The Next Big Theme: January 2021

Autonomous & Electric Vehicles

Apple Emerges as a Key Player in the AV Industry

Apple has long been coined as a frontrunner in technology. Keeping up with this reputation, efforts to develop their own self-driving car equipped with ground-breaking battery technology may bear some benefits in the next few years. Although it has been long rumoured, new updates allow consumers to have a date in mind: 2024. The task has been named “Project Titan” and was initiated in 2014 with minimal progress. In 2019, project manager Doug Field who previously worked at Tesla, reconstructed the team. Features that should set apart Apple’s vehicles include a significantly cheaper monocell battery with a larger range and lidar sensors, which have already been implemented into iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro technology, to scan distances.1 Apple is considering creating their batteries out of Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) to combat the possibility of the battery overheating.2 A company as established as Apple deciding to partake as a newcomer in the industry demonstrates the broadening potential for autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles in disrupting transportation.

Genomics

An Improved Lifestyle with CRISPR Gene-Editing

The first person in the United States has been successfully treated for Sickle Cell Disease, representing a milestone in CRISPR gene-editing technology. Patient Victoria Gray was able to fly on a plane just one year after receiving treatment, despite spending her entire life away from planes due to fears of potential side effects. Her continual improvement is providing evidence of CRISPR gene-editing’s efficacy, a technique that makes very precise changes directly to one’s DNA to treat certain diseases. In addition to Gray, nine other patients received similar treatments, and all are responding well and appear to be fully cured of their diseases.3 The treatment increased protein levels in the bloodstream known as “foetal haemoglobin” through gene-editing and a round of chemotherapy to allow for new cell regeneration.4 CRISPR has already been implemented in the treatment of cancer and vision restoration, with plans to extend its applications much more broadly.

Health & Wellness

Peloton Rides Its Way to the Top

Amidst the pandemic, at-home workout equipment company Peloton was able to quickly become a household name. Now, in an attempt to expand manufacturing capabilities, Peloton Interactive has made a deal to buy fitness-equipment company Precor for US$420 million.5 Peloton’s difficulties with mass production to meet consumer demand this past year could be rectified following the close of this deal in early 2021. Precor’s strength in scaling manufacturing is something Peloton hopes to absorb into its own operations. In addition to warehouse and manufacturing space, Peloton will acquire about 100 Precor R&D engineers.6 Precor intends to remain a subsidiary of Peloton. The inability to step foot in gyms amid the pandemic has proven beneficial for Peloton’s at-home workout gear and continues to remain a source of growth for the company.

CleanTech

Japan to Join Asia’s Clean Energy Initiative

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced his intentions to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 may prove fruitful for the economy. The annual economic impact of altering existing business models and developing new technologies could reach 90 trillion yen in 2030, and 190 trillion yen in 2050.7 A main strategy Japan plans to adopt in its mission is going electric in the transportation and heating segments. Other notable goals for Japan include banning gasoline-only cars by mid-2030s, halving electricity consumption by semiconductors by 2030 and reducing agricultural emissions to zero.8

Cloud Computing & Social Media

Twitter Enlists the Help of AWS’ Global Cloud

Twitter struck a new multi-year deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to serve as Twitter’s new public cloud provider. Hoping to improve consumer experience, the use of AWS could enhance Twitter’s storage and security. The two companies plan on collaborating to create an infrastructure enabling the social media platform to run with increased reliability. Twitter will adopt AWS Graviton2’s processors to enhance its cloud-based programming purposes and AWS container services for the rollout of new features on the platform. In addition to these new upgrades, Twitter intends to continue its previous AWS usage through Amazon CloudFront and Amazon DynamoDB. CloudFront offers Twitter a decreased wait time in data processing while DynamoDB serves as a key-value database processing upwards of 20 million requests per second.9

Lithium

Tesla Looks to Yahua for Lithium Supply Deal

Yahua Industrial Group signed a deal with electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla to supply battery-grade lithium hydroxide for the next five years. The value of the agreement with Yahua’s wholly owned subsidiary Yaan Lithium, procures about 12,600-17,600 tons annually.10 This past year Yaan Lithium was able to double its production at its lithium hydroxide plant despite the pandemic. Tesla already sources lithium from one of the world’s largest lithium producers, China’s Ganfeng Lithium, but the deal with Yahua indicates the firm’s growing need for lithium supply and a desire to diversify suppliers.11

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