Hyundai to develop mini electric car, electric scooter

Hyundai Motor will start developing a one-seater electric car and an electric scooter, according to a media report, as the South Korean automaker seeks to expand into the burgeoning “smart mobility” industry.

Devising smarter ways to get around — known in the industry as smart mobility — looks set to become a new battleground for automakers as urbanization grows, pollution worsens, and more cars clog up cities in emerging markets.

The plan is part of Hyundai’s future mobility project IONIQ unveiled by the automaker’s heir apparent and vice chairman Chung Eui-sun at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday, Korea Economic Daily said, citing a company official.

Hyundai is also working on a wearable robot to help senior citizens move around, the report said.

A Hyundai spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.


Robotics firm Systemantics gets next round of funding from Nandan Nilekani

Robotics firm Systemantics gets next round of funding from Nandan Nilekani
Robotics firm Systemantics, which builds industrial robots for the manufacturing sector, has raised another round of funding from venture capital giant Accel Partners and Infosys cofounder Nandan Nilekani, a few years after it received backing from investors such as Blume Ventures.

Systemantics, which was founded by IIT-Madras alumni Jagannath Raju in 1995, raised the latest round a few months ago. ET could not immediately verify the exact terms of the latest round of investment.

The latest investment in Systemantics will mark at least the seventh venture that has been backed by Nilekani, who has actively invested in early-stage startups that he believes are building disruptive ideas which are “highly impactful”.

Over the past 12 months, Nilekani has also backed Team Indus, Fortigo, Mubble, Juggernaut, Lets-Venture and Power2SME. Nilekani has co-invested in a number of these ventures with Accel, including Fortigo and Power2SME. “I do a few, very select investments. If I feel something is highly impactful, then I like to get involved — for example, look at Team Indus. An Indian company landing a rover on the moon is something great. Somebody who has a stretch goal like that or somebody who’s making an ecosystem or creating scale in some way, I look for those kind of things. And where there is an original idea. So I’m very selective about my investments,” Nilekani had said in an interview with ETlast July.

Anand Daniel, a partner at Accel Partners India, declined to comment. When contacted, Raju confirmed that Accel and Nilekani had recently backed Systemantics.

Over the course of the past two decades, Systemantics, which likes to keep a low profile, has quietly worked on custom robotics projects with the Government, as well as with companies such as Titan and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). Systemantics is currently building robotics products for the industrial and manufacturing sectors.

“Systemantics is Make In India truly at work — with India’s cost structure advantages and innovative design efficiency at full strength. This core belief drove our decision to back them. Their seasoned management team’s executional ability, coupled with deep-tech IP, could eventually challenge global incumbents,” said Sanjay Nath, managing partner at Blume Ventures, which had backed Systemantics in 2013.

The investment in Systemantics comes at a time when early-stage investing in India continues to scale new highs, although larger so-called “unicorns” including home-grown poster boys such as Flipkart are struggling to raise larger follow-on rounds, amid fears of a valuation bubble.

US Department of Energy to give Tesla a run for its money

The battery division of Musk's Tesla Motors turned a profit in the fourth quarter.A wing of the US Department of Energy focused on breakthrough technologies may soon give billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s most recent foray into energy storage a run for its money, the unit’s director said.

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, which funds projects meant to transform energy markets, has made huge strides over the last few years on next-generation batteries that could make electric cars and renewable energy cheaper and more accessible, Ellen Williams said in an interview this week.

The battery division of Musk’s Tesla Motors turned a profit in the fourth quarter, after the first shipments of its rechargeable products helped to reduce losses from the company’s auto business. Its Powerwall batteries store energy that homes and small businesses generate with solar panels. The Powerpack model is designed for large commercial facilities.

Williams said her agency has helped kickstart a dozen high-risk projects based on newer technologies that could soon outperform Tesla batteries.

