Innovation Observer

The Innovation Observer –  October 2017

Sophia, an intelligent humanoid robot, has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia during the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh. Sophia was created by David Hanson, the founder of Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics, who is known for creating robots that look and act human-like. Sophia made fun of tech billionaire Elon Mask, who has repeatedly warned that AI robots could be an existential threat to humans.

In tune with the recent UAE 2031 AI strategy, which aims to make the government more efficient and streamlined by relying on AI technologies, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai has announced the 27-year-old Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama as the Minister of AI.

German power provider Eon and Italian electric utility Enel have traded electricity over a new market place, which uses blockchain technology. The business can be managed directly and in a matter of a few seconds, the German energy company said. There is no need for a central broker, which reduces the cost of electricity procurement. In the future, customers should profit from this direct electricity trading via Blockchain and thus from the cost reduction, continued Eon.

Google’s DeepMind are founding DeepMind Ethics & Society (DMES), a new research unit dedicated to exploring and understanding the real-world impacts of AI. From self-driving to facial recognition, the announcement comes at a time when the ethics and social implications of AI are a hot topic, something the unit is explicitly aiming to address.

The Innovation Observer –  September 2017

A city dedicated to researching Mars colonization unveiled at UAE Government centennial meeting. Named Mars Scientific City, the Dh500 million project, will cover 1.9 million square feet and simulate conditions for human settlement on the Red Planet. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, “UAE seeks to establish international efforts to develop technologies that benefit humankind, and that establish the foundation of a better future”

Researchers have Linked a Human Brain to the Internet for the first time ever. A team of researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, have for the first time ever devised a way of connecting the human brain to the internet in real time. It’s been dubbed the Brainternet” project, and it essentially turns the brain “…into an Internet of Things (IoT) node on the World Wide Web.”

The Swedish retail giant acquired the startup TaskRabbit for an undisclosed price. TaskRabbit has only a few dozen full-time employees, but it is a platform for a large number of independent contractors who help customers with all sorts of errands, handymen tasks and, of course, furniture assembly. Ikea will treat TaskRabbit, which is reportedly profitable, as an independent subsidiary and keep on its CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot.

Carnival Corporation begins construction of world’s first fully LNG-powered cruise ship.

World’s largest leisure travel company celebrates keel-laying ceremony for first of seven next-generation cruise ships to be fully powered by liquefied natural gas, world’s cleanest burning fossil fuel.

The Innovation Observer –  August 2017

Researchers from Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found how neural networks, a kind of artificial intelligence, can be use to accurately analyze gravitational lenses and how to produce results 10 million times more quickly than traditional methods. This can be even completed on a laptop or smartphone. This will leave the more powerful systems free for scientists to use for non-uniform work.

Leaders in the fields of AI and robotics, including Elon Musk and Google DeepMind’s Mustafa Suleyman, have signed a letter calling on the United Nations to ban killer robots. Autonomous weapons could reduce battlefield casualties, discriminate more accurately between civilians and combatants. However they could usher in a “third revolution in warfare”

China’s State Development & Investment Corp Leads $100M Round In Artificial Intelligence Chip Maker Cambricon. Cambricon claims to be the world’s first commercial chip for deep learning. The product can be applied in a number of fields, such as smartphones, security, drones, wearable devices and autonomous driving. Cambricon plans to use the latest proceeds to develop processors for cloud and terminals, as well as to provide high-performance and low-power cloud processor solutions.

Maersk has teamed up with Microsoft consultants EY, data security firm Guardtime, and three insurance outfits, Amlin, Willis Towers Watson and XL Catlin, to launch the world’s first blockchain platform for marine insurance. The impact of this technology is ready for commercial use and will allow to streamline and automate the interaction with the insurance market by having transparency, security and standardization.

The Innovation Observer –  July 2017

A joint research conducted by the Lappeenranta University of Technology and VTT created food using electricity. The researchers mixed  water, carbon dioxide, and microbes in a small container, then applied an electric shock to result in a solid substance that has the essential nutrition for living. This is an early stage on the road to create food at marginal costs.

