ICYMI: How Robots and AI Impact Jobs, DFW Ranks for Economic Freedom, Finnish MaaS Pioneer Shortlists Dallas

From tech bytes (OnRobot, NoiseAware, AT&T) to accolades (Raytheon, Craig Hall, Aprima Medical, and more) to our weekly top 10 (Anurag Jain), here's your briefing on ideas and innovation in North Texas.

Dallas Innovates' weekly mix of business, culture, and technology in Dallas-Fort Worth. 

Dallas Innovates’ weekly mix of business, culture, and technology in Dallas-Fort Worth.  

Sometimes the main theme of the week is big and sexy, like covering all the cool things North Texas companies were up to at the Consumer Electronics Show, and sometimes it’s a bit more academic. This week we share a new report that looks at tech disruption and employment. And maybe that theme is apropos since the U.S. just came out of the longest federal government partial shutdown that saw federal workers miss two paychecks and federal contractors likely left out in the (polar vortex) cold.

First up is a Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program study on automation and artificial intelligence that examines how machines are affecting people and places. The study ranked Dallas-Fort Worth number one among the four metro areas in Texas for potential disruption by automation. Overall, the region was 29th out of the top 100 largest metro areas in the U.S.

Per the study, out of all occupations in North Texas, 46.5 percent of workplace tasks are susceptible to automation. In actual application terms, this translates to more than a million jobs that might be impacted by automation in the form of artificial intelligence or robotics.

One caveat to these figures is automation doesn’t necessarily mean a worker will be displaced by a robot or AI, but that at least some tasks currently held by humans could be automated. Jobs that are most at risk for automation include food prep, payroll clerk, and commuter network specialist.

From the report: “While this report concludes that the future may not be as dystopian as the most dire voices claim, plenty of people and places will be affected by automation, and much will need to be done to mitigate the coming disruptions.”

Also from the report: “Machines substitute for tasks, not jobs. A job is a collection of tasks. Some of those tasks are best done by humans, others by machines. Even under the most aggressive scenarios of technological advancement, it is unlikely that machines will be able to substitute for all tasks in any one occupation.”

Second up is an NRLB ruling with area ties that may either please or worry you, depending on which side of the employment table you typically sit on. Last week the National Labor Relations Board released a 3-1 ruling that SuperShuttle operators in North Texas are properly classified as independent contractors instead of employees. The decision overturns a 2014 ruling from an Obama administration-led NLRB in the FedEx Home Delivery case.

In practice, the ruling is a win for tech companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Favor, and others that consider their workers as contractors rather than employees. But the ruling is limited, according to at least some legal experts.

“The impact will be limited to unionizing efforts,” Michael LeRoy, a law professor at the University of Illinois, told Ars Technica. “Even at that, some of the ride-share unionization is taking place under state or local transportation laws.”

By finding SuperShuttle drivers are contractors, the NLRB ruling shuts them out of the National Labor Relations Act, which outlines the right to unionize, collectively bargain, and strike. The big picture for gig economy tech firms that have been treating workers as contractors rather than employees is that those companies can continue to save costs associated with full employees such as payroll, taxes, and health insurance with some assurance the NLRB—at least during the current administration—will back them up.

“The Board found that the franchisees’ leasing or ownership of their work vans, their method of compensation, and their nearly unfettered control over their daily work schedules and working conditions provided the franchisees with significant entrepreneurial opportunity for economic gain,” the NLRB said in a statement on the ruling.

Per the Labor Department, there were 10.6 million independent contractors in the U.S. in 2017 corresponding to close to seven percent of the workforce.

North Texas ranks high in economic freedom

In other employment-related news, Reason Foundation’s U.S. Metropolitan Economic Freedom Index found Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington ranked 5th in economic freedom, topped only by Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land; Jacksonville, FL; Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater; and Richmond, VA.

GET ON THE LIST Dallas Innovates, Every Day. Click to sign up for the e-newsletter.

