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Inovat modernizes tax reimbursement for streamlined international shopping – TechCrunch

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If you’ve ever traveled to Europe and purchased something, you’re either likely aware that you can get the Value-Added Tax (VAT) reimbursed once you depart since it’s actually only intended for taxpaying residents of the country wherein its charged. Whether or not you actually bother to get your VAT reimbursement might depend on how convenient it is to do so, and generally speaking, the process is paper-based and pretty annoying. Inovat is a startup that aims to simplify and digitize the process so that it’s not such a pain, opening the door for people to get more of the money they’re rightly owed.

Inovat accomplishes this with an app, available on mobile or on desktop, which employs optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning to interpret receipts you upload or photograph, determine how much VAT you should be owed for your purchase, and prepare the requisite forms for submission to a customs officer or via an online customs filing form like those found at some airports.

Innovat co-founders Ilya Melkumov and Sonya Baranova came up with the idea because they themselves had encountered the problem of VAT remittance many times, as Russian and Ukranian nationals respectively, traveling within Europe and making purchases on their trips. Melkumov, a former professional e-sports player, met Inovat’s CTO Igor Titov while playing games online, after the two struck up a conversation about getting VAT returns.

Melkumov and Baranova both believed the outdated process, which included high fees and often required paper forms or a lot of manual work to track receipts, could benefit from technologies that are helping improve and modernize other areas related to economics, like the finance industry. They mapped out the currently available solutions, figured out what the industry didn’t yet have and where they could offer solutions. They then quickly got to work building the actual product.

“In July we got together, and by September we had the first version of the product and we started testing it ourselves,” Melkumov told me in an interview. “From there, we started automating parts of it – we had to solve the scalability, we had to understand how we could scan and extract the information from the recipes in a scalable manner.”

That’s where Titov came in, bringing experience from work done for banks and other clients to help make it technically feasible. The resulting app is easy to use, and takes what was a painful and complicated process and makes it as easy as remembering to snap a photo when you make a purchase. They also say they can return up to 50 percent greater refunds to customers versus traditional methods.

“You go to a store, you get the receipt, you take a picture of the receipt,” Melkumov explained. “Then we analyze the receipt and create a unique digital form, which has all your receipts compiled in one digital form linked to a QR code and then you scan that with the customs officer (or automated scanning) and get that processed right away.”

Inovat is focused entirely on the U.K. right now, and its product is designed specifically for that reimbursement flow. That market alone represents $4.3 billion, Melkumov estimates, so it’s large enough for them to focus on it narrowly for now. But, he adds that they definitely have their eye on potential expansion down the road.

“The European market is around $20 billion, and we’ve been contacted by multiple European governments towards creating a more digital tax refund solution,” he said. “Next steps for us is definitely expansion into other European countries.”



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Lucid Air Sapphire Takes On Tesla’s Plaid With A 1,200 Horsepower Electric Monster

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Meanwhile, there are new Michelin PS4S tires for the 265/35R20 front and 295/30R21 rear wheels — staggered at 20-inch up front and 21-inch at the back — with 420 mm carbon ceramic brake discs and 10-pot calipers at the front and 380 mm versions at the back with 4-pot calipers. Lucid says it has used a continuously wound carbon mesh for those discs, too, to improve thermal conductivity. The front and rear springs are stiffer, as are the bushings, and there are unique damper, ABS, traction and stability control, and steering settings.

Outside, there’s a new tinted carbon fiber rear spoiler, matching side mirror caps, and a new Sapphire Air logo on the rear pillars and trunk. Lucid has added to the track width — with new fender lips adding 24 mm at the rear and 12 mm at the front — and while the standard wheels have a more open design than the Air normally sports, there are cabin fiber aero disc inserts which can help boost range.

Initially, only a single color — a new in-house sapphire blue — will be offered on the car. That’ll be combined with Lucid’s new Stealth Look trim, leaving the exterior brightwork darker. Inside, there’s a new Sapphire Mojave theme, with extra bolstering for the 18-way power sport seats that are finished in black leather, black Alcantara, and Sapphire Blue contrast stitching. The infotainment system gets a new Sapphire Mode color scheme, and there’s matching stitching on the steering wheel.

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Kia EV6 GT Packs 576 Electric Horses And A Drift Mode

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You might not associate Kia with performance vehicles, but with 576 horsepower on tap, the new EV6 GT unveiled during Monterey Car Week aims to change that.

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This Electronic ‘Skin’ Lacking A Chip Could Be The Future Of Wearables

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But here’s the exciting part: The electronic skin can also be easily customized with a different kind of ion-sensing membrane that is sensitive to other chemicals like glucose and cortisol in the sweat. “We showed sodium sensing, but if you change the sensing membrane, you could detect any target biomarker,” adds co-author of the paper, Jun Min Suh. 

In 2018, a team from Stanford University also came up with a wearable device that can measure cortisol levels in sweat and analyze stress levels. Additionally, 2021 wearable-centric research from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in France revealed that cortisol can be used as a biomarker for treating conditions like burnout and obesity.

Another critical benefit is that the electronic skin is flexible, which means the comfort aspect has already been taken care of. That’s a huge relief, as sleeping while wearing a smartwatch so that it collects detailed information about heart rate patterns is not the most comfortable experience. Plus, sleep tracking coupled with continuous heart rate monitoring is also quite taxing on the battery life of a smartwatch. 

An electronic skin that can transmit data related to heart rate and changes in the chemistry of sweat without a chip or transmission gear is a truly remarkable step. Work in the domain has been making tremendous process. From the potential for tattoos that monitor health to artificial skin that can heal its own bruises, the possibilities are almost endless. 

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