LanzaJet inks deal with British Airways for 7500 tons of fuel low emission fuel additive per year

LanzaJet, the renewable jet fuel startup spun out from the longtime renewable and synthetic fuel manufacturer, LanzaTech, has inked a supply agreement with British Airways to supply the company with at least 7500 tons of fuel additive per yer.

The deal marks the second agreement between the UK-based airline and a renewable jet fuels manufacturer following an August 2019 agreement with the British company Velocys. It’s also LanzaJet’s second offtake agreement. The company announced itself with a partnership between the renewable fuels manufacturer and the Japanese airline ANA.

Through the deal, British Airways will invest an undisclosed amount in LanzaJet’s first commercial scale facility in Georgia. The fuel will being powering flights by the end of 2022 the companies said.

It’s part of a broader expansion effort that could see LanzaJet establish a commercial facility for the UK airline in its home country in the coming years.

Back in the U.S. the plan is to begin construction on the Georgia facility later this year which will convert ethanol into a jet fuel additive using a chemical process.

Fuel from the plant will reduce the overall greenhouse emissions by 70 percent versus traditional jet fuel. It’s the equivalent of taking almost 27,000 gasoline or diesel-powered cars of the orad each year, according to the company.

The deal is the culmination of years of research and development work between LanzaJet’s parent company, LanzaTech and Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Spun off in June 2020, LanzaJet was financed by an investment group including parent company LanzaTech, Mitsui, and Suncor Energy. British AIrways now joins the two other strategic investors as LanzaJet eyes an ambitious scale up program through 2025. The company plans to launch four large scale plants producing a pipeline of renewable fuels. 

“Low-cost, sustainable fuel options are critical for the future of the aviation sector  and the LanzaJet process offers the most flexible feedstock solution at scale, recycling wastes and  residues into SAF that allows us to keep fossil jet fuel in the ground. British Airways has long been a  champion of waste to fuels pathways especially with the UK Government,” said Jimmy Samartzis, the chief executive of LanzaJet. “With the right support for  waste-based fuels, the UK would be an ideal location for commercial scale LanzaJet plants. We look  forward to continuing the dialogue with BA and the UK Government in making this a reality, and to  continuing our support of bringing the Prime Minister’s Jet Zero vision to life.”  

The LanzaJet fuel is certified for commercial flight up to 50% blend with conventional kerosene. “Considering the aviation market is 90 billion gallons of jet fuel a year, having 50% or 45 billion of production capacity and reaching that max blend level will be a great problem to have,” said LanzaTech chief executive Jennifer Holmgren in an email.

LanzaJet’s manufacturing facility in Georgia is designed to produce zero-waste fuels, according to Holmgren, and British Airways will receive 7,500 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel from LanzaJet’s biorefinery each year for the next 5 years.

The partnership between British Airways, Hangar 51, International Airlines Group’s accelerator and others.

In addition to its biofuel work, British Airways is also working with companies like ZeroAvia, the hydrogen fuels company that also received backing from Amazon, Shell, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

“For  the last 100 years we have connected Britain with the world and the world with Britain, and to  ensure our success for the next 100, we must do this sustainably,” said British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle. 

“Progressing the development and commercial deployment of sustainable aviation fuel is crucial to  decarbonising the aviation industry and this partnership with LanzaJet shows the progress British  Airways is making as we continue on our journey to net zero.”

 

#airline, #airlines, #amazon, #ana, #aviation, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #british-airways, #department-of-energy, #georgia, #investment, #jennifer-holmgren, #jet-fuel, #lanzajet, #lanzatech, #mitsui, #occupational-safety-and-health, #shell, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #us-airways, #zeroavia

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Health tech startup Bold raises $7 million in seed funding for senior-focused fitness programs

Virtual health and wellness platforms have grown increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, but a new startup wants to focus that effort exclusively on senior citizens. Bold, a digital health and wellness service, plans to prevent chronic health problems in older adults through free and personalized exercise programs. Co-founded by Amanda Rees and her partner Hari Arul, Bold picked up $7 million this week in seed funding led by Julie Yoo of Silicon Valley-based Andreessen Horowitz.

