Welcome to the inaugural, monthly newsletter from the 5G Open innovation Lab.
It’s been a busy summer and early fall here at the Lab, with our partners and startups making big news, landing significant investments and developing exciting new solutions leveraging 5G and edge computing.
Featured (L-R): Ben Alfi, CEO; Yair Shahar, COO; Aviram Shmueli, CTO – Blue White Robotics
We were thrilled to hear about the most recent investment round from our Batch #3 alumnus Blue White Robotics. The Tel Aviv, Israel-based autonomous farming startup raised $37 million in Series B funding.
CEO Ben Alfi says the company will use the new funding to increase adoption of its autonomous farming and tractor technologies, drive new sales in the US, and build out an international team.
We caught up with Ben this week to learn more about the latest developments at Blue White and the future of farming.
Q: What inspired you to found Blue White Robotics?
Ben: We have been working in autonomous vehicle technologies for decades, and it was clear that something so powerful needed to be applied to world issues.
Agriculture and food systems have been left far behind other industries with their development curve. And, they’re something every one of us depends on constantly.
Q: What is the problem you are seeking to solve?
Ben: Food security and labor scarcity are the big problems that need a drastic solution immediately. But, allowing farmers to do more with less by increasing efficiency and productivity are the bottom-line benefits – all from their first day using our platform.
Q: How much of a need is there for autonomous systems on the farm?
Ben: The need is immense! Today, it’s very hard to find workers to work on farms.
The new generation doesn’t want to do it. Labor cost is increasing dramatically. Farmers say they have to “innovate or die.” Our 21st-century century autonomous farm will change this completely - attract people and improve the bottom line.
Q: How much opportunity/potential is there in this market?
Ben: The food system is huge. Global farmland accounts for more than one-third of land surface area. There are almost 7.9 billion people and rising to 10 billion by 2050, and farmable land is a finite resource. There is no other way to solve this challenge other than through deep innovation.
Q: With many smaller farms struggling to survive, how can this help them not only survive but succeed? And how can you make your solutions affordable for them?
Ben: With Robots as a Service, we focus on accessibility – easy to adopt and afford with immediate returns. Starting on Day One of our platform in operation, a farm gets smarter and more productive. We make it affordable by charging a proportionate amount to their farming activities. We are using lessons learned on bigger farms with year-round operations like spraying, harvesting, weed management, etc. in order to reduce cost and make the product even more accessible for smaller farms. We also offer a new cost model with Robots as a Service based on the current operating costs of the farm to create better ROI with lower upfront costs.
Q: How did the 5G Open Innovation Lab engagement help you further your goals?
Ben: The 5G Open Innovation Lab program was great. Our partners’ network allows us to create new technological relationships that assist us in building better products. We wrote up a great blog about our collaboration with 5G OI Lab, but it’s essentially this: connectivity is part of the foundation of our platform, and we constantly work on improving it. Our partnership development is a thorough process depending on what everyone is looking for, but I can say that we’re having technical discussions with Intel, T-Mobile, and several others right now.
Q: What does your company look like in a year? Five years?
Ben: We’re expanding rapidly, focusing on quick but quality hiring in order to bring Robots as a Service and the Autonomous Farm to as many people as possible. We are mainly focused on hiring in Research & Development and Sales so we can iterate faster and get this world-changing solution in front of people.
A frontline worker views a holographic set of instructions through an AR headset (Taqtile photo)
Is AR ready to tackle some of industry’s toughest tests? Seattle-based Taqtile – a member of our inaugural batch – is proving to be up for the task. One great example is detailed in a recent edition of Nuclear Engineering International Magazine. The online journal reports how Taqtile’s Manifest platform can significantly enhance critical operations at nuclear plants. Leveraging AR and the power of 5G, the company can connect frontline workers with remote experts who use holograms and other enhanced communications to guide maintenance, training and operations. Manifest integrates with most popular AR-enabled devices including HoloLens, Magic Leap, iPad, Trimble XR 10, and Android phones. Taqtile is just one of the dozens startups we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with to help accelerate the development of innovative technology and compelling, practical use cases.
Simetric CSO & President Kevin Bandy
We’d like to congratulate our Batch #3 participant Simetric for being recognized as one of the top technology companies in the Southeast and being selected to participate in the prestigious Venture Atlanta 2021 conference October 20-21.
It’s quite an honor. Simetric was chosen from a record-breaking 400+ applicants to pitch to some of the top investment firms from across the nation.
