Robot Investments Weekly: Machine-Learning March Madness, Lyft Gets a Boost

Credit: DasWortgewand via Pixabay

March 16, 2018      

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament started this week, but the real “March Madness” might be in the artificial intelligence space. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen several machine learning investments around the world as companies make their shot at grabbing a piece of this market.

In addition, we’ve seen money pouring into self-driving car and drone companies, as well as agriculture and more manufacturing transactions. These investments and more can be found in the RBR Transactions Database, which lets you sort transactions by company, industry, technology category, or transaction type.

The biggest recent news was the $550 million acquisition of Kensho Technologies by S&P Global. The Wall Street giant said the acquisition will “enhance its ability to deliver essential, actionable insights that will transform the user experience for its clients, and accelerate efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness of its core internal operations.” Kensho provides AI, machine learning, data visualization systems, and analytics to global banks and investment groups.

It’s interesting to see financial firms take an interest in AI as a way to become more efficient in its operations, and proves again how valuable next-generation analytics have become. For its part, S&P Global continues to invest in financial technology companies – last year, it invested in Algomi and Ursa Space Systems. Earlier this year, it announced plans to acquire Panjiva, which provides analytics around the global supply chain.

Another big machine learning move came from Goldman Sachs Growth Equity, which led a $40 million Series D funding round for Moogsoft, which provides AI for IT operations (AIOps). The company, which has raised $90 million so far, said it will use the latest money to increase sales and marketing efforts, research and development, and new product development.

According to Gartner Research, AIOps platforms are software systems that “combine big data and machine learning functionality to support IT operations.” The research firm predicts that by 2022, 40% of all large enterprises will combine big data and machine learning functions to either support or partially replace monitoring, service desk and automation processes, up from 5% in 2017.

It’s not just Wall Street getting into the AI game. Chinese machine-learning startup TaoData this week announced a Series B funding of RMB 100 million ($15.8 million), led by Fosun International.

TaoData uses automated machine-learning engines to perform data cleaning, knowledge discovery, performance analysis, and model deployment and updating. It can also choose the “optimal algorithm to run the data from the company’s algorithm library.”

Another AI-related announcement — Chicago-based Ocient announced a $10 million Series A funding. The company, which is building a relational database and analytics platform for petabyte- to exabyte-scale data sets, said it will use the money to grow its engineering team, continue the software development and launch an on-site development lab. Ocient said its platform “can hold quadrillions of rows of data, ingress at speeds of billions of rows per second, and filter and complete results at rates of up to trillions of rows per second.”

Lyft and Magna join forces to create more self-driving cars

It wouldn’t be 2018 without mentioning some more investment in the self-driving vehicle space. This week, Lyft announced a $200 million investment from Magna, one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers. The two companies announced a multi-year collaboration to develop and manufacture self-driving systems. Teaming up with Magna lets Lyft create self-driving systems at scale, something they would find more difficult on their own.

Magna image radar Lyft robotics investment

Credit: Magna International

According to the announcement:

  • Lyft will lead the co-development at its Palo Alto, Calif.-based self-driving engineering center.
  • Magna will lead manufacturing onsite, and it will provide vehicle systems knowledge, safety, and other manufacturing expertise.
  • The two companies will share jointly created intellectual property and use Lyft’s data to improve the systems.

The companies said they expect to be market-ready “over the next few years,” and their technology will be deployed across the industry through Magna.

Boeing involved in drone-detection systems

Switching from the ground to the skies, drone maker Fortem Technologies announced $15 million in Series A funding led by Data Collective (DCVC), with participation from Boeing. Fortem creates a high-performance radar system that can detect airborne objects.

The TrueView radar system is “small enough to be deployed on an aircraft to allow customers to build intrinsically safe air taxis and helicopters, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles that can operate autonomously beyond visual line of sight.”

The company is also building a ground-based intelligent airspace monitoring systems to help protect active “Drone No Fly Zones” that can span across a large region through a network of mobile and fixed locations. Fortem said its radar system can simultaneously track thousands of objects travelling at high velocity across a 360-degree field of view.

Australian government invests in agtech

Rounding up the big investments this week was an announcement from the Australian government. From Victoria, the government announced a AU$15 million ($11.58 million U.S.) investment to install Internet of Things sensors for farmer and public access, as well as on-farm robotics, wireless technology, virtual fencing and biotechnology.

Sensors and devices will be used to control farm operations, with data uploaded through nodes and gateways, giving farmers real-time results and analysis. The government said it expects to see benefits for its dairy, grains, sheep, and horticulture areas.

Last-second shots – other recent investments

The shot-clock is winding down, and our bracket has been busted. Here are other recent investments that caught our attention:

This week’s Cinderella story is over, folks. See you next week, where we’ll lay off the basketball references.