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January 18, 2019
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Meet Caper, the AI self-checkout shopping cart

in Apps/Artificial Intelligence/Delhi/eCommerce/Food/funding/Fundings & Exits/Hardware/India/Payments/Politics/Recent Funding/robotics/Startups/TC by

The Amazon boogie-man has every retailer scrambling for ways to fight back. But the cost and effort to install cameras all over the ceiling or into every shelf could block stores from entering the autonomous shopping era. Caper Labs wants to make eliminating checkout lines as easy as replacing their shopping carts while offering a more familiar experience for customers.

The startup makes a shopping cart with a built-in barcode scanner and credit card swiper, but it’s finalizing the technology to automatically scan items you drop in thanks to three image recognition cameras and a weight sensor. The company claims people already buy 18 percent more per visit after stores are equipped with its carts.

Caper’s cart

Today, Caper is revealing that it’s raised a total of $3 million including a $2.15 million seed round led by prestigious First Round Capital and joined by food-focused angels like Instacart co-founder Max Mullen, Plated co-founder Nick Taranto, Jet’s Jetblack shopping concierge co-founder Jenny Fleiss, plus Y Combinator. Caper is now in two retailers in the NYC area, though it plans to use the cash to expand to more and develop a smart shopping basket for smaller stores.

“If you walked in to a grocery store 100 years ago versus today, nothing has really changed” says Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao. “It doesn’t make sense that you can order a cab with your phone or go book a hotel with your phone, but you can’t use your phone to make a payment and leave the store. You still have to stand in line.”

Autonomous retail is going to be a race. $50 million-funded Standard Cognition, ex-Pandora CTO Will Glaser’s Grabango, and scrappier startups like Zippin and Inokyo are all building ceiling and shelf-based camera systems to help merchants keep up with Amazon Go’s expanding empire of cashierless stores. But Caper’s plug-and-play cart-based system might be able to leapfrog its competitors if it’s easier for shops to set up.

Caper combines image recognition and a weight sensor to identify items without a barcode scan

Inventing The Smart Cart

“I don’t have an altruistic reason to care about retail, but I really want to put a dent in the universe and I think retail is severely under-innovated” Gao candidly remarked. Most founders try to spin a “super hero origin story” about why they’re the right person for the job. For Gao, chasing autonomous retail is just good business. He built his first startup in gaming commerce at age 14. The jewelry company he launched at 19 still operates. He went on to become an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan but “I always felt like I was more of a startup guy.”

Caper was actually a pivot from his previous entry to the space called QueueHop that made cashierless apparel security tags that unlocked when you paid. But during Y Combinator, he discovered how tough it’d be to scale a product that requires a complete rethinking of a merchant’s operations flow. So Gao hoofed it around NYC to talk to 150 merchants and discover what they really wanted. The cart was the answer.

Caper co-founder and CEO Lindon Gao

V1 of Caper’s cart lets people scan their items’ barcodes and pay on the cart with a credit card swipe or Apple/Android Pay tap and their receipt is emailed to them. But each time they scan, the cart is actually taking 120 photos and precisely weighing the items to train Caper’s machine vision algorithms in what Gao likens to how Tesla is inching towards self-driving.

Soon, Caper wants to go entirely scanless, and sections of its two pilot stores already use the technology. The cameras on the cart employ image recognition matched with a weight sensor to identify what you toss in your cart. You shop just like normal but then pay and leave with no line. Caper pulls in a store’s existing security feed to help detect shoplifting, which could be a bigger risk than with ceiling and shelf camera systems, but Gao says it hasn’t been a problem yet. He woudn’t reveal the price of the carts but said “they’re not that much more expensive than a standard shopping cart. To outfit a store it should be comparable to the price of implementing traditional self-checkout.” Shops buy the carts outright and pay a technology subscriptions but get free hardware upgrades. They’ll have to hope Caper stays alive.

“Do you want guacamole with those chips?”

Caper hopes to deliver three big benefits to merchants. First, they’ll be able to repurpose cashier labor to assist customers so they buy more and to keep shelves stocked, though eventually this technology is likely to eliminate a lot of jobs. Second, the ease and affordable cost of transitioning means businesses will be able to recoup their investment and grow revenues as shoppers buy more. And third, Caper wants to share data that its carts collect on routes through the store, shelves customers hover in front of, and more with its retail partners so they can optimize their layouts.

