expensive and difficult to mass-produce. Despite hundreds of millions invested into start-ups in this space, there has been no clear line of sight to profitability. What is the hold-up given the hyped applications where TFBs could play? Although there are multiple metrics along which to evaluate TFBs – including relative Wh/kg, Wh/L, safety, flexibility, and capacity – the single biggest roadblock remains cost. Today, depending on the technology, TFBs can cost $28/Ah or more ($7,500/kWh or more). This is an order of magnitude higher than other types of energy storage including Li-ion cells that typically cost less than $2/Ah ($500/kWh) and coin cells costing less than $1/Ah ($250/kWh).
We modeled three distinct cost-reduction scenarios for TFBs, and found that it in the likely case, the market will grow to about $400 million in 2025 (18% CAGR), driven by the emerging wearables category in consumer electronics, where thin form factors and added flexibility are key. This assumes no major technical breakthroughs and relatively small investments over the coming decade – on the order of $1 billion or less collectively – leaving TFB costs at about $10/Ah in 2025. In the optimistic scenario, TFBs would reach $3/Ah in 2025 but this would require strong technical improvements to boost capacity and reduce costs in addition to more than $1 billion invested into scale-up. In the very optimistic scenario, TFB revenues in 2025 could be as high as $4 billion (49% CAGR), but would require technological breakthroughs to reach $1.4/Ah, nearly matching Li-ion, plus more than $5 billion in scale-up investment.
This leaves different players in the nascent value chain having to hedge bets, monitor progress and be ready to act. At one end, chemical and materials players should monitor for innovation and look to repurpose other battery development activities, but it is premature to have dedicated TFB development. Battery makers should establish strategic partnerships with IoT device developers, not only consumer electronics giants but also smaller innovative players. In addition, TFBs should be optimized for relatively higher capacity electronics uses, with an additional focus on rechargeable battery chemistries. At the end of the production value chain, consumer electronics OEMs must monitor for key innovations and activity, but plan on most products, even flexible ones, using non-TFBs. If there is a breakthrough technology, they will need to engage quickly and exclusively, as it can create an opportunity to differentiate devices on the market.
TFBs will continue to be supported in R&D and by starry-eyed investors, but with killer technology and killer apps for it still off in the distance, a measured approach to R&D — but a steady, engaged approach to monitoring and partnering — is the right path.