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OpenSpace raises $14 million for AI platform that visually tracks construction projects

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The global construction market will be a $12 trillion industry by 2022, according to a recent Construction Intelligence Center (CIC) forecast. However, the sector is not renowned for its efficiency — various reports indicate that construction is among the lowest-performing industries in terms of productivity, a factor that can be attributed in part to the lack of digitization. And this is leading to a boom in investments aimed at technology startups that are looking to bring building sites into the 21st century.

The latest such startup to garner the attentions of venture capitalists is OpenSpace, a fledgling company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically create navigable 360-degree photos of construction sites. The company today announced that it has raised $14 million in a series A round of funding led by Lux Capital, with participation from some notable names from the real estate and construction realm, including WeWork, JLL Spark, Navitas Capital, Suffolk Construction, Tishman Speyer, and Zigg Capital. With its fresh cash injection and slew of strategic investors in place, OpenSpace said that it’s well positioned to scale its operations and develop new computer vision-powered tools.

How it works

OpenSpace’s software is compatible with the $800 Garmin VIRB 360 camera, which builders or site managers strap to their hard hats to document the development of a site as it evolves. OpenSpace captures all the imagery and uploads it to the cloud, where it taps computer vision and machine intelligence to organize the photos, stitch them together, and map them to project plans — all while automatically identifying objects such as windows and molding.

OpenSpace: Comparing how a construction job has progressed

Above: Then and now: OpenSpace comparing how a construction job has progressed

There are a number of use cases for this technology, one being that it enables remote stakeholders to check on the progress through virtual site tours. But at its core, OpenSpace is all about keeping a digital record of projects as they progress, and presenting them in what OpenSpace calls “Google Street View-style documentation.” To use another somewhat crude analogy, it’s kind of like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, but for construction projects. This evidence can then be used to resolve conflicts, or enable managers to track multiple projects remotely without being on site.

Founded in 2017, San Francisco-based OpenSpace said that it has been deployed on projects “exceeding $50 billion in total value” globally. Real estate developer and OpenSpace investor Tishman Speyer said that it has already piloted the technology on the MIRA building in San Francisco, as well as the Spiral — a 65-floor skyscraper in New York City.

“We see value in scaling this program more broadly,” noted Tishman Speyer managing director Jenny Wong. “Access to accurate, immediate data is essential in the development and building process, and we are excited to be partnering with OpenSpace.”

While improving efficiency is one key selling point of OpenSpace’s technology, it also fits into a broader trend that has seen AI increasingly infiltrate the construction and real estate sectors. Norwegian startup Spacemaker recently raised $25 million to grow its simulation software that automatically creates the structural layout designs for residential developments, allowing architects and designers to focus on the creative elements. Post-build, San Francisco-based Cape Analytics has raised sizable funding for a platform that meshes computer vision with geospatial imagery to help insurance companies evaluate properties.

“At OpenSpace, we’re using AI to augment workers’ capabilities by making documentation fast, easy and complete,” added OpenSpace CEO and cofounder Jeevan Kalanithi. “We started this company by collaborating with builders, on their job sites. We knew that any documentation solution needed to be totally passive in order to fit into the extremely busy day-to-day of a construction site, and this is what inspired us to create OpenSpace’s unique tap-and-go approach.”

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Davis, Semien hit 2-run homers as A’s beat Yankees 6-4

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — When slugger Khris Davis cleared the fences again at last, he gave it an animated trot around the bases complete with a salute approaching third before celebrating with his teammates back in the dugout.

When top pitching prospect A.J. Puk made his major league debut at last, the crowd went crazy and he felt the love. His teammates razzed him afterward and he assured everybody, “I can take it.”

Davis and Marcus Semien each hit a two-run homer to back Mike Fiers, and the Oakland Athletics held off the New York Yankees 6-4 on Wednesday night to clinch another series win against an AL division leader after taking three of four games from Houston last weekend.

Oakland moved a percentage point in front of Tampa Bay for the second AL wild card.

Davis snapped an 0-for-17 slump — three at-bats shy of the longest hitless drought of his career — with his first home run since July 30 and second since June 18. He sent a full-count pitch down the right field line in the second inning for just his 18th homer after he led the majors last season with 48 for his third straight year with 40 or more.

“He needed that,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s been grinding hard. He takes this pretty seriously. He’s been so instrumental for this team, as consistent a power hitter as we’ve ever had around here.”

Stephen Piscotty added a solo home run in the sixth after the Yankees got Mike Tauchman’s sacrifice fly in the top of the inning. Mike Ford homered in the seventh for New York, and Didi Gregorius added an RBI double.

Liam Hendriks struck out DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge in the eighth to escape a jam after Puk started the inning.

“He handled it well,” Fiers said of Puk. “We’re going to see a lot of him.”