Caper’s screen tracks items you add to the cart and can surface discounts and recommendations

One big advantage over its ceiling and shelf camera competitors is that Caper’s cart can promote deals on nearby or related items. In the future, it plans to add recommendations based on what’s on your cart to help you fill out recipes. ‘Threw some chips in the cart? Here’s where to find the guacamole that’s on sale.’ A smaller hand-held smart basket could broaden Caper’s appeal beyond grocers amongst littler shops, though making it light enough to carry will be a challenge.

Gao says that with merchants already seeing sales growth from the carts, what keeps him up at night is handling Caper’s supply chain since the product requires a ton of different component manufacturers. The startup has to move fast if it wants to be what introduces Main Street to autonomous retail. But no matter what gadgets it builds in, Caper must keep sight of the real-world stress their tech will undergo. Gao concludes “We’re basically building a robot here. The carts need to be durable. They need to resist heat, vibration, rain, people slamming them around. We’re building our shopping cart like a tank.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

To automate bigger stores than Amazon, Standard Cognition buys Explorer.ai

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Standard Cognition helps retail stores stand up to Jeff Bezos’ juggernaut. The $50 million-funded autonomous checkout startup is racing to equip bigger shops with scanless payment technology that lets customers walk out the door without ever stopping at a cashier. While Amazon Go opens its own 2,000 square foot boutiques, Standard Cognition is working on outfitting 20,000 square foot and larger drug stores and grocers. That led Standard Cognition to make its first acquisition, Explorer.ai.

Why would an automated checkout company acquire a self-driving car startup? Because whether you’re tracking shoppers or pedestrians, you need sophisticated maps of the real world. The more accurate the machine vision is, the larger the store you can equip. And since Standard Cognition uses ceiling-based cameras instead of putting them on every shelf like Amazon, it’s much cheaper to keep eyes on a bigger space.

Standard Cognition is only just over a year old, but with the backing of Y Combinator, Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan’s Initialized Capital, and a fast-moving team of seven co-founders, it believes it can outmaneuver Amazon. That means doing whatever it can to leap forward. Standard Cognition already had in-house mapping technology, but Explorer.ai’s team and tech could accelerate its quest to bring even 100,000 sq ft big box supercenters into the automated checkout age.

“It’s the wild west — applying cutting-edge, state-of-the-art machine learning research that’s hot off the press. We read papers then implement it weeks after it’s published, putting the ideas out into the wild and making them production-worthy — taking it from state-of-the-art to dumb machines you can kick and they won’t fall over.” says Standard Cognition co-founder and CEO Jordan Fisher. “It’s no easy task and the exactness we’re going to require will only increase. Having a world-class team of engineers and researchers that can build the next generation version of our mapping is why we’re so excited to have the team joining us.”

From AV To AC

Explorer.ai is was founded in 2017 too, and its acquisition so soon is a testament to how hot the autonomous driving and checkout markets are. Akshay Goel, Nagasrikanth Kallakuri, and Tushar Dadlani noticed self-driving vehicle startups were all trying to generate their own maps. They cobbled together data from several providers, built maps specifically for different purposes, and soon had fellow startups trying to throw money at them. They raised just under $1 million from Story Ventures, early Facebook engineer Nick Heyman and more, growing the team to seven employees.

Explorer.ai’s co-founders

 

But eventually Explorer.ai realized the bigger players were too cautious to rely on outside maps and it could be years before they’d be comfortable with the idea. “Our view is it would take quite a while to become a commercial success in mapping for autonomous vehicles” Goel tells me. “Most of the companies we were working with in partnerships tried to acquire us from an early stage. Should we fundraise more or start looking at the acquisition process?” the team asked itself as its cash dwindled.

Explorer.ai got a few terms sheets for funding, but weren’t sure they’d be able to go to market fast enough. The founders shopped the startup around “to pretty much everyone” Goel says, though they refused to name names when I asked if that included natural acquirers like Uber and Google’s Waymo. But then they took a left turn into retail. “What we saw was that essentially since autonomous checkout has a lot fewer safety issues, [Standard Cognition] could go to market much faster, and mapping had a large impact on autonomous checkout.”

The two companies declined to disclose financial terms of the deal, but Fisher tells me “We can definitely say it was a competitive process and we’re excited that we could win the hearts and minds of the Explorer team.” They’ll join Standard Cognition’s 40-plus employees as the work on pilots for US and Japanese retail locations. Goel adds that “the investors, founders, and team are happy”, implying the payout more than returned the money it’d raised.

