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Why it matters having Matter support for your new smart home device

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As companies unveil their new smart home devices at the 2022 CES tech show, underway now in Las Vegas, much of the hype involves Matter, an open-source connectivity standard built around a shared belief that smart home devices should seamlessly integrate with other systems and be secure and reliable.

If you like devices, you are probably among the 66% of households that have smart home devices, according to Deloitte. We also know you don’t just stick with one company or brand, but probably have purchased from at least half a dozen different companies. That’s why for any company launching a smart home device this year, having Matter support will be helpful.

Not only is the protocol being developed by some of the biggest tech companies — think Apple, Amazon and Google — and smart home device makers, it is designed to finally fix the issues around fragmented smart home systems so that all of your devices can be easily set up and routed from one place.

Matter, via a local controller device, is essentially the infrastructure, the pipeline and the language that will enable all of the devices to communicate. Its Internet Protocol will ​​define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification so that manufacturers can build devices that are compatible with your Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Matter’s first protocol will run on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers and will utilize Bluetooth Low Energy for commissioning.

The Connectivity Standards Alliance, formerly the Zigbee Alliance, which is organizing the testing for the first Matter-certified devices, identified over two dozen companies that were exhibiting or showcasing Matter at their booths, meeting rooms or virtually at CES this year. They include NXP, Qualcomm, Samsung SmartThings, Telink, Texas Instruments and Universal Electronics.

In May, Google said it was bringing Matter to Android and Nest, and today announced that in a few months, you will be able to use its Android “Fast Pair” feature to quickly connect new Matter-enabled smart home devices to your home network, Google Home and other apps with just a few clicks.

And earlier today, Amazon said its “frustration-free setup” documentation was now available for device makers to review, and it is working with a host of companies on both set-up experience and Alexa capabilities, including adding that device as a second administrator for Matter devices so you can still control them even if your internet connection is down.

It is also collaborating with silicon vendors on what will become a Matter System-on-a-Chip to support the frustration-free setup. All of this comes after last year’s announcement that most Echo devices would support Matter and that 4th gen Echo and eero devices will become Matter Thread border routers.

In addition, here are some other companies that announced new devices or services that support Matter:

  • Comcast mentioned it while launching its new xFi Advanced Gateway Router equipped with features like “IoT for Smart Homes of the Future” that was Zigbee and Matter compatible to act as a central connector for IoT and home automation devices like smart lights, plugs and locks.
  • Eve Systems, which produces connected home products, created Eve MotionBlinds, touting it as “the first connected blinds and shades motors in the market to support Thread.”
  • Home security brand Arlo Technologies unveiled its Arlo Security System, a set of sensors with eight different functions, that correspond with a security hub and integrated keypad for small businesses and consumers that want more of a do-it-yourself security monitoring solution. The company also stated its commitment to Matter as a way of solidifying its stance on broad-range compatibility in the smart home space.
  • Edge computing company Veea unveiled its Smart-home-as-a-Service offering which will include support for Matter, Thread and Wi-Fi 6. The offering includes the Veea SmartHub mesh router for the home called STAX.
  • Among Belkin’s several Matter-enabled product announcements at CES for the home are its new Wemo video doorbell that works with Apple’s HomeKit, and the Wemo Smart Plug, Smart Light Switch and Smart Dimmer that will work with Matter over Thread.
  • Mui Lab debuted its Matter-ready “muiPlatform” that turns smart devices into “calmer ones,” which includes a board that turns Amazon’s Alexa into a more visual interface.

One device Michelle Mindala-Freeman, vice president of marketing for the Connectivity Standards Alliance, is watching is Schlage’s announcement made Tuesday introducing it new smart Wi-Fi deadbolt, which will be among the first to support Apple’s latest enhancement to its HomeKit experience with home keys capability.

She says 2022 will be a big year for Matter. There are hundreds of companies involved in both CSA and Matter, and 50 companies have brought through 134 products already, Mindala-Freeman told TechCrunch.

It is expected that CSA will have the certification, specifications, testing tools and SDK released by the middle of the year. This will enable companies to be faster to market with new hardware and innovations and reach a broader consumer audience.

“At a fundamental level, our job at CSA is to eliminate fragmentation and help companies to grow and do it in a way that is highly valuable to consumers,” Mindala-Freeman said. “Standards like Matter do that, and we believe it is a rising tide that raises all boats.”

Source: Tech

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Paack pulls in a $225M Series D led by SoftBank to scale its E-commerce delivery platform

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By now, many of us are familiar with the warehouse robots which populate those vast spaces occupied by the likes of Amazon and others. In particular, Amazon was very much a pioneer of the technology. But it’s 2021 now, and allying warehouse robots with a software logistics platform is no longer the monopoly of one company.

One late-stage startup which has been ‘making hay’ with the whole idea is Paack, an e-commerce delivery platform which a sophisticated software platform that integrates with the robotics which are essential to modern-day logistics operations.

It’s now raised €200m ($225m) in a Series D funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. The capital will be used for product development and European expansion.

New participants for this round also include Infravia Capital Partners, First Bridge Ventures, and Endeavor Catalyst. Returning investors include Unbound, Kibo Ventures, Big Sur Ventures, RPS Ventures, Fuse Partners, Rider Global, Castel Capital, and Iñaki Berenguer.

This funding round comes after the creation of a profitable position in its home market of Spain, but Paack claims it’s on track to achieve similar across its European operations, Such as in the UK, France, and Portugal.

Founded by Fernando Benito, Xavier Rosales and Suraj Shirvankar, Paack now says it’s delivering several million orders per month from 150 international clients, processing 10,000 parcels per hour, per site. Some 17 of them are amongst the largest e-commerce retailers in Spain.

