Innovation now and then
Back in December 2018, we shared that the majority of startups in the world work within Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Health, and Gamification. In that order. We know this thanks to a survey of our extensive community of over 700 business incubation programs that work in over 70 countries— and together, support an astounding 20,000+ startups.
We believe that innovation— then, now, and in the future— will continue to thrive thanks to technological advancements and clever applications. However, what we need in order to stay in step with dynamic change and human progress, is an understanding of what these technology areas really encompass.
Download our infographic detailing the areas of technological innovation happening all around the world.
- 70% of the world’s business incubation programs support startups working within Internet of Things (IoT). But what is it, really? This fantastic overview by The Guardian tells us that, as a concept (connecting electrical devices to the Internet for real time information), IoT is not new. Infact, its applications run the gamut from kitchen appliances and home security to energy distribution and smart cities.What is new, however, are its being extended into every device and techy item imaginable (which is what is abuzz in the startup scene.) Its predominance is growing, but (we hope) will not be so “in your face”: “The internet of things will continue to grow, and we will work out more ways to develop “things” that allow us to enjoy the internet without being overwhelmed by it, and by making it discreetly recede into the background of our lives..” according to Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT SENSEable City Lab.
- 59% work in Big Data. It’s no surprise that we are producing more information than we know how to store (and in some cases, keep safe). Big Data is the smarts behind analyzing it to find ways to act and react, be it optimizing a machine’s operations, so it does not break down or identifying patterns that predict problems (in weather, machines, and even purchase intent.)
“If humans continue to generate data at current rates, we’ll run out of silicon on which to store it by 2014. The answer may be to store terabytes of data within packets in DNA molecules as one Boston-based startup is bringing to market in 2019”.
- 48% work in Artificial Intelligence. In computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is intelligence demonstrated by machines, and computer science defines AI research as the study of “intelligent agents”: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. (Poole, Mackworth & Goebel, 1998 p.1) The definitions are deep but a simple entry in Wikipedia summarizes that modern machine capabilities generally classified as AI include successfully understanding human speech, competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess), autonomously operating cars, and intelligent routing in content delivery networks and military simulations.
“AI has the potential to solve many of the biggest challenges society faces in the 21st century. But only by pooling our resources will we be able to achieve the results we need.” Wendy Hall, computer science professor, University of Southampton
- 45% work within Digital Health which means mobile health solutions, health information technology, and the general merging of the Internet and health technologies. According to The Motley Fool, the digital health market is expected to grow by a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 26% over the next several years. By 2024, the digital health market is estimated to top $379 billion, according to research from Global Market Insights. Mobile health, in particular (now understood by many of us as smartphone powered doctor visits) is expected to grow at a “sizzling 34% CAGR through 2022.” Who knew?
- 42% work within Gamification, which simply means making something never previously thought of as “fun” into an activity that promotes learning, engagement, and so on. It is more formally defined as, “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts” and can “improve user engagement, organizational productivity, flow, learning, crowdsourcing, employee recruitment and evaluation, ease of use, usefulness of systems, physical exercise, traffic violations, voter apathy, and more.” What can’t it do?
Other areas of technological development
We also need a lesson in understanding the scope of technological advancement so must explore the “best of the rest.”
These areas, in order of greatest to least “significance” within the innovation landscape are:
- Augmented or Virtual Reality
- Machine-to-Machine Learning
- Smart Grid
- Genomic Tech
- Biometric Authentication
- Quantum Computing.
“The last great industrial revolution was the rise of the internet and digitalisation. This has created transformative technologies that are changing the very foundations of city and regional economies. And this revolution has been powered by a rise in mobility and the influx of investment in tech bubs and smart cities.”- Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group
In general, from wearables to quantum computing, these “others” (plus of course the “Top 5”) paint a picture of an exponentially changing world. Mostly for the better but certainly filled with awe-inspiring exciting (and uncertainty). This certainly leaves us wondering how life may be changing and whether there will be any unforeseen consequences of tech-infused improvements.
A “Wired World”?
For now, it appears to be all good. Some applications found in The Wired World in 2019 inform us that technology can be an effective health intervention (and not like simply wearing a FitBit to track one’s footsteps per day). Consider, technology creating sensations or reactions by stimulating the brain via nanorobots in cells or via wearable devices that deliver spatial patterns of vibration on the skin—or neurostimulation (via low currents). This is to tackle issues that elude the pharmaceutical industry such as problems with sleep, anxiety, and depression. Add to this: vibrational, temperature-based, olfactory and electrical stimulation according to Pattie Maes, professor of media technology at MIT Media Lab. Virtual reality as another example of not-what-you-know-now. It has applications not just for (the current) training and educational purposes (simulating situations and work environments, for example.) Instead, startups are applying it for behavioral intervention in improving mental health (when combined with psychological interventions.)
Applications and predictions shaping our lives
And here’s some evidence of technology that’s a bit more mature, as well as some predictions and soon-to-launch innovations that aim to solve very real problems:
- Localized learning will create more personal artificial intelligence, a direction that big data will be taking thanks to cumbersome (and attack-vulnerable) centralized data gathering sources. (Irene Ng, professor and director of HATLAB at the University of Warwick and Hamed Haddadi Associate Professor at Imperial College, London.
- Cube sized satellites (the size of a toaster!) are set to democratize economics and data-gathering, as they will be cheaper to produce, maintain, and launch into low space. Thus, collecting information that was previously impossible to obtain will supercharge analyses of problems so as to present tangible solutions.
- Another development is “Quantum IDs”. They rely on fingerprinting imperfections at the tiniest scale- single atoms- in quantum materials. Imperfections can be read using a standard smartphone camera, via an app, empowering anyone to test the legitimacy of a product they have been given or are about to buy, according to Robert Young director of the Lancaster Quantum Technology Centre.
- Feasibility studies in the US of “Hyperlooping”, an advanced urban transportation system reducing intracity public travel from three hours via train to 30 minutes (and thus reducing carbon emission) will roll out in 2019, according to Richard Branson founder of the Virgin Group.
- Autonomous shipping will lead to more cargo traffic on the oceans and much less on our roads per Jennifer Lucy Allan, and micro vehicles will change the way we undertake short journeys and reduce our reliance on cars per Robin Chase former CEO of Zipcar.
- Have you heard of agrivoltaics? They will combine plants with solar panels to make full use of scarce land and give growers an extra income (while saving water). It is predicted that in 2019, farmers will harvest sunshine with their crops, per Emma Bryce.
- The digital economy will power the switch to renewable energy. In specific, Blockchain will liberate the energy market thanks to decentralized management of green power that reboots carbon-offset trading, according to Charlie Burton.
Learn the landscape and Activate Your Innovation. Some state that the world of tomorrow – i.e., an increasingly automated world—is already here. Others argue that we’ve only just started seeing what possibilities lie ahead (and even warn of unforeseen consequences.) What is certain is that technology and the innovation happening around the world is certainly moving at light speed in an orchestra of invention, iteration, and improvement. This makes learning about all the technologies that promise to lift our standard of living—and our overall quality of life, more important now than ever before.
To get a better understanding of the innovation landscape and the business incubation ecosystems around the world that support and launch startups, contact UBI Global. Upcoming initiatives in 2019 include the World Benchmark Study and the World Incubation Summit.