Tech Roundup September 1, 2016: GoPro, Facebook, Nvidia/Baidu, and Sense

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This week our Tech Roundup focus is on GoPro’s new drone, Facebook’s satellite blow up, Nvidia/Baidu’s partnership for self driving cars, and a cool new device we stumbled across called Sense Home Energy Monitor.

GoPro launching drone on Sep 19

After a long delay, GoPro is set to show off its new drone, code named Karma on September 19. The company originally announced this product in mid-2015, and later pushed out the formal intro to late 2016, and now it seems they’re about to launch it. At the same time, there are reports GoPro might also launch its next generation camera, the Hero 5.

What this means: After going public with much hoopla a couple of years ago, GoPro stock has largely been a disappointment, peaking at around $86 in Oct. 2014, and how languishing around $14 per share. Although no doubt the company’s products are as cool as they come, management has not done a great job introducing new growth drivers. With Karma, they hope to get a boost in growth. Our view is although the Karma might be an interesting product, the limited market size and looming competition from numerous players will likely keep a lid on growth. In fact, we think the Hero 5 might have a bigger impact, provided the it lives up to its technical promises.

Facebook’s satellite destroyed, thanks to SpaceX’s rocket explosion

Facebook and SpaceX had partnered to launch a satellite this week, as part of FB’s larger strategy to connect the world. The Amos 6 was supposed to launch aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. This was part of Facebook’s internet.org organization, which is trying to bring internet connectivity to the world, including in Africa. However, in a routine test of the SpaceX rocket launchers, something went wrong (it’s still unidentified, according to Elon Musk), and a massive explosion destroyed both the rocket and the satellite. Nobody was injured, according to SpaceX. The video is here.

What this means: Besides the continued negative publicity for Elon Musk’s SpaceX science project, there was also a heavy financial cost associated with this screw up. Israeli-based satellite operator Space Communications (Spacecom) owned AMOS-6, and it cost an estimated $195 million to build it. FB and its partner Eutelsat had a contract to lease the AMOS-6 satellite for $95M over 5 years, according to SpaceNews. We will follow this closely, to see what the repercussions are (if any) for SpaceX, and also to find out the timing of a re-launch. Additionally, the bigger picture issue here is the underlying goal of bringing connectivity and its associated benefits to remote areas will now be severely delayed.

Nvidia and Baidu partner to build self driving car

Nvidia and Baidu, the Chinese web giant, announced a collaboration to develop a platform for semi-autonomous cars. Nvidia, who has been very active in AI specifically for automobiles, will combine its existing work on AI with Baidu’s work on mapping to develop a system for delivering 3D maps to vehicles alongside an AI that knows how to get a car to navigate them. The idea is to bring Level 3 autonomy to cars, so it’s not a full blow self driving machine.

What this means: Baidu plans to use this technology to build a fleet of autonomous taxis according to TechCrunch, but the larger play is for the 2 companies to work with major automotive OEM’s to add self-driving capabilities to their own vehicles. Although the details were somewhat vague, we believe this will only serve to accelerate the move to autonomous cars, albeit slowly. Nvidia, who has been conducting heavy research on AI, will leverage its strong tech portfolio to continue to develop a leadership position in cars, and potentially add to its Drive PX system, which is becoming the supercomputer brain for a driverless racing series. For Baidu, this means their recent approval to test self-driving cars on California’s public roads will become that much more meaningful given Nvidia’s credibility in technology.

Sense starting to ship Home Energy Monitor, closed $14M funding round

 Some time ago we ran across a company called Sense, which is quietly developing some nifty smart home products. I took a chance and ordered their Home Energy Monitoring system, which I personally believe will see huge demand. In a nutshell, this is a device that plugs into a home’s electricity panel and keeps track of the home’s electricity usage. The consumer uses an app on their phone to gain insight into which devices in their home are using how much energy. The demo video is here.

This week I received a notice from Sense telling me they are about to ship orders, which is great news. Additionally, they announced they closed a $14M funding round from their VC’s.

What this means: The utilities, as we know, are essentially government backed monopolies, working the PUC’s who are supposed to oversee their prices. In reality, the utilities have a decades old grid and an even more useless pricing model that is based on outdated data to set consumer prices. As such, most households are being overcharged for electricity. In short, the utilities are not on the consumers’ side, given they have no incentive or services available for consumers to use for this purpose. Sense’s device will fill this void. The company is planning to use the funding to expand sales/marketing, and production, not to mention build out more app features and detection capabilities in the home. We hope they are successful and will report on the device once I’ve tested it out in my home.

More about sense here.

BitNavi is a blog conceived by Karl Motey in the heart of Silicon Valley, dedicated to emerging technologies and strategic business issues challenging the industry.

Follow them on Twitter: @bitnaviblog

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