[TechCONNECT] Atlanta Tech News Roundup | June 2020
The world can feel like a pretty unpredictable place right now. That’s why we’re committed to bringing Atlanta the best in tech news every single week. Hosted by Titania Jordan, TechCONNECT is where tech leaders turn to stay informed on all things business and tech.
Trending: Atlanta's Top Tech Stories
Hypepotamus Editor-in-Chief Believes Technology Can Unite Communities
The Hypepotamus Editor-in-Chief recently sent out an email saying, “Technology has an ongoing responsibility to be an ally for justice, and good for humanity. As we see that brutality, while universal in some ways, has a particular affinity for African-Americans, we should strive to see ourselves as a human family. In our differences we should also recognize our similarities. We are neighbors, coworkers, citizens and members of a community that is bigger than our region, country and continent.” While this is only a short excerpt from his powerful statement, our hope is that it resonates with members of the tech community. To read his full statement click here.
Atlanta Funding News
Atlanta Startup Raises $10M
FullStory, an Atlanta-based customer experience software company, has closed a $10 million round, bringing the company’s total funding to $67 million. Founded in 2014 by former Google engineers, FullStory reported in April of last year that it has seen a fourfold increase in their workforce since 2017. This software startup provides companies with insights into the digital experiences of their customers, which include product management, software development, marketing and customer support and success teams. Some of FullStory’s clients include Jane.com, Wistia, zenstores, WayUp and Thredup. To learn more about FullStory and their recent funding round, click here.
Atlanta Companies and Tech Leaders On the Move
Atlanta-Based Americold Expands into New Zealand
Atlanta-based Americold Realty Trust, the world's largest publicly traded real estate investment trust, is investing nearly $42 million in expanding a site in Auckland, New Zealand. Americold is focused on the ownership, operation, and development of temperature-controlled warehouses. As of late March, the company owned and operated 183 warehouses with about 1.1 billion cubic feet of refrigerated storage in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Argentina. The expansion in Auckland, which is predicted to take about 12 months, will increase Americold’s existing sites capacity by about 4.6 million cubic feet and about 27,000 pallet positions. Upon completion, the facility will have 20 additional dock doors and semi-automated container unloading technology. Americold ranks in Georgia's top 10 transportation companies by estimated sales among giants like UPS Supply Chain Solutions, SAIA LTL Freight, and Capstone Logistics LLC. To learn more about the company’s success and plan for the future, click here.
Shout-Out to Andy Goldstrom on the Release of His New Book
We want to give a huge shout-out to former guest of the show Andy Goldstrom (you can watch that TechConnect episode right here) on the release of his new book Grow Like a Pro Lessons from a 2x Inc. 500 Executive. Check out this praise from Michael Coles Co-Founder of Great American Cookies and former CEO of Caribou Coffee, “Andy’s ability to focus on what not to do is a unique approach to thinking about starting or running your business. I have had the opportunity to see Andy in action. He brings passion and experience and has been able to put that into his very engaging book. Do yourself a favor and read the book. You don’t want to be an example of what not to do.” Congratulations again, Andy!
COVID-19 Related News
How Startups Are Finding Funding During COVID-19
Entrepreneurs across the board agree that they are facing a difficult funding environment as the COVID-19 pandemic is playing a big role in investors not writing as many checks right now. When Israel’s customer research startup Wizer Feedback surveyed more than 100 venture capital funds back in March, more than half said that they are either halting new investments altogether or significantly cutting back. They also believe that this environment would last 12 months. So how are founders responding? For San Francisco-based satellite communications startup Capella Space, the solution has been winning government contracts. In fact, Capella Space recently signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to sell its services to the U.S. Navy. For other startups like Nesh, a smart assistant for the oil and gas industry, they are using this time to expand into other energy sectors, such as renewables and refineries, even releasing a free version of its platform. Click here to learn more about how startups are finding funding during COVID-19.
New Quarantine Essentials
New technology that became essential to us during lockdown will have long-standing effects on our habits even after restrictions are lifted. Of these include the multitude of exercise in place options. Before the pandemic, sweating profusely next to other fitness fanatics in a dark room with loud music was an experience worth $30 a class. Subscription apps now offer at-home practice for a fraction of what a studio costs. When compared to a gym membership or studio classes, even Peloton’s high-tech stationary bike could ultimately save you money, especially when shared by a household. Many people have also ditched their daily cup of coffee from Starbucks for the Breville Bambino Plus, and at $500, the automated espresso maker/milk frother combo is equivalent to three or four months of daily latte runs and will effectively be paid off soon. It is no secret that COVID-19 has changed our economy, but it has also greatly impacted the way we work, travel, and learn. Check out the full list of game-changing gadgets that we don’t plan to give up when quarantine is lifted by clicking here.
New Perks for Remote Workers
As many companies enter the third month of working from home, employers are toying with new perks that might address some of the struggles that remote workers are facing. Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. started giving employees access to meditation and mindfulness services from Headspace Inc. in April. Some 9,000 of the company’s workers have tried it, spending more than 500,000 minutes on the app. Lindsay Crittendon, head of the Headspace for Work program said, “Businesses are increasingly seeing the importance of addressing the impact that chronic stress has on people—or on their bottom lines from lost productivity, healthcare spend and attrition.” Other companies are also trying to compensate for the loss of perks tied to the office, like free lunches and gym memberships. The financial software company BlackLine Inc., for instance, had contributed to employees’ memberships to ClassPass Inc., which allows users to take classes at a variety of gyms and studios. Meadows Office Interiors, which is headquartered in New York, is replacing “Wine Wednesdays” and “Pizza Fridays” with SnackMagic, allowing employees to choose $45 worth of snacks delivered to their homes. Click here to learn more about how companies are trying to find perks to help remote workers deal with new pressures.
