This week, our newest recruit, Ollie flicks through the tech pages and brings this week’s stories. His search reveals Brazil’s emergence as an AI superpower, Alphabet’s induction into the trillion-dollar hall of fame and some exciting news for developers. Read on for these and more!
GitHub releases Android app in Beta.
The first of this week’s stories comes from GitHub. GitHub is a website and cloud-based service that helps developers store and manage their code. This week it has been announced that GitHub is releasing an Android app for developers who wish to work and collaborate on the go.
The GitHub mobile app allows users to address or merge pull requests, file an issue, check and clear notifications, join discussions, and quickly find out when they’re mentioned by other developers.
This latest Android offering helps to complete the small screen GitHub package. Back in the autumn, at GitHub Universe, the GitHub iOS app was released in beta.
At this time, GitHub CEO Nat Friedman predicted that half of all interactions on the code repository will take place on mobile devices within the next 5 years.
More than 40 million developers worldwide use GitHub for programming open source or private projects. According to the 2019 GitHub Octoverse report, a huge 80% of repository contributions come from outside the US.
The Android app is yet to be freely available. It will first be released to a limited number of developers signed up to the Android beta waiting list.
Google acquires no-code app development platform, AppSheet.
The second of this week’s stories comes from Google, a regular in our posts. Tech giant Google has announced that it has acquired AppSheet, a no-code enterprise app development platform.
Simply put, AppSheet allows novice developers without extensive programming knowledge to collect rich data, imbue apps with AI, or automatically move data. The platform can collect data from any device instantly syncing to the original data source. It performs analysis in real-time, using custom-built dashboards and automatic reports.
AppSheet created apps are all singing and dancing. It is widely used and this extensive use is indicative of its efficacy. More than 200,000 apps have been deployed using AppSheet’s development suite, and over 18,000 “active app creators” build apps with AppSheet each month.
These apps can capture images log locations, scan barcodes, deliver notifications, generate reports, send emails, accept signatures, work offline, install across devices, as well as apply logic. They are also able to update and maintain existing data sets while respecting security and organisation policies.
Looking back to April last year, AppSheet counted over 6,000 companies among its client base. These included Husqvarna Group, Solvay, Tigo Guatemala, American Electric Power, M&O Partners, and Boom Technology.
According to Google Cloud vice president, Amit Zavery, the AppSheet purchase will add to Google’s mission to “reimagine the application development space” by “help[ing] [businesses] innovate” with workflow automation, app support, and API management.
In a blog post, Zavery has written that the acquisition will allow customers to develop “richer applications at scale that leverage not only Google Sheets and Forms, but other top Google technologies like Android, Maps and Google Analytics”.
In addition, AppSheet customers will continue to be able to integrate with a number of cloud-hosted data sources.
Following the purchase, AppSheet CEO Praveen Sheshadri has reinforced that the existing AppSheet services are here to stay and that in the end, they will eventually migrate to Google Cloud.
Additionally, the AppSheet team will join Google Cloud. They will continue to work to ensure that integrations with cloud-hosted data sources like Office 365, Salesforce, Box, Dropbox, iOS, web browsers, and databases hosted in other clouds are further developed and maintained.
“We expect to combine AppSheet’s core strengths with Google Cloud’s deep industry expertise in verticals like financial services, retail, and media & entertainment”.
He confirms that there is likely to be a period of transition in which the company will need to bed into the new environment. However, users should start seeing the benefits of this week’s acquisition soon.
Despite its big tech parents, AppSheet’s core mission will remain unchanged. They and their team will continue working toward democratising app development in order to enable as many people as possible “to build and distribute applications without writing a line of code.”
The partnership has been cited to be an influential one.
“AppSheet’s ability to power a range of applications — from [customer relationship management] to field inspections and personalized reporting — combined with Google Cloud’s deep expertise in key verticals, will further enable digital transformation across industries like financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, communication and media & entertainment”.
Brazil emerges as an AI Super Power.