The startup’s systems integrate with e-commerce sites. This means consumers are able to customize their delivery schedule at checkout, says the company.

Benito, CEO and Co-founder, said: “Demand for convenient, timely, and more sustainable methods of delivery is going to explode over the next few years and Paack is providing the solution. We use technology to provide consumers with control and choice over their deliveries, and reduce the carbon footprint of our distribution.” 

Max Ohrstrand, Investment Director at SoftBank Investment Advisers said: “As the e-commerce sector continues to flourish and same-day delivery is increasingly the norm for consumers, we believe Paack is well-positioned to become the category leader both in terms of its technology and commitment to sustainability.”

According to research from the World Economic Forum (WEF), the last-mile delivery business is expected to grow 78% by 2030, causing a rise in CO2 emissions of nearly one-third.

As a result, Paack claim it aims to deliver all parcels at carbon net-zero by measuring its environmental impact, using electric last-mile delivery vehicles. It is now seeking certification with The Carbon Trust and United Nations.

In an interview Benito told me: “We have a very clear short term vision which is to lead sustainable e-commerce delivers in Europe… through technology via what we think is perhaps the most advanced tech delivery platform for last-mile delivery. Our CTO was the CTO and co-founder of Google Cloud, for instance.”

“We are developing everything from warehouse automation, time windows, routing integrations etc. in order to achieve the best delivery experience.”

Paack says it is able to work with more than one robotics partner, but presently it is using robots from Chinese firm GEEK.

The company hopes it can compete with the likes of DHL, Instabox, and La Poste in Europe, which are large incumbents.

Source: Tech

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Infermedica raises $30M to expand its AI-based medical guidance platform

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Infermedica, a Poland-founded digital health company that offers AI-powered solutions for symptom analysis and patient triage, has raised $30 million in Series B funding. The round was led by One Peak and included participation from previous investors Karma Ventures, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Heal Capital and Inovo Venture Partners. The new capital means the startup has raised $45 million in total to date.

Founded in 2012, Infermedica aims to make it easier for doctors to pre-diagnose, triage and direct their patients to appropriate medical services. The company’s mission is to make primary care more accessible and affordable by introducing automation into healthcare. Infermedica has created a B2B platform for health systems, payers and providers that automates patient triage, the intake process and follow-up after a visit. Since its launch, Infermedica is being used in more than 30 countries in 19 languages and has completed more than 10 million health checks.

The company offers a preliminary diagnosis symptom checker, an AI-driven software that supports call operators making timely triage recommendations and an application programming interface that allows users to build customized diagnostic solutions from scratch. Like a plethora of competitors, such as Ada Health and Babylon, Infermedica combines the expertise of physicians with its own algorithms to offer symptom triage and patient advice.

In terms of the new funding, Infermedica CEO Piotr Orzechowski told TechCrunch in an email that the investment will be used to further develop the company’s Medical Guidance Platform and add new modules to cover the full primary care journey. Last year, Infermedica’s team grew by 80% to 180 specialists, including physicians, data scientists and engineers. Orzechowski says Infermedica has an ambitious plan to nearly double its team in the next 12 months.

Image Credits: Infermedica

“We will invest heavily into our people and our products, rolling out new modules of our platform as well as expanding our underlying AI capabilities in terms of disease coverage and accuracy,” Orzechowski said. “From the commercial perspective, our goal is to strengthen our position in the US and DACH and we will focus the majority of our sales and marketing efforts there.”

Regarding the future, Orzechowski said he’s a firm believer that there will be fully automated self-care bots in 5-10 years that will be available 24/7 to help providers find solutions to low acuity health concerns, such as a cold or UTI.

“According to WHO, by 2030 we might see a shortage of almost 10 million doctors, nurses and midwives globally,” Orzechowski said. “Having certain constraints on how fast we can train healthcare professionals, our long-term plan assumes that AI will become a core element of every modern healthcare system by navigating patients and automating mundane tasks, saving the precious time of clinical staff and supporting them with clinically accurate technology.”

Infermedica’s Series B round follows its $10 million Series A investment announced in August 2020. The round was led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and digital health fund Heal Capital. Existing investors Karma Ventures, Inovo Venture Partners and Dreamit Ventures also participated in the round.

Source: Tech

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KKR invests $45M into GrowSari, a B2B platform for Filipino MSMEs

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A sari-sari store owner who uses GrowSari

GrowSari, the Manila-based startup that helps small shops grow and digitize, announced today that KKR will lead its Series C round with a $45 million investment. The funds will be used to enter new regions in the Philippines and expand its financial products. The Series C round is still ongoing and the startup says it is already oversubscribed, with the final composition currently being finalized. 

Before its Series C, GrowSari’s total raised was $30 million. TechCrunch last wrote about GrowSari in June 2021, when it announced its Series B. Since then, it has expanded the number of municipalities it serves from 100 to 220, and now has a customer base of 100,000 micro, small and mid-sized enterprise (MSME) store owners. 

Founded in 2016, GrowSari is a B2B platform that offers almost every kind of service that small- to medium-sized retailers, including neighborhood stores that carry daily necessities (called sari-saris), roadside and market shops and pharmacies, need.

For example, it has a wholesale marketplace with products from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands like Unilever, P&G and Nestle. It partners with over 200 providers, like telecoms, fintechs and subscription plans, so sari-saris can offer services like top-ups and bill payments to their customers. 

Sari-sari operators can also use GrowSari to launch e-commerce stores and access short-term working capital loans to buy inventory. The startup’s other financial products include digital wallets and cash-in services, and it is looking at adding remittance, insurance and loans in partnership with other providers. 

The new funding will be used to expand into the Visayas and Mindanao, the two other main geographical regions in the Philippines, with the goal of covering all 1.1 million “mom and pop” stores in the Philippines. 

Source: Tech

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