The constant proliferation of new ideas and development of the supposedly next “big thing” makes it difficult to determine what the next big thing really is, or where it will come from. But for years now the World Economic Forum has put on a consistent list of “Technology Pioneers;” relatively early-stage companies involved in cutting edge innovation, on the cusp of having an important impact on the world. This year’s WEF’s Technology Pioneers are 30 companies from six pivotal to the future industries: cyber security and digital identity, energy and the environment, entertainment, mobility, production, and health. Here are the top picks.
Cyber Security and Digital Identity: Deep Instinct (Israel)
It’s common knowledge by now: the gravity of legitimate cyber security threats is enormous and everyone is at risk: from individuals to corporations to governments. That is why advancements in cyber security and identification systems are so important, often dominating many discussions on information and security. An especially innovative company recognized by the World Economic Forum is Deep Instinct. Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Tel Aviv, this company focuses on applying concepts of deep learning (artificial intelligence) to advanced cyber security threats. A notable capability of this deep learning is its ability to defend against unknown malware across multiple devices in an organization.
Energy and the Environment: Aclima (USA)
Environmental activists have been especially prominent in recent years, as climate change concerns rise. This environmental focus also applies to technology; as we seek to make energy more sustainable, the benefits of other forms of environmental technology are developed. Aclima, founded in 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, is an example of this kind of technology. Aclima uses environmental sensors combined with artificial intelligence technology to evaluate the environment of an area, such as a building, campus, or even region, to disclose important environmental information such as pollutants.
Digital and Entertainment: Mesosphere (USA)
An important consequence of the recent years of rapid technological change has been the emergence of extremely large pools of data for analysis. However, companies have trouble knowing how to efficiently interpret and use this data. Mesosphere, founded in 2013 and also headquartered in San Francisco, aims to be an integral part of the solution, helping companies to better leverage themselves in a hyper-connected environment. Mesosphere has a “Datacentre Operating System” that cumulates “cloud-based virtual machines” and “server hardware” so that together they can be used like a single computer from which other services are easier to manage.
Mobility: Horizon Robotics (China)
Building on the concept of “user friendly” and easy-to-manage technology, the prospect of self-driving cars is now closer to reality than we may realize. Despite concerns involving the use of a fully autonomous motor vehicle, the concept of a car infallible to human error is an idea worth developing and analyzing. Horizon Robotics, headquartered in Beijing and founded in 2015, uses artificial intelligence and deep learning algorithms to promote perception and allow obstacles in the path of a vehicle to be detected. According to the founder and CEO Kai Yu, “the company envisions more than 1,000 types of devices, such as autonomous vehicles, to be equipped with ‘brains’” in the future.
Production: KONUX (Germany)
As technologically innovative segments of society grow and thrive, industrial sectors change in response to this new reality. Employees within many industrial sectors are affected and forced to adapt, sometimes due to job loss, which is a problem that must be sufficiently addressed. However, industrial technological advancement is a growing area of innovation that has the potential to reduce cost, reveal improvements, and increase quality for companies. KONUX, founded in 2014 and headquartered in Munich, seeks to empower industrial and rail companies by combining artificial intelligence and smart sensors to allow companies to better oversee (and improve) operations and infrastructure. Through companies like KONUX, the industrial sector has the ability to make cost effective and data-driven decisions.
Health: Humacyte (USA)
The health industry has always incentivized technological development, because of its clear and important implications for society, as well as its potential for profit. Because innovations within the health industry have the ability to directly improve people’s quality of life, even saving lives, the profitability is high (although there are legitimate moral concerns regarding this). Notwithstanding, Humacyte, founded in 2004 and headquartered in Morrisville, is leading the way in breakthrough technology. Humacyte produces tissue that can contribute to lifesaving treatments for vascular conditions, by using material that does not necessitate cells from the patient, and can therefore be stored easily.
As Head of Technology Pioneers, Fulvia Montresor, said “We’ve reached a new phase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Big data analysis, sensor technology, and artificial intelligence are being combined and applied to new sectors, resulting in new and exciting developments across industries. But the future depends not only on the innovations we focused on here but on how these innovations can build upon and interact with each other. Not only can self-driving cars save lives, but they may possess the artificial technology necessary to contribute to life-saving technology.