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The Most Mindnumbing of Office Tasks Made One Man $360 Million

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Tomomichi Takahashi became a multimillionaire by focusing on the dullest of white-collar tasks.

The former SoftBank Group Corp. employee was an early mover into what’s called robotic process automation, the use of software bots to automate repetitive operations.

The Japanese entrepreneur stumbled into the business by chance, turning to it as a last resort when his consulting firm was on the ropes during the financial crisis.

It was a winning move. Takahashi’s company — now called RPA Holdings Inc. — listed last year on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The shares surged, and so did Takahashi’s wealth. His stake in the company is worth more than $360 million.

“It was like hell,” the 48-year-old entrepreneur said of the period after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in September 2008. “We decided to do whatever it took to survive.”

Takahashi’s firm provides so-called software bots for more than 500 companies, including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., the largest lender in Japan, Nippon Life Insurance Co. and his alma mater, Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank Group. It helps them to automate routine tasks such as inputting data and checking invoices.

The company is at the forefront of an industry on the rise. Global spending on robotic process automation software was estimated to reach $680 million in 2018, up 57 percent from the previous year, and is on course to total $2.4 billion by 2022, according to research from Gartner Inc. The new technologies are particularly welcome in Japan, where a shrinking workforce is causing the tightest labor market in decades.

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Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-02-19/the-most-mindnumbing-of-office-tasks-made-one-man-360-million?srnd=premium-asia

Author:  Keiko Ujikane and Shingo Kawamoto

Image Credit: Shiho Fukada/Bloomberg

AAAS: Machine learning ‘causing science crisis’

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Machine-learning techniques used by thousands of scientists to analyze data are producing results that are misleading and often completely wrong.

Dr. Genevera Allen from Rice University in Houston said that the increased use of such systems was contributing to a “crisis in science”.

She warned scientists that if they didn’t improve their techniques they would be wasting both time and money. Her research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

A growing amount of scientific research involves using machine learning software to analyze data that has already been collected. This happens across many subject areas ranging from biomedical research to astronomy. The data sets are very large and expensive.

‘Reproducibility crisis’

But, according to Dr. Allen, the answers they come up with are likely to be inaccurate or wrong because the software is identifying patterns that exist only in that data set and not the real world.

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Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-47267081?SThisFB

Author: Pallab Ghosh

Image Credit: Reuters

Nissan said to look outside for a new board chairman

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A Nissan Motor governance committee will recommend the appointment of an external director as board chairman, a role distinct from company chairman, in a move to decentralize power at the top level, the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday.

Under Nissan’s current corporate charter, the position of board chair is automatically appointed to head the company board, the Nikkei said citing a source. Former chairman Carlos Ghosn had filled both roles prior to his arrest in November for under-reporting his salary for eight years, Bloomberg said.

The issue of Nissan’s chairmanship is now particularly important after the Japanese firm identified the concentration of power in one executive as one of the reasons Mr. Ghosn was able to carry out his alleged fiscal misconduct.

The Nikkei report came as…Read More


Source: https://www.thenational.ae/business/economy/nissan-said-to-look-outside-for-a-new-board-chairman-1.826935

Image Credit: The National

Shell Acquires sonnen!

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Shell is diving off the deep end into energy storage with the acquisition of 100% of Germany energy storage and solution provider Sonnen.

The acquisition builds on Shell’s investment into the company last year through its Shell Ventures arm and shows that Royal Dutch Shell sees an energy future that is not dependent on its current portfolio of oil and gas products. Acquiring one of the leading energy storage solution providers gives Shell a platform through which it can explore the potential of stationary energy storage and, more importantly, leap to the cutting edge of intelligent energy storage products.

sonnen’s ecoLinx product line, which was unveiled in the back half of last year, brought revolutionary new integration into the entire home. The energy storage hub allowed homeowners to not only control the energy flowing into and out of their home but thanks to their breakthrough integration with Eaton’s smart breakers, also provided granular control over individual circuits within the home.

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Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2019/02/15/shell-acquires-sonnen/

Author: Kyle Field

Image Credit: Sonnen Website

Glide helps you build mobile apps from a spreadsheet without coding

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The founders of Glide, a member of the Y Combinator Winter 2019 class, had a notion that building mobile apps in the enterprise was too hard. They decided to simplify the process by starting with a spreadsheet, and automatically turning the contents into a slick mobile app.

