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The Year Ahead: 5 Tech Trends to Focus on in 2019

What will the world’s startups focus on? What kind of innovation is hot?

The year 2018 will be remembered, in part, for the influence that corporations had on the innovation community in developing exciting technology. We wrote about this in our 2018 Year in Review– an analysis based on a corporate survey we released plus input from our member business incubation programs. Looking forward, the new year presents even more challenges and opportunities for innovation, with sweeping changes in the world of politics, social needs and technological advancement. In this article, UBI Global is looking ahead at the five key technology trends shaping the innovation landscape in 2019, some of which may surprise you.

With another year in the history books, entrepreneurs and the programs that support them have an opportunity to reflect on the peaks and valleys, valuable lessons learned, and exciting new trends. Entering 2019, business incubators and accelerators as well as, their corporate partners and sponsors should take note of technology trends. These will be important to the innovation community more than ever before.

Politics and the Technology Landscape: The “Base Trend” To Watch

Back in July of this year, our article about the positive effect that tech startups in Britain were experiencing because of Brexit caused a lot of discussion in the global innovation community. Offering a new perspective on the political climate and the way it influenced corporations and startups, we still believe that challenging political climates can turn into opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Negotiations for Brexit are still underway as of this writing, and we still believe that there will be more startups and scale-ups in Britain than ever in 2019, offering solutions in fintech, cyber security and other technologies required by the new and ever-changing landscape of the United Kingdom and Europe. Politics and its effect on technology and the innovation landscape at large is an area to watch.

Which Technology Trends to Watch in 2019

UBI Global has a natural interest in the trends our member programs witness in their local innovation ecosystems. Located in over 70 countries around the world, our members are the worldwide innovation community that we benchmark and promote in order to provide education and maps to success and growth. Earlier this year, we surveyed them with regard to the technologies that were setting trends. Below are the technologies that their startups are currently focusing their efforts, and in turn the incubation programs are supporting.

We believe these five technology areas are worth watching. Below, we investigate their associated trends and touch upon what to expect in 2019.

Trend #1 – Internet of Things (IoT)  

  • UBI Global business incubators supporting startups specializing in this area – 73%
  • What is Internet of Things (IoT)? – Any physical device that connects to the internet to enhance its self-performance for the benefit of the user.
  • Big Growth Areas – A key driver of digital information, IoT is poised to transform manufacturing, healthcare, automotive, agriculture, and more as well as city planning and other social applications.

From vehicles and wearable gadgets to refrigerators, human life is evolving to become a network of connected gadgets. These all work together to make life easier, more efficient and more intuitive. UBI Global predicts, as do many other entities focused on innovation, that the IoT market will continue to grow and become the norm. Going from millions of devices to billions in just over a year’s time, IoT devices that started out with just one function are becoming more and more advanced and intuitive. Data experts predict that around 3.6 billion devices will connect to the internet to perform daily tasks in 2019.

Because of this exponential growth in IoT, other technologies will need to follow suit. To keep up with the demand of IoT, advancements in cyber security, artificial intelligence and other companion technologies will be mandatory as the devices strengthen and grow. It is not a coincidence that these complementary technologies also made our technology trend focus list. We will delve deeper into those technologies in future articles, but there are indicators of growth during the coming months that deserve exploration now, while they are just starting to come forward. Edge computing, for example, is one trend just breaking out of the IoT environment.

In simple terms, edge computing moves data, applications and services away from the center of the network into the edge. The logical portion of applications can then take place closer to the source of action in the physical world. The advantage to edge computing includes a decrease in data volumes that need to move over the network and the traffic this creates, reducing latency and improving service quality. Edge computing also removes the “single point of failure” that all administrators of core computing environments fear. Think of the O2 data network outage recently experienced globally because of an alleged failure by Ericsson to recertify a single piece of software, and you can see that a single point of failure is definitely not acceptable in any infrastructure. The idea behind edge computing is to provide interaction between humans and computers by reducing the time it takes to get results that the user asks for. While IoT focuses on the communication and the data collected from users on the devices, edge computing is concerned with the networks and systems that do the work.

IoT and edge computing are often classed as sub-disciplines of each other, but both work together to revolutionize product design and predictive analytics, both of which speak directly to modern consumer’s desire for fast, seamless, and personalized interaction with their devices. Look for edge computing innovations as a big trend in startups for 2019.

