Thomas's Innovation Wrap #22

💻 EUV explained, 🌞 lithium-sulphur batteries, and 🛰️ the space economy in 2020

Happy New Year!

Here’s your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

💻 Chips and Computing

Engadget created a 17 minute video explaining EUV (extreme ultraviolet lithography) and how the process technology will be used in manufacturing high-end chips. This is one of the most accessible videos I’ve seen explaining the semiconductor manufacturing process and how EUV differs from traditional lithography.

A massive optical computer is being built that could outpace quantum computers on certain tasks like optimisation problems.

A machine made from a 5-kilometre-long fibre optic cable coiled into a box a few metres across could give quantum computers a run for their money on certain tasks. The device, which performs calculations using pulses of light, will be one of the most sophisticated optical computers ever built.

IEEE Spectrum profiles Cerebras Systems and their giant AI chip, which Cerebras claims will smash deep learning training speeds.

The statistics Cerebras quotes are pretty astounding. According to the company, a 10-rack TPU2 cluster—the second of what are now three generations of Google AI computers—consumes five times as much power and takes up 30 times as much space to deliver just one-third of the performance of a single computer with the WSE. Whether a single massive chip is really the answer the AI community has been waiting for should start to become clear this year.

Chip designer Ambarella has announced a new robotics platform that will provide a unified software infrsutrcture for robotics perception across Ambarella’s CVflow family of chips.

💊 Health

Google researchers and collaborators at Northwestern University and three British medical institutions have created an AI model that can detect breast cancer in mammograms more accurately than human experts with higher detection rates and lower false positives (paper published in Nature).

Some argue that detecting cancer more often (without distinguishing between detecting cureable cancers from harmless cancers and incurable cancers) won’t necessarily lead to better health outcomes.

🌞 Renewables

A team of researchers led by Dr Mahdokht Shaibani at Monash University have developed a lithium-sulphur battery that could power your phone for five days (paper published in Science Advances).

Mahdokht Shaibani at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and her colleagues have developed a battery with a capacity five times higher than that of lithium-ion batteries. The battery maintains an efficiency of 99 per cent for more than 200 cycles, and a smartphone-sized version would be able to keep a phone charged for five days.

“In order to have much cheaper energy and more ethical batteries, we need a radically new energy storage system,” says Shaibani. The researchers will further test battery prototypes with a view to manufacturing them commercially in Australia in coming years.

More of the UK’s energy came from clean sources than fossil fuels for the first time in 2019 thanks to increased use of wind, solar, and nuclear energy.

💲 Finance

China’s stock market was one of the few to finish down over the past decade with a decline of 7% for the Shanghai Composite. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite increased 189% and 295% over the same period.

One Medical filed for an IPO (S-1 here). The Alphabet-backed company runs a chain of primary care clinics that seek to differentiate themselves through better use of technology in practice operations, e.g. online scheduling, virtual consults, and the use of machine learning and natural language processing to automate recommendations and workflows.

VentureBeat lists (and describes) 13 potential tech IPOs in 2020: Airbnb, Wish, DoorDash, Procore Technologies, Casper, Robinhood, Credit Karma, Snowflake Computing, GitLab, Asana, Instacart, Unity, Rubrik Hybrid.

Singapore plans to grant up to 5 new digital bank licenses in 2020 (announced last August). Gaming peripherals company Razer applied for a license through a consortium called “Razer Youth Bank” which will focus on youths and millennials and will be “integrating lifestyle" experiences” onto its platform. Singapore has also seen applications from ride-hailing company Grab (in conjunction with SingTel), Ant Financial, and several others.

Personal plug: My fund (Perpetual’s Global Innovation Share Fund) had a good year.

The WSJ argues that stock picking in Japan is like rummaging through a thrift shop, which is a sentiment I agree with.

🎮 Gaming

The video game industry grew 4% to $120 billion in 2019, according to SuperData, with mobile games accounting for the majority of spend ($64 billion). Fortnite was the highest revenue-generating game in 2019 with estimated revenue of $1.8 billion (down from $2.4 billion in 2018).

