At the end of 2019, our Managing Director, Tony looked forward into the coming year. His blog article summarised the top tech trends we may expect to see emerge and evolve over 2020.
This week, we take a look back at his 2020 trends predictions and see which areas have been hitting the news pages over the last 7 days. We have found some great stories which show that his predictions were accurate. Acquisitions, product launches and funding raises are all providing evidence that these are sectors within our industry worthy of development and investment.
If you haven’t had a chance to have a read yet, you can find the original article here.
For the rest of you, we can jump right in with our 2020 trends!
2020 Trends: Blockchain
Tony predicted that blockchain and its many applications would secure its “one to watch” on our 2020 trends list. Despite its strong associations with bitcoin and cryptocurrency, blockchain offers levels of security that is business-critical in so many other areas of industry. Government and corporate spending on technologies are estimated to reach $12bn by 2022.
Xage was launched in 2016. They are a startup who have been working to help secure legacy companies such as oil, gas and utilities using blockchain. This week, Xage has announced the release of a new data protection service to their blockchain security platform.
Up until this latest development, Xage has been protecting its customers only at the machine layer. Now, it will work to a more traditional blockchain security scenario. Its latest product will allow it to protect the data as it travels between parties.
Xage CEO, Duncan Greatwood reveals that the company are “moving beyond the protection of machines with a greater focus on the protection of data”. The new Dynamic Data Security is a data-protection layer that spans multiple dimensions. He explains they cover all the way from the physical machine layer right up to the business transaction.
How it works
This solution has been designed to help protect the data in highly complex data sharing scenarios using blockchain as the trust mechanism. For example; a working supply chain will involve multiple parties, all of whom are sharing data. However, it is fair to say that not every party will need to see the data that doesn’t affect their particular work. Each participant only needs to see the data which they require to complete their part of the transaction. To enable this, Xage has introduced the concept of security fabric. It provides an extra layer of protection across the platform.
This solution allows customers to have confidence in the providence and integrity of the data they are seeing. Greatwood says this kind of security outsource approach brings “authenticity, integrity and confidentiality”. He goes on to say that the “fabric is able to replicate all of that security metadata across the extent of the fabric, which may very well cover multiple locations and multiple participants”.
As a result, participants can define a set of security policies that give them control of their data. Meanwhile, allowing them to share very flexibly with the rest of the participants in the ecosystem. Based on the integrity of the data, each participant can then have confidence in the data up to and including the point where they’ll pay each other money.
After testing with three beta customers from the oil and gas, utility and smart city sectors, this new solution is available now.
2020 Trends: VR & AR
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality also were on Tony’s radar as areas that will develop throughout 2020. VR allows a user to be immersed in their environment, while AR enhances that experience. Thus far it has predominantly been used in gaming. However, it has the potential to extend into other sectors in the coming years. Their massive capabilities could go on to revolutionise the worlds of training, entertainment, education, marketing, and even therapy and rehabilitation.
Of course, there are some major name players, Google, Samsung and Oculus for example. However, the evolution and potential of the sector are encouraging startup challengers who are noticing a gap and charging forward.
This next story demonstrates both these ideas nicely.
The gaming studio behind AR phenomenon, Pokémon Go, Niantic has been forced indoors over recent weeks. It has had to shift how its outdoor-friendly titles are played. This hasn’t stopped their business efforts, however. The company is continuing with its work to build out an augmented reality platform which allows users to interact with the real world.
To help it do so, Niantic has announced it has acquired 6D.ai.
6D.ai is a San Francisco based startup focused on building software that allowed smartphone cameras to rapidly detect the 3D layouts of spaces around them.
Although Niantic has built their business off the back of mobile gaming, the company has raised nearly half-billion dollars to do something more. It is building out a developer platform for augmented reality meant to rival that which has been created by some of the tech giants, Facebook and Apple for example.
Facebook and Apple have both made considerable investments in their augmented reality platforms. They intend to bring developers on board to get an early lead.
Niantic’s 6D.ai acquisition is an interesting step toward the future of AR and where we may expect it to go. Niantic is primarily a consumer games company, while 6D.ai was primarily working with enterprise clients. Niantic plans to shutdown 6D.ai’s existing developer tools over the next month. The tech will soon be integrated with the company’s Niantic Real World Platform. This strategy will help the two companies to meet the expectation that we will see AR experiences built “for all types of consumer and business applications, including enterprise.”
