Robotics, Automation and AI – Investing

ACG LogoThe investment opportunities for growth in AI, Robotics and Automation will be greater than that of the internet companies like Facebook, Google or Amazon.  This was the position of William Studebaker, President, Chief Investment Officer, and Managing Partner at ROBO Global, LLC.   He was a featured speaker at the ACG event hosted at the Windows over Minnesota on the 50th floor of the IDS building in downtown Minneapolis.

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IoT and Smart Water

IMG_4570Minnesota DEED Trade Office hosted a Smart Water Round Table event at the Uponor corporation on May 10th, 2018.   Featured were a host of IoT companies showcasing their work in smart water solutions.   The audience and speakers who attended came from as far away as Europe and South America.   This event came on the heels of the Minnesota IoT Fuse conference.   The solutions they covered spanned a vast array of topics including:  precision agriculture, water treatment, smart cities,  transportation, city infrastructure optimization, etc.    The companies also represented specializations in hardware & sensors,  data aggregation and analytics, and business model development.

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2018 Globalization Trends

240_F_6103632_ib328fMRJVHjrJSvj2VORJI21LaeKU1sIn this blog we will take a look at some top trends in globalization that are facing national and corporate strategies.  Globalization had massive momentum before the 2008 economic recession.  While many economies have recovered and are growing there are new forces today that are creating challenges to continued global integration.

Strategic Considerations:

  • The rise of nationalistic goals and causes has created more international tension and is slowing collaboration for united efforts towards shared opportunities and global challenges.
  • Many existing agreements like UK Union (Brexit), Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFDA) are falling apart without a new solution to advance the relationships.
  • Companies are increasing learning of the difficulties to understand localization of new markets, partnerships and navigating foreign policies.  Size alone may not be enough to successful globalize vs. regional relationship and relevance.
  • Population growth in BRIC to ICASA is creating new billion+ people markets and equal number of ecological challenges.  These areas of opportunity will be disrupted by their own sustainability crisis.  Compounding this trends is that the shift to urbanization is no where near complete in these countries and yet their cities and infrastructures are already beyond capacity.
  • Development of the middle class is a global concern for both developed and developing nations.  Economic growth without opportunity for an aspiring middle class has proven to be unsustainable long term.
  • Growing populations have a near term crisis of improving education to make the emerging workforce relevant, as well as, the need to develop new services for their aging populations.
  • Corporate involvement in Social causes and infrastructure will increase in terms of time, investment and focus in all regions.  Stability, prosperity and livability are key to corporate survivability.
  • The competition for natural resources will become ever more at the forefront of all strategies.  Both in securing and security the resources a nation has, but to also secure the relationships and collaborations needed to exchange resources with others.  This also drive innovation in shifting to new forms of sustainability to reduce critical dependencies on current resources.  This will continue to create new opportunities or disruptions for companies that either can or cannot respond to the demand.
  • Last century was dominated by the growth of global vertical players.   Today the rise of horizontal players and integrators will generate new forms of partnerships and disruptions for the classic business models that will reform business ecosystems.
  • The disruptive power of new digital currencies could unseat may traditional financial business models.   It does offer potentially a long term promise of a more integrated and audible world of finance, there is still the shorter term maturation and security issues that economies will have endure if they begin down that path.
  • While trade and migration are under strain,  the rise of data exchange continues to expand exponentially.   This is creating new opportunities to understand the worlds big data insights to make better decisions and investments.
  • The dark side or dark web continues to rise along with the growth of data exchange.  Global investment in securing digital transactions and traceability will be required to maintain stability of markets and economies.

Sources:  Harvard, McKinsey, Inc

 

 

2018 Top Technology Trends

240_F_6103632_ib328fMRJVHjrJSvj2VORJI21LaeKU1sAs Technology continues its rapid innovation the leading trends all suggest massive opportunities for nations and companies that can harness the potential of the new capabilities.  While most of the trends listed are sure to progress rapidly, there is a cautionary tale underneath each for the impacts to society that will be incurred.  It will take time to understand each one and it may not be able to be undone once certain abilities are unleashed and entrenched into global business and governments that have control.