“What Musk has done that is creative and important is drive the learning curve. He’s decided to take an existing, pretty powerful battery technology and start producing it on a very large scale,” she said.

“But it’s not technology innovation in the sense of creating new ways of doing it. We are pretty well convinced that some of our technologies have the potential to be significantly better,” Williams said.

Batteries are in a “Wild West” phase, said Colin Wessells, chief executive of Alveo Energy, a San Francisco area startup developing a high power, long lifecycle battery technology for renewable energy and microgrids, or localized groupings of energy providers.

Only five energy grid storage batteries have been commercialized as researchers and budding entrepreneurs race to bring new technologies to market, he noted.

Wessells, whose company has ARPA-E support, said huge manufacturing advances will speed up the commercialization of battery products.

“We are in a burst of innovation right now,” he said at his exhibition stand at the ARPA-E conference outside of Washington this week. “Five years from now there will be a few technologies out there that nobody saw coming.”

ARPA-E is set to get a huge boost after the United States and 19 other countries launched Mission Innovation at the United Nations climate summit in Paris late last year. The governments pledged to double spending on clean energy research and development over the next five years. The United States will boost its overall energy research and development budget to $12.8 billion by 2021.

ARPA-E was launched in 2009 with a budget of $400 million and a mandate to fund the most cutting edge technologies. President Barack Obama’s budget request for 2017 would increase its allocation to $1 billion in five years.

“With that increased budget we can definitely make a difference,” said Williams.


ARPA-E funds projects for three years at a time, focusing on commercializing new and exciting ideas and training researchers to pitch them in ways investors can understand.

This differs from traditional academic research, which tends to take too long, Williams said, noting that scientists “always focus on the next problem.”

“What we do that is very different is we really set a target to get something specific done in a specific period of time,” she said.

Williams said ARPA-E aims to steer projects away from what Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates called a “valley of death” of failures between the early promise of a new energy concept and commercializing it into a viable technology that exists in the clean energy sector.

Gates, who launched a multibillion-dollar clean energy research initiative alongside Mission Innovation in Paris, said last week the money that he and other entrepreneurs will invest in clean energy R&D will “complement government research” to deliver “energy miracles.”

Some of these miracles may come out of ARPA-E supported labs and workshops, Williams said.

Besides energy storage, ARPA-E’s research projects include using robots and drones to help develop more sustainable sorghum-based biofuels, and using sensors to make heating and air conditioning systems more energy efficient.

The agency has funded projects in all 50 states.

“These concepts are way out-there now, but in a few years from now they may be the way things work,” she said.

Pet Tech offers to keep animals safe, healthy and connected

"Pet tech" entrepreneurs and investors see a big opportunity as pet ownership grows.Technology isn’t just for humans anymore. It’s also for their furry friends.

In Silicon Valley and beyond, a growing number of startups are selling devices to keep pets safe, healthy, entertained and connected when their owners are away.

“Pet tech” entrepreneurs and investors see a big opportunity as pet ownership grows and owners show a willingness to spend serious money on their four-legged companions.

Nearly two-thirds of US households, or 80 million homes, have pets, and Americans spent more than $60 billion on them last year, according to the American Pet Products Association.

“The number of pets in the world is growing extremely fast and that opens up the market,” said Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx, a technology market research firm. “I’m sure five years from now there will be all sorts of things we can’t imagine.”

Already, there are devices that let your pets call you (PetChatz), play games and win treats when they’re home alone (CleverPet) and even speak with a human voice (Petspeak).

But as more pet-tech gadgets come to market, experts caution owners against relying on them too much.

“The technology can be useful as an adjunct, a way of enriching your relationship with your pet, but certainly not a substitute for time spent with your dog,” said Pamela Wyman, who runs the DogEvolve training school in Oakland.

The Petzi Treatcam lets Anne Ryan check on her dogs Oscar and Reggie at her Berkeley home when she’s working in San Francisco or traveling out of state.

