Six Top Tech Trends for 2019

This year looks set to be particularly exciting across the tech spectrum, as convergence and maturing innovations transform many promises into reality. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting trends as we see them at Bryan, Garnier & Co.

 

1. Computing infrastructure evolves fast

The foundation for all technology developments, computing power infrastructure is being challenged by several different forces. Data, unsurprisingly, is one of the biggest drivers. IDC estimates that the global ‘datasphere’, currently at 33 ZB (33 trillion GB), will grow fivefold in just seven years[1]. Traditional database technologies struggle with today’s speed and volume of data, which is why banking challengers such as Revolut are turning to advanced analytics from new players like Exasol to provide real-time analysis across all their business processes.

 

Then comes high performance computing (HPC), which is being driven by the artificial intelligence revolution. The shift to cognitive technologies is driving the need for a new generation of ever more custom, powerful and self-learning semiconductors and microchips. Bitfury is a key player in this space, one of the most efficient manufacturers of dedicated custom-design ASICs, currently dedicated to bitcoin mining. Other groups that have developed their own ASICs include Graphcore, Avalon Project, Butterfly Labs, InnoSilicon and SFards. All have the ultimate goal of providing flexible solutions and maximizing computing capacity while minimizing energy consumption.

 

And is now the time for a shift away from dominant players in semiconductors, too? Intel and ARM have 80% share in the markets for computer and mobile chips respectively. The RISC-V initiative offers one potential catalyst for firms looking to challenge the incumbents in the mobile sector.

 

Cloud, of course, has been the big story over the past years, transforming the way that software is sold and managed. But will everything ascend to the Cloud? Not yet. Or at least not in the way that was once predicted. There are privacy and legislative issues in some locations – and with huge players like AWS and Azure dominant, cost is among the reasons driving some to migrate from public to hosted private clouds.

 

Elsewhere in infrastructure, we see blockchain moving into the mainstream with four dominant characteristics: transparency, traceability, decentralized structure and security. Just one aspect of blockchain – creating a level of traceability that was not possible before – demonstrates the power of this technology to disrupt businesses around the world.

 

2. Fintech transforms finance

If you want to see a perfect case study of an industry being disrupted rapidly and forever, look no further than banking. The fintech and insurtech market has exploded as agile startups take advantage of technology to gain huge valuations and legions of willing customers, many of whom may never set a foot inside a physical bank branch. German ‘mobile bank’ N26 is barely six years old. It just raised $300m in a funding round that valued it at $2.7bn[2], one-third the value of 149-year-old Commerzbank. Dutch payments processor Adyen was valued at over €7bn in its 2018 IPO and has seen stellar performance since, while Swedish mobile payments company iZettle was snapped up by Paypal for $2.2bn.

 

All of these companies are changing the way financial services are both consumed and delivered. Freed from the legacy tech infrastructures and business processes of incumbents, they move fast and can deliver cheaper, better and more convenient products and services.

 

3. Smart cities and utilities begin to happen

As data analytics can make more and more sense of the vast volumes of data created by IOT devices, ‘smart’ infrastructure – homes, mobility, cities, energy utilities – is now maturing. This trend has the potential to drive much more efficient use of resources and accelerate the move towards a ‘circular economy’ model.

 

For example, using sensors and connected apps, tado° heating and cooling controls can reduce energy consumption by up to 31%[3]. IOT pioneer Worldsensing[4] is overtaking established technology companies with sensor and software technology that optimizes everything from traffic flow to industrial processes.

 

And while the likes of Uber, Lyft and Bird grab headlines around new ways to use cars and scooters, there’s a European company taking mobility further still. Finland’s MaaS Global is pioneering ‘mobility as a service’[5]. With over 10,000 users, it enables people to plan seamless journeys across public and private transport and pay a single monthly subscription fee via an app.

 

In the energy industry, there’s a growing need to balance supply and demand over power grids. Scandinavian countries have strict guidelines in place, with penalties for over- and under-supply. And with the rapid growth of renewable capacity and battery tech, the potential for more efficient distributed power grids is beginning to be realized. In Germany, Next Kraftwerke[6] operates a Virtual Power Plant that connects renewable power with industrial consumers and power storage to optimize pricing and usage, and balance the intermittency of renewables. Also, in Germany, Sonnen[7] is competing with the Tesla Powerwall to create energy storage systems that balance a household’s solar PV supply so it can provide around 75% of its own annual energy needs.  

 

4. A new health world emerges

We see convergence in health too, as the software and healthcare industries come together to create solutions like those pioneered by Voluntis[8], whose “digital therapeutics” help augment the value of medication with app-based monitoring, connectivity and advice. At the development stage, BC Platforms[9] is using the convergence of genomic and healthcare IT to help drive new discoveries. While growing life expectancies will drive strong demand for healthcare innovations like these, regulation, security concerns and a lack of infrastructure may still slow down the technology revolution in healthcare in a number of geographies.

 

5. Industry 4.0 takes flight

Empowered by its long-developed manufacturing know-how and a large number of innovative firms and ideas, Europe is arguably leading the fourth industrial revolution and helping it take off. Notable innovators include NavVis[10], which maps indoor spaces to create a ‘digital twin’ of a physical operation and Wirepas[11], accelerating the potential for fast, cheap IOT rollout with software and mesh networking that removes the need for SIM cards or heavy network infrastructure. ProGlove[12] connects workers themselves into the internet of things, allowing hands-free scanning that makes manufacturing more efficient and can provide valuable quality and tracking data. Also focusing on enhancing human workers, Ubimax [13] uses augmented reality software and wearable tech to improve industrial processes.

 

6. Cybersecurity becomes business as usual

The final tech trend in our list is the one that’s front of mind for many, as both political and commercial data breaches and cybercrime have hit the headlines in recent months. The notable move here is towards technology players either developing or buying in their own cybersecurity capability to build a European security cluster. We’ve seen this with Dutch telco KPN’s recent investments in the field and Orange’s acquisition of Lexsi in 2016; another example is the German wireless communications equipment firm Rohde & Schwarz[14] moving into IT security.

 

Conclusion: Europe ahead?

A common thread running through these trends is the prominence of European innovators. Beyond cybersecurity, a global issue that’s seeing a global response, a great deal of leadership in all these areas is being driven out of Europe. For investors and entrepreneurs alike, it’s a great time to be involved in the tech industry.