Top Tech Trends:

  • Artificial Intelligence:
    • Artificial Intelligence will drive a new level of deep learning and ability to approach new levels of big data analysis.
    • New graphic data and forms of linguistics research will also enhance the transfer of knowledge.
    • Algorithms for dealign with noise to signal ratio or pattern anomaly recognition will be a competitive advantage.
    • Machine vision spanning facial recognition, security or any detailed oriented visual task will transform how we can approach new sources of information.
    • Increased pattern and trend recognition will drive profiling and personalization of services.
    • Decision support systems will gain a new level of insight and sophistication driving a more data driven decision approach.
    • AI chip design and manufacturing will expand but like CPUs only the best will survive long term.
  • Human to Machine Interface
    • Multi-model interaction include touch, audio, visual and facial recognition will evovle.
    • Ethics based interfaces will grow as AI develops
    • Natural language processing will increase in accuracy and should surpass the quality of touch interaction within the next 5 years.
  • Quantum Computing
    • The ability to process entire new sets of problem spaces beyond the traditional computer architectures
    • The ability and speed in which variable scenarios can be processed expands exponentially
    • The predictability of random events can be better modeled.
  • Internet of Things
    • A world of sensors and new data sources exists that can provide new insights about systems and society.
    • The security for such a world of data represents a monumental challenge.
    • The network and bandwidth demands for an IoT world may not be able to keep pace with the volume of data generated.
  • Digital Currenies
    • Standardization on platforms and protocols will lead the experimentation.
    • The definition, depth and authorization around digital identies.
    • Demonstrable security and indemnification of transactions
    • The ability to have cross national law and regulation is instrumental in its long term viability.
    • Oversight and monitoring protocols for regulatory bodies.

Source: MIT, Alizila, Berkely

 

2018 China: Trends & Challenges

China 1

I’ve been following the top stories, investments and business partnerships coming out of China.  Here is a summary of the top trends and challenges that I have seen in the first quarter of 2018.  In general, China is poised to continue its growth and global significance throughout 2018.  President Xi continues to strengthen his position and agenda through the large scale placement of government officials at all levels of the government that are aligned to his direction.   This could see China’s ability to implement new policies and enforce complicate rise significantly.  Though it is not clear sailing ahead with many long standing challenges that continue to grow in magnitude including:

  • More complex relationships on the international scene including heightened tensions with the current USA administration.
  • Vast regional disparities in terms of infrastructure, demographics, and types of support needed at different levels of development.
  • An aging population that brings many needs for services but also offers a large amount of consumer savings that can pay for new aging service industries.
  • Declining heavy-industrial sectors as the scale of infrastructure development slows and more emphasis is placed on smart cities and sustainability.
  • Property values have not crashed yet, but many places are stagnated and many fear it could be a large economic impact in the coming year or two.
  • Debt levels are on the rise as more people seek investments in new ventures.
  • Environmental pollution is an issue that could demand attention as many cities boarder on ecological crisis that could result in large scale health issue.

Now look more to the opportunities and trends we see several areas where large scale effort and investment are being focused:

International

  • China remains slightly ahead of its goal to double GDP by 2020.
  • Many global-scale Chinese companies are still primary focused in China,  but they are anxious to scale internationally.
  • Soft power is a key global strategy with China that is capitalizing on international tensions between the USA and many of its rivals or long standing partners.   China is using this time to become that alternative option to partner with.
  • Belt and Road will remain the flagship international state-to-state collaboration program for building China-sponsored infrastructure around the world and this creates opportunities for all parities to form deeper relationships with China.
  • China is also looking to attract more foreign direct investment into China’s growth.  One region of interest is the Greater Bay Area ( GBA), which is the coordinated development of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong.

