Ever wondered what the next hot trends will be in an effort to become an early investor in the next hot sector – before most people catch on? Well, we’ve noticed an awful lot of interest in the following areas:
The emerging agri-tech sector is leading the UK’s efforts to expand food production. Although traditional agriculture dominates in this area, there’s increased interest in how technology can boost output with money being invested into:
- Unmanned aerial systems
- Diagnostic tools to identify endemic diseases in livestock
- Big data to assist farmers with what to plant, where and when
Another area showing huge interest is agricultural robotics. Robots are being developed that can sow seeds, drive tractors, zap pesky weeds with lasers (avoiding the use of expensive and toxic chemicals), identify pests, weeds and diseases, then pick and grade various crops.
There’s also a huge interest in agri-tech across Europe, with companies such as Agroop in Portugal building a big data analytics platform to help farmers become more productive, predict risk factors and identify best production procedures.
So, why is there so much interest in cutting-edge agri-tech now? Well, there are a number of factors that led to a demand for greater efficiency, including:
- Fewer workers wanting to work in agriculture
- Greater pressure on a decreasing area of land to feed more people
- Climate change challenges – temperatures and weather conditions appear to be getting more extreme
With well-healed urban diners willing to pay for a product that keeps food miles to a minimum, it’s become commercially viable to use LED lighting that can be ‘tuned’ to a crop’s particular light-spectrum needs, with hydroponics automatically providing the vital nutrients across a space-efficient rack/shelving system.
Last year’s high profile cyberattacks have made everyone realise how wide-spread cybercrime is nowadays, and the damage it can cause. For example, the WannaCry ransomware attack infected 400,000 machines in 150 countries. Many businesses were hit, along with 50 NHS organisations affected, leading to operations being delayed nationwide.
This was quickly followed by Equifax, the credit-reference agency, revealing that the private details of over 100 million people had leaked in an embarrassing large-scale data breach.
It’s reckoned that as well as further general attacks on organisations, there will be personalised attacks that target senior personnel specifically. With so much at stake, there’s no wonder enhanced cybersecurity is predicted to be a key trend.
Machine learning looks likely to be used to process huge amounts of data and carry out operations at great scale to detect and patch vulnerabilities, cyber-attacks and suspicious behaviour. Inevitably, it’s also widely predicted that adversaries will also use machine learning to bolster their attacks – with the aim of finding vulnerabilities quicker that legitimate companies can patch and secure them.
Biometric verification is likely to become more widely available, as used by the iPhone X Face ID feature. Financial services companies are already experimenting with biometric authentication for customers, focusing on facial, fingerprint and voice recognition.
Cyber-Insurance policies will become more commonplace as insurance companies become better at making digital assets valuations. As with physical security, such as insisting on a higher standard of door and window locks, insurance companies are poised to become major drivers in the cybersecurity industry.
The insurance sector has long been seen as antiquated and ripe for disruption. But insurance companies are now latching on to how tech can shrink costs and increase profits. At the same time, there’s an increased focus on improving customer journeys and identifying what the customer wants and needs.
Not only is there a trend towards InsurTech, there are many trends within this area.
- It looks like automation will replace human input. This is being driven by a desire for smaller insurance packages – such as almost instant gadget insurance like that offered by InMyBag and by-the-day travel cover. This area of the insurance market is tough to offer when human input’s required because it just isn’t cost-effective. But if it’s largely automated, it becomes worthwhile.
- Customers seem to be avoiding human contact. When it comes to choosing, setting-up and paying for a policy, it seems that customers would rather deal with a computer. Investors seem to agree. Just days after Wrisk launched a fundraising campaign on Seedrs, it secured its initial £500,000 funding target from more than 300 Their smartphone app aims to make purchasing insurance and filing claims quick and easy.
- Insurance will become much more personalised. Wearable tech and smartphone lifestyle apps combined with tech-enabled data science should enable insurance companies to create highly individual risk profiles, rather than broadly similar bands of people paying roughly the same premiums.
- All-in-one insurance policies will become popular. Instead of buying individual car, life, home, contents, travel and pet insurance policies, AI technology could help it to become the norm to purchase one policy that includes them all in one go – as applicable.
- More of the insurance process will become ‘self-service’. At the moment, a significant amount of an insurance premium is spent on the handling process. With many companies, it’s a manual process. Instead, it’s thought that there will be a move towards customers going online and providing still images and video and attaching them to their self-completed claim. The insurer may then use an automated claims review process for all but the trickiest of cases. Even pay-outs could become automated – and received by the customer within hours rather than weeks or even months.
Health technology advances have the potential to help reduce healthcare system costs and improve health outcomes. The global market for digital health is predicted to be worth £43bn in 2018, and worth around £2.9bn in the UK alone.
Development trends in this sector include using blockchain to protect and more easily exchange health data. There’s also a lot of work being put into electronic health records (EHR). EHR make information securely available in an instant to authorised users. An EHR can contain a patient’s medical history, treatment plans, immunisation dates, allergies, radiology images, and test results. With all this digitised data available, patient data analytics also look set to make a leap forward.
Meanwhile, the popularity of health-related mobile apps for smartphones looks set to continue. With waiting times to see doctors within general practices heading towards up to three weeks in some regions, there’s no wonder that the idea of a ‘doctor on demand’ service such as those provided by Qured and Zoomdoc is so appealing.
Digital health tech that enables the elderly to stay in their own homes rather than have to move to care homes looks likely to be expanded. This includes fall detection monitors and telebehavioral health services that can be used to regularly and remotely check health.
AI now looks set to make its way into diagnostics, population health, disease management and finally, (aptly) pathology.
Robotics and drones
As the cost of building robots has plummeted, there’s been a trend towards greater investment in them. In fact, a report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper predicts that with more research being funded, there will be major tech breakthroughs in the following sectors:
- Manufacturing – Ever more sophisticated robots will be able to carry out more intricate product-producing roles
- Transportation – Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless buses, lorries and cars are all being researched and invested in, with trials of driverless minivans due to take place later in 2018
- Retail – Organisations such as Amazon are particularly interested in moving shelf-like robots picking products for orders and bringing them to staff instead of staff picking products from shelves
- Delivery – The days of delivery drivers being in short supply look numbered with everything from automated food delivery robots to drones taking on this role
AI and bots
The latest technology could lead to totally new jobs being created. For example, using AI, Plum [Link to: https://withplum.com/] links to your bank, analyses your activity and helps you manage your money across savings, investments and utilities. Wealthify, the robo-investment manager enables you to create an investment plan and then monitors it to help ensure you stick to plan.
The trend for digital concierges and assistants, such as Siri and Alexa may evolve from something that you talk to on a fairly static piece of hardware to a device that you wear in your ear that includes both a miniaturised speaker and a microphone. So, your AI virtual assistant could help you through everything from interviews and dates to prompting you to take your medication.
AI isn’t the only thing that’s taking off… It’s reckoned that around $2.8 billion will be invested in non-military drones over the next 10 years, as capability improves. Drones are unmanned aircraft, remotely controlled by a person on the ground, instead of relying on a pilot on board the craft.
Although many drones are currently mainly used by hobbyists and the military, commercial drones are the fastest growing part of this market. These are used for everything from aerial photography in real estate to crop spraying. Some companies are developing solar-powered high-altitude drones that can serve as platforms for internet services in remote areas. Amazon is even looking at using drones to make deliveries.
Investing involves risks, including loss of capital, illiquidity, lack of dividends and dilution, and should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. Investments should only be made by investors who understand these risks. This blog post has been approved as a financial promotion by Seedrs Limited.