Venture Atlanta 2021 will be the 14th year the event has been held. The organization has helped launch more than 500 companies and raised $6.5 billion in funding to date, according to a press release.
Simetric addresses the lack of industry standards in the management of wireless-enabled intelligent edge devices, giving companies the ability to manage efficiently while taking advantage of all 5G has to offer. By normalizing the discrepancies that exist across IoT platforms into a unified management pane, Simetric has moved greater customer business process automation and control to the possibilities of the distributed devices to support ubiquitous edge deployments and intent based networking.
We are thrilled to announce the 5G Open Innovation Lab has moved into its new headquarters at the Global Innovation Exchange in Bellevue, WA.
The state-of-the-art complex in Bellevue’s burgeoning Spring District not only gives us an office to call home, it allows us to fulfill our vision of a collaborative co-working space where our current and alumni 5G OI Lab startups can join with our founding and corporate partners and our team to accelerate innovation.
GIX is home to the University of Washington’s MS in Technology Innovation program and offers numerous unique resources including its own dedicated maker labs for 3D printing and other advanced work.
We are particularly excited about the great event space at GIX. Collaboration doesn’t just happen in an office (or on Teams and Zoom). The more we can come together to network, share ideas and enjoy each other’s company, the more we can drive innovation together. We have already had one very enjoyable social gathering (socially distanced with masks) and look forward to hosting more as health guidelines allow.
We’re also hard at work creating new capabilities and industry focuses within the Lab, which will significantly expand our scope. Stay tuned for details.
Finland’s Ambassador to the US Mikko Hautala and US Rep. Derek Kilmer discuss a potential 5G smart port partnership at the Port of Tacoma (City of Tacoma photo).
The 5G Open Innovation Lab and Founder Jim Brisimitzis were featured prominently in a recent news report detailing efforts by the city and business leaders to create a private 5G edge network for the Port of Tacoma Washington’s Tideflats area. The partners are looking to spur innovation in the maritime industry and manufacturing.
At a news conference in Tacoma, business and government leaders including Finland’s ambassador to the US Mikko Hautala gathered to detail the ambitious proposal. Ambassador Hautala discussed how his country is at the forefront of innovation in smart port technology and highlighted numerous Finnish companies including Nokia that could partner in the network.
Joshua Berger, Founder and CEO of Washington Maritime Blue – which operates the Tacoma Maritime Innovation Incubator - told reporters that conversations with Brisimitzis about the 5G OILab’s Agriculture Field Labs in Snohomish County were an inspiration and proof point for the viability of the Tacoma project.
Next up is a feasibility study to determine how best to proceed.
John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile, checks out new 5G powered AR and XR experiences at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park (T-Mobile photo)
T-Mobile: Our partners at T-Mobile have been at the forefront of innovation leveraging 5G for both the consumer and enterprise space. This week they showcased all the cool things they’ve been doing with Major League Baseball to enhance fan experiences and create a myriad of new use cases in a compelling blog post and video.
Among the next-generation technology highlighted in the story is holograms of players that can appear in smart glasses. The holograms are captured and displayed by Omnivor, a graduate of our inaugural 5G OILab program. The company is at the forefront of real time face-to-face volumetric video conversation. The partnership with T-Mobile was one of the first between a startup and T-Mobile to emerge from the Lab.
The fascinating story is authored by our advisory board member John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile. Saw says T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G network now covers 305 million people and its Ultra Capacity 5G network covers 165 million. He says with Ultra Capacity 5G, developers can tap into the low latency, high capacity and speed needed for bandwidth-intensive XR experiences, whether at the ballpark or in a factory. Thanks to the power of 5G, it’s definitely game on.
VMware: The 5G OILab and all of our founding and corporate partners are committed to sustainability and the environment. This week our partner VMware released its annual Environmental, Social and Governance (GSR) Report. It highlights VMware’s business-led approach to ESG that not only addresses its internal operations and supply chain, but also focuses on its ability to support customers and partners in achieving their own ESG goals through VMware technology solutions.
“Transparency is an important principle in advancing ESG outcomes and we do in the form of customer case studies and data aligned to leading ESG frameworks,” says Nicola Acutt, VP of ESG – Office of the CTO at VMware.
This year’s report also showcases the formal launch of VMware’s 2030 Agenda, which is a decade long ESG commitment and call to action to build a sustainable, equitable and more secure world, Acutt says.
Thanks for reading!
Posted September 30, 2021