Chinese scientists have teleported a photon particle from the ground to a satellite orbiting 1,400km (870 miles) away. This was achieved through Quantum Entanglement, the phenomenon arises when two particles are created at the same time and place, and thus effectively have the same existence. The scientists suggested the interaction of a third particle with the first one, the change that occurs in the entangled particle is mirrored in its twin. Teleportation if possible in large scale will be a major driver of disruption.

Volvo will sell only electric cars starting 2019, aiming to achieve sale of 1 million electric cars by 2025. This action comes as a response to emission regulations in the EU that will ensure the average CO2 output is not higher than 95g of CO2 per kilometer, marking the end of the combustion engine-powered car.

Tires manufacturer Michelin has introduced the first 3D-printed, airless tire. Combination composed of organic, biodegradable materials, including orange zest, bamboo, molasses, wood, and natural rubber without relying on petroleum products. The tire will never blow out and never needs to be replaced. Instead, it can be “recharged” as often as necessary with a new layer of treads; the 3D-printed treads can be tweaked to adapt to weather and road conditions.

The Innovation Observer –  June 2017

Amazon.com Inc. will acquire Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billiona bombshell of a deal that catapults the e-commerce giant into hundreds of physical stores and fulfills a long-held goal of selling more groceries. Amazon agreed to pay $42 a share in cash, a roughly 27 percent premium to the stock price. John Mackey, Whole Foods’ outspoken co-founder, will continue to run the business and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon gets a network of stores where it can implement decades’ worth of experiments in how people pick, pay for and get groceries delivered.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Humanitarian Accelerators, a first of its kind initiative in the Arab world, which will serve to improve the financial efficiency of aid organisations through the use of new technology. The goal of the Humanitarian Accelerators is to harness the potential of advanced technology in order to improve the lives of others. The Humanitarian Accelerators are launched in collaboration with Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative (MBRGI) and Dubai Future Accelerators.

Careem, a transportation startup currently in 80 cities across the Middle East, has raised another $150 million closing out a $500 million Series E round that it confirmed in December when it announced the first $350 million tranche. With the new funds, Mudassir Sheikha, Careem’s co-founder and CEO, confirmed that Careem’s valuation is now over $1 billion, with major investors such as Daimler and Rakuten

Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, has acquired SensoMotoric Instruments, a company that specializes in eye-tracking technology useful for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications. SensoMotoric, founded in 1991 in Teltow, Germany, helps power devices, like glasses and headsets, and will most likely contribute to building up of Apple’s AR business of recently released ARKit, a software kit that enables developers to overlay AR holograms on the real world through their phones.

The Innovation Observer –  May 2017

An investment group that includes Japan’s SoftBank and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth arm announced on Saturday it had closed $93 billion in capital, committed to what is expected to be the world’s largest technology investment fund ever. This multi-billion vehicle will steer capital to cutting-edge technologies in U.S. startups and other global firms. In a statement, Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son said the Vision Fund — which hopes to close a total of $100 billion in committed capital by November — “will help build and grow businesses creating the foundational platforms of the next stage of the Information Revolution.”

Norwegian maritime technology expert Kongsberg and its compatriot fertilizer producer Yara have teamed up on a project to build world’s first autonomous and zero emissions ship, named Yara Birkeland, that is expected to be ready by 2020. The vessel will reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions.

Japanese carmaker Toyota has announced its backing for a group of engineers who are developing a flying car by giving them 40 million yen (£274, 000) to the Cartivator group that operates outside Toyota city in central Japan. So far crowdfunding has paid for development of the so-called Skydrive car, which uses drone technology and has three wheels and four rotors. With a projected top flight speed of 100km/h (62mph), travelling up to 10m above the ground and 9.5ft (2.9m) by 4.3ft (1.3m) dimensions, Skydrive claims to be the world’s smallest flying car..

Facebook announced a piece of network equipment known as an optical switch, which it calls Voyager that could disrupt the whole Telecom equipment market. In geek-speak, this is the first “white box” transponder and routing device for Open Packet DWDM optical networks that are very-high-speed networks and transfer data using light pulses rather than conventional copper wires. A white box is a generic piece of computer equipment that costs far less than the big brand names. In addition to the Voyager device, Facebook is also giving away the files for a project called OpenCellular. The goal is to create a new open wireless ecosystem, Facebook says.

