Inspirit IoT, Inc. announced today that it has closed a late seed funding round led by Senscape Technologies, Inc. Inspirit IoT offers deep neural network (DNN) analysis and optimization tools, chip-agnostic high-level synthesis (HLS), and IoT hardware accelerator solutions to enable smart IoT applications. Together with Senscape’s leadership in machine learning and computer vision technologies, this investment and strategic alliance will accelerate design and deployment of smart vision and smart sound applications.
Inspirit IoT, Inc., was born from 5 years of research in the Advanced Digital Sciences Center (ADSC) of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). With the support of the US Government SBIR Seed Fund, it has now expanded its novel suite of design tools to include Xcelo Compiler (an HLS tool), DNN Optimizer, and Smart Sound solutions. The new funding from Senscape will support the US and Asia Pacific commercialization of these technologies.
IoT (Internet of Things) promises to bring sensor intelligence to a vast array of applications. Inspirit IoT’s design tools, libraries, and IoT platform designs explore performance and power tradeoffs, helping engineers meet application deployment constraints while delivering solutions to market faster than prior design methods.
Inspirit’sXcelo Compiler includes a state-of-the-art general-purpose HLS engine with extensive IPs and is paired with a library of ML (machine learning) components. Xcelo Compiler currently outperforms market competitors by 2X based on comparisons of quality of results. Inspirit’s DNN Optimizer explores DNN reductions in bit-width, weight sharing and pruning in order to reduce size and complexity of DNN implementations, and automatically retrain the networks to retain the expected inference accuracy. In addition, Inspirit’sIoT Generator provides a user-friendly development kit for IoT solutions. Inspirit’s smart soundboard can be deployed indoors or outdoors across a wide range of sound-related applications.
Dr. Deming Chen, the President and Chairman of Inspirit IoT, Inc., said: “Senscape and Inspirit share the same vision for providing cutting edge intelligence solutions at the edge. Inspirit’s design and optimization tools will bridge an important gap between complex and heavy-duty DNN models developed by data scientists and their efficient hardware implementations at the edge. Such a powerful tool flow coupled with the strong design and machine learning expertise offered from Senscape would lead to valuable new solutions for the machine learning and IoT industry. We are very excited about the strategic partnership this late seed investment helps to create for delivering important embedded intelligence solutions for both US and China markets in the foreseeable future.”
Hongbo Xiao, Chief Executive Officer of Senscape stated: “Inspirit IoT and Senscape offer complementary technologies and our collaboration will lead to better solutions than what we can achieve individually. Inspirit has an outstanding team and we believe they will develop world-class FPGA and DNN design tools. Their leading DNN model compression method can be applied to our Movidius-based edge devices. Their FPGA design tool suite would be an important enabling force for us to achieve our planned FPGA-based solutions. At present, our short-term goal is to develop a new embedded solution based on FPGA and apply it to security surveillance, drones, and even AR and other fields. Our long-term goal is to provide SoC products to the market.”
According to Dr. Jason Cong, Chancellor’s Professor of the Computer Science Department at UCLA and a serial entrepreneur: “Inspirit is well positioned as an important enabler of the AI technology from machine learning models to their actual hardware realization in various IoT domains. The Senscape funding offers a very good partnership opportunity that will benefit both companies moving forward. I look forward to seeing further innovation from Inspirit in AI and HLS.”
Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears
By Colin Packham
CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.
Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.
Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.
Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.
Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.
As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.
“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.
The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.
The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.
While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.
A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.
A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.
Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.
Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)
GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback
By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont
(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.
The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.
In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.
Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.
Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.
GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.
“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.
The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.
Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.
To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.
Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)
Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses
By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.
Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.
“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”
Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.
“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.
Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.
“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.
Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.
The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.
Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.
There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.
“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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