Our third of this week’s stories comes from Brazil and involves one of our trends to watch, AI. Despite arriving late to the AI party, Brazil is emerging as a world-class AI Leader.
The Oxford Insights’ AI Readiness Index 2019 has ranked Brazil at number 40 out of 192 countries with AI disruption in their sights. The report looks at how ready individual countries are to take advantage of AI technologies. PWC anticipate these will add $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
This is a solid indication that the South American nation is making waves in the world of AI. The country is leading the rest of its Latin American neighbours based on a proprietary AI Global Vibrancy Tool index report conducted by Stanford University. Indeed, Brazil’s future economy is banking on a big contribution from AI technologies.
Looking more broadly across the continent, Accenture predicts that by 2035, AI will boost annual growth rates across South America by about one full percentage point of GDP. For Brazil, this will only strengthen its financial prowess. Brazil is already the largest Latin American economy. If these predictions are accurate, AI will “boost the 2035 GVA….by $432 billion”, representing “an increase of 0.9 percentage points in comparison with the baseline scenario.”
Other Latin American countries also are predicted to prosper from these AI-driven innovations. Notably $78 billion in Colombia, $63 billion in Chile, and $59 billion in Argentina.
AI Opportunities in South America mirror those across the rest of the world. Just like across the globe, it is the Financial Services sector that is ripe for AI innovation.
Following the major bank crashes of the 80s and 90s, the financial services sector in Brazil was hit hard.
Ingredients for success
A new wave of Brazilian fintech companies have been making strides to overcome the many hurdles and legacy procedures within the banking sector. They are making significant headway. Other fast-growth sectors that AI is redefining in Brazil include eCommerce, on-demand delivery, logistics, and digital media and entertainment.
Another string to Brazil’s bow is its people. It has a population which both embrace change and are tech-savvy. As a result, AI tech has a greater chance of impacting industry at scale. In fact, one trend report cites Brazil as the fifth largest group of internet consumers in the world. Looking at AI in particular, one 2018 survey found that 59% of Brazilians plan to own an AI device. The highest number amongst the top 10 countries featured in the poll.
Recognising the opportunities that AI presents the nation, the Brazilian government plan to invest heavily in AI Research and Development. It was recently announced that they plan to create a network of 8 AI R&D Labs. One of which will be in collaboration with the Brazilian Army and will focus on edge AI technology in areas like cybersecurity.
Despite its rise, Brazil faces the challenge of retaining the best tech talent. To continue this upward journey, the country needs to nurture and develop its strong domestic talent. The lure of the bigger paychecks need to be overridden by the challenge of addressing the most important challenges of our time. In fact, the aforementioned Stanford University study found that over the last four years Brazil, has shifted into overdrive. It is one of the top five countries in the world with the fastest growth in AI hiring.
To help continue this recruitment drive, IBM is set to launch an AI lab in Sao Paulo this year. It will be the first Latin American based institute from IBM’s AI Horizons Network. It will focus upon solving real-life problems the nation faces such as the best use of natural resources and innovations in agribusiness and health care.
AI has the power to play an essential role in, not only, Brazil’s growth, but that of Latin America as a whole.
This emerging tech has the promise to create a significant competitive advantage in the commercial sector, facilitate faster GDP growth, hold numerous societal benefits resulting in more socio-economic progress for all.
UK Electric van maker reaches Unicorn Status.
The fourth of this week’s stories comes from a bit closer to home. UK based electric van maker, Arrival has reached Unicorn status after securing an £85 million investment from South Korean car firms Hyundai and Kia.
This cash injection takes its valuation to £3bn and in so doing, grants this startup Unicorn status. This is, of course a feat in itself, but coupled with the challenges faced by the British automotive industry it is a remarkable achievement.
The company began its journey back in 2015 and was founded by Russian entrepreneur, Denis Sverdlov. Since this time, Arrival has grown rapidly. Back in September, the company had a workforce of 600. In just a few short months, this number has grown to 800.
Arrival is currently headquartered in Banbury but has global ambitions. Arrival has plans to build “micro-factories” close to major markets such as New York and Los Angeles.