The Innovation Observer –  April 2017

With a vision to transform Dubai into the 1st Government in the world to execute all applicable transactions on blockchain by 2020, The Smart Dubai Office has chosen Avanza Solutions to implement a citywide blockchain based payment platform. The platform Cipher will be rolled out across Smart Dubai Office’s partners: 38 government entities, financial institutions and departments.

Uber Technologies expects to deploy fully functional flying taxis in Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai by 2020. Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically, or VTOLs, with zero emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities. Uber has partnered with Bell Helicopter, Aurora, Pipistrel, Mooney and Embraer to make the flying taxis.

Mastercard unveiled a payment card in South Africa featuring a biometric fingerprint scanner. Similarly to the touch ID recognition and mobile phone payments, the users must hold their finger over the sensor whilst making a purchase. The payment network said it is currently extending the trial process and hopes to fully implement the technology throughout Europe and Asia later this year.

Amazon acquired the Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com for an undisclosed amount (although it’s believed to be circa $650M). The deal is one of Amazon’s largest acquisitions in recent years; The announcement caps off several months of speculation about the fate of Souq.com. Other companies were reportedly interested in the company included eBay, Majid Al Futtaim, and an investment fund chaired by Mohamed Alabbar (Chairman of Emaar and Noon.com).

The Innovation Observer –  March 2017

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s latest startup, aims to create cranial computers for treating diseases and, eventually, building human-computer hybrids and prototype brain implants that can treat diseases like epilepsy, Parkinson’s, or depression. Although there is still a long way to go before we are plugging an AI directly into our brains claims Musk.

Intel will pay $63.54 a share in cash for Mobileye to work together along with BMW to put 40 test vehicles on the road in the second half of 2017, expecting the driverless carsmarket to be worth $70bn by 2030. The joint effort will streamline the progress of the fully autonomous cars making them “data centers on wheels”. Nissan also test-drove a converted Leaf vehicle and hopes its driverless cars be available by 2020.

Blue Origin plans to launch its first crewed flight to suborbital space soon after it made history by landing its uncrewed New Shepard rocket in a test flight to suborbital space. It was the first successfully completed vertical takeoff and landing with a reusable rocket during a mission to space. Both Blue Origin and SpaceX are developing heavy-lift rockets and also aim to launch moon missions in the next few years. Now Blue Origin has the suborbital New Shephard and engineers are working on an orbital vehicle that is scheduled to fly by 2020.

DeepMind announced its breakthrough overcoming a key limitation affecting the most promising machine learning technologies: software’s inability to remember. This may open the way for AI systems to be more easily applied to multiple tasks and also to improve their ability to transfer knowledge between tasks and master a sequence of linked steps. Researchers created algorithm called Elastic Weight Consolidation that came close to human-level performance in learning Atari games.

The Innovation Observer –  February 2017

Biologists from California Institute of Technology and UC San Diego just made a huge breakthrough in cancer research. The crux of the treatment is the way it inhibits cancer cells’ cleanup mechanisms by targeting proteasome that acts as a sort of garbage disposal and inhibit it to fully destroy bad proteins, make it hard for cancerous cells to survive thus turning them into self-destruct.

The British tech giant Dyson (known for its appliances such as vacuum cleaners) has just invested some $412 million in a new IoT research facility in Singapore as a big piece of future where “everything is automatic”. Last year, it made a first foray into the Internet of Things, with an air purifier connected to an app, the ultimate “dream is much rather that everything is automatic, and sets itself for you to your preference,” Dyson said.

Two artificial intelligence systems built by Google are able to transform a heavily pixelated, low quality, image into a clear photo or a person or object. Scientists were able not only enhance picture’s resolution, but to add missing details in the process using PixelCNN. In a test on group of participants, 10% believed the artificially-created shot was taken by a camera rather than the true, low res image.

Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) seems to have created the first machine generated interlingua’, by itself, with no human direction. GNMT system, which uses deep learning to deliver more natural translations between languages was taught to translate English to Japanese and vice versa, English to Korean and also the reverse translation. The researchers discovered GNMT had taught itself to deliver ‘reasonable’ translations of Japanese to Korean – and vice versa – without using English as a bridge.

The Innovation Observer –  January 2017

Philip Morris wants to stop making cigarettes and move to smokeless cigarettes, announcing its first rollout in the UK market. Called IQOS, as a hybrid between analogs and electronic cigarettes. The new device uses real tobacco refills, but instead of burning it to produce hazardous smoke and tar, it heats it to produce tobacco-flavored vapor. The move could represent a major force that could disrupt the entire industry.

Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund ($160bn under management) to replace managers with artificial intelligence. The company is looking to automate their day-to-day decision making. The AI platform will ensure the elimination of human emotional volatility as they have several other automated applications looking to make three-quarters of all management decisions automated within five years.

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance replaces 34 office workers with artificial intelligence. The AI system, based on IBM’s Watson Explorer, is being adopted by several agencies in Japan. The technology has the ability to read thousands of medical certificates, medical histories, and any surgical procedures before calculating payouts. The company believes AI can boost productivity by 30% and achieve ROI in less than 2 years.

As of January 1, 2017, all Dutch electric trains are powered by wind energy. The Dutch railways company NS is the world’s first railway company that gets 100% of its power from wind. Starting in 2017, NS Dutch trains are giving travelers – 600,000 daily – the opportunity to travel truly clean, with no CO2-emissions and expects the energy used per passenger per kilometer reduced by 35% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

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The Innovation Observer –  December 2016

Bill Gates announced the creation of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with a fund of more than $1Bn to invest in scientific breakthroughs to overcome challenges in electricity, buildings, manufacturing, transportation and food. The coalition is formed by Jeff Bezos, Marc Benioff, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, Richard Branson, Hasso Plattner, Jack Ma, among other business leaders.

Amazon UK made the first full autonomous drone delivery, reaching their customer in just 13 minutes. Amazon revealed their plans to expand their experiment to hundreds of users.

Dubai Future Accelerators Program ends its first cycle with a success rate of 64%. Dubai has invested around $32M in 19 projects lead by private sector companies in education, health, infrastructure, transportation, technology, energy, and security. The second stage to be launched in 2017 will be joined up with 5 new government entities bringing the total number of participating organizations to 13.

Careem becomes the second ‘unicorn’ in the Arab World after raising $350 Million to reach a $1Bn valuation. The investment is lead by Saudi Telecom and Japanese Rakuten. Careem has expanded into 48 cities in KSA where women make up around 80% of its customer base contributing in average monthly growth rate of 30%.

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The Innovation Observer –  November 2016

Hyperloop One signed an agreement with the Road and Transports Authority of Dubai to test the feasibility of connecting Dubai with a number of cities. The Hyperloop could reduce travel time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi to less than 12 minutes, and to Riyadh to less than 48 mins.

Dubai Water and Electricity Authority plans to pilot a project that uses robots to remotely inspect the electricity and water distribution network. This technology makes no need for humans inspection. Dewa’s customer base has risen to 730K accounts in the past 3 years. The market of drones and robots used in utility grid infrastructure is projected to reach $9.6B in 2025.

Samsung Electronics is buying automotive electronics maker Harman International Industries for $8bn, its largest acquisition up to date. On a move to make a major entry into the Internet-connected cars industry, Gartner forecasts that by 2020, one in five cars will have a form of wireless connection.

Imperial College London scientists have developed a type of HIV test on a USB stick, which enables detection in average time of 20.8 minutes instead of the current test that takes up to 3 days and needs to be sent abroad. This device could revolutionize detection of the disease in countries with the highest numbers of HIV infections, where traditional testing form does not exist at all.

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The Innovation Observer –  October 2016

Foxconn has deployed 40,000 robots in order to replace 60,000 employees in one of its factories due to increase of labor costs and younger generation’s lack of interest in production line employment. This is perceived as a glimpse of a future shift in manufacturing practices from labour to mass production robots. Foxconn is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer.