Rees said in an interview that the idea for Bold came from time she spent caring for her grandmother, helping her through health challenges like falls. “I kept thinking about solutions we could build to keep someone healthier longer, rather than waiting for until they have a fall or something else goes off the rails to intervene,” she said. Rees started Bold to use what she’d learned from her own experience in dance and yoga to help her grandmother practice maintaining balance to prevent future falls. “My passion really was around ways to sort of widen the aperture, and make these solutions more accessible and built for older people.”

The member experience is pretty straightforward. Users fill out some brief fitness information on the web-based platform, outlining their goals and current baseline. From that information, Bold creates a personalized program that ranges from a short, seated Tai Chi class once a week, to cardio and strength classes meeting multiple times each week. “The idea is to really meet a member where they are, and then through our programming, help them along their journey of doing the types of exercises that are going to have the most immediate benefit for them,” said Rees.

Bold’s funding round comes at a time of concern around ballooning healthcare expenses for older populations, and a focus on how to reduce these costs for both current and future generations. While falls alone aren’t necessarily complex medical incidents, they have the potential to lead to fractures and other serious injuries. Bold’s preventative approach to falls is a more active solution than necklace or bracelet monitors that send a signal to emergency services when they detect a fall. And by offering virtual programs, they can help at-risk older populations engage in exercise while avoiding potential COVID-19 exposure at gyms.

Research shows that this works. Even simple, low-intensity exercise can improve balance and strength enough to reduce the incidence of falls, which is currently the leading cause of injury and injury death among older adults.

Fewer injuries would mean less need for medical care, which would lead to money saved for hospitals and health insurers alike. That’s why in addition to their seed funding, Bold has plans to start rolling out partnerships with Medicare Advantage organizations and risk-bearing providers, which will help make their exercise programs available to users for free.

#andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #balance, #exercise, #falling, #health, #julie-yoo, #medicare, #occupational-safety-and-health, #recent-funding, #silicon-valley, #startups, #tc

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Everlywell raises $175 million to expand virtual care options and scale its at-home health testing

Digital health startup Everlywell has raised a $175 million Series D funding round, following relatively fast on the heels of a $25 million Series C round it closed in February of this year. The Series D included a host of new investors, including BlackRock, The Chernin Group (TCG), Foresite Capital, Greenspring Associates, Morningside Ventures and Portfolio, along with existing investors including Highland Capital Partners, which led the Series C round. The startup has now raised over $250 million to date.

Everlywell, which launched to the public at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016 as a participant in Startup Battlefield, specializes in home health care, and specifically on home health care tests supported by their digital platform for providing customers with their results and helping them understand the diagnostics, and how to seek the right follow-on care and expert medical advice.

Earlier this year, Everlywell launched an at-home COVID-19 test collection kit – the first of this type of test to receive an emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its use that allowed cooperation with multiple lab service providers over time. The COVID-19 test kit joins its many other offerings, which include tests for thyroid hormone levels, food and allergen sensitivity, women’s health and fertility, vitamin D deficiency and more. I spoke to Everlywell CEO and founder Julia Cheek about the raise, and she acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely behind the decision to raise such a large amount so quickly again after the close of the Series C, since the company saw a sharp increase in demand coming out of the coronavirus crisis – not only for its COVID-19 test kit, but for at-home digital health care options in general.

“We obviously have a very successful COVID-19 test,” she said. “But we’ve also seen three-fourths of our test menu just explode at well over 100% year-over-year growth, and several of our tests are at 4x or 5x growth. That is really representative of this shift in consumer health behavior that will continue in a big way in many different verticals that include testing, and making things more convenient, digitally-enabled, and in the home.”

Like other companies built on solving for a shift to more remote and virtual care options, Cheek said that Everlywell had already anticipated this kind of consumer demand – but COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the pace of change, which is why the startup put together this round, at this size, this quickly (she says they started the process of putting together the Series D just in September).

“We’ve been talking about the digital health movement, and the consumer-directed movement probably for a decade now,” she told me. “I do believe that this will be the watershed moment, unfortunately. But hopefully, we will come out on the other side of the pandemic and say, ‘There are some good things that happened broadly for healthcare.’ That is the hope of what we lean into everyday, and  fundamentally, why we went out and raised this amount of capital in this tremendous growth year.”

