• Samuel Poon

Aquifer Tech Snapshot: Week of June 8-12

This week in tech: Tech companies drop facial recognition research for human rights abuses, Uber plays tug-of-war for GrubHub, Sony finally reveals the PlayStation5

In a letter to members of Congress, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna announced Monday that the company would formally end the research and development of all of its facial recognition technologies. Amidst global protests on police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd, Krishna argued that police reform was necessary to hold police accountable for misconduct and condemned the use of its products "for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms."

The incident wasn't isolated. Two days later, Amazon announced in a blog post that the company was implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of Rekognition, Amazon's proprietary facial recognition cloud service for developers. Microsoft followed suit on Thursday, stating that they would not sell their facial recognition technology to police until "a national law [is set] in place, grounded in human rights." Police reform has become an increasingly prominent topic in social media and Congress, and IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft's hard-line stance seems to echo the sentiment felt across Silicon Valley.

In other news, GrubHub was in the spotlight this week as three rival companies fought for a piece of the company. Early on in the month, Uber looked like the most likely candidate, as the company had already placed a bid in May to acquire the firm in an all-stock deal for around $6.1 billion. Washington was quick to step in, as officials raised antitrust and employee treatment concerns, along with lawmakers in several major U.S. cities.

If the Uber bid didn't go through, that left two suitors for the acquisition: Just Eat and Delivery Hero, two food-delivery services based in Europe. By Wednesday, CNBC reported that antitrust concerns were too severe, and Uber was "likely" to pull out of the merger. In the end, Just Eat won the fight, marking the end to the battle with an all-share deal worth $7.3 billion.

Sony also finally revealed the hardware design for the PlayStation 5 on Thursday during its "Future of Gaming" livestream. This was the first glimpse the public got of the PS5 and some of its hardware capabilities. Two versions of the PS5 will be released: one with a disk drive and a one fully digital one (the first Sony console to not come with a disk drive). Rumours circulated that the PS5 reveal was the most watched gaming stream in YouTube history and the anticipation is clearly brewing. We expect the release of the PlayStation 5 to have a major impact on eSports and will be watching the space for future developments.

C2i Genomics: C2i announced on Tuesday that it had raised $12 million in a Series A round led by Casdin Capital.The company is dedicated to improving the lives of cancer patients with a breakthrough tumor pattern recognition approach for liquid biopsy. Co-founder Asaf Zviran stated that the funds would be used to advance the company’s core technology into pilot and pivotal validation studies.

DNAnexus: DNAnexus, a company providing cloud platforms for governments, universities, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies to tap into DNA datasets for collaboration, announced that it had raised $100 million in funding in a Series G funding round. The round was co-led by Perceptive Advisors and Northpond Ventures, with the funds used to continue building out the platform and its use cases. Prior to this, DNAnexus had raised approximately $127 million according to PitchBook data.

HeadLight: Seattle-based infrastructure construction tech startup HeadLight announced that it had raised $25.6 million in a Series B round led by Viking Global Investors. The company's flagship product is a photo-based inspection technology that allows workers to deliver high-quality field observations from field to work in real-time.

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Research contributed by Samuel Poon.

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