Otto truck, owned by UBER, has made the world’s first autonomous truck delivery through Colorado on a 120 miles stretch of highway. Otto’s system offers true ‘Level 4’ autonomy (the automate system can control the vehicle but human supervision is still required). The ultimate frontier in automation is just one level. away.

Dubai Police becomes the first Police worldwide to have implemented a robotic police officer. This represents the first pilot, towards a larger deployment in 2017, of interactive police patrolling robots.

Commonwealth Bank, Wells Fargo and Brighann Cotton, have become the first pioneers of using blockchain and smart contracts, in an international trade transaction, by moving a container (with all associated transactions on all sides exchanged digitally without human input, i.e. contracts, payments, etc.) of cotton from Houston (USA) to Qingdao (China). 90% of world trade is carried by sea.

The Innovation Observer –  September 2016

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The Innovation Observer –  August 2016

DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, announced to have signed an MoU with Hyperloop One, with an initial focus on moving containers from ships docked at DP World’s flagship Jebel Ali Port through the Hyperloop tube to an inland container depot in Dubai 29 kilometers away.

Rolls-Royce has revealed plans for unmanned ship by 2020. The Advanced Autonomous Waterborne Applications Initiative which brings together university researchers, ship designers, and equipment manufacturers, has been testing the technology in Finland. 90% of the world’s cargo is carried by sea.

Dubai Future Foundation launched the Dubai Future Accelerator Program, an open innovation platform with challenges of DEWA, RTA, Dubai Police, Dubai Holding, DHA & KHDA. On its first cycle it received 2220 applications from companies of 73 countries.

Google announced that is about to launch a ride-sharing pilot program in San Francisco bay area using as backbone its Waze platform (which acquired in 2013). The service will enter into direct competition with Uber and Lyft in the USA

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The Innovation Observer – Week: July 16st to July 31th  2016

The Dubai ride-sharing app Careem is teaming up with a US company Next Future Transportation to launch the region’s first driverless pods for public transit. Pods can drive solo or attached to other pods on the road so that passengers can transfer on the fly, without stopping.

Facebook carried out the first full-scale test flight of Aquila, a high-altitude solar-powered unmanned aircraft designed to provide Internet access to remote regions for up to three months. The next steps for the company are to fly the aircraft even higher, faster, and longer.

Falcon 9 rocket returned safely to Earth, touching down at Landing Zone 1 after launching the Dragon spacecraft into low-Earth orbit. This is the second such landing at Cape Canaveral by a returning Falcon 9 rocket.

The landing of Solar Impulse 2 in Abu Dhabi, after a flight around the globe using zero conventional fuel and supported instead entirely by solar power, was a historic achievement not short of symbolic value, and it presages a future with a greater reliance on renewable energy resources.

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The Innovation Observer – Week: July 1st to July 15th  2016

Nintendo valuation skyrocketed 63.7% (US $ 11bn) in just 10 days. The introduction of an innovative mobile game based on augmented reality, Pokemon GO turned around the company and moved it from a hardware company into a truly digital one. In addition this represents the first major breakthrough of augmented reality technology.

The developer behind Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, Miral, announced a partnership with skyTran, a NASA Space Act Company, to launch a personal rapid transit (PRT) system within the island based on magnetic levitation technology.

Delivery robots will soon be hitting the streets of London, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Bern. Starships Technologies announced they will roll out delivery bots at kitchens, delivery hubs, and supermarket, and will be distributing orders of Just Eat, Pronto, and Metro Group.

Tesla announced it is acquiring Solar City, a major installer of solar panels, which accounts for a third of the US solar energy market. Tesla’s move represents an attempt to expand its services across the value chain, from energy generation to storage.

The Innovation Observer – Week: April 16th to May 08th  2016

HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, made two major announcements: (1) Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, which aims to accomplish 25% of all car trips to be driverless, as well as position Dubai as the world’s largest R&D lab for driverless transportation. (2) Additionally, he has an aspiration of having 25% of all buildings to be constructed in Dubai in 3D printing technology.

