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Artificial Intelligence

Figure raises $7.5M to help startup employees better understand their compensation



The topic of compensation has historically been a delicate one that has left many people — especially startup employees — wondering just what drives what can feel like random decisions around pay and equity.

Last June, software engineers (and housemates) Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand set about trying to solve the problem for companies by developing a data-driven platform that aims to help companies structure their compensation plans and transparently communicate them to candidates.

Now today, the startup behind that platform, Figure, announced it has raised $7.5 million in seed funding led by CRV. Bling Capital, Better Tomorrow Ventures and Garage Capital also participated in the financing, along with angel investors such as AngelList co-founder Naval Ravikant, Jason Calacanis, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and other executives based in Silicon Valley.

The startup has amassed a client list that includes other startups such as fintechs Brex and NerdWallet and AI-powered fitness company Tempo. 

Put simply, Hobby and Tisserand’s mission is to improve workflows and transparency around pay, particularly equity. The pair had both worked at startups themselves (Uber and Instacart, respectively) and ended up leaving money on the table when they left those companies because no one had properly explained to them what their equity, which changed at every valuation, meant.  

Figure co-founders and co-CEOs Miles Hobby and Geoffrey Tisserand. Image Credits: Figure

So, one of their goals was to create a solution that would provide a user-friendly explanation of what a person’s equity stake really means, from tax implications to whether or not they have to buy the stock and/or hold onto it.

“I’ve gone through the job search process many times before and there’s all these complex legal documents to understand why you’re getting 10,000 stock options, but obviously we knew the vast majority of people have no idea how that works,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We saw an opportunity there to help companies actually convey the value to their candidates while also making them aware of the potential risks of owning something that’s so illiquid.”

Image Credits: Figure

Another goal of Figure’s is to help create a more fair and balanced process about decisions around pay and equity so that there’s less inequality out there. Pointedly, it aims to remove some of the biases that exist around those decisions by systematizing the process.

“We saw a void in this kind of context around equity…and knew that there had to be a better way for companies to structure, manage and explain their compensation plans,” Hobby said.

To Hobby and Tisserand, Figure is designed to help stop instances of implicit bias.

“Compensation should be based on the work that you’re doing, and not gender or ethnic background,” Tisserand told TechCrunch. “We’re trying to give that context and remove biases. So, we’re trying to help at two different stages –– to surface inequities that already exist and make sure there are no anomalies, and then to help stop them before they can exist.”

Figure also aims to give companies the tools to educate candidates and employees on their total compensation — including equity, salary, benefits and bonuses — in a “straightforward and user-friendly” way. For example, it can create custom offer letters that interactively detail a candidate’s compensation.

“Our goal is for Figure to become an operating system for compensation, where a company can encode their compensation philosophy into our system, and we help them determine their job architecture, compensation bands and offer numbers while monitoring their compensation health to provide adjustment suggestions when needed,” Hobby said.

Post-hire, Figure’s compensation management system “helps keep everything running smoothly.”

Anna Khan, general partner of enterprise software at CRV, is joining Figure’s board as part of the funding. The decision to back the startup was in part personal, she said.

“I’d been investing in software for eight years and was alarmed that no one was building anything around pay equity when it comes to how we’re paid, why we’re paid what we’re paid and on how to build equity long term,” Khan told TechCrunch. “Unfortunately, discussions around compensation and equity still happen behind closed doors and this extends into workflow around compensation — equally broken — with manual leveling, old data and large pay inequities.”

The company plans to use its new capital to expand its product offerings and scale its organization.

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Artificial Intelligence

Digitizing Retail with New IoT Chip Adoption



Chip Adoption
Illustration: © IoT For All

Qualcomm has announced seven new chips designed to support new IoT devices in the retail sector. The line, which includes high-end and entry-level chips, includes chips with AI and image processing technology that will help make IoT devices with cameras more effective.

The launch is part of a broader trend in the IoT industry towards new applications in the retail sector — where business as usual has been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These innovations could support major changes in the retail industry — like smart stores, interactive displays, and streamlined payment options.

Qualcomm Expands Chip Options to Support Retail IoT

The new chips, which may help accelerate the adoption of “smart retail,” are also designed to support new IoT applications in the warehousing and manufacturing sectors.