Image Credits: Everlywell

Everlywell has also expanded availability of its products this year, with distribution in over 10,000 retail locations across Target, Walgreens, CVS and Kroger stores across the U.S. The company also landed a number of new partnerships on the diagnostic lab and insurance payer side, as well as with major employers – a key customer group since employers shoulder the largest share of healthcare spending in the U.S. due to employee benefit plans. Cheek says that despite their commercial and enterprise customer wins, the focus remains squarely on consumer satisfaction, which is what distinguishes their offering.

“Our COVID-19 test is 75% new people buying our product, and it has an NPS [net promoter score] of 75,” she said. “And then it’s the most highly-referred product, and also one of our top tests where people buy other tests. Experience matters here – we know that if someone is a promoter of Everlywell, if they rate us a nine or a 10, on NPS, they are five times more likely to purchase again on the platform.”

That’s not new for Everlywell, according to Cheek – customers have always had a high degree of satisfaction with the company’s products. But what is new is the expanded reach, and the realization among many Americans that virtual care and at-home options are available, and are effective.

“What you have is this lightbulb moment for Americans in a new way that care can be delivered where then they definitely don’t want to go back,” she said. “It’s not just for Everlywell. This is all of these verticals, that have really shifted consumer behavior around healthcare in the home, and I think that will be somewhat permanent. That is the main driver here, and is what we’re seeing, and it’s why Everlywell has resonated so well with so many Americans.”

#articles, #battlefield, #biotech, #blackrock, #ceo, #chernin-group, #cvs, #driver, #everlywell, #food, #foresite-capital, #funding, #greenspring-associates, #health, #healthcare, #highland-capital-partners, #kroger, #morningside-ventures, #national-park-service, #occupational-safety-and-health, #portfolio, #recent-funding, #science, #startups, #target, #tc, #united-states, #walgreens

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Device that combines air circulation with UV-C light deployed in first U.S. homes to help decrease COVID-19 transmission risk

Now that we know the virus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted via aerosol (tiny particles in the air that can hang around for a long time), researchers and engineers globally have turned their attention to helping promote air circulation where risk exposure is high, and also to kill any active viral particles that might be in the air. One such effort is the Nanowave Air, a device created by Pittsburgh-based Dynamics, Inc. (via NEXT Pittsburgh) which uses UV-C light in a safe and contained way to inactivate the virus in enclosed spaces.

The Nanowave Air operates on basically the same principal as any air purifier you might have in your home, using a fan to take in air and then passing it through a filter before putting it back out into the room. The difference is that the filter in this case is actually exposure to ultraviolet light – and specifically UV-C light, the type that has been proven to be effective in killing the SARS-CoV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19.

UV-C light differs from the more common UV-A light that we’re all generally exposed to in significant quantities from sunlight, and direct exposure to UV-C is harmful to humans. It has been used in indoor viral surface sterilization in the past, but typically the rooms where it’s used can’t be occupied at the time, and obviously it’s not effective once it’s no longer in use and people are allowed back in.

The Nanowave Air was created by the Carnegie Mellon spinout Dynamics when its CEO realized that the technology they were working on around UV-C light sources already for large-scale industrial applications could be adapted to address the COVID-19 crisis. That led to the portable design of the Air, which is roughly the size of a hobbyist telescope, and which works by containing the UV-C light within, and funneling air through it at high speeds using fans in order to be able to neutralize any active virus present while also allowing people to still continue to occupy the spaces where it’s in operation.

Nanowave Air is now shipping, with a $3,450 retail price. It’s intended for use in spaces like primary care facilities, dental offices, and other shared locations where people have to occupy the same space despite current guidance around social distancing and especially indoor exposure. The company, which has tested its technology at a number of labs across the U.S. including the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research, also announced that it’s now being used in some homes with a COVID-19-positive individual, in order to reduce the exposure potential for other members of the household who haven’t yet contracted the illness.

This week saw the announcement of positive news for two of the larger efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, but even if those end up providing long-term protection and ramp distribution quickly, the effort to contain COVID-19 globally will still include a lot of necessary preventative steps to avoid contraction among the unvaccinated populace. Managing airborne presence of the virus is sure to be a key ingredient, and solutions like the Nanowave Air could help to spur those efforts.