Linde, the industrial gases company, is getting into the transportation business by launching the world’s first car-sharing service using hydrogen cars: BeeZero in Munich.

Abu Dhabi’s Masdar and Spanish developer FRV have shattered all records for the cost of solar with Earth’s largest 800 MW Phase III solar power plant in Dubai when they submitted the lowest bid to DEWA to build, own, and operate the plant for 25 years, with its bid coming as low as $2.99 cents per kWh.

Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber, and Volvo joined forces in the USA to create a lobby group (The Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets). The coalition aims to influence regulations that will allow for rapid penetration of autonomous vehicle technology into the market.

The Innovation Observer – Week: April 1st – 15th 2016

Tesla Motors e launched its Model 3, achieving 130,000 pre-orders in the first 24 hours and 270,000 in 72 hours. When placed into perspective, it took Nissan 3 years to sell 300,000 Electric Vehicles.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston have developed a bendable smartphone could presage the future of computing. The ReFlex is the world’s first full-colour, high-resolution, and wireless flexible smartphone that combines multi-touch technology with a bendable surface.

Du becomes the first Telco in the GCC that has announced trials of a Li-Fi, Ta new technology that could offer download speeds of around 1 gigabyte per second, by using LED light bulb.

BOOM Technology,  an aerospace startup based in Colorado, backed by Richard Branson, announced its plan to build a supersonic Concorde-like jet, to be delivered for Virgin Airlines, which has taken an option to buy 10 jets. The prototype is expected to be ready in 2017.

The Innovation Observer – Week: March – 16th to 31th 2016

Tesla Motors e launched its Model 3, achieving 130,000 pre-orders in the first 24 hours and 270,000 in 72 hours. When placed into perspective, it took Nissan 3 years to sell 300,000 Electric Vehicles.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston have developed a bendable smartphone could presage the future of computing. The ReFlex is the world’s first full-colour, high-resolution, and wireless flexible smartphone that combines multi-touch technology with a bendable surface.

Du becomes the first Telco in the GCC that has announced trials of a Li-Fi, Ta new technology that could offer download speeds of around 1 gigabyte per second, by using LED light bulb.

BOOM Technology,  an aerospace startup based in Colorado, backed by Richard Branson, announced its plan to build a supersonic Concorde-like jet, to be delivered for Virgin Airlines, which has taken an option to buy 10 jets. The prototype is expected to be ready in 2017.

The Innovation Observer – Week: March – 1th to 15th 2016

Dubai Masdar has launched the world’s 1st research facility to grow both food and fuel, using desert lands irrigated by seawater. The research facility uses coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, of which nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilizes plants rich in oils that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production.

Boeing introduces new self-cleaning airplane bathroom. Using a frequency of far UV light that obliterates 99.99 percent of bacteria and viruses after every use. The new bathrooms could revolutionize airplane comfort.

GM buys self-driving car kit startup Cruise and plans to use tech to make driverless cars. The move is part of GM’s strategy to get a leadership position  in the driverless car industry as several of the major car manufacturers are now racing to implement this type of technology.

Researchers from HRL Laboratories claim to have developed a simulator which can feed information directly into a person’s brain and teach them new skills in a shorter amount of time. This represents a first small step into a technology that revolutionize new human learning.

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The Innovation Observer – Week: February – 19th to 29th 2016

Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) installed 100 smart bus shelters equipped with free Wi-Fi and A/C, and smart stations to pay public & private services bills.

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (Arpa-E) – a branch of the USA Department of Energy – says it has achieved the “holy grail” of energy. The projects incubated by them have yielded the largest storage capacity up-to-date, the technology promises to transform utility-scale storage and grid-scale batteries.

The University of Maryland has developed a satellite based image processing technology synchronized to an alert app, which detects illegal logging within hours after trees start falling. This could be a game changer to stop illegal deforestation.

Nissan’s Electric Vehicle Leaf has been reported to be the first EV to be easily hacked through using the car’s app, opening up the debate of potential threats associated with electric and smart vehicles.

