ICYMI: Toyota and Pizza Hut Team on Robotic Pizza-Making Truck, Dallas Startups, Prop Tech, and Mobility

From tech talk (OnRobot, Sam's Club, Aurora) to our weekly Top 10 (DreamHack), here's your briefing on innovation, ideas, and impact in North Texas.

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

Thinking outside-the-pizza-box isn’t unusual for Pizza Hut. After all, who could forget last year’s limited edition Pie Top sneakers released for March Madness that let wearers order pizza with a squeeze of the shoe’s tongue?

And now, they’ve cooked up a partnership with Toyota for a one-of-a-kind mobile pizza factory.

The highly customized truck—zero-emissions and powered by a hydrogen fuel cell—doubles as a robotics-driven pizza kitchen. The kitchen’s two robot arms bake, cut, box, and deliver the pizza.

So, how does it work? A robotic arm starts by opening a refrigerator, grabbing the correct pie, and putting it on a conveyor belt that sends it through a high-speed ventless oven. From there, a second robotic arm picks up the cooked pizza, cuts it into six slices, boxes it, and completes the delivery to the customer.

The pizza-making vehicle was unveiled at the 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas, along with the unveiling of Plano’s Toyota North America’s call-to-action — “Let’s Go Places.” The automaker rolled out a number of racing- and celebrity-themed displays at the event, including a Kevin Costner-designed custom Tundra.

Nicolas Burquier, Chief Customer and Operations Officer for Pizza Hut U.S., said Pizza Hut is constantly focused on evolving through improvements and innovations that better serve customers. The international restaurant franchise is also headquartered in Plano, and in the future, will be exploring “next generation solutions and automation” to optimize its delivery business. What’s next — a breadstick bus?

More subscription mobility

A couple of weeks ago, we pointed out the rise of subscription services in the mobility space, including a monthly subscription rate for Lyft riders and the launch of YourDrive Texas, a monthly service that offers subscribers access to a variety of mostly Toyota vehicles in lieu of owning a car of their own. Fast forward, and subscription mobility remains in the news.

This week, Uber announced a limited subscription option — limited in what it offers, limited in cost, and limited where it’s available. The service, called Ride Pass, starts at $14.99 per month depending on the city, and lets Uber users avoid surge pricing by locking in flat-rate prices for UberX, Uber Pool, and Uber Express Pool rides. The catch is the new option isn’t currently available in North Texas. Only Austin, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, and Orlando riders can sign up for the plan.

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Closer to home, Audi announced a monthly service in Dallas/Fort Worth that, for a $1,395 fee, provides subscribers with two vehicle swaps per month; two days of Silvercar rentals per month; and roadside assistance, maintenance, insurance, and unlimited mileage.

Looking back on infrastructure week

The 10th North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum was recently held in Dallas (and Texas) for the first time. Before the event, Norman Anderson, the forum’s founder and the CEO and chairman of Washington, D.C.-based CG/LA Infrastructure Inc., told Dallas Innovates that the Texas Central Partners’ high-speed rail line slated to connect Dallas and Houston was among the reasons Dallas was an ideal location for the conference.

National infrastructure advocacy group CG/LA named the Texas Bullet Train as a top North American infrastructure project in its “Strategic 100 North American Infrastructure Report” released at the leadership forum. The project was described as an economic catalyst that will take advantage of domestic strength in labor, technology, and materials by Anderson in a Dallas Business Journal recap. According to Texas Central Partners, the project will cost $15 billion, but other estimates put the price tag at $20 billion. The high-speed train would turn the Dallas-to-Houston stretch into a 90-minute trip.

From the CG/LA report: “These projects are game changers … for job creation, business development, long-term investment and the critical inputs that citizens demand, mobility and health, along with opportunities.”

The event’s keynote was given by U.S. Energy Secretary and ex-Governor of Texas Rick Perry. In the address, Perry touted the U.S. energy renaissance driven by innovation in the oil and gas industry, including technologies like horizontal drilling and enhanced oil recovery. The U.S. was the world’s largest oil producer in 2017, with production in Texas on the rise.

“The geo-politics of the world have been turned on its head because of American innovation and American technology,” Perry said in the keynote.

Texas is becoming known for infrastructure investment from Spain and the U.K., with Cintra’s North American Business Development Director Ricardo Bosch speaking at the event about how the Spain-based developer has spent around $6 billion on three managed lane projects in Texas, including the LBJ Express Tollway, over the past five years. Public investment for those projects was less than $800 million. In fact, the North American Development Bank (NADB) is leveraging public/private sector funding at a 1:20 ratio. This is resulting in states and municipalities turning to private investment to fund infrastructure projects — an important goal, as the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the U.S. a D+ in infrastructure and forecasts it would take $4.5 trillion over 10 years to increase that score to a B.

On Cintra’s managed lane projects in North Texas, Bosch said success here has led to similar projects in North Carolina and Virginia.

Startup success

Dallas’ noise monitoring company for rental properties NoiseAware received media coverage for its new Gen 3 monitoring system, including a Q&A at ShortTermRentalz. The product allows property managers keep track of noise levels, something that can help rental properties remain good neighbors in long-term residential areas, such as homes rented out via Airbnb.