Explorer.ai made self-driving car maps before joining Standard Cognition

The big question Standard Cognition’s customers are asking are whether autonomous checkout is cost-effective, simple for customers to understand, and won’t let shoplifters destroy their margins. That means minimizing installation fees, perfecting onboarding and instruction, and recognizing the difference between someone putting an item back on the shelf versus into their jacket. The startup believes that done right, human cashiers can be repurposed as concierges that help customers find what they’re looking for and buy more without having to stand in line.

Standard Cognition co-founder and CEO Jordan Fisher

How do you make this a bulletproof, reproducible system that works as well as a till in a grocery store that no one worries about breaking?” is the challenge Fisher and his new compatriots must solve. “Amazon is pursuing what we call as shelf-based approach with sensors every few inches on every shelf. What’s not great is the expense, the complexity of the electrical and compute systems . . . this is why you’re seeing autonomous checkout applied to Amazon Go and not larger Whole Foods stores. Not from a lack of desire from Amazon, but because it’s not technologically tenable with the approach that they’re taking. I’m confident they’ll tackle that challenge in the next few years but today they’re limited by their technology.”

And so Standard Cognition is pushing as fast as it can build a lead and brand by giving independent retail stores and chains the firepower to fight off Amazon. Standard Cognition will also have to outcompete fellow autonomous checkout startups like ex-Pandora CTO Will Glaser’s Grabango, which announced it’d raised $12 million today. Grabango now has signed deals with four U.S. retail chains up to 25,000 sq ft in size and has 37 employees. There’s also fellow Y Combinator startup Inokyo with a pop-up shop in Mountain View; and Trigo Vision that has a deal with an israeli grocery chain for more than 200 stores.

“I wasn’t thinking we’d do any acquisitions a month ago” Fisher reveals. “Our goal is not just to deliver autonomous checkout to the world but to do it phenomenally quickly. We’re at the beginning of a space race. Two to three years from now, I think this will be potentially as crowded as autonomous vehicles. We’re in the lead today but that’s not enough for us. We need to be light-years ahead to capture as much of the market as we want. [With the Explorer.ai acquisition] how many days does this advance us? How much further along on our roadmap for world domination does this bring us? When we sat down, it was tangible, the real progression of the roadmap.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Square Roots is bringing more transparency to its produce

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If you’re concerned about what you eat, there’s a good chance you’ve looked at the food in the supermarket, or in your fridge, and wondered where it actually comes from. Now urban farming incubator Square Roots is introducing a new way for you to check full history of the produce that you’re about to purchase.

To do so, you just scan the QR code or type in the lot number that the company says will be included in the packaging of all its produce moving forward. Either way, you’ll be taken to to what Square Roots calls a Transparency Timeline. You can actually try this out on the QR codes included in the announcement — the timelines show where and when the produce was planted, grown and harvested, and when it were delivered to the store.

To do this, Square Roots says it’s taking advantage of its indoor growing system, which involves refurbished, climate-controlled shipping containers, as well as “software that enables us to monitor and control every aspect of the process” — that’s supposed to help the farmers who are being trained at Square Roots, but apparently it gives the company data that it can package for consumers too.

In the announcement, Kimbal Musk (who founded Square Roots with Tobias Peggs) laid out the reasoning behind the Transparency Timeline:

Consumers across the world are demanding greater transparency into where and how their food is grown — and with good reason. As mentioned above, this past Thanksgiving, another ecoli outbreak resulted in the recall of all romaine lettuce grown in the US. This was the third such outbreak in the last two years. It put millions of consumers at major risk of foodborne illnesses. The situation was compounded by opaque supply chains in the Industrial Food System, making it ridiculously difficult to accurately trace the source of guilty pathogens. To their credit, the big lettuce producers did eventually react, and agreed to start labeling their products with a mark of the state in which their products are grown. But that’s not enough. Consumers demand — and deserve — to know more.

Musk acknowledged that some companies are trying to use blockchain technology to introduce more transparency to the food supply chain, but he suggested that the results have been “underwhelming,” and that the solution is more straightforward: “What people want to know, simply, is where and how was my food grown and who grew it? With that information, they can make their own informed choices about whether to trust the food and whether to buy it.”

