Technology Pioneers 2013Pushing New Frontiers
Technology is playing an increasingly vital role in all aspects of business and society. New innovations may provide answers to the key challenges facing the world today, from climate change to resource sustainability to affordable healthcare for an ageing population. New technologies allow us to make things better, faster and cheaper, and are empowering individuals in a number of ways. Most importantly, technology is a key driver of hyperconnectivity — the interconnecting of everyone with everything – which fundamentally redefines how individuals, enterprises and governments interconnect and relate. It provides new models for innovation, new opportunities for growth, but also new risks that will have to be managed and mitigated.
The World Economic Forum is pleased to present 23 innovative companies selected as Technology Pioneers 2013 in the areas of information technology, telecommunications and new media, energy and environment, and life sciences and health. These companies have been selected due to their demonstrative vision and leadership in their fields, innovative ideas and approaches, and their impact on society and business.
This year’s group of Technology Pioneers provides new models and solutions in a number of areas including solutions for a greener and more sustainable planet, technology for social and economic development, interaction-enabling technologies and platforms for collaborative exchange.
The World Economic Forum would like to thank its Partners and all of the members of the selection committee for their contribution in this process. Their expertise and diligence make it possible to identify and select the most truly innovative start-ups from around the world.
Congratulations to the Technology Pioneers 2013!
Managing Director and Chief Business Officer
Technology Pioneers 2013: Pushing New Frontiers
New technology is the leading source of game-changing market disruptors and the increasing number of possibilities leads to an exponential acceleration in the pace of change. The companies selected as Technology Pioneers 2013 are at the cutting edge of this change. Each has managed to push against the limitations of our daily lives.
The world today has become increasingly interconnected, dynamic and complex. It is ever more decentralized and driven by bottom-up innovation and where self-organizing produces unexpected side effects. We are increasingly operating on a real-time economy which not only reduces costs and maximizes profits, but also heightens risks and vulnerability to unexpected events. For managers, this uncertainty and rapid change makes the future hard to predict and strategic planning a much more complicated process. Technology Pioneers are at the forefront of hyperconnectivity and beyond. They have blurred the boundaries between traditional industry sectors, such as information technology, health, energy and other sectors where we are seeing cutting edge trends; they also have a dramatic social impact, empowering people by offering low-cost, high-quality products and services; and they illustrate the continued importance of mobile-based solutions to new products and services.
While the rapid expansion of technology and the accelerating pace of change offer exciting new choices, they have also opened the door to new threats and new possibilities for manipulating the system. Internet security companies are reporting more than 12 million new incidents of malware a year. That is roughly a million hostile attempts to penetrate corporate and personal networks each month. The growing spectre of ultra-sophisticated industrial espionage and the potential for cyber attacks is creating a brave new world which no one, and especially no corporate Chief Executive Officer or government leader, can afford to ignore. The pressing question today is which SIEM (Security Information and Management System) to pick and how much is it likely to cost? In previous years a single piece of software might have held the answer, however, the sophistication and increasingly collaborative nature of cyber attacks is making them more dangerous. Today, companies such as Technology Pioneer AlienVault think in terms of platforms that combine the best features of a range of solutions and then coordinate multilevel defence strategies that can adapt instantly to the fast-evolving onslaught of predatory attacks.
A different challenge is posed by the oceans of highly detailed data now being produced by everything from Internet search engines and checkout counter bar code readers to research on the human genome and ultra-high energy sub-atomic particles. A lone scientist in the early 20th century might have had to deal with several dozen variables to complete an experiment. Today’s tasks are too complex for any individual to handle alone. A scientific team trying to land a probe on Mars, such as Nasa’s rover Curiosity, or decrypt nearly invisible patterns in DNA, will very likely have to sift through billions of pieces of information to find the one crucial connection that holds the answer. Data is useless without analysis, but the question today is, what type of analysis and how deep? Data mining is emerging as the essential key to detecting and identifying hidden relationships and connections that no unaided human is likely to see. Ingenuity Systems, a Technology Pioneer from California, is working on precisely this problem, by developing sophisticated Web-based tools that enable scientists to sift through millions of pieces of data to spot biological interactions that have the potential to provide the missing clue to the next miracle molecule in the battle against previously incurable diseases. As with a number of this year’s Technology Pioneers, Ingenuity offers powerful support through its ability to link current experimental results to similar interactions in previous experiments recorded in its huge Knowledge database detailing millions of biochemical interactions.