The Internet connected device lets her see her dogs, talk to them, take photos and even dispense treats — using an app on her phone.

“I turn it on, get to see them, get to talk to them and it changes my mood, and puts me back in a positive frame,” said Ryan said. “I didn’t know that I needed it, but now I don’t think that I could live without it.”

The TreatCam was created by San Jose-based Petzila, which was founded by two veteran technology executives who wanted to get their pets online. The startup also created a social media app that lets owners share pet photos.

“All of the most current crazes and fads in technology were touching everything but the pet,” said CEO David Clark.

Whistle, a San Francisco startup, sells a GPS-enabled Pet Tracker that alerts owners when their pets have left their ‘safe zone’ and helps find them if they get lost. The device also lets owners track how much exercise and sleep their animals are getting.

Ben Jacobs, Whistle’s CEO and co-founder, said the pet-tech market is expanding fast as pets move up the household hierarchy.

“From the yard to the home to the bed — the dog is no longer out as part of the farm, but they’re actually sleeping in bed with you as part of the family,” Jacobs said.

For owners who want their dogs and cats to be more active during the day, the Petcube Camera lets them see and speak to their pets, and play with them with a laser pointer.

Petcube’s Ukranian founders started the company in Kiev, but moved its headquarters to San Francisco to reach a global market.

“If we can connect all the pets to the Internet and basically digitize this space, it will be nothing short of disruption,” said Yaroslav Azhnyuk, Petcube CEO and co-founder. “It will be very big.”

Infosys to collaborate with Microsoft on analytics solutions

IT major Infosys has announced that it will collaborate with Microsoft to deploy advanced analytics solutions to support healthcare organizations in their digital transformation.

Infosys has developed healthcare analytics solutions to augment the current processes and make them more efficient using Microsoft Cortana Analytics Suite, the company said in a statement.

It said Infosys analytics healthcare solutions will enable healthcare professionals to unlock the potential of a wide range of datasets. Insights generated from this will help track population health trends, advance clinical effectiveness and enhance patient satisfaction.
They will also help providers improve operational effectiveness and financial and administrative performance. These solutions use the common healthcare reference architecture that is built on Microsoft technology, it added.
Infosys said through the use of different Microsoft analytics offerings such as Cortana Analytics Suite and SQL Server 2016, organizations will have a compelling and economical alternative to niche analytical products, without having to change their current enterprise storage solution.

These solutions will give enterprises the ability to integrate databases and publish layers with enterprise-grade security, it added.

AT&T to launch 3 new DIRECTV services

<p>DIRECTV Now will offer all content in its current packages, including add-ons, live and on-demand video. DIRECTV Mobile, for smartphone users only, will include premium content and youth-oriented videos. The free, ad-supported DIRECTV Preview will offer content from "AT&T's Audience Network.</p>
AT&T on Tuesday said it will roll out three new ways to stream DIRECTV content on wireless and wired devices from smartphones to PCs, targeted at price-conscious US viewers who shun pricey cable and satellite subscriptions.

The Dallas, Texas-based wireless provider said it expects to launch the three offerings in the fourth quarter of 2016. They can be streamed on apps through any internet or mobile connection, it added.

The first option DIRECTV Now will offer all content in its current packages, including add-ons, live and on-demand video. DIRECTV Mobile, for smartphone users only, will include premium content and youth-oriented videos created by Otter Media, an AT&T joint venture with an investment group headed by media entrepreneur Peter Chernin. Free, ad-supported DIRECTV Preview will offer content from “AT&T’s Audience Network,” which has exclusive original videos, in addition to Otter Media offerings.

Prices will be announced at a later date, a company spokesman said.

AT&T acquired DIRECTV for $48.5 billion last year, making it the world’s No. 1 pay-TV operator with 45 million video subscribers, including Mexico and Latin America, at the end of 2015. It is betting big on video to tap new revenue as the US wireless market stagnates.