Trend #2 – Big Data

  • UBI Global business incubators supporting startups specializing in this area – 58%
  • What is it? – Advanced data analytics and collection methods that have resulted in larger quantities and data sets that are more complex.
  • Big Growth Areas – Like IoT, Big Data technology requirements are prime for development across a whole host of industries and social initiatives.

Data can be moved quickly and stored cheaply, which has contributed to the development of IoT technology. This resulted in large data stores, referred to as big data, metadata or even as data lakes. Big data will gain significant ground, fueled by an explosion of user information gathered by the growth of IoT devices. This will drive corporations of all sizes to develop and adopt machine-learning technologies that can swim through these data lakes and bring back relevant, useful information in a timely fashion.

Big data has placed a huge burden on data analysis as well as computing infrastructures. These infrastructures have to adapt to deal with the volume and complexity of the big data that is gathered and organized in real time. Fueling everything from machine learning to software as well as the daily decisions of management and CEO’s, big data may seem ubiquitous to most users, working in the background to provide the data they require in a few clicks. In reality, what the user does not see is that big data is placing a big demand on networks, storage, and applications that make the data itself useful. Meanwhile, the demand and the data continue to grow.

Important leaders in big data startups will include data management technologies focused on improving communication and automation of real-time information between data teams, IT teams, and business managers. Referred to as DataOps, data management innovation will revolutionize the integration, sharing, and availability of data for more efficient performance from technical and non-technical users.

New, innovative microservices will be born that focus on these data processing efficiencies. Keep an eye out for entrepreneurs that focus on big data services of all sizes in all industries.

Trend #3 – Artificial Intelligence (AI)

  • UBI Global business incubators supporting startups specializing in this area – 48%
  • What is it? – Often referred to as machine intelligence, AI or artificial intelligence, is any device that takes action to achieve a goal successfully, mimicking the natural intelligence found in human beings.
  • Big Growth Areas – Software, internet, healthcare, manufacturing, automotive, agriculture, retail

Experiencing a dramatic rise in the development of tools and applications, platforms based on AI or machine learning have made a dramatic impact on a host of different industries in 2018. It will continue to outperform estimates in 2019. Corporations like Microsoft, IBM, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and more are pouring R&D investment funds into AI-related technology development. Most of us have experienced AI technology in daily life through the pervasive use of Natural Language Generation, a form of AI, used for everything from product listings online to chatbots, who served us answers to our basic questions with computer-generated, human-readable text in seconds.

As the demand grows for faster processing and advanced training of AI platforms, traditional computer processing hardware will rely more and more on specialized chips and complex hardware add-ons. Some of these have yet to be developed. Tasks such as facial recognition and object detection will be more in-demand, requiring extra speed as well as special, advanced abilities. Opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs to focus on hyperscale, customized chip technology as well as application-specific integrated circuits that contribute to device capability will increase dramatically.

Once again, the edge computing layer will serve AI as well as various IoT demands. Specifically: for speech synthesis, video framing, time-series and unstructured data from microphones, RFID sensors and cameras of all kinds. Keeping in mind that all of these devices, their data and the analytics and storage to hold them need to run together in a framework and operate interactively. The ability to do all this across platforms certainly presents itself as an entrepreneurial opportunity, though a challenging one.

To meet this challenge three titans have stepped up to develop a deep learning model between different AI frameworks. Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are collaborating on the Open Neural Network Exchange or ONNX, which will become an important technology for the AI industry as well as others in 2019 and will fuel many startups as well.

Trend #4 – Digital Health

  • UBI Global business incubators supporting startups specializing in this area – 45%
  • What is it? – Healthcare, life solutions and society meet digital technology, delivering personal, precise medications, health analysis, fitness awareness and clinical services.
  • Big Growth Areas – Healthcare, science, social services

IoT and AI converged to create advances in digital health and wellbeing, including health IT, social networking, mobile communication and personal information on health and genetics. Government sponsorship of AI health and wellbeing services has prompted a trending focus by startup companies all over the world. Digital health empowers users to track their own fitness, diet, history, and health care as well as research genetic information that provides insight into family health risks and hereditary conditions.

Digital health trends have changed the way individuals communicate with healthcare management and providers, offering innovative personal data. This makes health care more efficient and accurate as well as reducing costs. These trends also provide a more personalized quality of care, improving communication between provider and patient, as well as meeting unique needs with medications and innovative treatment. The growth of digital health care is fueling big data technology requirements as well as security, genomic technologies, IoT and AI, among others.

In the coming year, digital health startups will be influenced by big corporations seeking to innovate their own role in this industry. Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all expressed interested in the health sector and some have even recruited top medical talent for development of new health care and wellbeing technologies.