“This local-level index is important because it shows economic freedom can vary widely—even within the same state,” Dean Stansel, author of the report and a research associate professor at the O’Neil Center for Global Markets and Freedom in SMU’s Cox School of Business, said in a statement. “Metropolitan areas with higher economic freedom tend to have higher per capita incomes and faster population growth.”

The index scoring is based on nine separate measures of state and local government policies and included 382 metropolitan statistical areas.

Tech bytes

OnRobot’s lizard-inspired tech up for Edison Award

OnRobot’s Gecko Gripper technology is a 2019 Edison Award finalist in the Applied Technology’s Robotics category. The Denmark-based company with its Americas division in Irving, provides hardware and software for collaborative robots, also known as cobots.

Gecko Gripper’s tech takes inspiration from its lizard namesake with millions of micro-scaled fibrillar stalks that use “van der Waals forces” to adhere to surfaces similar to how geckos are able to stick to walls. One useful property of this tech is that it operates in a vacuum, so NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab has used the design for salvaging and repairing satellites.

The Edison Award winners will be announced April 4, 2019, in New York City.

McKinney ‘green’ car dealership’s solar canopies turn electricity into positive cash flow

In solar news that is a bit more down-to-earth, El Dorado Chevrolet/Mazda of McKinney unveiled a system of 37 new car canopies outfitted with 3,456 solar panels, which will produce more electricity than is used on the car dealership’s entire 28-acre campus. The extra energy will be exported to the Texas power grid, creating energy credits for El Dorado. The solar array is expected to offset more than 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity over its 30-year life and save El Dorado over $4 million in electricity expenses. The project is a collaboration with Sunfinity Renewable Energy of Dallas and The Ratliff Group of Coppell.

“This type of project is a win-win-win,” said John Billingsley, chairman, and CEO of Sunfinity Renewable Energy, in a statement. “El Dorado receives a lower utility budget certainty for decades, which enables them to dedicate those dollars to other business-building initiatives. The project helps the Texas grid by supplying power when it’s most needed. And the community benefits environmentally because El Dorado will be offsetting a significant amount of CO2—equivalent to replacing over 35 million pounds of coal burned.”

El Dorado Chevrolet has been recognized as the first ‘green’ automotive dealership in the nation, according to a release.

NoiseAware and BeHome247 team up for rental tech

Dallas-based NoiseAware and BeHome247 announced a partnership in smart home automation technology that would include noise monitoring alerts and management. The deal brings NoiseAware’s tech into the BeHome247 Enterprise Property Control platform. Both companies are geared toward property management, such as Airbnb and other vacation rental operators.

NoiseAware also announced a new generation of its privacy-safe noise monitoring service for indoor and outdoor spaces, a new mobile app, and an enhanced dashboard.

Cowboys fans to get full 5G experience at AT&T Stadium

ICYMI has previously covered how AT&T plans on making the Cowboys’ home field an early test case for its in-stadium 5G rollout, and a recent Forbes report further outlines what that will look like.

“When we first built the stadium, our goal was to be on the cutting edge of innovation and redefine the sports experience. That started immediately with our center-hung video board and then grew from that,” Charlotte Jones Anderson, chief brand officer for the Dallas Cowboys, told Forbes. “We want to change the way people engage in our game and to create an experience unlike anywhere else.”

Part of that approach was baked into making AT&T the naming partner of the stadium. Anderson said that having AT&T as its lead partner meant the Cowboys would “always be aware of what was coming for the future” and be able to build out the infrastructure needed for creative ideas.

What do those creative ideas look like? Anderson said because AT&T Stadium will have 5G infrastructure in place, once smartphones catch up to the wireless technology, the Cowboys branding team will be able to deliver AI, virtual reality, or augmented reality experiences to fans without any delays or glitches.

Finnish mobility app shortlists Dallas for U.S. debut

Whim, an all-in-one mobility app from Finland-based MaaS Global, is poised for its U.S. debut, and Dallas is on the shortlist of cities under consideration. The app has subscription options that offer users unlimited access to ride-hailing services, bike and car rentals, and public transportation. Other cities on the list include Austin, Boston, Chicago, and Miami. The Whim app is currently available in Antwerp, Belgium; the United Kingdom; Helsinki, Finland; and Vienna, Austria.