#air-purifier, #articles, #carnegie-mellon, #ceo, #health, #occupational-safety-and-health, #pittsburgh, #tc, #ultraviolet, #united-states, #vaccine, #virus

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New Oxford machine learning-based COVID-19 test can provide results in under 5 minutes

Oxford scientists working out of the school’s Department of Physics have developed a new type of COVID-19 test that can detect SARS-CoV-2 with a high degree of accuracy, directly in samples taken from patients, using a machine learning-based approach that could help sidestep test supply limitations, and that also offers advantages when it comes to detecting actual virus particles, instead of antibodies or other signs of the presence of the virus which don’t necessarily correlate to an active, transmissible case.

The test created by the Oxford researchers also offer significant advantages in terms of speed, providing results in under five minutes, without any sample preparation required. That means it could be among the technologies that unlock mass testing – a crucial need not only for getting a handle on the current COVID-19 pandemic, but also on helping us deal with potential future global viral outbreaks, too. Oxford’s method is actually well-designed for that, too, since it can potentially be configured relatively easily to detect a number of viral threats.

The technology that makes this possible works by labelling any virus particles found in a sample collected by a patient using short, fluorescent DNA strands that act as markers. A microscope images the sample and the labelled viruses present, and then machine learning software takes over using algorithmic analysis developed by the team to automatically identify the virus, using differences that each one produces in terms of its fluorescent light emitted owing to their different physical surface makeup, size and individual chemical composition.

This technology, including the sample collection equipment, the microscopic imager and the flourescence insertion tools, as well as the compute capabilities, can be miniaturized to the point where it’s possible to be used just about anywhere, according to the researchers – including “businesses, music venues, airports,” and more. The focus now is to create a spinout company for the purposes of commercializing the device in a format that integrates all the components together.

The researchers anticipate being able to form the company, and start product development by early next year, with the potentially of having a device approved for use and ready for distribution around six months after that. It’s a tight timeline for development of a new diagnostic device, but timelines have changed already amply in the face of this pandemic, and will continue to do so as we’re unlikely to see if fade away anytime in the near future.

#articles, #biotech, #health, #influenza, #machine-learning, #medicine, #occupational-safety-and-health, #oxford, #science, #tc, #virus

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CDC removes updated guidelines around COVID-19 aerosol transmission, but this expert explains why it should reverse the reversal

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, I got the chance to speak to Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economists who is a Senior Fellow of the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Feigl-Ding has been a frequent and vocal critic of some of the most profound missteps of regulators, public health organizations and the current White House administration, and we discussed specifically the topic of aerosol transmission and its notable absence from existing guidance in the U.S.

At the time, neither of us knew that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would publish updated guidance on its website over this past weekend that provided descriptions of aerosol transmission, and a concession that it’s likely a primary vector for passing on the virus that leads to COVID-19 – or that the CDC would subsequently revert said guidance, removing this updated information about aerosol transmission that’s more in line with the current state of widely accepted COVID research. The CDC cited essentially an issue where someone at the organization pushed a draft version of guidelines to production – but the facts it had shared in the update lined up very closely with what Dr. Feigl-Ding had been calling for.

“The fact that we haven’t highlighted aerosol transmission as much, up until recently, is woefully, woefully frustrating,” he said during our interview last Wednesday. “Other countries who’ve been much more technologically savvy about the engineering aspects of aerosols have been ahead of the curve – like Japan, they assume that this virus is aerosol and airborne. And aerosol means that the droplets are these micro droplets that can float in the air, they don’t get pulled down by gravity […] now we know that the aerosols may actually be the main drivers. And that means that if someone coughs, sings, even breathes, it can in the air, the micro droplets can stay in the air from anywhere from, for stagnant air for up to16 hours, but normally with ventilation, between 20 minutes to four hours. And that air, if you enter it into a room after someone was there, you can still get infected, and that is what makes indoor dining and bars and restaurants so frustrating.”

Dr. Feigl-Ding points to a number of recent contact tracing studies as providing strong evidence that these indoor activities, and the opportunity they provide for aerosol transmission, are leading to a large number of infections. Such studies were featured in a report the CDC prepared on reopening advice, which was buried by the Trump administration according to an AP report from May.