The startup community is way ahead of the game, as always, attracting investment and support from some of the top corporations in the world, which will continue exponentially during 2019.

Trend #5 – Gamification

  • UBI Global business incubators supporting startups specializing in this area – 42%
  • What is it? – Employing a human’s natural desires to be social, to learn new things, to master them, and to compete with others, with the addition of game elements to non-game situations and technologies.
  • Big Growth Areas – Military, retail, education, human resources, marketing, health and wellbeing

Already prevalent in some of the most important and controversial 2018’s social media changes and upgrades, gamification features have been popping up on platforms like Facebook. Social media platforms around the world have added tools that enable content creators to add polls, quizzes and questions to live video and other user engagements. Using a human’s natural competitiveness and desire to succeed as a way to engage for online content delivery is not new, but it is becoming significantly easier with the increased use of AI and IoT applications.

Digital and internet based gaming systems have become a serious business, relying on people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to play games for fun and, occasionally, for profit. Gamification features lend themselves naturally to non-gaming areas, resulting in an increase in systems design and experimental development across industry borders. Gamification is poised for impact to startups in media and marketing, education, professional training, digital healthcare, human resources, and crowdsourcing.

UBI Global member programs tell us that gamification technology is just getting started, but is showing huge promise and increasing corporate interest going into the 2019.

Go Beyond “Just” Watching the Trends: Activate Your Innovation

It is certainly an exciting time for the innovation community, and UBI Global will continue to provide in-depth information on trending technologies. Future articles will explore the global political climate and how it influences corporations and, in turn, the innovation community. Our topics will also include a look at the rise of nano influencers, and how human individuality will guide coming trends and affect diversity along the way.

The year 2019 will certainly be an exciting one, so come on board UBI Global’s interactive learning community by becoming an official member. Membership is just a few clicks away, offering a wealth of knowledge, information and networking to your innovation program strategy. Corporations or government agencies who are seeking local and international innovation opportunities should get in touch with the UBI Global team, who is ready to welcome you into the interactive learning community.

UBI Global provides incubation programs around the world with multiple ways to activate your innovation in 2019, including:

  • World Incubation Summit 2019

Mark your calendars for 28-31 October in Doha, Qatar for the World Incubation Summit 2019. Including a tour of the local ecosystem, attendees will also experience a seminar on the IncStart Accelerator Program. WIS19 promises to be two days of networking, learning, and collaborating face-to-face with incubators, accelerators, corporate representatives, and innovation experts from around the world. Opportunities for in-depth enrichment featuring tours, workshops, and informal seminars are also part of this comprehensive global conference. In January, we will launch the website where you can read more and register to attend. Stay tuned! (To understand the richness of the event: take a look at WIS 2018 held earlier this year in Toronto, Canada.)

  • World Benchmark Study 2019-20

Business incubators and accelerators worldwide participate in the UBI World Benchmark Study and your program is invited to be part of this report. The study is now in its fifth year and marks program impact and performance, highlights best practices, and reveals leaders and shares their success stories with the innovation community. Insights presented by UBI global are data-driven, based on over 300 participants from around the world. We kick off the study for participation in January and will release the results and announce the top programs in Doha, Qatar at the World Incubation Summit.

  • UBI Connect – The Global Engagement Platform for Innovation Hubs

UBI Connect is networking on a global scale, exclusively for incubators and accelerators at universities and other centers of excellence. Through an intuitive menu that is both easy and smart, UBI Connect will become the go-to application for sharing ideas and posting thoughts. The Live Feed area of the platform is for quick news items at-a-glance while longer discussions take place in the Forum section that features categorized topic headings. Separate sections for News and Events are available to publish information to users about exciting activities that programs are participating in no matter where they are the world. Finally, the Incubators & Accelerators, People and Companies areas of the platforms are where users can find important networking contacts, post new ideas and best practices, and share useful solutions. Members can login here.

  • Best Practices Reports – Case Studies

The Best Practices at University-linked Business Incubators and Accelerators Reports present a unique look on the operations, business model and revenue strategies of top business incubators and accelerators as told by their Directors and CEOs. The incubation programs selected from among the top-ranked incubators and accelerators participating in the UBI Global World Benchmark Study 2017 – 2018. These programs excel in both impact and performance relative to their global peers, with defining characteristics that set them apart as thought leaders for the innovation community. Members receive the Best Practice Report and other original studies cost-free via UBI Connect’s Media Center. Otherwise, insights can be purchased here.

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