David Siegel, CEO and co-founder at Glide, was working with his co-founders Jason Smith, Mark Probst and Antonio Garcia Aprea at Xamarin, a cross-platform mobile development company that Microsoft acquired for $500 million in 2016. There, they witnessed first-hand the difficulty that companies were having building mobile apps. When their two-year stint at Microsoft was over, the four founders decided to build a startup to solve the problem.

“We saw how desperate some of the world’s largest companies were to have a mobile strategy, and also how painful and expensive it is to… Read More

Source: https://tcrn.ch/2S0zjKN

Author: Ron Miller

Image Credit: Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images


Toyota’s moonshot: Self-driving car for sale — in a year

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TOKYO — They call it Toyota’s moonshot: In just one year, Japan’s biggest carmaker wants to start selling a self-driving vehicle that it says will be the “most powerful supercomputer on wheels.”

But the company has a lot of work to do first. It must develop hardware and software for the vehicle, dramatically slash the cost of the technology and ramp up the hiring of the software engineers who will make it all happen.

That’s the challenge facing James Kuffner, CEO of Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development Inc., or TRI-AD. His Tokyo company was set up in March to spearhead Toyota’s attempt to bridge the gap between research and the showroom floor.

The first milestone comes in 2020, when Toyota plans to introduce vehicles capable of driving themselves on highways. Kuffner said they would be rolling supercomputers.

“The prototypes and the preproduction vehicles that the team is building here at TRI-AD are going to be …  Read More


Source: https://www.autonews.com/mobility-report/toyotas-moonshot-self-driving-car-sale-year

Author: Hans Greimel

Image Credit: Automotive News


C2A Security raises $6.5M in Series A funding

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JERUSALEM–(BUSINESS WIRE)–C2A Security, an Israeli startup providing in-vehicle solutions preventing life-threatening cyber attacks, has announced the completion of a $6.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Maniv Mobility and ICV with participation from Labs/02.

C2A has developed a unique suite of solutions that protect the car’s internal systems against cyber attacks, ensuring passenger’s safety. Using a bespoke suite of solutions that communicate with one another, C2A is able to detect and mitigate any type of attack, ranging from autonomous systems hacks to chip-level vulnerabilities. C2A has already integrated a production-ready suite of solutions to leading manufacturers worldwide and plans to utilize the new funding to grow its R&D team and support its rapidly growing customer base.

Michael Dick, Founder, and CEO of C2A said, “We are extremely proud to receive the support of such outstanding investors, who will bring tremendous value to the company. Maniv’s expertise in autotech and strong network across the industry coupled with ICV’s rich experience in cybersecurity brings the perfect combination of skills to the table.”

Olaf Sakkers, Partner at Maniv Mobility said, “We’ve spent several years closely evaluating the in-vehicle cybersecurity market and our technical analysis and conversations with C2A’s customers have convinced us that this is the best solution to an acute need that is only going to grow over time.”

Meir Ukeles, Partner at ICV said, “I believe that C2A has built a… Read More


Source: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190211005277/en/C2A-Security-Completes-6.5M-Series-Bring-Best-in-Class


Amazon and General Motors are in talks to invest in Tesla rival Rivian

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Amazon and General Motors are in talks to invest in Rivian Automotive LLC in a deal that would value the U.S. electric pickup truck manufacturer at between $1 billion and $2 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The deal would give Amazon and General Motors minority stakes in Rivian, the sources said. It would be a major boost for the Plymouth, Michigan-based startup, which aspires to be the first car maker to the U.S. consumer market with an electric pickup.

If the negotiations conclude successfully, a deal could be announced as early as…Read More


Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/12/amazon-general-motors-are-in-talks-to-invest-in-tesla-rival-rivian-reuters-citing-sources.html?forYou=true

Image Source: Getty Images

Honda secures battery supply contract for about 1 million electric vehicles with CATL

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Honda hasn’t been one of the most active automakers when it comes to electrification, but it is now making some big moves, including securing a battery cell supply contract for about 1 million electric vehicles with CATL, one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world.

Yesterday in Tokyo, Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL) and Honda signed “a cooperation agreement to formally cooperate to develop electric vehicles for the future market.”

The two companies had already been working together.

