Newsletter | June 1st, 2017
This week we’re talking about Walmart combining blockchain and drone technology 😲, the FDA playing catch up with artificial intelligence, new IoT for watering your plants, and a twist on robot delivery ⚡.
DRONES + BLOCKCHAIN . Like PB+J? Walmart looking to mix and match
In past newsletters we’ve discussed how blockchain technology can be applied to more than just cryptocurrency. It has implications in areas ranging from land ownership to the supply chain of sustainably sourced food. Walmart has added to this blockchain-eating-the-world phenomenon, by filing a patent this past week that mixes blockchain with drone delivery.
The patent application, generically titled “Unmanned Aerial Delivery to Secure Location,” involves drones delivering items to lockers. The drones would communicate with these lockers, remotely unlocking and opening them, for drop-off inside. Walmart would incorporate blockchain within this communication, both in the tracking the physical items, and adding an additional level of security. Amazon surpassed Walmart’s market cap in mid-2015, so it looks like these big moves are all about staying relevant.
HEALTH . FDA preparing for A.I.’s impact on health software 🏥
There’s been a wave of health apps and wearables entering the market. There are apps that use image-recognition to suggest whether we have a type of skin cancer, and apps that help you self-diagnose mental illness. Surprisingly, the FDA doesn’t regulate most of these apps, only if they are deemed to pose a ‘high risk’ to the public. The thing is, nothing looks to shake up the software world more than the application of AI.
In this light, innovation is great and all, but the FDA wants safe innovation. This week’s development is that the FDA is building out a team of computer scientists to specifically address how Artificial Intelligence will impact medical software. While many health apps and devices may be deemed ‘low risk’ by the FDA, adding an AI component may be a whole other ball game. This may be great timing by the FDA, as the rumor mill says the upcoming iPhone 8 could have its own AI chip.
IoT . Now you can link up your potted plants 🤖🌱
We already have acres and acres of interconnected agricultural infrastructure, ‘smart farming’, that is feeding millions of people. What’s next? A new kickstarter wants us to think smaller. Launched last week, Grovio is an IoT solution for your potted plants. Grovio is a smart watering device app paired with a mobile app. The cool part is you can water your plant remotely via the mobile app for up to 45 days.
There have been mixed responses so far. The point of having house plants is to improve the ambiance of your home, and now we have another device sitting around, this one with tubes stretching into your plants? It also is nearly identical to the Amazon Echo in shape and size. How many of these smart assistance robots can you fit on your table, doing things for you, before someone thinks you can’t do simple tasks for yourself?
DELIVERY . Zoom, zoom, European robot deliveries getting competitive
Where Walmart wants to do autonomous drone delivery, several European startups are looking at autonomous vehicle delivery. Startups Teleretail (🇨🇭) and Starship (🇬🇧 +🇪🇪) have vehicles the size of baby carriages, to ferry your precious cargo from point A to B. Teleretail recently debuted their latest version, and it is ready to be used in suburban and rural deliveries. Not only would it be used for dropping off packages to customers, but also pick up items as well.
Other autonomous delivery startups have designed their robots to travel on city sidewalks and crosswalks, Teleretail and Starship are different in that their robots can go longer distances and operate on the road. Teleretail will be launching its pilot in the U.S. and Switzerland soon and their target customer is small business owners. They want to help brick and mortar stores stay competitive with ecommerce by offering cheaper delivery options. It also would have a better ecological footprint.