Smart pills, pet-tech, unmanned popup stores: Tech trends for 2018

Smart pills, pet-tech, unmanned popup stores: Tech trends for 2018

Goodbye to car ownership and hello to more chips for AI also expected in the coming year, New York-based data company CB Insights says in report

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Illustrative image of a circuit board (tcareob72; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of a circuit board (tcareob72; iStock by Getty Images)

The disappearance of car ownership as we know it, a focus on chips to enable artificial intelligence, and technologies for the elderly and pets are among the top trends the tech world will see in the coming year, New York-based data company CB Insights said in a report.

Subscription cars: Charging a monthly fee for unlimited access to a car is taking hold. This concept allows users to eschew the hassles and hazards of car ownership and eliminates the need for leasing. A startup doing this is Los Angeles-based Fair, set up by veterans of the car industry, which launched in September 2017 and has raised more than $1 billion from investors including BMW’s venture arm and Sherpa Capital. Large auto manufacturers are also riding the subscription wave. At the LA Auto Show in November, both Volvo and Lincoln announced subscription services, the report said.

“These programs are bets that a business model can be built around the fact that many consumers don’t care about actually owning a car — they merely want to use it and have someone else handle the headaches. In 2018, Volvo will deliver its first subscription cars and Fair has officially partnered with 100 dealers. It will be a make or break year for this business model,” the CB Insights report said.

Global race for AI chip dominance: As use of artificial intelligence explodes, from facial recognition to detection of diseases in medical images, the race is on to create the chips on which the processors will run. US-based NVIDIA is the company whose chips currently dominate AI processing, the report said. But government-backed startups in China, US tech giants like Apple and Google, and existing semiconductor firms, like Intel Corp., are all eyeing the space.

Repatriation of overseas profits to the US, including tech firms’: US President Donald Trump’s tax reform will allow US corporations to repatriate overseas profits at a tax rate of 15%.

“For cash-rich tech companies like Apple, Oracle, Alphabet, and Microsoft, the deal would allow them to bring back literally billions from offshore,” the report said.

US President Donald Trump holds up a copy of legislation before signing the tax reform bill into law in the Oval Office December 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

So, what will companies do with this cash windfall? There are a number of choices, including buying back their own shares, snapping up companies and investing in startups.

“It’s likely to be a shot in the arm to a tech sector,” the report said. “Apple in particular has a cash mountain overseas. It has $252 billion in offshore profits not taxed by the United States.” Microsoft has some $127.9 billion, and Cisco some $67.5.

Scrutiny for cross-border M&A and partnerships: In the past year the US government has blocked two cross-border deals, both of which involved semiconductor companies and China. “Geopolitical tensions are dictating how deals look” around the world, both in and outside the tech sphere, the report said.

This geopolitical chill may spread to other areas, including healthcare – the US government has been calling for stronger control over shared genomics data — and cybersecurity. In September 2017, US Homeland Security issued a ban on Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab.

Cybersecurity concerns will continue to dominate: “We‘re starting to see an interesting mindset crop up: cyber-safety begins with the individual,” the report said. “A particularly vulnerable gate are the mobile devices of individuals. Companies are cropping up that focus on securing these devices from risky apps and bad behavior.

Fitness without gyms: Connected hardware such as internet-connected bikes, fitness trackers and cameras to livestream workouts to friends or fitness instructors are enabling users to get their workout without having to go to the gym.

Screenshot of a message sent to Sony Pictures employees by ‘Guardians of Peace’ hackers (YouTube)

Smart pills for better diagnostics and treatment: Pills will be fitted with sensors to give off signals when they are ingested in order to keep tabs on patient use or provide data on the patient. PillCam, developed by Israel’s Given imaging, is a capsule with two tiny cameras that capture images from the digestive tract to help doctors keep an eye on polyps.

“Smart pills are attractive for a few reasons: they’re less invasive than traditional procedures, easily scalable, and don’t require the constant presence of different healthcare providers. Regulators have been slow to approve these pills, but we expect to see more uptake in coming years,” the report said.

Pet care: Samsung released its Dream Doghouse back in 2015, equipped with an automated dog feeder, a Samsung tablet, a treadmill lined with fake grass, and a hydrotherapy pool. Pets, and their owners “have a lot of technology to look forward to,” the report said, including smart kennels, wearables for health tracking, and genome analysis.

Physical retail on the move: “Much of it has moved online. In the next iteration, physical retail is becoming decentralized, moving away from conventional stores or malls and into new niches. Look for new retail concepts in co-working spaces, in your Uber, in unmanned popup stores and vending machines.” Shops will appear anywhere, goods will be delivered by drones, purchases will be tracked by sensors, and kiosks will be automated.

3D printing: From shoes to metals, the dream of 3D printing “is getting closer to reality,” the report said.

Elder care: “As people age, they may lose partners, see loved ones move far away, or become isolated due to limited mobility. Increased loneliness can then lead to depression and other negative mental and physical health conditions. Technology is aiming to improve elders’ quality of life through a number of new products and services,” the report said. These include robots, surveillance technology, smart pills and websites to match caregivers to patients.

Intuition Robotics’ artificial intelligence based robot ElliQ (Courtesy)

Real estate and property development: Tech giants are expanding into real estate as well. Tech giants like Google and Apple are setting up homes for employees: in July 2017, Google spent some $30 million buying 300 pre-fabricated homes for its employees with plans to use these in Mountain View.

That same month, Facebook unveiled plans to expand its corporate campus at Menlo Park, California, and will set up 1,500 units of housing. The “mixed-use village” will have transportation and amenities like a grocery store and a drugstore. And while the majority of housing would be for Facebook employees, there will be a portion open to the community, the CB Insights report said, with some of these offerings priced below market rate.

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