READ NEXT ICYMI: Dallas VC Funding Report, Delivery Bots Are Coming, Infrastructure Week & What We’re Reading

Trey Bowles, cofounder of the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and current chairman of the board, tweeted about the media coverage: “This is great press on Dallas based @noiseawareIO in The Verge.com. It has been great to watch these guys grow and see success. We are proud that they were a @theDECtx member and we continue to support and applaud their success.”

Clickr is another startup in the property management space. The company was founded by Daniel Siemek in July, and is a mobile app that replaces the remote “clicker” used by many properties to let residents into a gated facility. Siemek found out that tech dates back to 1973 and firsthand learned how out of date it is given the technology available today. Launch DFW profiled Siemek and Clickr with an in-depth report.

And, sticking with real estate, it looks like Ribbon, a Charlotte- and New York-based startup founded by former execs at LendingClub and Twitter, is hiring in Dallas for a field role per a Hypepotamus report. The company on the buyer side of the home sales equation announced a $225 million Series A funding round last week.

When Cynthia Nevels’ son Tyler was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Nevels was determined to do something — so she set out to improve his health by experimenting with meatless meals.

When he later passed away from the complications from the disease, Nevels wanted to find a way to honor her son, so she compiled her recipes and founded Soulgood: a food truck offering consumers “Organic Fast Food with Integrity and No Regrets.”

“People thought I was crazy to start a vegan/vegetarian food truck in Texas, but I didn’t think I was crazy,” Nevels told Live Kindly. Instead, she researched trends, saw that families were interested in getting healthier, and realized she was “onto something.”

Turns out, she was right. Last year, Dallas was named one of the top vegan-friendly cities (No. 8) in the U.S. by VegNews. And, Dallas is home to the Texas Veggie Fair, the state’s largest festival dedicated to all things vegetable. Soulgood was even voted this year’s best food truck in Dallas by the Dallas Observer — beating out all other non-vegetarian food trucks to snag the title.

Post-2018 Veggie Fair, Dallas-based startup Soulgood released a new video on their vegetarian and vegan fast food truck, which uses locally sourced ingredients and sustainable practices to deliver organic, plant-based foods. While the mobile restaurant has a main mission to promote healthy living, Nevels is keeping her son’s legacy alive by donating 5 percent of every sale to Kids Environmental Education Network, Inc. and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Inc.

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Let’s talk tech

OnRobot, a Denmark-based company that provides manufacturers end-of-arm tooling for collaborative robots, chose Urban Towers in Las Colinas for its first U.S. headquarters. The location was picked because of its proximity to OnRobot’s partners and the area’s central location in the U.S. On-site staff is expected to grow from four to as many as 35 employees over the next two to three years.

“North America is rapidly becoming one of our primary markets, and we looked at several locations from coast to coast before settling on Dallas,” said Kristian Hulgard, General Manager of OnRobot’s Americas Division. “Not only was it the prime location for our business, [but] we were also pleased to see the tech boom that has been going on in the city. As more manufacturers and tech companies realize the benefit of growing their businesses in this region, OnRobot will also benefit from the quality of talent that is sure to follow.”

Sam’s Club is prototyping the “future of retail” in Lower Greenville with its Sam’s Club Now concept, a smaller-than-usual, mobile-first location the big box club store retailer is calling the “epicenter of innovation.” The tech deployed in the store includes allowing shoppers to scan as they shop and check out sans-cashier; Sam’s Scan & Go app has been around for two years, but the prototype store will make that capability the foundation of it the Sam’s Club Now app.

In a LinkedIn post, Rick Ton, senior director, product marketing, growth & behavioral science at Sam’s Club, wrote, “After five months of hard work and part-time residence in Dallas, I’m excited that we’ve officially announced Sam’s Club Now. Beta launches soon. Isn’t like anything you’ve seen at Sam’s Club.”

And finally, Aurora, a biennial light and media art exhibition (although it last made an appearance in 2015), is happening this weekend, albeit with a few changes. It debuts at City Hall’s plaza tonight, rather than in the Dallas Arts District, and has a new curatorial team: Justine Ludwig, former chief curator at the Dallas Contemporary who’s now executive director at New York’s Creative Time; New York-based curator and art consultant DooEun Choi; Berlin-based curator and art historian Nadim Samman; and Dallas-based curator and writer Danielle Avram. 

If you’ve never been a previous Aurora, get to downtown and check out one of Dallas’ more unique art experiences.

What we’re reading

D Gives
For the second year, D Magazine is teaming up with Allie Beth Allman & Associates to raise money for the local charities that are helping make Dallas even better. The online fundraising campaign on Crowdrise ends Nov. 21 at 12:59 p.m., CTE.

Offerpad Expands In Texas
Pheonix-based Offerpad, a digital real estate marketplace that lets homeowners list their houses with a few mere clicks, has expanded into North Texas, kickstarting a Texas expansion that will take over Houston and San Antonio within the next year. Offerpad will make an offer on a newly listed home within 24 hours and even offers its sellers a free move within the nearby area.

