An Artificial Brain to Beat Hackers and the Scourge of Space Debris: Technology Pioneers of 2017

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he World Economic Forum on Wednesday announced its 2017 class of Technology Pioneers, representing the world’s most innovative start-ups and scale-ups in such fields as artificial intelligence and robotics, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, cybersecurity, autonomous driving, drones and biosciences.

This year’s Tech Pioneers include Aclima, which develops sensor networks that advance environmental intelligence to improve human health, and Konux, which combines smart sensors and AI-based analytics to help industrial and rail companies save costs. Citrine Informatics is developing an IT platform that predicts the behaviour of chemicals in manufacturing and R&D, Deep Instinct is creating deep learning software to avoid the most invasive cyberattacks, and Mesosphere, through its Datacentre Operating System, is enabling businesses to handle the massive amounts of data collected in a hyperconnected world.

“We’ve reached a new phase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Fulvia Montresor, Head of Technology Pioneers at the World Economic Forum. “Pioneers are increasingly combining innovations like sensor technology, artificial intelligence and big data analysis to find real world applications in sectors that previously didn’t use them.”

For example, whereas an innovation like blockchain was initially confined to virtual currencies, it is now finding applications as a transparent platform for servicing energy markets (Electron), and as enterprise software to issue and transfer financial assets (Chain).

Of the 30 selected Technology Pioneers, 40% are based in Silicon Valley, with the majority hailing from innovation centres outside the United States. Boston is America’s second prominent hotspot with four awardees, while Chicago, Illinois and Morrisville, North Carolina, also count a Tech Pioneer in their midst. Chicago-based Uptake provides Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for predictive diagnostics and fleet management. It counts traditional industrial companies in mining, construction and rail among its customers and investors, making optimal use of its base in the Midwest.

Elsewhere, France, Germany, Israel, Singapore, and the UK, each count two Tech Pioneers, while China and the Netherlands each count one. For example, The Netherlands-based Physee produces windows that are transparent, colourless and electricity-generating. In China, Horizon Robotics, is developing AI solutions to enhance safety on the road for self-driving vehicles. Singapore-based Astroscale takes its innovations to outer space, developing satellites for debris removal.

“It’s encouraging to see Tech Pioneers from different innovation hotspots around the world,” said Montresor. “Technology will only help the world become a more prosperous and more equal place if its benefits all in society, wherever in the world.”

The newly selected Technology Pioneers will meet the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2017 in Dalian, People’s Republic of China, on 27-29 June. Many of them will also participate in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, on 23-26 January.

During the year, the 2017 class of Tech Pioneers will meet virtually and in person several times over two years to engage with each other and Forum Members to deliver insights on applying technologies to solve global challenges.

Previous Technology Pioneers include Twitter, Google, AirBnb, Transferwise and Mozilla.

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