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Technology

Sumitomo bets on Israeli startup's remote driving tech

Japanese trading houses hunt for partners in AI and cybersecurity

Sumitomo-backed Ottopia offers stable, high-quality video feeds for remote vehicle operators.(Photo courtesy of Ottopia) 

TOKYO -- Sumitomo Corp. has invested in a trio of Israeli tech-sector startups, including a company developing monitoring technology for autonomous cars, joining the growing ranks of Japanese companies targeting a hub of high-tech entrepreneurship.

IN Venture, Sumitomo's Israel-based venture capital arm, has reportedly invested millions of dollars each in three companies, including Ottopia, which develops teleoperation systems to assist autonomous vehicles. Its technology uses artificial intelligence to predict wireless network conditions and compress video data to provide a steady real-time video feed to the operator.

Israeli startups are attractive targets for Japanese companies seeking partners to expand into new fields. Trading houses like Sumitomo look to combine the innovative technology of these enterprises with their own broad sales networks to the benefit of both.

IN Venture will offer management support to Ottopia with an eye toward a launch of the service as early as this year. Sumitomo hopes to develop the business in Japan together with Ottopia, cultivating a new business in autonomous and remotely controlled agricultural and construction equipment.

IN Venture has also bought into blockchain security company GK8 and Genoox, developer of a genome analysis platform. The venture capital firm has now invested in six companies since it was established in 2019, with a focus on such fields as mobility and health care.

Israel is a startup hot spot that sees 700 to 800 launched each year, many in fields requiring advanced technical capabilities, such as in AI and cybersecurity.

Other trading houses with an eye on the country's startup scene include Toyota Tsusho, which on Tuesday announced a distributor agreement with Cybellum Technologies, a provider of cybersecurity solutions for vehicles. Cybellum's service for detecting and analyzing vulnerabilities in vehicle software will be marketed to Japanese automakers under this deal.

Marubeni also has a presence in Israel to unearth promising high-tech investment targets and has bought into such companies as D-ID, which uses AI to anonymize faces in video footage.

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