“The latest report shows that indoor dining bars restaurants are the leading leading factors for transmission, once you do contact tracing,” he said, noting that this leads naturally to the big issues around schools reopening, including that many have “very poor ventilation,” while simultaneously they’re not able to open their windows or doors due to gun safety protocols in place. Even before this recent CDC guideline take-back, Dr. Feigl-Ding was clearly frustrated with the way the organization appears to be succumbing to politicization of what is clearly an issue of a large and growing body of scientific evidence and fact.

“The CDC has long been the most respected agency in the world for public health, but now it’s been politically muzzled,” he said. “Previously, for example, the guidelines around church attendance – the CDC advised against church gatherings, but then it was overruled. And it was clearly overruled, because we actually saw it changed in live time. […] In terms of schools, gatherings, it’s clear [that] keeping kids in a pod is not enough, given what we know about ventilation.”

#chemistry, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #health, #japan, #occupational-safety-and-health, #tc, #transmission, #trump-administration, #united-states, #white-house

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Carbon Health to launch 100 pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics across the U.S.

Primary care health tech startup Carbon Health has added a new element to its “omnichannel” healthcare approach with the launch of a new pop-up clinic model that is already live in San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Brooklyn and Manhattan, with Detroit to follow soon – and that will be rolling out over the next weeks and months across a variety of major markets in the U.S., ultimately resulting in 100 new COVID-19 testing sites that will add testing capacity on the order of around an additional 100,000 patients per month across the country.

So far, Carbon Health has focused its COVID-19 efforts around its existing facilities in the Bay Area, and also around pop-up testing sites set up in and around San Francisco through collaboration with genomics startup Color, and municipal authorities. Now, Carbon Health CEO and co-founder Even Bali tells me in an interview that the company believes the time is right for it to take what it has learned and apply that on a more national scale, with a model that allows for flexible and rapid deployment. In fact, Bali says the they realized and began working towards this goal as early as March.

“We started working on COVID response as early as February, because we were seeing patients who are literally coming from Wuhan, China to our clinics,” Bali said. “We expected the pandemic to hit any time. And partially because of the failure of federal government control, we decided to do everything we can to be able to help out with certain things.”

That began with things that Carbon could do locally, more close to home in its existing footprint. But it was obvious early on to Bali and his team that there would be a need to scale efforts more broadly. To do that, Carbon was able to draw on its early experience.

“We have been doing on-site, we have been going to nursing homes, we have been working with companies to help them reopen,” he told me. “At this point, I think we’ve done more than 200,000 COVID tests by ourselves. And I think I do more than half of all the Bay Area, if you include that the San Francisco City initiative is also partly powered by Carbon Health, so we’re already trying to scale as much as possible, but at some point we were hitting some physical space limits, and had the idea back in March to scale with more pop-up, more mobile clinics that you can actually put up like faster than a physical location.”

Interior of one of Carbon Health’s COVID-19 testing pop-up clinics in Brooklyn.

To this end, Carbon Health also began using a mobile trailer that would travel from town to town in order to provide testing to communities that weren’t typically well-served. That ended up being a kind of prototype of this model, which employs construction trailers like you’d see at a new condo under development acting as a foreman’s office, but refurbished and equipped with everything needed for on-site COVID testing run by medical professionals. These, too, are a more temporary solution, as Carbon Health is working with a manufacturing company to create a more fit-for-purpose custom design that can be manufactured at scale to help them ramp deployment of these even faster.

Carbon Health is partnering with Reef Technologies, a SoftBank -backed startup that turns parking garage spots into locations for businesses, including foodservice, fulfilment, and now Carbon’s medical clinics. This has helped immensely with the complications of local permitting and real estate regulations, Bali says. That means that Carbon Health’s pop-up clinics can bypass a lot of the red tape that slows the process of opening more traditional, permanent locations.

While cost is one advantage of using this model, Bali says that actually it’s not nearly as inexpensive as you might think relative to opening a more traditional clinic – at least until their custom manufacturing and economies of scale kick in. But speed is the big advantage, and that’s what is helping Carbon Health look ahead from this particular moment, to how these might be used either post-pandemic, or during the eventual vaccine distribution phase of the COVID crisis. Bali points out that any approved vaccine will need administration to patients, which will require as much, if not more infrastructure than testing.

