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Canadian startups lay the blueprint for the smart city

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Toronto
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To fully develop the smart city, investment and innovation in new technology is key. Here many startups are supplying the lead and coming up with new and imaginative solutions to create the smart city fabric.

What is a smart city?

The smart city is an urban space that uses digital technology to collect and analyze data, and then to use those data insights to promote performance and wellbeing. Data is also used to increase the ability of the city and its administrators to respond to citywide and global challenges.

Important aspects of the smart city include using data analytics to improve the efficiency and service of energy, water and transport infrastructure — as well as addressing climate change and sustainability. Connected technologies and electric vehicles are a key part of many smart city strategies being explored worldwide.

Cities powered by startups

A new survey comes from INFINITI LAB, which is a smart cities and Internet of Things accelerator run by car brand INFINITI, looks at some interesting new srtartups that are set to help Canada realize the smart city concept.

The most promising startups selected were picked by a panel of experts at INFINITI’s recent Demo Day pitch competition in Toronto. Five of the best are:

Clutch, which offers a solution for potential car owners to test drive electric vehicles by delivering the car to a user’s door. The aim is to provide the convenience and price of a peer-to-peer marketplace along with the traditional services of a physical dealership.

Ordermotive is also in the care area. The platform offers a service whereby customers are matched directly to retailers. This enables consumers to set-up financing options and understand payment terms before they test-drive a vehicle.

SmartTones is a platform allowing businesses to encode, create and execute smart campaigns. The system helps to bring consumers into entertaining advertising experiences, which include gammification. The idea is to encourage consumers to engage with and share the campaign.

Acerta is a company that deploys machine learning in order to provide consumers with real-time malfunction detection and failure prediction. For businesses this is all about reducing waste, increasing throughput, and boosting product quality.

InnerSpace is a service that provides a turnkey indoor mapping and location platform to commercial real estate companies who use it to boost productivity or create new revenue by offering indoor location services to their tenants.

These startups focus on the smart city concept where information and communication technology are fully exploited.

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Investment

Amazon rival Rakuten buys mobile ordering and pickup startup Curbside

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ecommerce
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Rival to Amazon and Japanese retail giant Rakuten has acquired Silicon Valley mobile ordering and pickup startup Curbside. Details of the all-cash deal were not disclosed, but the acquisition could be a boon for the Japanese e-commerce company.

Mobile solutions for brick and mortar businesses

Founded in 2013 by former Apple engineers Jaron Waldman and Denis Laprise, Curbside has a suite of features that deal with all aspects of mobile commerce for restaurants and brick and mortar retail stores. Their most popular feature, ARRIVE, tracks customer’s journeys to predict when they’ll be approaching and arriving to have the product ready in an instant.
In its suite, Curbside’s offers programs that build online storesfill online orders in-store and grow store traffic.

According to Tech Crunch, the terms of the “all-cash” deal were not released. Curbside has previously raised between USD$40 and $50 million from investors like CVS, Index Ventures, Sutter Hull Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Chicago Ventures

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, Curbside was valued at more than USD$100 million in 2015 during its last venture round.

Part of the family

In the press release from Curbside, co-founder and CEO Jaron Waldman writes, “For our customers and partners the headline is that nothing will change. Curbside will operate independently as a Rakuten-owned company with our team, services, partners and product offerings all remaining intact.”

Yaz Iida, President of Rakuten USA, Inc said in a press release “Welcoming Curbside to the Rakuten family is all about the consumer, and we are excited to be able to empower consumers with even more ways to enjoy shopping.”

Mario Pinho, CFO of Rakuten, welcomed Curbside “to the Rakuten family” on LinkedIn.

Earlier this year, Rakuten announced that it’s building a customer loyalty program based on blockchain technology, and building its own cryptocurrency, Rakuten Coin.

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How brick and mortar grocers benefit from digital transformation

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Brick and mortar grocery retailers have the potential to adopt artificial intelligence to help with stocking their stores, pricing their products and being competitive with online retailers like Amazon.

Michael Feindt, the founder of AI firm Blue Yonder that specializes in helping retailers adopt AI to change how they carry out their core processes, wrote an article in Silicon Republic about how grocery chains can use AI to operate smarter.

With online grocers rapidly adopting AI, Feindt writes that it’s important for brick and mortar retailers to “move beyond their legacy infrastructure and adopt the technologies of digital transformation.” These technologies include AI and machine learning.

To stay competitive in a market that’s increasingly focused on consumer satisfaction, Feindt writes that adopting AI can help grocery chains stock their stores more efficiently in an effort to reduce waste and ensure customers get what they want, as well as price their products according to real-time data on deals and promotions offered by other stores.

Feindt writes that stock and pricing in brick and mortar stores — two traditionally human-led domains — need to start using the data they have, and use AI to help process that data.

Paul Clarke, the CTO at Ocado (the company behind the grocery robots shown earlier) told The Telegraph that AI is “critical” to the industry, and where it’s heading.

“From our point of view artificial intelligence is the one to rule them all when it comes to the set of disruptive technologies that power our business and we already make extensive use of machine learning across our platform,” said Clarke. “But really we just think we’re getting started.”

It’s also easier than ever before for grocery chains to go beyond self-service checkouts and start using AI to optimize business, below is an infographic detailing 65 tech startups that use artificial intelligence, virtual reality… etc to usher grocery store operations into the future. This list is packed, but it’s not exhaustive.

From using AI to combat food contamination to giving allergy-sufferers peace of mind when shopping to programming shopping carts to follow consumers around the store, there are endless ways that AI can enhance grocery operations and produce tangible results.

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Culture

Mozilla announces grants for projects on how AI affects society

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Mozilla recently announced the creation of seven new five-figure grants for “technologists and media makers who help the public understand how threats to a healthy internet affect their everyday lives.”

Under their “Creative Media” awards track, Mozilla is offering a total of $250,000 in awards comprised of two $50,000 awards ($47,500 award + $2,500 MozFest travel stipend) and five $25,000 total prize packages ($22,500 award + $2,500 MozFest travel stipend). Mozilla says they’re specifically looking for projects that focus on AI and machine learning.

Mozilla wants these grants to go to researchers who can help the public to better understand how threats to a “healthy internet” are impacting their lives. These projects can be presented in a variety of mediums such as videos, games, browser extensions and data visualizations.

To be eligible for this award, projects must already be in-progress, at either the conceptual or prototype stage. They also have to be “freely available on the web,” have the ability “to be broadly shared,” and must include “privacy-respecting mechanisms.”

This isn’t Mozilla’s only project that has the aims of teaching people more about the changing face of technology.

From briefs to explainers to graphics, Mozilla has been attempting to make it easier for people to understand how things work.

Applications for this grant are open now and close on August 1.

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