The line includes both entry-level chips, designed to support simpler IoT options for retailers and other businesses, as well as high-end chips that support a new range of devices and IoT features, including some powered by AI.

According to Qualcomm senior director of product management Nagaraju Naik, the high-end chips will support high-resolution video cameras and enable features like electronic pan, tilt, and zoom (or ePTZ).

The highest-end of the new chips accomplishes this with a range of features not present in many existing IoT chips — including reduced latency, triple-image signal processor (ISP) architecture, and an AI engine that supports up to seven concurrent cameras with 4K resolution each.

For several retail IoT applications — like interactive displays or security cameras that assist in smart store operations — these chips could help significantly improve device performance. Naik also said the chips would support new checkout and payment processing options — like “touchless [payment], smart carts, self-checkout, and mobile payments.”

In addition to these retail applications, the high-end chips will enable devices like autonomous picking robots in the manufacturing and warehousing industries.

IoT May Help Retailers Respond to a Changing Market

COVID-19 accelerated several existing trends in retail, and it’s likely that the pandemic significantly altered how consumers shop. According to research from WSL Strategic Retail, 48% of the population say they are now shopping for others they weren’t shopping for before the pandemic.

At the same time, the number of consumers shopping primarily or exclusively online has grown rapidly, and some industry observers believe these consumers will continue to shop online long after it is safe to return to stores.

New practices like Omni-shopping — the practice of consumers shopping in-store and using a retailer’s online storefront — will likely inform the tactics retailers will need to adopt if they want to succeed post-COVID-19.

The potential IoT offers, both in terms of data gathering and streamlining the in-store shopping experience, could be critical for retailers.

IoT devices enable touchless and smart payment options, such as allowing consumers to check out without needing to touch a credit card reader or similar device. In some cases, the new tech may enable checkout processes that do not require interacting with a cashier at all.

This new checkout experience is both streamlined and potentially more hygienic than the conventional experience. As a result, it could be appealing to customers who have left physical stores for convenient online shopping.

Novel IoT applications enabled by hardware like Qualcomm’s new chip line could help accelerate the digitization of retail over the next few years.

As data-gathering store sensors and interactive advertisements become more powerful and cost-effective, they will likely help businesses personalize advertising, optimize store layouts, and improve supply chain management.

These shifts could make in-store shopping a better proposition for customers who can just as easily shop online.

How New IoT Tech May Shape Retail’s Digital Future

The IoT industry has begun to invest in retail technology seriously. New hardware like Qualcomm’s IoT chips will likely help enable more powerful and cost-effective smart retail devices.

As the retail industry digitizes and adapts to the post-COVID-19 world, these devices could prove invaluable. Customers are turning away from in-store retail in favor of online shopping. Still, process changes and personalization made possible by new IoT technology could convince consumers to return to physical stores.

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Artificial Intelligence

How Health Tech is Shaping the Future of Healthcare



Khunshan Ahmad Hacker Noon profile picture

@khunshanKhunshan Ahmad

Writes about tech. Software engineer and digital marketer by profession. Peace.

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Machine Learning, Telemedicine, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and the Internet of Things play a vital role in shaping the future of Health Tech. The goal is to make it easy for humans to take care of themselves and their overall health. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the ways AI, Telemedicine, AR, VR, IoT, and 3D technologies are improving healthcare and have become the driving forces of some medical technologies.

Artificial Intelligence in Health Tech

One of the top technologies causing a radical change in health tech is Artificial Intelligence. AI is the backbone of all modern emerging technologies. For the healthcare industry, AI-enabled solutions can assist medical research and help with new product development.

With Machine Learning, the most common form of AI, it has become possible for researchers now to reach conclusions easily and with better precision. Big Data, which goes hand in hand with ML, is used to analyze enormous amounts of patient data and detect the patterns of diseases. It includes diagnosing diseases to discovering links between genetic codes and robots assisting surgeries. Altogether, it can lead to better outcomes and patient engagement with immediate returns through cost reduction.

A deep neural network, called the LSAN, is developed by researchers at Penn State University. The new ML model would predict any future health conditions of a patient by scanning and analyzing the electronic health records of the patients.

Image: Fraunhofer FOKUS

AI in Cancer Care

The integration of AI technology in cancer care is one area that can make a breakthrough impact on humanity. Cancer screening today is inconvenient and invasive. The detection of two common cancers, colon and breast, require screening technologies developed 50 years ago. 