Trending: Top National Tech Stories
A Real Expense for High-Speed Internet
Federal policymakers are pushing to spend billions of dollars to close gaps in America’s high-speed internet network. There’s one big obstacle—government officials say they don’t know exactly where service gaps exist, meaning parts of the country will be left out when it is time to distribute the funds. While the FCC estimates more than 94% of Americans—or about 309 million people—have access to high-speed internet services, that number is based on flawed data from internet service providers.The FCC requires these companies to report that they serve a census block if they can reach even a single home or business there. If one of your neighbors has a broadband connection, the FCC might count your house as having broadband, too—even if the local internet service provider can’t reach you. Click here to learn more about how the FCC’s latest plan to fund internet-service providers expansions will inadvertently affect many rural customers.
Telemedicine is in the Forefront for Investment Dollars
Prior to 2010, hardly any venture capital investments were in health care technology. By 2018, $17 billion of capital was flowing to health tech startups. Certain areas of digital health investment are having a moment right now, especially in telemedicine, as doctor visits went virtual while everyone sheltered in place. While previous investment reports showed that telemedicine was not high on the list for investment dollars, it has now become a bright spot due to COVID-19. That, coupled with better adoption, a more favorable regulatory environment, interoperability, and user experience, means digital health is clearly here to stay. Read more about how the pandemic may have given digital health the boost it needed to move past the hype and toward widespread adoption by clicking here.
Coral Manta is the “Seat Belt for Your Pool”
The coronavirus pandemic has driven a rise in backyard pool sales, but this surge in demand also increases the risk in drowning. A new report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision states that the number of children under 15 dying from drowning has been increasing, and drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death in children under 4. Plus the majority of these deaths occur in June, July, and August mostly in backyard pools, but the Coral Manta 3000 aims to help prevent these tragedies. Also known as the seatbelt for your pool, the Coral Manta is the first and only artificial intelligence-based drowning prevention system. While existing pool safety devices such as fences, pool covers, or mechanical alarms merely attempt to prevent unauthorized access to the pool, they become useless when someone is already in the pool. In contrast, the Coral Manta uses AI software and an underwater video camera to analyze, detect, and track all people in the pool 24/7 by utilizing an advanced algorithm to monitor and alert upon any entrance to the water and, more importantly, upon detection of risk of drowning. Click here to watch a demo of the product in action.
NASA Plans to Send a Water-Seeking Robot to the Moon
NASA’s water-seeking robotic moon rover just booked a $199.5 million ride to the Moon’s South Pole. NASA selected Astrobotic of Pittsburgh to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon in 2023. As part of the reward, Astrobotic is responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its Griffin lander, launch from Earth, and landing on the Moon. The nearly 1000 pound rover will collect data – including the location and concentration of ice – that will be used to create the first global water resource maps of the Moon. Its survey will help determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested to sustain long-term robotic and human presence on the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Click here to learn more about NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiatives.
AR Goggles Could be Arriving Sooner Than We Think
While some smartphone-based applications of augmented reality have become wildly popular, the adoption of AR goggles has long lagged behind the hype; however, in several industries, augmented reality has transitioned from an intriguing experiment to an everyday tool, during the pandemic. This has widened the industrial adoption of a technology that many argue hasn’t measured up to its promise in the consumer market. The technology, which imposes digital images onto views of the real world, allows specialists and managers to show colleagues what to do without standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them. At Intel Corp. for example, an engineering manager was able to repair a faulty machine at the corporation’s chip plant in Arizona. The plant’s engineering expert, who was stuck in Germany due to COVID-19 flight restrictions, was able to peer through his colleague’s AR goggles and walk him through the process of recalibrating the machine. This ultimately allowed production to be completed on schedule. This single example shows the true value of augmented reality, especially in a world where business travel and direct human interaction are restricted. Click here to read more examples of how significant AR technology has been throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
New Rules and Regulations for the Modern Internet
Due to the realities of the modern internet, the Department of Justice has announced that the time is ripe to realign the scope of Section 230. Section 230 refers to the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which was created in the internet’s infancy and offers immunities to platforms like Facebook and Twitter for content published by their users. The Justice Department’s proposals aim to weaken legal protections for online platforms. Especially ones that intentionally facilitate illegal activity, and strip immunity for third-party content related to cyberstalking, terrorism, illegal drugs and child exploitation. The Department of Justice is also trying to target platforms like WhatsApp that make it impossible for the service provider to moderate content. In order to be protected under Section 230, “an internet platform must respect public safety by ensuring its ability to identify unlawful content or activity occurring on its services,” the justice department said. It also sought to require companies to “maintain the ability to assist government authorities to obtain content”. To learn more about the Justice Department’s review of Section 230, click here.
AI Model Imitates Motions of Stitching up Wounds
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Intel Corp. have taught an artificial-intelligence model how to imitate the motions of stitching up wounds and surgical incisions. During training, the researchers programmed the model to pay attention to specific parts of images, such as needle insertion and threading movements. After learning from about 80 video demonstrations, the AI algorithm was able to imitate surgical suturing motions almost perfectly in both a virtual simulation and using a surgical robot. While there is no sign that robots will be stitching up humans anytime soon, an autonomous robot that could free surgeons from repetitive surgical tasks would be beneficial if it could improve the quality of an outcome. Click here to read about the different methods of training autonomous robots.
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