Hendriks finished for his 15th save as Oakland (73-53) moved a season-best 20 games over .500 and earned Melvin his 1,200th career victory as a manager.

Fiers (12-3) loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, and his night was done. He struck out four and walked three, allowing two runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. This marked the anniversary of the first of his two no-hitters on Aug. 21, 2015, for the Astros against the Dodgers.

The A’s won for the sixth time in seven games and reached 201 home runs. They have ample time to close in on the club record of 243 set in 1996.

Yankees lefty J.A. Happ (10-8) allowed five runs and four hits in four innings. He struck out four and walked two.

“He hasn’t gotten away with a mistake with a single. It seems like it’s been slugged,” manager Aaron Boone said. “That’s hurt.”

PUK’S DEBUT

Puk drew huge applause when the shaggy-haired lefty came on for his first big league appearance. Puk hit 99 mph on the radar gun and issued a walk and Ford’s single one out later before giving way to Hendriks.

Puk, called up Tuesday after he missed last season following Tommy John surgery, will remain a reliever in the majors this season but a future starter. What about an opener?

“He’s going to be a starter,” Melvin said, then joked: “He can open and go seven innings.”

SABATHIA’S GOODBYE

Yankees lefty CC Sabathia’s farewell in the Bay Area means so much as he returns to his roots for the final time during the regular season before the 39-year-old pitcher heads into retirement.

On Monday, Sabathia spent a day off handing out his 50,000th backpack to first-graders and second-graders at home in Vallejo as kids returned to school.

“This is always going to be a special trip to me,” said Sabathia, who will conclude his career following 19 big league seasons and the last 11 with the Yankees. “Coming here I got a chance to go to Vallejo first day of school giving backpacks away. Just being here with my family, my kids getting to see Vallejo and hang out in Vallejo, my kids are there now, so it’s always a special time for us.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: OF Brett Gardner had an ingrown toenail removed Sunday that had bothered him all last week. He missed his second straight game but Boone expected Gardner to be in the lineup for Thursday night’s series finale. “It was pretty sore yesterday, still,” Boone said, expecting Gardner to go through a full on-field workout. … RHP Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement) threw a bullpen at the team’s complex in Florida — a pair of 16-pitch simulated innings. He could throw another bullpen as soon as Friday. … CF Aaron Hicks (right flexor strain) is yet to resume baseball activity.

Athletics: LHP Sean Manaea is likely to get another rehab start with Triple-A Las Vegas as he continues to work back from shoulder surgery last September. … LHP Brett Anderson is scheduled to make his next start Sunday against San Francisco after dealing with a blister his last time out on Sunday. … LHP Jesus Luzardo has returned to a full regimen with Las Vegas after being sidelined by a strained pitching shoulder. “All good. I still don’t know what the plan is for him yet, but encouraging to see him get stretched out again,” Melvin said.

UP NEXT

Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka (9-6, 4.56 ERA) makes his team-leading 26th start on an extra day of rest looking to reach double-digit victories for the sixth time in as many major league seasons. Oakland goes with RHP Tanner Roark (1-1, 2.55) in his fourth start since joining the A’s from the Reds at the July 31 trade deadline.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports





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Fitbit targets 1 million new users with Singapore government tie-up

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(Reuters) – Fitbit Inc (FIT.N) said on Wednesday it signed a contract with the Singapore government to provide fitness trackers and services in a health program it said could reach up to one million users.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors walk past an advertising billboard for Fitbit Ionic watches at the IFA Electronics Show in Berlin, Germany, September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Fitbit will supply its trackers free of charge on the condition users spend S$10 ($7.22) each month, for a year, on the company’s premium subscription.

“The program’s goal is to ultimately reach up to one million people,” a spokeswoman for Fitbit said in an email.

The company’s shares closed up 2% on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The program could be a boost for the San Francisco-based wearables pioneer, which has seen its shares sink in the past two years in the face of competition from Apple (AAPL.O), Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) and a raft of cheaper rivals.

“This is Fitbit’s first major integration of a digital health platform and wearables into a national public health program globally,” the company said in a statement.

Singapore, a city-state of 5.6 million people, has the longest life expectancy in the world and widespread access to healthcare. However, the government has raised concerns about relatively high rates of heart disease and diabetes among its fast-ageing population.

Subscribers will receive personalized health advice and nudges to encourage physical activity, healthy eating and better sleep, said Zee Yoong Kang, chief executive of Singapore’s Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Fitbit said the program, which begins in October, will ask users if they consent to share their data with the HPB, which will use the information for health promotions.

Fitbit was among several bidders, an HPB spokeswoman said.

“There were many bidders and some were significant international players,” she said, adding that Fitbit had set the target for one million users.

Apple was among those vying for the bid, Fitbit Chief Executive James Park told CNBC here

Reporting by Neha Malara, Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru and John Geddie; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Patrick Graham and Darren Schuettler



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Want Tokyo Olympic tickets? No problem if you have $60,000

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TOKYO (AP) — Having trouble getting tickets for next year’s Tokyo Olympics?