Cancer patients have a 90% chance of survival if cancer is detected at stage I versus only a 5% chance at stage IV, so early detection is a critical means of improving patient outcomes.

Helio Health is an AI-driven healthcare startup focused on developing and commercializing early cancer detection tests from a simple blood draw. The company’s mission is to simplify cancer screening so lives can be saved by detecting cancer earlier. Helio Health has secured $86 million in venture funding and currently in clinical trials for its lead liver cancer detection test, the HelioLiver Test. Helio’s development program is currently focused on liver, colon, breast, and lung cancer, and actively collaborating with top national cancer centers. 

Telemedicine in Health Tech

Telemedicine technologies have been making a huge impact. Telemedicine boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic and I believe the trend is going to stay. There are plenty of reasons for that, but the real reason is as more and more gadgets, gears, and wearable devices – like Ring, FitBit, or Embr Wave – are becoming part of health tech. Apple announced a breakthrough ECG app – approved by the FDA – empowering patients to maintain a log of their electrocardiogram anytime. 

Our smartphones can now also pair with third-party health devices like glucometers, heart monitors, body scales, toothbrushes, and spirometers for other important and vital metrics. 

Wearable Devices

Wearable and mobile devices are becoming popular as they are providing more accurate results than before. One of the leading causes of death worldwide is hypertension. But your smartphone can measure your blood pressure as well. The Biospectal OptiBP app, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, is a mobile-only app that measures your blood pressure at any time. The app is very accurate, and aided by telemedicine, can really make a difference to fight the global hypertension crisis even in low-income countries.

Image: CNET

Health tech devices can even transmit data automatically from such devices to telemedicine service providers. This growing number of health devices and their convenience is not only just helping researchers with day-to-day data but also opening a new era of at-home telehealth. 

Eye Exams Can Now be Done Online

Another example of telemedicine is Stanton Optical, a leading eye health provider. During the pandemic, they started to offer all eye care as part of their telemedicine initiative. The optical company offered patients to receive a customized eye care treatment plan and prescription through a virtual video screen with a local Ophthalmologist (MD) or Optometrist. It allowed patients to receive eye care during a pandemic when many eye care providers are turning away patients within the safety of their homes.

Many other startups like DoctorSpring and Second Opinions are providing telemedicine services. DoctorSpring allows you to do a medical consultancy from board-certified doctors 24×7. Second Opinions also let you submit a medical questionnaire before scheduling an online meeting with a board-certified doctor.

Health tech is making it possible for the healthcare industry to manage major diseases like diagnosing and treating cancer, diabetes, hypertension and helping patients suffering from mental health issues. 

Neural Interfaces Can Also Improve Health Tech

Elon Musk’s neural technology company, Neuralink, is working on a brain chip that will be implanted into the human skull and connected directly to the brain. The goal of the Neuralink chip is to provide an interface to communicate with the brain. It can help to improve mental health and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries. It would initially focus on curing and treating major traumas and brain injuries, and can also be used to restore eyesight and hearing. The chip electrodes can read signals from the brain and write them down and will be helpful in curing paralysis as well. 

Screengrab: Neuralink YouTube

The brain chip designed by Neuralink is still in the phases of trials. It was first implanted in the brain of a pig for initial trials. The chip was recently implanted in a monkey, and a video showed it playing a video game by using its brain only. Elon Musk claimed in a tweet that his company and the chip will be ready for human trials later this year. However, he made a similar claim in 2019 that the chip would be tested on humans by the end of 2020. 

Facebook made a formal entry into the neural world when it acquired CTRL Labs, a startup co-founded by Internet Explorer creator and neuroscientist Thomas Reardon, in 2019. CTRL Labs is working on a similar brain-machine interface, but unlike brain implanted chips by Neuralink, CTRL Labs’ mainstream product is their wristband which they demonstrated to transmit electrical signals from the brain into computer input. 

CTRL Labs wristband is part of Facebook’s AR/VR research group. Facebook plans to use the neural interface technology of CTRL Lab’s wristband that connects to their AR/VR devices more naturally and intuitively. Neural technology development is a clear indication that we will see a breakthrough in health tech very soon. 