2020 Trends: AI & ML
Machine Learning is a subset of AI; a discipline that is already enjoying rockstar status. Both these sectors have been enjoying a speedy journey to the top of the tech tree. As Tony identifies in his blog, both AI and ML are rapidly being deployed in all kinds of industries. As we and the world around us become more and more data focussed, we can only expect this trend to continue. AI and Data Science go hand in hand. Here is a story about one company who are combining the two.
Data science startup, Cnvrg.io has released a community version of its machine learning automation platform designed to help enterprises manage and scale AI. Known as cnvrg.io CORE, this is the company’s contribution to the data science community. Something that is pivotal in advancing AI innovation.
In essence, CORE is an end-to-end solution for building, managing and automating basic ML models. It mostly centres around collaboration and working within larger teams of data scientists.
CORE facilitates machine learning workflow management with end-to-end AI model tracking and monitoring. It has a built-in cluster orchestration, which supports hybrid cloud and multi-cloud configurations. Its computing, querying and autoscaling ensure that data scientists can utilise every available resource.
Cnvrg.io CEO, Yochay Ettun states that the CORE product marks a new vision for the data science field. By taking care of the infrastructure, it allows these professionals to focus more on what they love most – algorithms.
He confirms, “data scientists spend approximately 80% of their time on non-data science tasks, and 65 % of models don’t make it to production. Cnvrg.io CORE is an opportunity to open its end-to-end solution to the community. To help data scientists and engineers focus less on technical complexity and DevOps, and more on the core of data science — solving complex problems.”
This has been the company’s vision from the very outset. In a blog post, Ettun writes that many data scientists attempt to build their own stack by using open-source tools. He adds that data scientists are usually hired to build machine learning models, not to build and manage data science platforms.
How it works
CORE can be installed on-premises or in a cloud environment directly from Cnvrg.io’s website. It uses Nvidia-optimized containers that run on a Kubernetes cluster. By natively handling hybrid- and multi-cloud deployments that can automatically scale up and down as needed. Adding new AI frameworks is as simple as spinning up new containers. They can run machine learning experiments at scale to ensure reproducibility and deploy to production with any framework or programming language.
It’s worth noting that while cnvrg.io features plenty of graphical tools for managing date ingestion flows, models and clusters, it’s very much a code-first platform. With that in mind, Ettun has suggested that the ideal user is a data scientist, data engineer or a student passionate about machine learning.
“As a code-first platform, users with experience and savvy in the data science field will be able to leverage Cnvrg CORE features to produce high impact models”, and that, “as our product is built around getting more models to production, users that are deploying their models to real-world applications will see the most value”.
In evidence that ML is a trend to watch, there’s no shortage of orchestration platforms in the over $1.5bn market that is Machine Learning. Amazon recently rolled out SageMaker Studio. This is an extension of its SageMaker platform that automatically collects all code and project folders for machine learning in one place. Google too has its solution. CloudAutoML supports tasks like classification, sentiment analysis, and entity extraction. Additionally, it supports a range of file formats, including native and scanned PDFs. Not one to be left out, Microsoft also has recently updated its Azure Machine Learning service. The service enables users to architect predictive models, classifiers, and recommender systems for cloud-hosted and on-premises apps. Tech giants, IBM has Watson Studio AutoAI which is their comparable offering.
2020 Trends: Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is the term used to describe those devices or things that have the inbuilt capacity to connect to the internet or each other. The number and extent of these products are growing.
As consumers, we have long reaped the benefits of IoT. Business and industry too, have a lot to gain. As data from these devices is collected and analysed, the IoT can enable better safety, efficiency and decision making. It can enable predictive maintenance, speed up medical care, improve customer service, as well as offer benefits we haven’t even imagined yet.
As such, the Internet of Things has earned its spot as one of the top 2020 trends. The results released from a Juniper report earlier this week only underline its upward trajectory.
Today the number of IoT connected devices stands at 35 billion. A report released this week from AI-driven networks provider, Juniper Networks has revealed that this number looks set to reach 83 billion by 2024. This figure represents a 130% growth over the next four years.