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The Innovation Observer – Week: February – 1st to 14th 2016

Reports suggest that Amazon is looking to open physical stores in the near future. It is being rumored that more than 400 physical stores are in the pipeline. Recently Amazon opened its first bookstore in Seattle, USA.

Microsoft finished a 3 month experiment of having placed a data center in an ocean. According to Microsoft placing data centers in the sea will help to reduce large amounts of energy needed to cool them as well as to utilize ocean currents to power them.

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, announced the creation of two new ministries, Tolerance and Happiness, becoming one of the world’s first countries implementing such a structure.

Luxembourg has announced its intention to start with asteroid mining. It would invest in space mining companies and establish a legal framework to assure those engaging in the activity can sustain their yields.

 

Innovation Observer

The Innovation Observer – Week: January – 16th to 31st 2016

Elon Musk’s SpaceX partnered with Aecom, one of the largest construction consultancies, to develop a one-mile test track of the Hyperloop transportation system. The system aims to transport people using levitating pods in a near vacuum tube at speeds of 600 miles per hour with minimum energy consumption.

For the first time, a machine has beaten a top human player on a ‘Go’ game. Go is exponentially more complex than chess, as there are thousand more ways a match can play out. The AI system by Google represents a breakthrough in AI capabilities.

Blue Origin becomes the first space exploration company to reuse a rocket, flying its New Shepard model into space after landing safely again back in West Texas. With this achievement Blue Origin has moved ahead of SpaceX.

Uber is preparing to go live with a full-scale meal delivery service across 10 cities in the US., an expansion that will pressure test the company’s ability to use his network to deliver goods.

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The Innovation Observer: Week: January 1st to 15th 2016

General Motors invests $500M USD on Lyft , becoming the single largest investment by an automaker into a ride-hailing company. As part of the investment, G.M. and Lyft will work on developing an on-demand network of self-driving cars.

Elon Musk, TESLA founder, has said that is “an open secret” that Apple is making a rival electric car. Several TESLA engineers have gone to work for Apple, and Apple has registered many automobile-related domains (i.e. apple.car / apple.auto).

Virtual Reality attracted major attention at the last CES, thanks to Facebook announcement of taking pre-orders for the Oculus, as well as the models displayed by Samsung, Google and HTC. 2016 is being mentioned as the year where VR will finally hit main stream.

IBM and Under Armour partnered to develop the “world’s first complete health and fitness insights app”, providing data analytics capabilities to the info generated by more than 160 million (current) users of Under Armour, and creating the world’s largest health and fitness insight.

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The Innovation Observer – Week: December – 13th to 19th 2016

OpenAI initiative is launched by Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, Amazon Web Services, Infosys, and other major donors, allocating $1 Billion endowment, creating the largest non-for-profit open initiative to give open access to Artificial Intelligence research. It addresses concerns “about future existential risks from advanced AI” and acting as a counterbalance to giants like Google and Facebook.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (former SAAB) announced a $12 billion deal with Chinese leasing company Panda New Energy, to provide 150,000 sedan vehicles, a deal that will create one of the largest EV leasing companies in the world.

Abu Dhabi Technology Development Committee (TDC) & Intel signed an agreement to support TDC’s Innovators Space, through providing access to Intel’s facilities as well as Intel mentors.

A team of Chinese students have modified E.coli, Shewanella and B Subtilit bacteria creating a microbial fuel cell. By feeding the bacteria with sugar, they can generate up to 80 hours of battery power.

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 The Innovation Observer – December – 6th to 12th 2015

Dubai Economic Council, announced the launch of Dubai Global Innovation Centre, a joint initiative with Royal Philips, to expedite Dubai’s transformation into the world capital of innovation.

Google reported to have developed a quantum computer, 100 million times faster than the averaging computer power on the market.

Magic Leap, a secretive augmented reality startup, without products in the market, becomes the world’s largest funded startup, with the promise to layer digital images on top of real world objects.

Air New Zeeland, introduces the first biometric check-in and bag drop at airports.

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity coming from clean energy.

ShiftIN Innovation Observer Dec 6 to 12 2015