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All the tech that got our attention at F1 Miami Grand Prix

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All eyes are on Miami this weekend as the international glitterati arrives for the city’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix. The European racing event has attracted American fans in droves, thanks to the “Netflix effect” of Formula 1: Drive to Survive ­– the successful franchise that’s spurred some of the most captivating rivalries in modern streaming and just been renewed for seasons 5 and 6.

That in turn has attracted a new class of tech sponsors, including Google, Amazon, Dell and Oracle, that can use their computing power to analyze the 100,000 data points these $20 million machines generate per second. That means the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is not only a celebration of speed, but the triumph of math, science and data each weekend from February through November.

Plus, the technology tested on the track – continually evolving due to the governing body’s ever-changing regulations – tends to trickle down into passenger cars, so what’s showcased today could be in showrooms tomorrow.

Here is the best tech we spotted at the Miami International Autodrome around Hard Rock Stadium this weekend.

McLaren

McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 team benefits from partnerships with Google and Dell this year. Google put its mark on the MCL36 driven by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo with logos for Android and Chrome, whose primary colors spin around its wheel covers, which have returned to F1 cars for the first time since 2009 due to new regulations this season.

But the multi-year partnership goes deeper.

“This collaboration has the potential to solve big and complex engineering challenges — from improving the team’s telemetry and design capabilities through AI, to speeding up decision making and safeguarding team communications using Android 5G,” Nicholas Drake, Google’s VP of marketing, wrote in a blog post.

The McLaren team also uses Android connected phones, tablets and earbuds to monitor performance from the pit, as well as Dell’s prototyping and simulation software.

“We’re in a constant state of rapid prototyping of our cars to make them go faster with data-driven engineering changes,  on average about every 20 minutes,” Edward Green, principal digital architect at McLaren Racing, said in a statement.

Among the top five cars on the circuit, the margin between the fastest and slowest cars can be a razor-thin 0.15%, making the simulation power Dell provides integral to the team’s performance.

Red Bull

Red Bull Racing’s car may have the cure that will allow the team and driver Max Verstappen to defend the world title: Oracle Cloud software from its title sponsor that uses machine learning to analyze race-day variables, from when to make a pit stop to which kind of tires to use.

The software will analyze data points from Friday and Saturday’s practice laps at Hard Rock Stadium to simulate runs and decide the best course for Sunday. That’s especially important at new race tracks such as Hard Rock Stadium’s temporary, 19-turn F1 circuit where historical data doesn’t exist.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez said that surface conditions in Miami Gardens were challenging. “There isn’t much grip off the racing line on this track,” Perez said after trailing in Friday’s practice sessions, “and it feels very gravely out there, too.”

The computing expertise also may help Red Bull solve a challenge facing most teams so far this season: a phenomenon called “porpoising” for the bouncing effect it produces as the cars travel at top speed on long straightaways. It’s an effect of the FIA rule changes for the 2022 season that give teams greater reign over underfloor dynamics to generate downforce.

Red Bull’s solution is a metal strip that adds stiffness and rigidity to the floor of the team’s RB18 race car. This “ice skate” design also acts as a skid that reduces flexion once the underfloor has touched the track.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas

After a disappointing start to the 2022 season, the long-dominant Mercedes team is debuting updates to its front and rear wings for the race in Miami.

FIA regulations that changed the design of the front and rear wings for 2022 and re-introduced a beam wing after a nine-year hiatus forced teams to reengineer their aerodynamic systems, especially for the front wing, which serves as the crucial first point of contact that directs air flow across the body. Mercedes’ upgrades intend to improve efficiency and reduce drag on the W13 race car driven by George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.

Russell led Friday afternoon’s second practice round, giving the team and its fans hope that Mercedes has worked out the kinks. Meanwhile, seven-time world champion Hamilton received a temporary exemption for the weekend to wear jewelry that he can’t remove easily, including a platinum nose ring, so the team can proceed full speed ahead.