Exterior of one of Carbon Health’s COVID-19 testing pop-up clinics in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, Carbon Health’s pop-up model could bridge the gap between traditional primary care and telehealth, for ongoing care needs unrelated to COVID.

“A lot of the problems that telemedicine is not a good solution for, are the things where a video check-in with a doctor is nearly enough, but you do need some diagnostic tests – maybe you might you may need some administration, or you may need like a really simple physical examination that nursing staff can do with the instructions of the doctor. So if you think about those cases, pretty much 90% of all visits can actually be done with a doctor on video, and nursing staff in person.”

COVID testing is an imminent, important need nationwide – and COVID vaccine administration will hopefully soon replace it, with just as much urgency. But even after the pandemic has passed, healthcare in general will change dramatically, and Carbon Health’s model could be a more permanent and scalable way to address the needs of distributed care everywhere.

#articles, #brooklyn, #bypass, #carbon-health, #china, #detroit, #genomics, #health, #healthcare, #louisiana, #manhattan, #manufacturing, #medical-research, #model, #occupational-safety-and-health, #san-francisco, #seattle, #softbank, #startups, #tc, #telemedicine, #united-states, #vaccines

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This Labor Day, spare a thought for the workers who made your doorstep delivery possible

A few weeks ago, I bought a used paperback mystery for $3 via a small online bookseller. Intrigued that the book came with free shipping, I dug in a bit and was shocked to see that my little impulse purchase traveled through seven different distribution hubs across five states before it got to me. It was loaded and unloaded onto trucks in Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada and finally California and handled by an unknown number of logistics workers along the way, many of them in the middle of the night.

The logistics of getting the book to me, and the human toll it takes, are mind boggling, but we have become somewhat inured to them.

COVID-19 lockdowns have put a spotlight on the importance and complexity of supply chain dynamics. In a world shaped by the pandemic, our reliance on e-commerce for everything from PPE to toilet paper to hard-boiled paperback mysteries has exploded. A recent report from Adobe found that total online spending is up 77% year-over-year, accelerating growth by “four to six years.” That growth has a very real human cost, and one that we don’t think about or act on enough as a society.

While people recognize the contributions of frontline workers they can see like doctors and nurses, postal carriers and grocery store workers, there’s an entire hidden infrastructure of logistics workers that keeps the online economy humming. These workers are also on the frontlines, but they are behind the scenes. Most earn minimum wage and work long, grueling, high-stress shifts without strong protections in the event they get sick or injured. The fact is that many corporations haven’t made protections for those workers a priority. That was true before COVID-19, but the pandemic gave the issue a renewed urgency, prompting workers from Amazon, Walmart, Target and FedEx, among others, to organize walkouts. And with unprecedented levels of unemployment, more and more people are going to find jobs in the logistics sector.

This Labor Day, it’s time to think about how corporations can better support and protect this vital but often forgotten segment of the workforce.

Better safety in the warehouse

Imagine there’s a package handler at a major manufacturer named Jack who spends his shifts heaving heavy boxes onto a conveyor belt. It’s an arduous movement that Jack will repeat a few thousand times before he punches out. As a 10-year veteran on the job, Jack has performed this singular task on this same warehouse floor more times than he can count. On this particular night, he’s tired after staying up late playing with his kids, and he slips a disk in his back. Unfortunately, Jack’s plight is all too often a reality for millions of workers today.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5% of warehouse workers in the U.S. experience an injury on the job each year—higher than the national average. After service workers, like firefighters and police, transportation/shipping and manufacturing/production rank second and third as the occupations with the largest number of workplace injuries resulting in days away from work. Jobs that involve heavy lifting, arduous repetition and operating complex machinery come with serious risk.

Injuries can be devastating for workers, both physically and financially. Taking time off work can not only result in lost wages, but also drive people into debt due to health-related expenses, creating health-poverty traps that are difficult to climb out of. Worker injuries are also costly for employers. A study from Liberty Mutual, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance, found that serious, nonfatal injuries cost $84.04 million a week in the transportation and warehousing industry. It is in corporations’ best interest to prioritize workplace safety.