That’s no problem if you have $60,000 to spare.

Tokyo Olympic organizers are offering high-end hospitality packages to Japan residents with prices soaring to 6.35 million yen — about $60,000. This is good for the opening and closing ceremony, nine days of track and field with luxury seating and sumptuous dining. Low-end packages dip down to about $1,500 for one session at a less popular event.

Tokyo is shaping up as a very pricey Olympics.

Ticket demand is unprecedented, so unofficial re-selling likely will flourish. Hotel rates are soaring. And getting here will be costly, particularly for people traveling from the Americas and Europe.

“I don’t know if I can afford to go to the Olympics,” Brant Feldman, a Los Angeles-based sports agent, told The Associated Press. He’s attended seven straight Olympics and represents American and Canadian athletes for AGM Sports. “For the average family right now to head to the Olympics, it’s going to be the most expensive in history.”

Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics say the luxurious hospitality packages are an “opportunity for family, friends and business contacts” to enjoy the games. In the words of organizers, here’s what’s included with the tickets:

— specially selected Champagne, sake and beers

— gourmet dining menu prepared by top international chefs

— fine wines chosen by our sommelier

— elegant commemorative souvenir VIP access pass

— first-class personal service capable of dealing with any request

— event host and celebrity guests appearances.

Hospitality packages, of course, are aimed at the wealthy, targeting executives who treat the Olympics as a venue for doing business and schmoozing with sports as an alluring sideshow.

There’s also an old-fashioned way for residents of Japan to get scarce tickets: a so-called “second-chance” lottery that closed Monday. Results will be announced next month, and another lottery for Japan residents will be held in the fall.

For now, those living outside Japan must go through Authorized Ticket Resellers , which are deluged with unprecedented demand. They also offer high-end packages and are allowed to tack on a 20% service charge to each ticket. And many of the best tickets are tied to expensive hotels.

A random search of well-known hotel booking sites by AP found prices for most 3-4-star hotels between $1,000-1,500 per night with few available. There have been complaints that many hotels are canceling previous reservations to secure the markup.

Even Japan’s famous capsule hotels — or sleep pods — will cost more to crawl inside with prices up three or four times on booking sites.

In a statement to AP, Tokyo organizers said they are working with “the government and the accommodation industry and travel industry in order to control prices.”

Quoting a government report, organizers say there are 300,000 rooms “in different classes” in Tokyo and in neighboring prefectures.

Olympic athletes are guaranteed housing and have access to a few tickets for event sessions in which they participate. After that, family and friends are on their own.

“If your son or daughter qualifies for the Olympics in 2020, I don’t know how any of those families are going to be able to afford the airline tickets, the Airbnb, the hotels, or get the tickets,” Feldman said.

Those planning to wait until the last minute to book rooms, which sometimes become available because organizers typically overestimate the number of rooms needed and the number of foreign visitors, could miss out.

It may not happen this time.

Tokyo’s demand is driven partly by a giant metropolitan area of 35 million, its safe streets, and long-time support for the Olympics.

Australia-based Kingdom Sports Group, an official reseller that deals primarily with Asia and Africa, said on a social media site that Tokyo is “30 times more popular” than London was in 2012. London is often seen as the benchmark for Olympic interest.

Ken Hanscom, a ticketing expert who runs Los Angeles-based TicketManager, told AP “this is the biggest (Olympic) demand ever — by far.”

The big winner could be the Paralympics, which open a few weeks after the Olympics close on Aug. 9, 2020. The lottery in Japan for the Paralympics started on Thursday with 2.3 million tickets available.

Just over 80% of Japan residents who applied got nothing in the first Olympic ticket lottery earlier this year. Of those who landed tickets in June, many got far fewer than they expected.

Organizers say 3.22 million tickets were sold in the first phase. Demand appears to exceed supply by at least 10 times. Another 680,000 tickets are available in this lottery, but only for those who were shut out the first time.

Tokyo organizers say there are 7.8 million tickets for the Olympics. They estimate between 70-80% will go to the general public in Japan. The difference between the larger and smaller percentage is 780,000 tickets, giving organizers flexibility in how tickets are distributed.

The remaining tickets are sold abroad, or go to sponsors, national Olympic committees, and sports federations.

Organizers hope to earn $800 million from ticket sales, a big chuck of income for the privately funded, $5.6 billion operating budget.

A report released last year by the national government’s Board of Audit said Japan is likely to spend $25 billion overall to prepare the games. This is public money, except for the operating budget. Organizers dispute the figure and say it’s about $12 billion, though what are Olympics costs — and what are not — is subject to heated debate.

Tokyo projected total costs of about $7.5 billion in its winning bid for the games in 2013.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP





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