Lyft claims $70.7 million lift to the local economy

A recent Dallas Morning News report examines how ride sharing giveth and taketh away from the area economy. Per Lyft, its data found that Dallas-Fort Worth riders contributed $70.7 million to the local economy last year, and as a safety feature are 67 percent less likely to drive impaired.

The question is: Do ride hailing apps hurt public transportation? DART data has found declining bus ridership for a decade with a steeper drop since 2015. Light rail ridership has stayed flat. A study by civil engineers at the University of Kentucky found that every year rideshare companies are in a city, rail ridership can be expected to decrease 1.3 percent and bus ridership 1.7 percent.

Of course these figures aren’t definitive on what’s exactly happening.

“Almost all of these studies—and our analysis of the phenomenon—are based upon correlations rather than causation,” DART spokesman Mark Ball told the Morning News. “We can’t confirm with certainty that transit riders are actually moving to [ride-sharing services] from transit, but it appears to be happening in some situations.”

Two tech companies on the move

Supply chain management company Teltech Group moved its corporate headquarters from Carrollton to Frisco last month, and web development firm Lifeblue last week announced a move from McKinney to Granite Park in Plano.

Esports doesn’t stop

Deloitte released its 18th edition of “Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions” for 2019, which forecasts new developments and improvements in the realm of emerging technologies being deployed around the world. Among the predictions, the report named smart speakers as the fastest-growing connected device category in history, and forecasted that this would be the year 5G would arrive at-scale.

“2019 will see massive improvements in a wide range of technologies, pushing once-novel innovations into the mainstreams of our lives and work,” Sandra Shirai, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP, said in a statement. “Emerging technologies are blurring traditional industry lines, impacting people and organizations; as a society, we’ll be smarter, more productive and more deeply engaged with the world around us.”

Deloitte also says that the North American esports market would expand by 35 percent in 2019, surged by advertising, broadcast licensing, and franchise sales. Esports in Dallas-Fort Worth has made major headlines in the past few months, making the region seem like the go-to destination: Mavs Gaming got a new Deep Ellum pavilion, Esports Stadium Arlington opened in November, the inaugural OP Live debuted in September, Overwatch League announced it was coming, and DreamHack decided to make Dallas its destination.

Food + Drink

Colleen Townsley Brinkmann took North Texas Food Bank to new heights

North Texas Food Bank chief philanthropic officer and nonprofits strategist Colleen Townsley Brinkmann may be moving on to her next phase: She’s written a book titled, “Moonshot Leadership.” Brinkmann took the organization from $2 in 2002 to $110 million over the last three years and on track to provide 90 million meals by 2025 according to a CBS DFW report.

“It was just raw and ready for growth, and Jan [Pruitt] was the kind of person who saw that,” Brinkmann told CBS about Jan Pruitt, the food bank’s CEO who passed away of cancer in 2017. Brinkmann added, “She gave me the freedom to innovate and experiment. She was always there for me.”

Texas spirits in the news

Per the Distilled Spirits Council, American whiskey saw an 8.1 percent increase in sales in 2017, and Texas is a big part of those sales as the second largest market for the spirit in the U.S. Texas is also home to the fourth most craft distilleries in the U.S.

One of those distilleries, Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co., is located in a 1920s warehouse south of downtown Fort Worth. The business was founded in 2010 by Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson with TX Blended Whiskey their first release. It came out in 2012 and won “Best American Craft Whiskey” and a “Double Gold” medal at the 2013 San Francisco Spirits Competition. Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. is now the largest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi River and can produce up to 135 barrels per day with the only larger distilleries located in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana.

The latest player in the spirits space will be Blackland Distillery set to open March 20, 2019, in Fort Worth’s Foundry District. It will produce small-batch vodka, bourbon, gin, and rye whiskey and the facility will include a full-service bar and tasting room. The distillery was founded by Markus Kypreos, a Fort Worth native and former attorney.