One challenge is that traditional approaches to workplace safety are slow, inaccurate and costly. Without practical interventions, organizations spend an estimated $2,000+ per worker annually on injury prevention. Within manufacturing and logistics industries, it costs an additional $2,000+ annually for workers’ compensation per full-time employee. Currently, there is no standard solution to preventing workplace injuries while lowering costs, leaving workers like Jack without adequate protections. Fortunately, digital platforms and tools that leverage technological innovation, including sensors and wearables, are advancing new ways to prevent workplace accidents and injuries.

Take for example StrongArm, one of Flourish’s portfolio companies. StrongArm has built a technology platform that integrates a new generation of industrial wearables, big data analytics and smart algorithms. It is designed to modernize industry dynamics for workers, employers and workers’ compensation insurers. The company’s GDPR-compliant wearable hardware devices and data platform called FUSE deliver real-time injury prevention feedback and collect data to support precise interventions for overall injury reduction and has reduced injury rates by more than 40% year-over-year for its clients.

StrongArm has also helped keep workers safe during the pandemic by launching a new suite of capabilities on its FUSE platform, including CDC communication, proximity alerts (i.e., notifications to workers within six feet of one another), and exposure analysis (understanding who has interacted with whom, at what time, and for what duration, exposing any potential contact transfer with accuracy). These enhanced capabilities can get workers back to work faster, earning vitally needed income while reducing COVID-19 risk by 95%.

Fetch Robotics is another company using technological innovation and digital platforms to promote worker safety. Fetch makes an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) that can transport materials within warehouses, factories and distribution centers while also gathering environmental data. This can relieve the burden of heavy lifting from human workers and ensure that conditions, like heat, remain safe in work environments. In June 2020, the company announced that it was launching a disinfecting AMR that can decontaminate spaces larger than 100,000 square feet in 1.5 hours, helping workers stay safe and get back to work quicker amid the spread of the virus.

Employers should do more

In its report titled, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Tech Innovation,” Lux Research found that the outbreak of COVID-19 will likely push corporations with major manufacturing and logistics operations to assess the potential of robotics. More companies will explore how they can automate processes, particularly those that are repeatable and predictable. Findings like these inevitably lead to questions about how increased automation will impact workers — the eternal “will robots take all the jobs?” question. However, we are still a long way away from a world where human workers are obsolete (just ask Elon Musk).

Robots are still not good at picking up small or oddly shaped objects, for instance. For the foreseeable future, corporations will depend on logistics workers and have a responsibility to protect the safety of those workers. It’s not enough to plaster the required OSHA sign on the factory or warehouse floor. Corporations need to do more. Fortunately in this case, the right thing to do is the good thing to do. By embracing technological innovation, promoting worker safety is a win-win.

#automation, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #ecommerce, #labor, #logistics, #occupational-safety-and-health, #opinion, #robotics, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

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Hangar raises $15 million for its venture studio for government technology startups

Josh Mendelsohn, the former Bloomberg digital campaign advisor and venture studio founder, thinks that cash constrained government agencies from the local to the federal level aren’t using technology effectively enough to meet the challenges they face.

That’s why the founder of Engine and former managing director of Hattery launched Hangar with a $15 million commitment from his former boss and the Kresge Foundation to build companies that will help solve problems that governments haven’t tackled effectively.

“We’re at an unprecedented moment for our country, and our companies are addressing several significant challenges all at once, from combatting Covid-19, to rebuilding our economy, to reducing the cost of higher education, to addressing disparate outcomes in healthcare,” said Mendelsohn, in a statement.

The company has already hired an in-house team of technologists and business consultants to build businesses to nab some of the $2 trillion that governments across the U.S. spend every year on information technology.

In the year-and-a-half since Mendelsohn first began operating the company building studio in stealth mode, Hangar has already created four businesses including: Camber, which provides mobility data to governments and is being used by public health researchers to monitor and manage COVID-19 outbreaks,

Camber is currently the authoritative provider of mobility data insights to public health researchers, epidemiologists, and state governments tackling COVID-19; Cornea, a predictive toolkit for disaster planning and management; Outcome, a new service for student loans; and Roster, which uses technology to enhance the efforts of community health workers.