Square Roots produce is only sold in select New York City locations, so the rest of you probably won’t get a chance to try this out in your own supermarket anytime soon. But it sounds like Musk has expansion plans, and he said, “As we scale, we will keep building local farms in the same neighborhood as the consumers — so we can always own the supply chain end to end.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

The limits of coworking

in Apps/brick-and-mortar/campsyte/cities/co-working/coffee shops/Collaborative Consumption/community/coworking/croissant/Delhi/digital nomads/Enterprise/Food/future of work/Government/India/kettlespace/Logistics/marketplace/Politics/prop tech/Real estate/real estate tech/remote work/Remote workers/Restaurants/retail/retailers/SaaS/sharing economy/Social/Spacious/Startups/TC/Urban Tech/Venture Capital/WeWork/workbar by

It feels like there’s a WeWork on every street nowadays. Take a walk through midtown Manhattan (please don’t actually) and it might even seem like there are more WeWorks than office buildings.

Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com.

Co-working has permeated cities around the world at an astronomical rate. The rise has been so remarkable that even the headline-dominating SoftBank seems willing to bet the success of its colossal Vision Fund on the shift continuing, having poured billions into WeWork – including a recent $4.4 billion top-up that saw the co-working king’s valuation spike to $45 billion.

And there are no signs of the trend slowing down. With growing frequency, new startups are popping up across cities looking to turn under-utilized brick-and-mortar or commercial space into low-cost co-working options.

It’s a strategy spreading through every type of business from retail – where companies like Workbar have helped retailers offer up portions of their stores – to more niche verticals like parking lots – where companies like Campsyte are transforming empty lots into spaces for outdoor co-working and corporate off-sites. Restaurants and bars might even prove most popular for co-working, with startups like Spacious and KettleSpace turning restaurants that are closed during the day into private co-working space during their off-hours.

Before you know it, a startup will be strapping an Aeron chair to the top of a telephone pole and calling it “WirelessWorking”.

But is there a limit to how far co-working can go? Are all of the storefronts, restaurants and open spaces that line city streets going to be filled with MacBooks, cappuccinos and Moleskine notebooks? That might be too tall a task, even for the movement taking over skyscrapers.

The co-working of everything

Photo: Vasyl Dolmatov / iStock via Getty Images

So why is everyone trying to turn your favorite neighborhood dinner spot into a part-time WeWork in the first place? Co-working offers a particularly compelling use case for under-utilized space.

First, co-working falls under the same general commercial zoning categories as most independent businesses and very little additional infrastructure – outside of a few extra power outlets and some decent WiFi – is required to turn a space into an effective replacement for the often crowded and distracting coffee shops used by price-sensitive, lean, remote, or nomadic workers that make up a growing portion of the workforce.

Thus, businesses can list their space at little-to-no cost, without having to deal with structural layout changes that are more likely to arise when dealing with pop-up solutions or event rentals.

On the supply side, these co-working networks don’t have to purchase leases or make capital improvements to convert each space, and so they’re able to offer more square footage per member at a much lower rate than traditional co-working spaces. Spacious, for example, charges a monthly membership fee of $99-$129 dollars for access to its network of vetted restaurants, which is cheap compared to a WeWork desk, which can cost anywhere from $300-$800 per month in New York City.

Customers realize more affordable co-working alternatives, while tight-margin businesses facing increasing rents for under-utilized property are able to pool resources into a network and access a completely new revenue stream at very little cost. The value proposition is proving to be seriously convincing in initial cities – Spacious told the New York Times, that so many restaurants were applying to join the network on their own volition that only five percent of total applicants were ultimately getting accepted.

Basically, the business model here checks a lot of the boxes for successful marketplaces: Acquisition and transaction friction is low for both customers and suppliers, with both seeing real value that didn’t exist previously. Unit economics seem strong, and vetting on both sides of the market creates trust and community. Finally, there’s an observable network effect whereby suppliers benefit from higher occupancy as more customers join the network, while customers benefit from added flexibility as more locations join the network.

… Or just the co-working of some things

Photo: Caiaimage / Robert Daly via Getty Images

So is this the way of the future? The strategy is really compelling, with a creative solution that offers tremendous value to businesses and workers in major cities. But concerns around the scalability of demand make it difficult to picture this phenomenon becoming ubiquitous across cities or something that reaches the scale of a WeWork or large conventional co-working player.

All these companies seem to be competing for a similar demographic, not only with one another, but also with coffee shops, free workspaces, and other flexible co-working options like Croissant, which provides members with access to unused desks and offices in traditional co-working spaces. Like Spacious and KettleSpace, the spaces on Croissant own the property leases and are already built for co-working, so Croissant can still offer comparatively attractive rates.

The offer seems most compelling for someone that is able to work without a stable location and without the amenities offered in traditional co-working or office spaces, and is also price sensitive enough where they would trade those benefits for a lower price. Yet at the same time, they can’t be too price sensitive, where they would prefer working out of free – or close to free – coffee shops instead of paying a monthly membership fee to avoid the frictions that can come with them.