The online video market is competitive, with players such as Netflix and new entrants like Dish Network and Verizon Communications rushing to service viewers who increasingly consume video online than through pay-TV services.

AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson hinted in December that his company was planning content packages that can be viewed on a smaller screen, or to a single screen in a home that’s not set-top box-driven.

AT&T executives have said the company has already acquired mobile streaming rights, by leveraging DIRECTV’s relationships and agreements with content providers, for various premium cable channels such as Showtime. It will deploy 40 megahertz of contiguous airwaves to relay content over its network.

“We intend to offer customers a quality pay-TV experience, including top channels, sports and more, with increased value and flexibility of pure online streaming and no need for home installation,” John Stankey, CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group, said in a statement.

Stankey will be speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday morning.

DIRECTV will continue offering its satellite TV package that can also be streamed through an app on mobile devices, in addition to its U-Verse TV and Internet services, the company said.

New satellite programme aims to cut down illegal logging in real time

With the launch of a new satellite mapping system on Wednesday, governments and environmentalists will have access to hard evidence.Taken from outer space, the satellite images show illegal loggers cutting a road into a protected area in Peru, part of a criminal enterprise attempting to steal millions of dollars worth of ecological resources.

With the launch of a new satellite mapping system on Wednesday, governments and environmentalists will have access to hard evidence of these types of crimes almost in real time as part of a push by scientists to improve monitoring of tropical deforestation.

Tropical forests nearly the size of India are set to be destroyed by 2050 if current trends continue, a study warned last year, causing species loss, displacement and a major increase in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

Prior to the launch of the Global Land Analysis and Discovery (GLAD) alerts, researchers would have to manually track images of logging in specific areas.

The new process, developed by scientists at the University of Maryland and Google, uses an algorithm to analyze weekly updates of satellite images and sends automatic notifications about new logging activity.

“This is a game changer,” said Matt Finer from the Amazon Conservation Association, an environmental group.

His organization tracks illegal logging in Peru, sending images of deforestation to policymakers, environmentalists and government officials to try and protect the Amazon rainforest.

In the past, he would rely on tips from local people about encroachment by loggers, then look at older satellite images to try and corroborate the claims.

“With this new data we can focus on getting actionable information to policy makers,” Finer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We have seen how powerful these images can be,” he said, citing a case where his group brought pictures of illegal gold miners cutting down trees to the Peruvian government, who then removed the miners.

University of Maryland professor Matthew Hansen is one of the scientists who developed GLAD, which can track plots of deforestation the size of a basketball court from space.
Initially, GLAD data will only be available for Peru, the Republic of Congo and Indonesia.
“Our challenge this year is to move beyond those three countries,” Hansen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Providing weekly updates on logging and resource projects can help improve local governance, he said, as governments will have documented evidence when protected areas are violated.

We are working with most tier-I auto makers on self-driving cars: TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn

We are working with most tier-I auto makers on self-driving cars: TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn
What kind of work does the Pune centre do for TomTom?
We make digital maps — we have our own personal navigation devices (PND) and also do licensing work for other companies like Apple. The team here works on engineering and map operations. They build the tools which will be used to build the maps, as well as work on building the maps themselves. All our network operations are also monitored from here, as well as internal IT services.

What kind of work do you do for Apple and Uber?
Apple uses our maps and data for providing location-based services, as well as real time traffic information in 50 countries. Our maps are on all Apple devices, except in China and Japan. We licence our maps to other automobile makers as well.

What new areas is TomTom working on?
We are working with most tier-I auto makers on self-driving cars. We are creating maps which are different from the traditional maps, with a higher degree of precision, which will be used to keep the car on the road. There would be sensors through which the car can see other objects on the road as well as positioning technology, accurate to up to five centimetres. There will also be technology in the cars to measure if the road data is still accurate or if the road has changed. While self-drive cars are still a few years away, we could see this technology on the roads soon, used either for enhanced safety features or cruise control.

What are the main business areas for you globally?