Order My Gear Is Changing How Parents Order Their Kids’ Uniforms
Ecommerce organization OrderMyGear is changing the way parents pay for their students’ athletic clothing. Now located in the East Quarter, OrderMyGear raised $35 million from Susquehanna Growth Equity in 2018 and generated $13 million last year.

It’s not an Airbnb, and it’s not a boutique hotel—this travel startup wants to be both
A hotel moonlighting as an apartment complex? Or vice-versa? Eager to please ever-more-discerning travelers, The Guild is a travel option that is traditional, but out of spacious three-bedrooms. And it all comes, of course, with nice sheets, in-room premium coffee, and “locally-informed touches.”

Frisco company sought capital to stay open as it closed office, cut workers
Frisco’s technology services provider, Skinny IT, was shuttered recently, but not without a fight. The Dallas Business Journal writes Skinny IT cut eight positions and actively sought more capital before sending a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification letter to the Texas Workforce Commission on Oct. 23.

Bullet Train to the Future
A high speed railway from Dallas to Houston would undoubtedly serve as an economic superconductor, but rural landowners question its impact on their livelihoods in this thoughtful article narrative from Curbed.

WTTC to test the use of biometric technology between Dallas and London
A series of pilot tests of biometric technology throughout the end-to-end passenger journey has been announced by the World Travel & Tourism Council, and Dallas-Fort Worth is in the first one. Round-trip travelers between Dallas Fort Worth International Airport will see biometric tech being used to conduct all airline security and border processes before they’re to access car rental and hotel check-in.

AT&T’s big push into 5G gets more clarity with consumer device to handle zippy speeds
The Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot could play a pivotal role in bringing 5G mobile technology to Dallas-Fort Worth. AT&T has claimed it will launch 5G services in Dallas and 11 other cities by the end of 2018. The hotspot device will allow users to connect non-compatible devices like tablets and laptops to the 5G network.

Get Up Close With an Extinct Species With Perot Museum’s New Virtual Reality App
The Perot Museum has partnered with Dallas-based Groove Jones, a digital creative agency, to bring the world up close and personal with the recently-discovered Homo naledi, an extinct hominin. The free mobile app lets users explore the Dinaledi chamber, a site believed to be a burial cave for these early creatures.

Walmart’s test store for new technology, Sam’s Club Now, opens next week in Dallas
Walmart’s bulk retailer Sam’s Club is bringing a new wave of technology-fueled shopping to East Dallas with Sam’s Club Now on Greenville Avenue. Customers are invited to try out mobile checkout, a camera-dependent system, electronic labels, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.

CRE Snapshot: A Look At The North Central Dallas Retail Market
North-central Dallas, between U.S. 75 and I-35E, and north of I-635, has added jobs at one of the highest rates in the nation during this real estate cycle. Plano’s Legacy West, Frisco’s The Star, and The Colony’s Grandscape (anchored by Nebraska Furniture Mart) are major drivers of economic growth in north-central Dallas.

BlackEyed Distilling Co. Launches Second Limited-Edition Bottle
Shots, anyone? As an homage to its Fort Worth roots, BlackEyed Distilling Co., released its highly anticipated second limited-edition bottle of premium black-eyed pea vodka. The award-winning artisan vodka company makes the announcement among rapid growth under its two Texan co-owners, Todd Gregory and Scott Billings. 

Get your free tree from the city of Dallas and beat climate change
The city of Dallas is combating climate change and pollution in a creative new way — by giving away free trees. That’s right, residents who follow a simple, three-step process could be the proud owner of a complimentary shumard oak, chinquapin oak, cedar elm, lacebark elm, or redbud on March 9, 2019. Residents must provide a water utility bill or similar form identification to prove Dallas citizenship.

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

Top 10
Dallas Innovates most-read stories this week

1. First Look: The ‘World’s Largest Digital Festival’ DreamHack is Coming to Dallas in 2019

2. Building With Data: How HKS’ LINE Innovation Team Drives Change Using Algorithms, Creativity, Nature

3. Sneak a Peek at Esports Stadium Arlington to Open in November

4. ICYMI: What’s New in Augmented Reality, Social Impact Making Headlines, Women in Tech, and What We’re Reading

5. Innovative Spaces: A (Photo) Tour of Facebook’s Fort Worth Data Center

6. Food+Drink: Dallas To Host National Restaurant Innovation Summit

7. Meet Sally: A New Salad-Making Robot Has Landed in Dallas

8. Dallas-based Ridesharing Startup Alto Raises $13M, Plans to Launch Next Month

9. DI People: Penney Names Interim CFO, Ebby Halliday Taps New CEO, Jacobs Appoints 3 Execs

10. Knock-Knock: Real Estate Startup With a Trade-In Platform Expands To Dallas-Fort Worth

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

Calendar: Restaurant Innovation Summit, Aurora, Chefs for Farmers, Startup Weekend Fort Worth
From grand openings (DEC @ REDBIRD) to ‘unconferences’ (BSIDESDFW), browse our curated selection of events to plan your next week — and beyond. You’ll also find Global Entrepreneurship Week, Hacking For Humanity With Girls in Tech, and the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Technology Forum for Women.

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

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