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Amazon-owned MGM makes a viral video show with surveillance footage from Amazon-owned Ring

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MGM (which is owned by Amazon) is making a viral video show based on footage from Ring security cameras (also owned by Amazon). The syndicated television show, “Ring Nation,” is poised to be a modern-day, surveillance-tinged spin on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with Wanda Sykes as host.

According to a report in Deadline, the show will feature Ring footage of “neighbors saving neighbors, marriage proposals, military reunions and silly animals.” Ring is also known for activities like accidentally leaking people’s home addresses and handing over footage to the government without users’ permission.

Between January and July of this year, Amazon shared ring doorbell footage with U.S. authorities 11 times without the device owner’s consent. Ring has been critiqued for working unusually closely with at least 2,200 police departments around the United States, allowing police to request video doorbell camera footage from homeowners through Ring’s Neighbors app. Like Citizen and Nextdoor, the Neighbors app tracks local crime and allows users to comment anonymously — plus, Ring’s police partners can publicly request video footage on the app.

An Amazon-owned police surveillance network is bad enough, but Neighbors users have also faced repeated safety and security issues.

An executive at MGM, Barry Poznick, praised the new show: “From the incredible, to the hilarious and uplifting must-see viral moments from around the country every day, Ring Nation offers something for everyone watching at home.”

But perhaps what viewers at home really want is data privacy.

Ring only started disclosing its connections with law enforcement after fielding demands for transparency from the U.S. government. In a 2019 letter, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said that the company’s relationship with police forces raise civil liberties concerns.

“The integration of Ring’s network of cameras with law enforcement offices could easily create a surveillance network that places dangerous burdens on people of color and feeds racial anxieties in local communities,” Sen. Markey wrote. “In light of evidence that existing facial recognition technology disproportionately misidentifies African Americans and Latinos, a product like this has the potential to catalyze racial profiling and harm people of color.”

Amazon bought the smart video doorbell company in 2018 for $1 billion, then bought MGM for $8.5 billion earlier this year. Now, these two investments — which seemingly have nothing to do with each other — are merging to create a late-capitalist dystopian spectacular that we couldn’t have imagined in our worst nightmares. Amazon also just spent $1.7 billion on iRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum, but we will not dare to imagine how that acquisition may one day inspire a horrifying TV show.

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Aramco’s Prosperity7 powers AI drug firm Insilico’s $95M round

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Hong Kong-based drug discovery and development company Insilico has secured fresh capital at a time that its CEO described as a “biotech winter.”

The firm has raised $35 million on the heels of its last tranche in June, bringing its total Series D investment to $95 million. The new round was “oversubscribed”, the firm’s founder and CEO Alex Zhavoronkov told TechCrunch, declining to disclose the company’s valuation.

Prosperity7, the venture capital arm of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco, led the new capital infusion. The fund has been actively scouring for opportunities in and around China that can scale globally and particularly in the Middle East.

Insilico, which operates R&D teams across Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New York, seems to be a good fit for Prosperity7.

“Prosperity7 inspired us to look into sustainable chemistry,” said Zhavoronkov. Insilico uses machine learning to identify potential drug targets and eventually create the drug. The same technology can also be applied to find novel and useful molecules for sustainable chemistry, an emerging area to which Aramco has devoted much effort, the founder explained.

Sustainable chemistry, as defined by OECD, is “a scientific concept that seeks to improve the efficiency with which natural resources are used to meet human needs for chemical products and services.” It “encompasses the design, manufacture, and use of efficient, effective, safe and more environmentally benign chemical products and processes.”

Other investors from the round include an unnamed “large, diversified asset management firm on the U.S. West Coast,” and an assortment of financial and strategic investors like BHR Partners, Warburg Pincus, B Capital Group, Qiming Venture Partners, Deerfield, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, BOLD Capital Partners, and Pavilion Capital.

Zhavoronkov himself also invested in the Series D financing.

When asked why the company straddles China and the U.S., the founder compared the drug discovery space to the early semiconductor industry where research was done mostly in the U.S. while hardware production happened in China.

AI drug discovery relies on a massive amount of investment in so-called contract research organizations (CROs), which provide support to pharmaceutical or medical device companies in the form of outsourcing. China, exemplified by cities like Wuxi, has in recent years emerged as a popular CRO hub for international pharma companies.