Medical VR/AR Solutions

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have proved to be significant and useful visual technologies. They have already advanced so much in the healthcare sector that medical practitioners can now render 3D images of human autonomy and their CT scans for better examination and to precisely locate the blood vessels, bones, and muscles. 

Osso VR, a startup based in Palo Alto, has raised $14 million in September to build a virtual reality surgical training and assessment platform. This can help surgeons in training to repeat steps many times virtually. Orthopedic residency programs using Osso VR include Columbia University, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Harvard Medical School, and more.

Image: Osso VR

Organovo has already printed human liver cells and tissues in 3D. Their ExVive3D Liver Tissue is helping the pharmaceutical and the healthcare industry in testing the conditions of the human liver. 

The technology is advancing quickly enough that we could soon see surgeons and medical staff frequently use VR or AR glasses during critical surgeries, and it was found that the individuals who take help from this health tech perform surgeries quicker and with better precision. Surgeries are quicker and more precise now with the help of AR and VR.

Final Thoughts on the Current State of Health Tech

Healthcare has always been of immense importance to human beings. Health tech is constantly improving the healthcare sector, and the ways of providing basic healthcare to humans have become easier and more effective. 

Do you think I missed an important health tech development? Share your views in the HackerNoon Community

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by Khunshan Ahmad @khunshan. Writes about tech. Software engineer and digital marketer by profession. Peace.Read my stories


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5 Ways IoT is Transforming The Industries



The term Internet of things (IoT) is a relatively new term that might sound fascinating, but you might think it is not an important concept for someone who owns a business unrelated to the tech world. But you’ll be surprised how the Internet of things or IoT is changing the way all industries function.

“IoT acts as an interconnection via the Internet of digital devices, enabling them to send and receive data to a computer. ” 

An International Data Corporation (IDC) survey predicts that there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide by 2025, 75% will be connected to an IoT platform. Thus, in the near future of IoT trends towards major expansion in the next few decades.

One of the industries IoT is helping transform is the cleaning business industry. 

Manufacturers of cleaning devices are integrating IoT into their products to keep an eye on the run-time of their machines, verify the movements of their machines, and see how long they last. For example, IoT can let a building contractor who sells soap dispensers know if they’ve been filled and allow them to monitor the specific area’s hygiene level. 

By organizing cleaning tasks and getting updates on the efficiency of their cleaning equipment, IoT can help cleaning businesses streamline their customer service models. Here’s why different types of cleaning services are upgrading their services with IoT:  

IoT helps you plan better

Information is the key to solving most business problems. IoT provides valuable insight into gauging how you can change your business so that you’re generating less waste and working with more efficiency.

Here’s an example — IoT can help you with efficient trash disposal. IoT enabled trash bins can communicate the fill level and location with the sanitation department, saving them unnecessary pick-ups. 

IoT gives you the gift of robot cleaners

Next-generation vacuums and robotic cleaners can use smart technology, GPS tracking, and sensors to navigate and clean independently. These devices also collect information about the work performed, the time it took them to perform it, maintenance issues for better insights into what is working and what is not.

IoT helps cut down operational cost

IoT enabled devices can help companies monitor usage patterns and plan their cleaning schedules accordingly. 

For example, if the soap dispensers in washrooms are IoT enabled, then they can communicate with a central system if they’re running low. When real-time information is available on hand, the cleaning staff can know when they need to be refilled and also track usage patterns.

IoT helps with predictive maintenance

Maintenance is scheduled at regular time periods for any electronic equipment, but IoT has a huge advantage here. It collects data, and diagnoses problems, and transmits them in real-time to predict and enable maintenance before a problem gets too big and the device stops working completely. This has great potential to decrease downtime as well as maintenance expenses.

In fact, with services like these, a Markets and Markets report states that the predictive maintenance market is estimated to jump to $12 billion by 2025 from the current $4 billion in 2020. 

IoT helps with analyzing data

As more and more IoT devices become a part of the cleaning industry, a cleaning business will have a huge amount of data in its hand that it can analyze and plan accordingly.

For example, a company can receive data on the use of every cleaning tool, be it scrubbers, dispensers, repellents, or bins, and analyze the patterns of use and time taken to complete tasks and usage patterns. This data can be used according to predictions received through analysis.