Another trend present in this year’s Technology Pioneers is the extension of technological advances previously reserved for a privileged elite to a much broader public, especially in the developing world. This can mean simplifying the control systems for highly sophisticated tools so their operation no longer requires a deep technical background, or it can involve taking advantage of newly available off-the-shelf components that dramatically cut costs. An example is Tobii Technology, which has developed an interface that enables a patient suffering from near total paralysis to operate a functional speech synthesizer or even steer a wheelchair by simple eye movements.
At a more utilitarian level, Technology Pioneer Promethean Power Systems has created a simple milk chiller based on its space-age design for a “thermal battery”, which promises to change the economic prospects for thousands of farmers in India.
Simplicity and user-friendliness are increasingly coming into their own as machines finally begin to adapt themselves to users, rather than the other way around. PrimeSense developed the original hardware and algorithms that serve as the brains behind Microsoft’s Kinect and the X-box 360 video game station, equipping machines to recognize and respond to human movements and gestures.
But how can technology help to reduce the devastating impact of natural disasters? The ferocity of recent disasters, from floods to uncontrollable wild fires, and the severe drought in the US this summer, serves to highlight the urgency for finding new technology solutions to save the planet from overheating, or alternatively drowning in its own waste. This year’s crop of Technology Pioneers offers exciting solutions ranging from Liquid Robotics’ affordable approach to ocean monitoring to LanzaTech’s waste-devouring bacteria, and Enphase Energy’s better management systems to make solar power economically sustainable, and Anhui LIGOO New Energy Technology’s more efficient battery management system and Coulomb Technologies’ recharging facilities to do the same for electric cars.
When it comes to survival in the face of continuing global financial uncertainty, several of this year’s Technology Pioneers offer their own approaches to stimulating the economy. A growing trend illustrated by RightScale is to offer free access to an open-source package that lets companies explore different options at practically no cost before deciding which solution is likely to have the best fit.
On a lighter note, Mind Candy, another of this year’s Technology Pioneers, shows how technology not only enhances creativity, but can also make learning fun, while acquainting young children with the social tools that they will eventually need to thrive and generate new opportunities in an increasingly crowded planet.
Since the World Economic Forum first launched the Technology Pioneers programme in 2000, more than 500 companies have been chosen for their adventurous efforts at testing the frontiers of current knowledge and pushing the envelope of what is possible.
The current selection focuses on an entrepreneurial spirit that proposes new solutions that enable individuals as well as corporations to sort their way through a dizzying array of choices to find the most effective answers to the critical questions that face us today. Some of these pioneers have developed ingenious ways of making scientific knowledge serve the greater public; others have developed ways to translate the latest technology advances into terms that are affordable in a time of financial uncertainty; and others have simply engaged in the sheer joy of creativity and natural curiosity. All of the companies selected here were nominated by their peers for their pioneering approach in finding new solutions.
When security is at stake a mix of solutions and a collaborative approach may be the best answer
Revelations about the use of Flame software to spy on computers throughout the Middle East, combined with reports that 34 leading US corporations, including Google, Northrup Grumman, Symantec and Dow Chemical, had had their networks penetrated by equally sophisticated software, serve as a wake-up call. Computer hacking has evolved from the playful pranks that software engineers used to play on one another to a more sophisticated level that is considerably more sinister. The growing threat of industrial espionage by professional criminals and potentially hostile groups over computer networks can no longer be ignored. To deal with the threat, security systems need to identify and monitor hidden system vulnerabilities while keeping track of millions of pieces of data and messages flowing over multiple networks. Even more important, the security system needs to correlate all this information and display it in an easy-to-understand format that will let a corporate security officer spot a stealth attack that by its very nature is designed to escape detection. The system also needs to constantly adjust itself to new attacks specifically designed to get around its existing defences.