“There are so many areas–from healthcare to disaster planning–that are ripe for innovation and new technologies that help to improve the lives and well-being of people and help solve real problems,” said Brian O’Kelley, a New York-based serial entrepreneur and Hangar investor who previously founded AppNexus (and sold it to AT&T for over $1 billion). “With a veteran team that blends deep Silicon Valley and policy experience, Hangar is already making an impact and I’m proud to be supporting their next phase.”

 

#appnexus, #articles, #health, #healthcare, #information-technology, #occupational-safety-and-health, #public-health, #tc, #world-health-organization

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Ideas for a post-COVID-19 workplace

As a workplace strategist, I am constantly asked, “What is the workplace of the future?”

It’s a question I dread, because a subtext typically lingers underneath, e.g., “I hate the open office,” “All this talk about collaboration is an excuse to take away my office,” and even, “I hope you feel good about taking away my private office” (for the record, I don’t). In the COVID-19 era, the question remains but the expectations and predictions are shifting. Fortunately, Frank Lloyd Wright already designed the solution.

When asked about a post-COVID-19 workplace, I simply whip out my smartphone and show the offices Wright created for S.C. Johnson’s headquarters, completed in 1939.

The interior of the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, circa 1940. The building was designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1936 and 1939. Image Credits: FPG/Getty Images

It. Is. Perfect. Six feet of distancing? Check. Need wide circulation paths to prevent those now-precarious spontaneous collisions between employees? Check. Natural light? Check. Want some biophilia? Problem solved.

The above image is the largest expanse of the Johnson Wax building and features no internal walls. It was originally intended for the ”secretaries,” while a mezzanine was reserved for management.

Unfortunately, I can only maintain the irony and half-earnest smile for so long while showing this image. The reality is that Wright’s building would never be built today: it’s arduously inefficient (from a headcount versus space ratio) and would be unlikely to survive a modern-day budget review (referred to in the industry as “value engineering”). A budget-conscious value engineering analysis would quickly replace Wright’s custom-built furniture with “equally functional” corporate furniture systems or a benching solution to maximize efficiency — oh, and, yes, collaboration.

The reality is that the COVID-19 crisis is not asking us to predict the “workplace of the future” but rather to evaluate cost against the unknown.

The term “New Normal” is about managing a real estate portfolio and its enormous costs against new workforce patterns that may undermine the very existence of an office. When colleagues or clients (or family members) ask me “What is the workplace of the future?”, the subtext is now, “Do we even need a workplace in the future?”

The new approach to the old question

#column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #energy, #extra-crunch, #occupational-safety-and-health, #remote-work, #tc, #telecommuting, #work, #workplace

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MIT muscle-control system for drones lets a pilot use gestures for accurate and specific navigation

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has released a video of their ongoing work using input from muscle signals to control devices. Their latest involves full and fine control of drones, using just hand and arm gestures to navigate through a series of rings. This work is impressive not just because they’re using biofeedback to control the devices, instead of optical or other kinds of gesture recognition, but also because of how specific the controls can be, setting up a range of different potential applications for this kind of remote tech.

This particular group of researchers has been looking at different applications for this tech, including its use in collaborative robotics for potential industrial applications. Drone piloting is another area that could have big benefits in terms of real-world use, especially once you start to imagine entire flocks of these taking flight with a pilot provided a view of what they can see via VR. That could be a great way to do site surveying for construction, for example, or remote equipment inspection of offshore platforms and other infrastructure that’s hard for people to reach.

Seamless robotic/human interaction is the ultimate goal of the team working on this tech, because just like how we intuit our own movements and ability to manipulate our environment most effectively, they believe the process should be as smooth when controlling and working with robots. Thinking and doing are essentially happening in parallel when we interact with our environment, but when we act through the extension of machines or remote tools, there’s often something lost in translation that results in a steep learning curve and the requirement of lots of training.

Cobotics, or the industry that focuses on building robots that can safely work alongside and in close collaboration with robots, would benefit greatly from advances that make the interaction between people and robotic equipment more natural, instinctive and ultimately, safe. MIT’s research in this area could result in future industrial robotics products that require less training and programming to operate at scale.

#articles, #artificial-intelligence, #biofeedback, #human-robot-interaction, #industrial-robot, #mit, #occupational-safety-and-health, #robot, #robotics, #science, #tc, #technology

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