The founder was also keen to speak about the company’s new dual-CEO structure. He recently promoted GSK veteran Dr. Feng Ren to be his co-CEO, who is now overseeing Insilico’s R&D and drug business, while Zhavoronkov focuses on the firm’s AI platform.

“Ren generates a lot of proprietary data for us to train AI to do better than humans. We can use this internally for drug discovery and then export this tech to the rest of the industry,” Zhavoronkov said.

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Egyptian startup Convertedin raises $3M, caters to e-commerce brands in MENA and Latin America

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Convertedin, an Egyptian startup that operates a marketing operating system for e-commerce brands, has raised $3 million in a seed round led by Saudi Arabia-headquartered Merak Capital.

Other participating investors include 500 Global and MSAS. The company, in a statement, said it plans to utilize the funds for strategic hiring and further development of its platform.

When brands shift to e-commerce sales, they operate with vast amounts of fragmented data that need to be unified to drive informed decisions and growth. As such, platforms like Convertedin become essential because it caters to brands and businesses with one, some, or all of these objectives: drive personalized and scalable campaigns, convert customers, achieve measurable results and grow revenue.

CEO Mohamed Fergany founded the company with Mohamed Atef and Mustafa Raslan in 2019 after working with several brands in companies such as Speakol Ads and Vodafone. His time as an employee opened his eyes to the opportunity of helping offline stores retarget and retain their customers online while finding new ones to shop at their stores offline.

“If you work into IKEA and they take your phone number down. After that, our engine works to find a similar product you might buy and we retarget you online. If you went back to IKEA for that product, we can calculate the cost of online conversion,” the chief executive said in the interview. “This was the main idea at this time as we saw a huge problem where there was no analytics platform for the offline store or a retargeting mechanism.”

As the pandemic hit and offline stores were forced to close their doors, many of these brands turned to e-commerce, and as a result, Convertedin took its business online too.

Fergany argues that though online brands use CRM software to gather data, they do not utilize most of it. So Convertedin offers a solution where they can use their data best. It plugs into more than 10 major e-commerce platforms and ad networks — and brands, once connected, can place customers into different segments such as high- and low-value and categories like those looking for specific products and use these insights to create personalized multi-channel marketing and drive various campaigns on social media, SMS, email, search and other channels while having the ability to track and attribute revenue conversion.

Convertedin says SMB e-commerce marketers that use its platform increase their return on ad spend (ROAS) by 2x and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) by 40%. So far, the company partners with media buying and advertising agencies and works with over 100 local and multinational brands across Africa, the Middle East and South America in the automotive, healthcare and technology industries. Convertedin’s revenues from these businesses have been growing in “double-digits” month-over-month, Fergany said.

The three-year-old Egypt-headquartered company also has offices in Saudi Arabia and Brazil; it just recently opened one in the latter. The South American market is enormous, with e-commerce revenues reaching $160 billion by 2025 from over 200 million users. As a result, Convertedin plans to make its services available in Portuguese — in addition to English and Arabic — for brands in Brazil and also Mexico, another South American market. Fergany also said Convertedin is eyeing South Africa and India too.

“We focus on emerging markets and if you look at it from healthy unit economics, we can sell easily in those countries because there is low competition there,” said the CEO on the expansion to five new markets, including Saudi Arabia. “And customer acquisition cost is low compared to the U.S. or Europe markets.” The new investment will help Convertedin with this expansion in addition to R&D and hiring.

In a statement, Ahmed Aljibreen, partner at lead investor Merak Capital, addressing his firm’s investment, said the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing platforms adds a new layer of challenges for e-commerce companies — and that Convertedin solves that. Hence, the reason why Merak Capital backed the firm. “We are excited to back Convertedin, a martech company that has built a state-of-the-art platform to simplify digital marketing, improve customer acquisition and drive growth for its clients. Convertedin is led by a world-class team in which we have tremendous confidence as the company embarks on its next stage of growth in MENA and Latin America.”

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