And it seems unclear whether the problem or solution is as poignant outside of high-density cities – let alone outside of high-density areas of high-density cities.

Without density, is the competition for space or traffic in coffee shops and free workspaces still high enough where it’s worth paying a membership fee for? Would the desire for a private working environment, or for a working community, be enough to incentivize membership alone? And in less-dense and more-sprawl oriented cities, members could also face the risk of having to travel significant distances if space isn’t available in nearby locations.

While the emerging workforce is trending towards more remote, agile and nomadic workers that can do more with less, it’s less certain how many will actually fit the profile that opts out of both more costly but stable traditional workspaces, as well as potentially frustrating but free alternatives. And if the lack of density does prove to be an issue, how many of those workers will live in hyper-dense areas, especially if they are price-sensitive and can work and live anywhere?

To be clear, I’m not saying the companies won’t see significant growth – in fact, I think they will. But will the trend of monetizing unused space through co-working come to permeate cities everywhere and do so with meaningful occupancy? Maybe not. That said, there is still a sizable and growing demographic that need these solutions and the value proposition is significant in many major urban areas.

The companies are creating real value, creating more efficient use of wasted space, and fixing a supply-demand issue. And the cultural value of even modestly helping independent businesses keep the lights on seems to outweigh the cultural “damage” some may fear in turning them into part-time co-working spaces.

And lastly, some reading while in transit:

News Source = techcrunch.com

WhiteFox Defense lands $12 million as the demand for drone defense technologies intensifies

in Aircraft/airspace systems/aviation/california/controller/Delhi/DJI/drone/embedded systems/Emerging-Technologies/Food/India/Iraq/Isis/mosul/New America Foundation/Nicolás Maduro/okapi venture capital/partner/Politics/robotics/sacramento/Serra Ventures/TC/Technology/United States by

Four months ago, when two commercial DJI-made drones loaded with 1 kilogram each of plastic explosive href=”https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/05/venezuela-claims-drones-loaded-with-explosives-used-in-failed-attack-on-president/”>detonated during a speech from Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro at a military event in Caracas, the world at large was introduced to the newest threat from our automated, dystopian present — cheap weaponized drone technology.

For Luke Fox, the founder and chief executive of WhiteFox Defense Technologies, it was simply the latest in a string of events proving the need for the kinds of services his company is developing. Something he calls “a highway patrol for the sky.”

From drug smuggling to reconnaissance and information gathering to terror attacks, unmanned aerial drones are no longer the provenance of state military and police actors, and are increasingly being used by criminal organizations to open new, aerial fronts in their operations.

“Drones are by far the biggest asymmetric threat that the U.S. faces,” says Fox. “Countries that don’t have a state sponsored drone program are using them [and] it’s where you see people like ISIS are going.”

In the battle for Mosul in Iraq, ISIS flew over 300 drone missions in one month, according to a talk given last year at CyCon from Peter Singer, a senior fellow and strategist at the New America Foundation. One-third of those were strike missions, representing the first time U.S. military faced an aerial attack since the Korean War.

The 24-year-old Fox began thinking seriously about the weaponization of commercial and consumer drone technology six years ago, when he founded WhiteFox Defense.

Creating the company was an extension of the way that Fox had been taught to think about the world as a child, he’s said. Fox grew up in an abusive foster home, raised by a mentally ill foster mother (who was, herself, a child protective service employee) who had adopted him and a number of mentally and physically challenged children.

“The reality i grew up in had my mind constantly looking for vulnerabilities. And instead of seeing these vulnerabilities as opportunities for crime i now had a whole color palette to choose from,” said Fox. “For example when the world started going crazy over drones as recreational toys i saw that they could be used as weapons or crime and this insight into the criminal mind inspired a company that defends the country from drones.”

Fox was adopted from foster care by the librarian of his local Sacramento-area high school, tested out of college and went on to a community college before enrolling in California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo.

He began working with drones while in school and credits that introduction to the technology as the inspiration for starting White Fox.

“We previously started out in drone manufacturing starting out in high performance drones for specialty clients and research organizations. we needed affordable drones that were highly capable,” said Fox. “Making a highly capable drone that was very affordable attracted some very shady people. And, realizing that there was only so much we could control, it brought us to ask what is out there? At the time, the only thing to counter drones related attacks was large missiles shooting down large Iranian drones.”

WhiteFox currently has three products either in development or on the market. Two have already been released to a select group of customers in different industries and the entire suite will be launched at the beginning of next year, according to Fox.