⚙️ Mobility

Baidu secured a license to test self-driving cars in Beijing, making it the first company to do so in the Chinese capital.

Bosch unveiled a new long-range lidar sensor designed for automotive use at the Consumer Electronics Show.

🛰️ Space

Verge looks at the risky venture of Spaceport America (13 minutes). Spaceport America is a spaceport paid for and built by the State of New Mexico, and currently has only one tenant: Virgin Galactic.

The NY Times summarises key space and astronomy events in 2020.

Quartz writes that 2020 is the year of the $1 trillion space economy, highlighting the rise of mega-constellations, the rise of mini-constellations, new options for human spaceflight, NASA’s public-private partnerships, and the US Space Force.

🔬 Biology

A computer made from DNA can compute the square root of 900. The computer sits in a test tube and was developed using 32 strands of DNA to store and process information.

The DNA computer could help to develop more complex computing circuits, says Guo. “DNA computing is still in its infancy, but holds great promise for solving problems that are too difficult or even impossible to handle by current silicon-based computers,” he says.

Guo believes DNA computers may one day replace traditional computers for complex computations.

The scientist behind the controversial birth of the world’s first CRISPR-edited babies has been sentenced to three years in prison for forging ethical review materials and violating national regulations on scientific research and medical management.

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

Michal Abrash, chief scientist at Facebook, believes that mass adoption of augmented reality is 5 to 10 years away. He also believes that augmented reality will replace the mobile phone, while virtual reality will replace the PC.

When you put on a VR headset, all of a sudden you have completely configurable environments that you can swap or anybody can pop in, pop out. I very much believe in VR as a collaborative workspace. I actually think it will be a better workspace than reality, ultimately.

🔒 Cybersecurity, Cybercrime, and Cyberwar

The WSJ published its investigation into the Cloud Hopper corporate hack and it appears the attack was more widespread than originally reported (by Reuters in June) with the attacks impacting at least a dozen cloud providers and multiple companies.

The Journal found that Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. was so overrun that the cloud company didn’t see the hackers re-enter their clients’ networks, even as the company gave customers the all-clear.

Inside the clouds, the hackers, known as APT10 to Western officials and researchers, had access to a vast constellation of clients. The Journal’s investigation identified hundreds of firms that had relationships with breached cloud providers, including Rio Tinto, Philips, American Airlines Group Inc., Deutsche Bank AG , Allianz SE and GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

The UK is looking into whether trading outages on the London Stock Exchange were actually caused by a cyberattack aimed at disrupting markets.

The US army has banned soldiers from using TikTok, which it now considers a security threat.

The White House has expanded the use of cyber weapons, but stays secretive on policies.

Ransomware may have cost the US more than $7.5 billion in 2019, according to a cybersecurity firm Emisoft.

A startup called TypingDNA raised $7 million in a Series A; the company uses AI to identify people by how they type.

⚡ Other Snippets

D-Link has introduced two new home security cameras that incorporate edge-based AI to detect both people and breaking glass, enabling users to get quick notifications if either is detected.

Mike (@NonGaap) discusses his theories on the rise of influencer marketing through the 2010s and where it sits today. Interesting read.

So why does Kim “Famous for Nothing” Kardashian and the rest of the Kardashian/Jenner family deserve our respect?

They are pioneers of the “attention economy” and the massive fortune they have accumulated has laid the groundwork for an entire generation of “influencers” to make a living on the Internet.

YouTube is limiting data collection on children’s videos in response to a federal privacy clampdown. The move will ultimately hurt creators of children’s video content.

Consulting firm AT Kearney believes that the rise of non-meat meat will mean conventional meat supply will drop by more than 33% by 2040.

Tencent finalised their agreement to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group from Vivendi for €3 billion, valuing the music business at €30 billion.

Have a great week,


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About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.