Mooala rolls out refrigerated organic oatmilk

Dallas-based Mooala, the organic dairy-free beverage producer, has launched Organic Coconut Oatmilk, a product it described as the industry’s first U.S. refrigerated organic oatmilk. It will first be available in the refrigerated aisle in Whole Foods and Safeway-Albertsons regionally, and available to retailers nationally through UNFI and KeHE.

READ NEXT ICYMI: North Texas Breaks Out, Female Entrepreneurs Make Waves, TCU Teen Becomes Youngest MythBuster

“Consumers are increasingly migrating to the plant-based lifestyle to eat more mindfully, and oatmilk is quickly becoming a mainstream favorite due to its versatility,” said Mooala Founder and CEO Jeff Richards, in a statement. “However, most oatmilks on the market are over-processed and full of sugary carbs. We wanted to offer consumers an organic and better-for-you.”

It’s a growing market. Per Nielsen data for the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based “milk” increased 9 percent year-over-year to June 2018.

Blaze Pizza gets into North Texas

Founded in 2012 in California, Blaze Pizza and its interactive open-kitchen format is now in 42 states and five countries, and will soon be 10 Tarrant and Denton County spots over the next five years. Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza announced the deal with franchisee veterans and husband and wife team Smit Shah and Prachee Patel. The fist location to open will be Denton County.

“We’ve been involved in the franchise industry for some time now, and being able to sign on with Blaze Pizza is a milestone in our career as multi-unit franchisees,” Patel, co-founder of Blazing Hospitality, told QSR Magazine. “Blaze Pizza is a vibrant brand with strong marketing support and brand recognition, which makes it a great addition to our portfolio as we focus on diversifying.”


Raytheon racks up training recognition

Raytheon Professional Services LLC, a Raytheon Company subsidiary, received a number of awards in training excellence in 2018, including:

  • The top spot of the 2018 Nelson Hall Vendor Evaluation and Assessment Tool which analyzes training providers.
  • Two awards from research organization Brandon Hall Group, including a gold “Excellence in Technology” award for its work with a global auto maker, and a silver “Excellence in Learning” award for developing a multi-tiered training program that transformed compliance for an entire workforce.
  • Raytheon Professional Services was a partner with Honda Motor Europe Limited for a 2018 “Best Use of Blended Learning” gold award from The Learning Technologies Awards.
  • Chief Learning Officer magazine gave Raytheon a gold “Learning in Practice” award.


Craig Hall named D CEO 2019 Pioneer Award winner

Craig Hall, Arts District developer and namesake of Frisco’s HALL Park commercial development, was named the 2019 winner of the D CEO Pioneer Award, part of its Commercial Real Estate Awards program.

Don Morphy wins Rising Star fashion award

Dallas’ Don Morphy, a fashion brand founded by Daniel Mofor, won the Rising Star award in menswear at the 22nd Annual Fashion Group International awards. The recognition is a first for a Dallas-based brand in the menswear category. The brand creates custom and ready-to-wear clothes for men and its clientele includes noted pro athletes such as former Dallas Cowboys star Emmitt Smith and NBA players Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler. 

Aprima Medical ranked No. 1 in KLAS report

Aprima Medical Software, an eMDs company, received the No. 1 rating for the Small Practice Ambulatory EMR/PM Category (1-10 physicians) in the 2019 Best in KLAS: Software & Services Report. The ranking is based on verified customer interviews by KLAS over a 12-month period. This is the second consecutive year Aprima has been named the highest rated EHR/PM platform in its category. KLAS is a healthcare data research company.

“Being recognized by KLAS for two straight years is a true achievement and validates the work our entire team has put into the technology and the value users realize from our solutions,” said Michael Nissenbaum, CEO, Aprima Medical Software, in a statement. “It’s a nice high note as we look forward to the brand we have built growing exponentially and offering even more value to providers now that Aprima has been acquired by another market leader in this space, eMDs.” 