IoT capable machines are streamlining the cleaning industry and making it smarter. In addition, predictive analytics that can help businesses save money, time and streamline their workflow can lead to a better customer experience and a lucrative turnover for the company.

Also, Read How IoT Linked with Amazon Echo and Google Home

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Trigo bags $10M for computer-vision based checkout tech to rival Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’



While Amazon continues to expand its self-service, computer-vision-based grocery checkout technology by bringing it to bigger stores, an AI startup out of Israel that’s built something to rival it has picked up funding and a new strategic investor as a customer.

Trigo, which has produced a computer vision system that includes both camera hardware and encrypted, privacy-compliant software to enable “grab and go” shopping — where customers can pick up items that get automatically detected and billed before they leave the store — has bagged $10 million in funding from German supermarket chain REWE Group and Viola Growth.

The exact amount of the investment was not being disclosed (perhaps because $10 million, in these crazy times, suddenly sounds like a modest amount?), but Pitchbook notes that Trigo had up to now raised $87 million, and Trigo has confirmed that it has now raised “over $100 million,” including a Series A in 2019, and a Series B of $60 million that it raised in December of last year. The company has confirmed that the amount raised is $10 million today, and $104 million in total.

The company is not disclosing its valuation. We have asked and will update as we learn more.

“Trigo is immensely proud and honored to be deepening its strategic partnership with REWE Group, one of Europe’s biggest and most innovative grocery retailers,” said Michael Gabay, Trigo co-founder and CEO, in a statement. “REWE have placed their trust in Trigo’s privacy-by-design architecture, and we look forward to bringing this exciting technology to German grocery shoppers. We are also looking forward to working with Viola Growth, an iconic investment firm backing some of Israel’s top startups.”

The REWE investment is part of a bigger partnership between the two companies, which will begin with a new “grab and go” REWE store in Cologne. REWE has 3,700 stores across Germany, so there is a lot of scope there for expansion. REWE is Trigo’s second strategic investor: Tesco has also backed the startup and has been trialling its technology in the U.K.. Trigo’s also being used by Shufersal, a grocery chain in Israel.

REWE’s investment comes amid a spate of tech engagements by the grocery giant, which recently also announced a partnership with Flink, a new grocery delivery startup out of Germany that recently raised a big round of funding to expand. It’s also working with Yamo, a healthy eating startup; and Whisk, an AI powered buy-to-cook startup.

“With today’s rapid technological developments, it is crucial to find the right partners,” said Christoph Eltze, Executive Board Member Digital, Customer & Analytics REWE Group. “REWE Group is investing in its strategic partnership with Trigo, who we believe is one of the leading companies in computer vision technologies for smart stores.”

More generally, consumer habits are changing, fast. Whether we are talking about the average family, or the average individual, people are simply not shopping, cooking and eating in the same way that they were even 10 years ago, let alone 20 or 30 years ago.

And so like many others in the very established brick-and-mortar grocery business, REWE — founded in 1927 — is hoping to tie up with some of the more interesting innovators to better keep ahead in the game.

“I don’t actually think people really want grocery e-commerce,” Ran Peled, Trigo’s VP of marketing, told me back in 2019. “They do that because the supermarket experience has become worse with the years. We are very much committed to helping brick and mortar stores return to the time of a few decades ago, when it was fun to go to the supermarket. What would happen if a store could have an entirely new OS that is based on computer vision?”

It will be interesting to see how widely used and “fun” smart checkout services will become in that context, and whether it will be a winner-takes-all market, or whether we’ll see a proliferation of others emerge to provide similar tools.

In addition to Amazon and Trigo, there is also Standard Cognition, which earlier this year raised money at a $1 billion valuation, among others and other approaches. One thing that more competition could mean is also more competitive pricing for systems that otherwise could prove costly to implement and run except for in the busiest locations.

There is also a bigger question over what the optimal size will be for cashierless, grab-and-go technology. Trigo cites data from Juniper Research that forecasts $400 billion in smart checkout transactions annually by 2025, but it seems that the focus in that market will likely be, in Juniper’s view, on smaller grocery and convenience stores rather than the cavernous cathedrals to consumerism that many of these chains operate. In that category, the market size is 500,000 stores globally, 120,000 of them in Europe.

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