Security Sector, AI Score Big in Robot Investments Weekly

Credit: Geralt via Pixabay

April 13, 2018      

In a week designated as “National Robotics Week” in the U.S., it’s appropriate that several robotics and artificial intelligence companies found themselves with some extra cash. Robot systems in the security sector, transportation, manufacturing, and healthcare industries all received funding over the past few weeks.

These robotics investments and more can be found in the RBR Transactions Database, which lets you sort deals by company, industry, technology, or transaction type. Let’s jump right in and see what happened!

Security sector takes center stage

One of the biggest investment announcements this week came from the security sector. The U.S. Army awarded a $429.1 million hybrid contract to both Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America for the development of a Common Robotic System (Individual), or CRS-I.

In layman’s terms, the CRS-I is a “backpack robot” that weighs less than 25 pounds and features a common platform so “operators in the field can quickly reconfigure it for various missions by adding or removing different modules and payloads,” stated Chelmsford, Mass.-based Endeavor Robotics.

Endeavor Robotics’ PackBot

The two security sector companies will compete in a 10-month test of their prototypes, with the Army choosing a winner to carry out the rest of the contract, expected to be completed by Feb. 2, 2027, according to a March 30 press release from the Department of Defense.

Making sure autonomous vehicles are secure from hackers is a high priority, so it’s not surprising to see investments from the venture capital sector in companies that create vehicle cybersecurity. Karamba Security announced a $10 million investment from Silicon Valley-based Western Technology Investment (WTI), bringing total investment in the company to $27 million.

The company’s software products include Carwall and SafeCAN. The systems are designed to prevent cyberattacks, with zero false positives, for in-vehicle endpoints and the internal messaging bus. Karamba said it is engaged with 17 original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 customers for its software.

The Israeli company said it plans to use the new funding for “inorganic growth, including acquiring companies and technology assets to accelerate its Autonomous Security portfolio progress.”

The security sector also extends to the big responsibility of protecting devices in the Internet of Things (IoT). Enterprise IoT security company Armis announced a $30 million Series B investment, led by Red Dot Capital Partners, with Bain Capital Ventures joining. With that investment, the company has raised $47 million.

Armis said it will use the funding to meet demand for its technologies, expand sales and marketing, and further develop its security platform. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s agentless software provides visibility of every device in an enterprise’s environment. It analyzes and classifies devices and their behavior to identify risks or attacks. Armis said the software doesn’t create any additional hardware, and it can integrate into any environment or existing infrastructure.

Alibaba bets big on AI

Chinese firm SenseTime announced it raised $600 million in Series C funding, led by Alibaba Group with participation from Temasek and Suning. The company said it “once again set a new record for venture capital funding in the AI sector,” having raised $410 million in its Series B funding in July 2017.

SenseTime said it will use the funding to “accelerate the development of a global footprint with a larger ecosystem incorporating both domestic and overseas partners,” as well as “widen the scope for more industrial application of AI.”

The company’s high-performance, deep learning supercomputing platform boasts more than 8,000 GPUs. It is able to support building models with hundreds of billions of parameters, and train billions of images, SenseTime said. It includes applications such as facial and image recognition, autonomous driving, medical imaging, and deep learning hardware optimization.

Self-driving investment continues

Despite recent bad headlines around self-driving car accidents, investments continue within that space. Crunchbase this week reported that Comma.ai, which develops hardware and software for “self-driving enthusiasts to access their cars’ internal sensors and communication hubs,” raised another $5 million in external funding. Citing an SEC filing, Crunchbase said it was unclear who invested in the round. However, Andreesen Horowitz led Comma’s initial $3.1 million seed round in April 2016.

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Moving from the land to the sea, Houston Mechatronics this week raised $20 million in Series B funding from two oil and gas companies. The company creates autonomous undersea vehicles called Aquanauts that can operate more than 3,000 meters underwater without a surface vessel or tether.

Health care and surgical spending

In addition to the security sector and self-driving funding, there was big news on the surgical robotics front this week. Medtronic announced it plans to buy Israel-based Visionsense, which makes medical visualization software and minimally invasive surgical devices, mainly for brain surgery.

According to this article, Visionsense was created by Avi Yaron, an electrical engineer and entrepreneur who was treated for a brain tumor after being involved in a motorcycle accident (the tumor was unrelated to the accident).

After being told by doctors that small fragments of the tumor remained that couldn’t be removed by existing means, Yaron set out to develop an imaging device that would let doctors carry out the surgery.

After two years, Yaron developed a device. At the same time doctors had succeeded in removing the rest of the tumor, “after a series of awkward surgeries, which would have been much more straightforward and safer using Visionsense’s product.”

Singapore-based startup NDR Medical Technology received investment from SGInnovate. The company combines AI, robotics and computer vision for surgical procedures. Its Automated Needle Targeting smart robotic guiding system uses AI and image processing to “help surgeons visualize the 3D location of the target lesion in the patient’s body,” according to a Deal Street Asia article on the announcement.

Wrapping up the rest

Here are the rest of recent investments in the robotics and AI space:

See you next week!