Industry

  • Manufacturing is still at the forefront of many of China’s industry priorities.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things.
  • The development of EV cars and mass transit have goals established both with incentives and penalties for not meeting them.
  • Battery technology and production will lead the EV automotive industry growth in the early years.
  • Green industry growth for more sustainable solutions are also at the forefront of governmental priorities in the development of smart cities; with over 30 cities proactively working to hit their green goals by 2020.
  • Car sales continue to rise rapidly in China as the middle class rises.  This is despite the large scale traffic and congestion problems in many of its major cities.   This also drives the government priorities about both EV car offerings and IoT lead smart cities to address the traffic challenges.
  • China’s pharmaceutical industry is growing rapidly producing many new product offerings each year and is also licensing the use of many new chemical/molecular discoveries.
  • Outcomes based health insurance is also changing the landscape of the consumer insurance and healthcare systems.
  • Steel, Cement, Coal – should stabilize and shrink in decades to come following trends similar to other industrialized countries that also had rapid rise and stabilization.
  • Wealth management is becoming a huge industry in China for both domestic and foreign financial sector players.
  • eSports is a rapidly growing entertainment industry gaining momentum in both profitability and consumer interest.
  • Many multi-national corporations are seeing the need to partner with large Chinese companies that have a depth in big data market analysis.  An example would be the Alibaba and Ford partnership.
  • A concerning trend in all consumer sectors has been the dramatic drop in consumer trust.  It is widely believed that corruption has spread too deep.  The rise and large scale of adoption of digital currencies as the back bone of transactions has help reverse the trends.   In addition, the digital abilities for P2P transactions help increase a buyers confidence that it is not a scam by working directly with the sellers.

Government Centralization and Control

  • China’s centralized anticorruption agency have been sent police against corruption within the government.   The a unified National Supervision Commission, Beijing will have an easier time rooting out local noncompliance and making an example of officials and executives.
  • Cash will become obsolete in China by 2020 and this means that financial flows are easier to monitor, centralize and analyze spending within the country.
  • Facial-recognition technology has progressed so that the public security bureaus can use AI to identify the movement of people.  Everything from locations of officials, terrorists, criminals or missing children stolen from their families.
  • The government is seeing the power in platforms and is looking to expand its infrastructure to track more data and provide services over these platforms.  Especially in areas of studying the advances in the smart cities programs.

 

Sources included:  McKinsey, Forbes, China Business Review, Alizila

 

Canada Announces Five Superclusters

waving canada flag
Canada commits to its vision to develop five new superclusters:
  • Ocean Supercluster (based in Atlantic Canada)
  • SCALE.AI Supercluster (based in Quebec)
  • Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster (based in Ontario)
  • Protein Industries Supercluster (based in the Prairies)
  • Digital Technology Supercluster (based in British Columbia)

Together the superclusters represent more than 450 businesses, 60 post-secondary institutions and 180 other participants in sectors covering 78 percent of Canada’s economy.

“The Innovation Superclusters Initiative created an important dialogue between industries, companies, and communities focused on building the next generation of manufacturing firms in Canada,” said Jayson Myers, CEO, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada. “These vital conversations have set the stage for new partnerships, customer relationships, and investment opportunities that will shape the future of advanced manufacturing in Canada.”
Source: SSTi

Great Lakes Water Controversy

United-States-Map-2Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker  is proposing that the City of Racine be allowed to divert 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water everyday as part of the Foxconn deal in southeast Wisconsin. However, conservation groups oppose the plan, and argue that it not only undercuts the Great Lakes Compact of 2008, but also such a diversion for private industry use is unprecedented.  Source: SSTi

This is another example of the growing struggle to jointly manage shared natural resources.   Many cities, both in the USA and Canada rest on the shores of the Great Lakes.  Who dictates that cities uses of their shoreline and access to the water.   In the past law suits have come around pollution claims of an up stream user contaminating the water for those down stream and many of those suits have held up in court with large reparations to the offending party.   While most cities try to regulate water usage for the greater good it becomes more concerning when private industry wants large scale access to those shared resources for their personal profit.   Complicating the matter even more is that multiple nations share natural resources like access to fresh water sources and the seas.

This rising crisis of global sustainability is bringing many of the Grand Challenges to the forefront of national agendas.   The world will need to create a new dialogue and ability to regulate and manage a court of appeals on a global level.   Ownership of shared natural resources will also be contested, as will, the issues of unsymmetrical distribution of many resources.   Today we have some internal bodies like the United Nations,   ICJ/HAG, and  G20 to name a few.   These can serve as models to learn from while exploring a more globally inclusive model to represent all nations.

I encourage everyone to follow and share stories about Natural Resource controversies,  appeals, and deals that will begin to set the precedents for the decades to come.   We all need to be alert to the lobbying forces of private interest over the greater good.