We are present in three areas — consumer (PND and wearables), licensing technology to companies like Apple and auto firms, and telematics or fleet management. These contribute 50, 40 and 10% to our revenue respectively, and all segments are growing well for us. After a few slow years, we grew in 2015 and expect this momentum to continue.

How big are your India operations and what are the challenges of creating maps for India?
The current market is small, but we see opportunities for navigation and wearables. There is increased awareness and demand for health and fitness trackers and we are building the market here. Mapping has its challenges and we’ve come up with a sophisticated system to overcome it. Through Mapcode, each location is assigned a number which can be used for navigation purposes. We are also in talks with the Pune administration for helping with real time traffic management using our data as part of their Smart City initiative.

Lava plans to set up R&D facility in Hyderabad

Lava has earmarked Rs 500 crore for its second manufacturing plant in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) which will be set up over 20 acres of land allotted by the government and will be operational in 2017 and will target production capacity of 5 million phones per month once fully functional.Domestic handset maker Lava plans to set up a research and development centre in Hyderabad and the talks with Telangana government are in advanced stage, a senior company official said today.

“We have already submitted an application to Telangana government for setting up an R&D centre and discussions are at an advanced level. Once it gets okayed from the state, we will start a R&D centre in Hyderabad. The plan is to have 200 people at the proposed centre,” Sandeep Dongre, vice president and business unit head – South, told reporters here.

The company already has a R&D facility in Bengaluru with more than 400 employees. “We have decided to invest Rs 200 crore in R&D over the next three years,” he said.

Lava has a manufacturing unit in Noida. The company has earmarked Rs 500 crore for its second manufacturing plant in Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) which will be set up over 20 acres of land allotted by the government and will be operational in 2017 and will target production capacity of 5 million phones per month once fully functional, Dongre said.

Earlier, the company had said it will invest Rs 2,615 crore over the next seven years (over three phases) to set up two manufacturing plants in the country.

“In phase-I, we have invested Rs 56 crore and in phase-II, we will be investing 1,052 crore. In phase-III, we will be completing an investment of Rs 2,615 crore,” he said.
Dongre said in phase-I, the company will be able to produce 2.5 million handsets per month, 5 million a month in phase-II and 18 million handsets per month, he said.

IT production to see $1 billion investment in 18 months

IT production to see $1 billion investment in 18 months: MAIT
IT hardware manufacturers are expected to invest $1 billion in the next 12-18 months if duty structure announced for products like routers, set-top-box for internet etc is implemented in time.

“The change in duty structure will encourage manufacturing of consumer premise equipment like modems, routers, digital video recorders, set-top-boxes and IP cameras. We expect a billion US dollars worth of investment inflows for their local production,” MAIT vice president Nitin Kunkolienker said in a statement.

He said that prices of these products would go down by 8% in the first year itself and by 10% over 18 months. Government has announced to impose tax on some IT accessories that are in huge demand while waived duties on parts or components used to make them.

The Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT) has, however, expressed concern on government meeting only partial demand of industry.

“Budget 2016 has met our demands partially and will help the Indian ICT industry move from assembly to the next level of manufacturing. However, certain products have been missed out, most notably laptops and notebooks and populated Printed Circuit Boards,” MAIT executive director Anwar Shirpurwala said.

He said that in order to create an effective IT-ESDM manufacturing supply chain, it is very important to exclude populated PCBs from the purview of nil rate of duty, that is, the levy of 12.5% counter-veiling duty and 4% special additional duty, where such differential duty benefit is currently extended.

The IT industry body also expressed concern on reduction of research and development incentives in the budget.

“We are disappointed with announcement of R&D incentives reducing because this move could be detrimental in building India as an innovation hub. I strongly urge the government to reconsider this move, as any restrictions on the R&D ecosystem are likely to decelerate innovation and restrain the ambitious Make in India and Digital India vision,” MAIT president Debjani Ghosh said.