Last year, it was reported that Honda is working on an affordable all-electric Fit-based car with CATL for a global release.

Naosumi Tada, head of CATL’s Japanese subsidiary, commented:

“Customer-centered is the philosophy that CATL has always insisted on. We hope that we can establish….

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Source: https://electrek.co/2019/02/06/honda-catl-battery-supply-1-million-electric-vehicles/amp/

Author: Fred Lambert

Another disappointing solar auction for Japan as prices stay high

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In last month’s exercise, final prices were slightly lower than those seen in previous procurements and the total allocated capacity was 196.6 MW. Through the three tenders held by the Japanese government, around 500 MW of solar was assigned, against a target of 1-1.5 GW. Land availability, grid constraints high labor costs make projects expensive and force developers to use mountainous regions.

The Japanese solar sector is still having problems driving down the cost of large-scale PV to levels seen in other mature markets, despite the nation has been one of the world’s first to provide incentives and to deploy significant capacity volumes.

In the third and latest auction for utility-scale PV projects – held in mid-December by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) – the final prices fell slightly but remained considerably higher than those seen in markets such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Chile and Spain, which delivered record low bids of $0.020-0.030/kWh. Worryingly, December’s prices were also higher than those generated by recent auctions in Germany, France, Brazil, and Argentina, which came in at $0.035-0.060/kWh.

The average price from Japan’s third auction was JPY15.01 ($0.136) per kWh, with the lowest bid JPY14.25 and the highest JPY15.45. METI had received 38 bids but pre-qualified only 16, with a total capacity of around 300 MW. It then selected seven projects with a total capacity of 196.6 MW.

The selected bidders were CS Yamaguchi Bofu, for a 5 MW project offering JPY14.25/kWh; Tida Power110, with 18 MW at JPY14.49; Isaac Corporation – 3 MW at JPY15; Pacifico Energy Corporation – 85 MW at JPY15.17; Sparks Green Energy & Technology Co Ltd – 21.7 MW at JPY15.34; Solar Power Development Research Institute Inc – 62.8 MW at JPY15.37; and Sennan Country Club, 1.2 MW at JPY15.45.

A litany of disappointments

In an under-subscribed first auction held in November 2017, only 140 MW of a hoped-for 500 MW of capacity was awarded, at an average price of JPY19.6/kWh.

The second auction, in September, was more successful in terms of capacity, with around 197 MW and the lowest bid of JPY16.47. However, METI had established an initial ceiling price of JPY15.50/kWh without telling participants until bidding had started. As the lowest bid was still JPY0.97 off METI’s desired maximum, the ministry said it was disappointing. The ministry added, as not all the 250 MW of capacity it had initially allotted was allocated, just 196.96 MW would be allotted in mid-December.

METI department the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy admitted it had been intended for the three auctions to secure 1-1.5 GW of new PV capacity.

The Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA) told PV magazine the result of the latest auction was disappointing for the industry, which is fully aware system costs must be lowered as soon as possible.

IHS Markit analyst Holly Hu agreed prices for large-scale solar in Japan remain too high. “The Japan market is unique, as its system cost [is] still at [an] high price with Japanese brands,” she told pv magazine. “And their cost in non-system parts is … higher than other regions [and includes factors] such as land and grid connection [and] installation labor cost.”

Uphill road in land of the rising sun

Japan’s long and difficult transition from FITs to auctions has prompted Fitch Solutions Macro Research to predict a strong contraction of the market for 2021-2027, with only an estimated 14 GW of new installations anticipated.

Land availability – in part due to restrictions on the use of abandoned agricultural sites – and grid constraints are becoming critical concerns, said the JPEA, which told PV magazine: “The Japanese PV sector is now increasingly developing projects in mountainous areas. However, we have considerably large land where farming is given up.” Around 73% of Japan is mountainous, with arable land making up only around 11.6% of the country’s surface.

Auctions for large-scale solar may become more successful when a huge pipeline of around 23.5 GW of projects initiated under the FIT scheme reach completion. METI recently decided to reduce FITs of JPY40-32/kWh to JPY21/kWh and the scheme is set to expire with no more contracts to be signed, but the market segment nevertheless remains more attractive than auctions.


Source: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2019/01/24/another-disappointing-solar-auction-for-japan-as-prices-stay-high/


Image Credit: Daniel Ramirez/Flickr

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