The research has revealed that the industrial sector will be a key player for IoT connections growth. Presently, the research tells us that the industrial sector accounts for 60 billion IoT connections. By 2024, the same sector (which includes manufacturing, retail, and agriculture) will account for 70% of IoT connections. It is thought that the emergence of cost-efficient private cellular networks would be a key driver of growth over with nearly 180% growth over the next 4 years.
Research co-author Sam Barker has confirmed that “Industrial networks will need to scale rapidly as industrial IoT users adopt new technologies to expand the services available on their networks. However, IoT platforms must ensure that the security processes can scale alongside this network growth.”
What does the research highlight?
She raises a really important point. As the number and purpose of connected devices increasing rapidly, so should concern over security. The research highlights the need for IoT networks to maximize security in all layers of the IoT ecosystem, including devices and connectivity. Enterprises are advised to implement the necessary security measures to defend from cyberattacks in two key areas. Namely, the use of network segmentation to mitigate cyber risks, and by ensuring that the lifecycle management of network assets is properly maintained.
This point has been further underlined by another body of evidence from the security firm, Extreme Networks. It too, revealed that organizations remain highly vulnerable to IoT based attacks. The research surveyed 540 security professionals across organisations in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific. It found that 84% of organizations have IoT devices on their corporate networks. It also revealed that more than 50% of the same organizations didn’t maintain the necessary security measures beyond default passwords.
Cybersecurity may not be emerging tech, per se but it is evolving. It is its need to meet the threat that makes it one of our 2020 trends to watch. Cybersecurity has to be agile. Cyberthreats are constantly new, as is the technology that malevolent hackers are using in an attempt to illegally access our data and breach our systems.
This next story leads on very nicely from the last!
Based in New York, Axonius allows organisations to manage and track the range of computing-based assets that are connecting to their networks. This is an essential component of cybersecurity policy.
This week it has been announced Axonius has raised $58m of growth funding.
The series C round will be used to invest in its technology and expand its business overall.
The company has enjoyed a huge boost in business over the last year. Axonius helps enable secure remote working, so as a result, this figure looks set to rise. As remote working has become enforced rather than chosen, tracking the range of assets connected to the company network has become more critical.
Indeed, over the last month, Axonius has seen customer growth increase 910% compared to a year ago.
How did it come about?
CEO and Co-Founder at Axonius, Dean Sysman first thought of the idea for Axonius when at a previous organization. He became aware that the organisation itself, and all of its customers, never actually knew how many devices accessed their network. A crucial first step in being able to secure any network.
This is a big problem to tackle, especially if the organisation in question is large. Sysman details that part of the issue is that IP addresses are not precise enough. Additionally, de-duplicating and correlating numbers is a huge task. This is made more complicated when you consider that not only are employees using company devices but their personal tech too.
It was this issue that prompted Sysman and his co-founders Ofri Shur and Avidor Bartov to build the algorithms that form the basis of what Axonius is today. It is not based on behavioural data as some cybersecurity systems are. Instead, Sysman describes this as “a deterministic algorithm that knows and builds a unique set of identifiers that can be based on anything, including timestamp, or cloud information”.
This information becomes a very valuable asset in itself and can be transferred across several other pieces of security software to identify inconsistencies in use or other indicators of malicious activity.
How does it work?
In its current form, Axonius is following the route of providing a platform that can interconnect with around 100 other security products rather than building those tools itself, or acquiring them to bring them in house. Maybe this is one of the ways we could see the product grow and develop over time?
For now, though, being compatible with these specific tools and providing a platform just to identify and manage assets is a formula that has been desirable to customers. Axonius counts Schneider Electric, the New York Times, and Landmark Medical as customers.
It is also been proven to be a draw for investors. The company has chosen not to disclose its valuation. However, we do know that the company has now raised $95 million. It has also been noted that in its last round, a $20 million Series B in August 2019, it had a post-money valuation of $110 million.
This latest round is being led by prolific enterprise investor Lightspeed Venture Partners. Previous backers, OpenView, Bessemer Venture Partners, YL Ventures, Vertex, and WTI are also participating in the round.
Arsham Menarzadeh, general partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners believes it is “Their [Axonius’] integrated approach and remediation capabilities position them to become the operating system and single source of truth for security and IT teams”, and that Lightspeed is “excited to play a part in helping them scale.”
Have any 2020 trends caught your eye?
Let us know in the comments below!