What set’s Arrival apart?
Arrival’s first product is a battery-powered electric van and is priced in line with comparable petrol or diesel vehicles. The van is targeted at urban delivery without the long-range journey requirements of passenger vehicles. Known as the “Achilles heel” of the electric vehicle industry, the limitation of today’s battery technology is an industry-wide obstacle.
Arrival plan to use the money to fund the next stage of its development as it prepares to scale up production of an electric van. One it hopes will rival those from more established manufacturers. Its new Korean investors will work with Arrival to develop new commercial vehicles with zero exhaust emissions.
Arrival’s innovation goes beyond its technology. It is being watched closely by rival carmakers who hope to emulate its assembly line processes. Rejecting traditional methods, Arrival uses a modular design which allows robots to assemble vans in a single location.
To design and build a new vehicle platform can cost traditional car manufacturers in the region of £1bn. Using their modular process, Arrival claims to be able to do so for £100m.
This reduced manufacturing process figure is helped by the fact that Arrival has developed most of the vehicle itself. Including the software, components, materials and a modular “skateboard” platform are all ‘homegrown’.
The journey so far
Prototype vans have already been trialled by delivery companies including Royal Mail, DHL and DPD, as well as BT. Looking into the future, the company also has a longer-term ambition to enter the more competitive market of passenger cars. The investment from more mainstream car manufacturers will help realise this ambition. It will give Kia and Hyundai access to Arrival’s manufacturing technology and will help these two automotive giants move away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles toward a more sustainable alternative.
For the fifth of this week’s stories, we go back to Google. In further evidence of tech’s dominance, another tech behemoth is poised to join the club of Silicon Valley giants valued at $1tn.
This time, it is Alphabet, Google’s parent company, who have reached these dizzy heights.
Alphabet reached a value of $993bn early in the week, with analysts expecting it to cross the $1tn mark soon.
Alphabet will be in esteemed company. Back in August 2018, Apple became the first tech company to hold a $1tn price tag. This figure has since risen. Apple is currently valued at $1.37tn.
In April last year, Microsoft too passed this landmark figure, while September of 2019 bore witness to Amazon hitting the $1tn mark. However, while Microsoft still continues to rise, Amazon has slipped back, and are now valued at $940bn.
When will we find out?
Alphabet will report its latest earnings in early February. It is expected to have generated another record quarter of advertising revenue that will propel its share value to over $1tn.
Big tech looks to be unstoppable. The 5 most valuable companies in the US are all tech companies. Social media giants, Facebook complete the lineup. Facebook has a market capitalisation of $631bn.
The Google Monopoly
The rise of big tech continues despite the best efforts of politicians, regulatory bodies and consumer groups who all have concerns about the outsized influence of these companies on competition in their relative spheres.
For example, according to some reports, Google accounted for 73% of the ad market in search in the US and 31.1% of global digital ad dollars in 2019. Again, in the last quarter its revenues were $40.5bn; 20% higher than in the same period across 2018.
At the close of last year, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority argued there was a good case for introducing regulations to tackle the dominance of Google and Facebook in online advertising. This call was timely. In the same period, European regulators fined Google €1.5bn ($1.67bn) for abusing its monopoly in online advertising. Indeed, Brussels has fined the tech company €8.2bn ($9/14bn) over two years for breaching competition rules.
Similarly, a bit further from home, 50 US states announced an investigation into Google’s potential monopolistic behaviour. The justice department and Federal Trade Commission have been conducting their own competition investigations into Alphabet and other big tech companies. We’re sure this won’t just be popping up in this week’s stories and we will be seeing more of it in the future.
The figures don’t lie though and it is undeniable that big tech dominance is growing and here to stay. However strong our thirst for it though, analysts have confirmed that it is these regulatory headwinds that will impede progress in the future.
We hope you enjoyed this week’s stories from Ollie. There will be a lot more to come from him! Have any of this week’s stories caught your eye? Leave us a comment below.