Without going into specific details of how the technology works, Fox said that WhiteFox Defense systems can detect, identify and mitigate unauthorized drones flying in a particular airspace.

“It’s not jamming or blocking drones or catching them out of the sky,” says Fox. Rather the idea is to provide situational awareness and identify the type of threat that an errant drone represents — whether the operator is, in Fox’s words, “clueless, careless or criminal.”

What Fox would say is that his company has developed a technology that’s based on identifying and differentiating between drones based on their unique radio frequency signatures. That product for identifying drones operating in a space is complemented by a second technology offering which allows WhiteFox to take control of the unauthorized drones in an airspace.

“One of the technologies that was started at Drones For Change [the company that would become WhiteFox] was a universal controller,” said Fox. “That technology really formed the basis. We asked what if this universal controller could become a master controller to take over any drone that was in your airspace? That solved the problem that got us out of drone manufacturing.”

WhiteFox isn’t alone in its attempts to create anti-drone technology. According to some industry statistics there are at least 70 companies working on drone defense technologies with solutions ranging from deploying other drones to capture unauthorized UAVs to jamming technologies that will block a drone’s signal.

Earlier this year, Airspace Systems raised $20 million for its kinetic(drone vs. drone) approach to drone defense, while Citadel Defense raised $12 million and Dedrone pulled in $15 million for their drone-jamming technologies.  And last year, SkySafe raised $11.5 million for a radio-jamming approach similar to WhiteFox, which forces unauthorized drones out of restricted airspace while permitting authorized drones to still fly.

“As​ ​the​ ​adoption​ ​of​ ​consumer​ ​drones increases,​ ​we​ ​believe​ ​it​ ​is​ ​vital​ ​for​ ​an​ ​ambitious​ ​and​ ​effective​ ​defense​ ​platform​ ​to​ ​emerge,” said Alex Rubacalva, a partner at Stage Venture Partners and an early investor in WhiteFox Defense. 

In all, drone-related startups have raised nearly $2 billion in the last eight years, according to data from Crunchbase, pulled at the beginning of 2018. Roughly $600 million of that investment total has come in 2017 and the early part of 2018 alone, the Crunchbase data indicated.

Technologies like SkySafe and WhiteFox are about more than just defending airspace from malicious actors.

“Counter drone technology is not just about securing spaces from drones and preventing bad things from happening,” says Fox. “It’s about enabling drones to be used in the right way.”

The applications extend far beyond military uses. In fact, Fox’s technology is already being adopted by prisons around the U.S. and, indeed, anywhere where airspace usage can be considered sensitive.

“Someone described as the largest delivery operations in the world is happening at prisons,” said Fox. “You have a lot of money behind buying a DJI at best buy and loading it up with heroin, with drugs, with weapons, with even chinese food that was smuggled in. We found that there were drones smuggling in contraband every single day.”

WhiteFox recently conducted a survey with an undisclosed large public prison system in the United States to study just how pervasive a problem drone-smuggling was among its prison population. What the prison saw as one drone a week flying into restricted airspace became a realization that multiple drone flights per day were occurring in attempts to smuggle contraband onto prison grounds.

Operations extend far beyond police and military applications though, according to Fox.

During the California wildfires, rescue operations were halted thanks to unauthorized usage of drones by civilian operators who wanted to capture footage of the disaster. Their actions potentially risked the lives of not only rescue workers but of the citizens they were trying to save and the fire crews attempting to control the worst wildfire in the state’s history.

“This is one of the fascinating things about this industry as a whole,” says Fox. “It’s not that drones are bad and scary and we need to do something about them. If we’re going to embrace this technology as a society we need to be able to safely integrate it into society.”

From its initial deployments, WhiteFox was able to convince investors to funnel $12 million into the company to finance its expansion plans.

The extension of the company’s seed round included investors like JAM Capital, Stage Venture Partners, Okapi Venture Capital, Serra Ventures, and OCA Ventures. 

“WhiteFox’s customers are armed with a highly robust and scalable-for-deployment technology​ ​platform​ ​that​ ​addresses​ ​the​ ​increased​ ​threat​ ​of​ ​hostile​ ​drones​ ​and enables​ ​greater​ ​control​ ​of​ ​their​ ​airspace.,” said Jeff Bocan, a partner at OKapi Venture Capital, in a statement.​ “Crucially, the WhiteFox’s technology also offers customers the ability to protect against reckless drone use, while enabling “friendly” drones to fly freely – all without any human intervention.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

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