What we’re reading


Richardson mayor highlights 2018 accomplishments in annual State of the City address
Richardson mayor Paul Voelker’s presentation highlighted improvements to city infrastructure, growth in business, and a look at the city’s focus on community and philanthropic endeavors. The city’s upward trajectory builds on last year’s wins in commercial real estate, redevelopment of underperforming areas, and investment in community services and education.

Creating More Opportunities for Walkable Developments in Fast-Growing Dallas-Fort Worth
A study, Emerging Trends in Real Estate® 2019, recently left Dallas Fort Worth near the bottom of the pack for walkability. Findings state the region has only 38 established walkable places, accounting for only 0.1 percent of the area. Additionally, rent in walkable areas was found to be 37 percent higher than the region’s average.


Former Amazon leader ready to ‘build, build, build’ at Dallas tech company he now leads
Hear from One Technologies CEO and Amazon.com veteran Sanjay Baskaran as he discusses his plans to “build, build, build” the Dallas-based company in 2019. The company plans to expand its reach, ramp up new features, draw new customers, and hire at least two dozen workers in the coming year.

TELL US: What’s grabbing your attention right now? What should we be reading? Send your tips, links, and thoughts here

Dallas-Fort Worth works its way to the top for growth in coworking
It’s no secret the coworking industry is experiencing nearly exponential growth in North Texas. A new survey recently named Dallas-Fort Worth the No. 1 spot in the U.S. for coworking with downtown and core submarkets soaring 250 percent between late 2016 and mid 2018.


Dallas Art Fair Names Exhibitors for Spring 2019
The Dallas Art Fair, April 11-14, revealed Tuesday its list of almost upcoming artists includes 100 exhibitors from 30 cities across the world. “This year, we feel the fair’s impact on Dallas more than ever. Our new project space will open even more doors for our partners and exhibitors, and is a testament to our commitment to providing high-quality cultural programming for the city even when the fair is over,” said John Sughrue, chairman of the Dallas Art Fair, in a statement.


Rangers To Use Synthetic Grass At New Field
Grass stains will soon be a thing of the past for the Texas Rangers. Game-goers at
Globe Life Field, when it opens in March 2020, will instead root for the home team as they play on artificial turf. The Rangers say the improvement will “satisfy the club’s total requirements for player safety, team performance and fan experience.”

Top 10
Dallas Innovates most-read stories this week

1. Anurag Jain on Tech Talent, Building an Innovation Ecosystem, and Defining the ‘X’ Factor

2. Project Runway: New Innovation Officer Tackles Travel Roadblocks at Dallas Fort Worth Airport

3. The X Factor: Four Ingredients are Turning North Texas into a Rising Tech Power

4. Cody Marx Bailey on Emerging Tech Poised to Make an Impact and Why ‘Now Is the Time for North Texas’

5. Dallas-based Arfinn Med Launches ‘First-Ever’ Clinician-Based Medical Cannabis Portal

6. George Brody on North Texas as Home to Corporate Giants, an Esports Mecca, and the Telecom Transformation

7. Quest for Capital: The Dallas-Fort Worth Difference

8. Woman-Founded Rex Programming is Helping Kids Become Digitally Literate

9. Feast Your Eyes on This: Dallas’ Unicorn-Themed Dessert Bar

10. Don Morphy Becomes First Dallas Menswear Label to Win Rising Star Award

Things to Do
Events to inspire, connect, educate, and inform innovators

Calendar: DISD STEM Expo, The Texas Healthcare Challenge, HackDFW 2019
From first-of-its-kind competitions (ClubCorp’s luxe traveling wedding showcase) to technology showcases (DevFest DFW), browse our curated selection of events to plan your next week—and beyond.

Quincy Preston, Alex Edwards, and Payton Potter contributed to this report.

Get on the list.
Dallas Innovates, every day.

Sign up to keep your eye on what’s new and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, every day.

One quick signup, and you’re done.
View previous emails.

R E A D   N E X T