In this first part of his startup and technology trends 2017 series, HIIG researcher Robin Tech discusses advances in the fields of AI, food delivery, and autonomous vehicles. Continue reading about the technological possibilities and developments that might make our lives better – and that will certainly shape our realities in future.
Artificial intelligence — steadily advancing
You might remember my previous blog post on the state of AI. I wrote about openness and dissemination as the main trends for AI. Exemplified by open APIs to platforms supported or maintained by IBM, Facebook, and Google, these trends continued in the previous year. Just as I suggested, applications for narrow AI exploded as a result. General purpose machine learning algorithms and open source software – e.g. Google’s TensorFlow – are being adapted and applied to highly specific image recognition use cases, for example. In 2017, bots will continue their triumphal adoption – proving once more that applications that solve problems matter the most – and AI will pop up in more and more places around and inside our means of transportation, homes, and, possibly, (robot) sex life).
Food delivery is dead — long live food delivery?
For everyone living in Berlin they’re a familiar picture: Cyclists on their single-speed bicycles, carrying massive cubical rucksacks, and dressed in pink, red, or panda bear shirts. I’m, of course, referring to food delivery startups and their employees. Startups such as Delivery Hero (valued at $3.1bn) or Deliveroo (valued at about $1bn) compete for people’s pampered palates. Startups claim to use superior matching and routing technologies to outsmart and outperform traditional food delivery services. They offer food from your favorite restaurants, delivered to your doorstep at minimal surcharge. Rocket Internet’s recent move to merge another two of their food delivery startups can be seen as an indication of monopoly seeking strategies and consolidation. I, however, expect less of a market maturation and more of an extinction taking place in 2017. Food delivery services such as New York based Maple or London based Dine In continue to struggle to earn a comprehensive profit or already shut down respectively. And besides: With new entrants of the calibre of Uber (valued at $62bn) and Amazon, competitive pressures, rather than margins, are very likely to increase. Combined with startup investors’ declining propensity to fuel loss making business models, there’ll be tough times ahead for these pseudo disruptive startups. Is food delivery dead? Maybe, but not necessarily. Technology might indeed prove to solve some of the key challenges of food preparation and delivery – and there’s life, and a couple billion dollars, in the dog yet.
Natural and artificial intelligence, money, technology, startups, and (slowly) awaking automotive incumbents like Audi and BMW propel advances in the field of autonomous vehicles. Technology-wise, autonomous vehicles are a reality today already on highways and other easy to analyse environments. What’s in these mobility providers’ way now is mostly regulation and infrastructures to handle data traffic and processing, electronics, and vehicle management. Uber pulled out of San Francisco due to a lack of permissions necessary to operate autonomous vehicles – it may be noted that the company simply didn’t apply for a permit – and Tesla came under scrutiny after one of its quasi-autonomous cars was involved in the industry’s first fatality. Often overlooked, autonomy is entering a myriad of industries – ranging from production machines, smart homes, and military equipment to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that analyse and track plant growth at giant plantations. The latter already support small farmers that haven’t yet had the resources to afford traditional means of aerial imaging. Through autonomous and radio-controlled UAVs, real-time crop and irrigation data will be available to a much wider range of farmers worldwide. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace and prices for hardware and software are dropping. Startups like Fly Ag Tech, PrecisionHawk, or Skyward mark the beginning of a new agricultural revolution. Combined with new sensor technologies, IoT systems, and big data analysis, drones will increase the process efficiency and the quality of agricultural goods — e.g., through a more targeted and more specific use of fertilizers and toxins and less discard and waste as a result.
In my next blog post, I’ll talk about AR and VR applications that will define the way we interact with technology in 2017, smart homes that finally make sense, and gene analysis and editing technologies that raise much more than ethical questions.
This post is part of a weekly series of articles by doctoral candidates of the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. It does not necessarily represent the view of the Institute itself. For more information about the topics of these articles and asssociated research projects, please contact info|a|hiig.de.