AlienVault’s answer to this daunting set of challenges is its OSSIM (Open Source Security Information and Management) platform, which is designed to coordinate multiple security measures, while constantly monitoring the entire system for minute anomalies in ongoing traffic that may signal an unauthorized entry. Because the basic OSSIM package is open source and consequently free, a company can try out different features at practically no cost before deciding to commit to AlienVault’s more powerful commercial package. An important feature is the AlienVault Open Threat Exchange, which keeps its network of 18,000 members up to date on the late-breaking malware attacks as well as strategies for counteracting predatory code.
While total platform security is the domain of AlienVault, Lookout Mobile focuses on the weakest link in most communication networks, the individual smartphone or iPad. Mobile phone security has taken such a high priority lately, that the US State Department now advises American diplomats and corporate executives to remove the batteries from their smartphones before entering areas where they’re likely to be vulnerable to cyber attack. Mobile devices are easier to crack than laptop computers because they often rely on a simpler, less powerful ARM architecture to conserve batteries and reduce heat. It is difficult for these streamlined systems to handle the kind of sophisticated anti-virus software that protects laptops and desktop computers. With more than 200 million smartphones in circulation, a lost or misplaced phone that contains sensitive information can turn into both a personal and corporate disaster.
Lookout Mobile’s answer to the problem is a dedicated smartphone app that enables a user to wipe sensitive information from a phone as soon as it goes missing. Most phone security apps can do that but Lookout Mobile also encrypts and backs up the phone’s information to the cloud, so that it is possible to be up and running with a new phone almost instantly. Lookout’s system also displays a lost phone’s physical location on a Google map, but has an extra feature – by sending the phone a signal, the owner can make the phone howl, identifying its precise location by the sound. Lookout Mobile’s most important creature, however, is its Mobile Threat Network that keeps subscribers continuously alerted to the latest attempts to penetrate networks with predatory software.
While communications and network security are ongoing concerns, current technology is also making impressive strides in bioinformatics, which concentrates on untangling the complex relationships and connections that enable viruses and other diseases to attack the human body. California-based Ingenuity’s Variant Analysis and IPA (Ingenuity Pathways Analysis) Web-based software identifies and analyses individually modelled relationships between proteins, genes, complexes, cells, tissues, metabolites, drugs, and diseases. Similar to the collaborative approach applied by AlienVault, Ingenuity provides immediate access to a cumulative knowledge database which lets researchers compare their experimental results with millions of biochemical interactions recorded by other scientists during previous experiments.
Getting systems to work on the same wavelength
Closer to home, PassivSystem’s Chief Executive Officer and founder Colin Calder got the idea for his company when he tried to build a zero-carbon footprint house in Tuscany and discovered that none of the green energy systems he wanted to use were compatible with each other. Calder immediately saw the incompatibility as a business opportunity. The experience led him to design a networked control system relying on internal and external sensors that synchronizes the different sources of energy entering a house in order to get the maximum efficiency at the lowest cost. The system, which memorizes each house’s characteristics and updates information from the company’s servers, can be operated from anywhere by a smartphone app. A homeowner on holiday halfway around the world can get an instant reading on conditions inside and outside the house, and make adjustments accordingly. PassivSystems maintains that its system can save up to 23% or more on heating bills, which represent 80% of most households’ energy costs. At least 20,000 systems have been sold in Britain, and Calder sees the Middle East and Gulf States with their heavy dependence on air-conditioning as potential new clients.
Making technology accessible to a wider audience
It is no secret that the average smartphone today has more computing power than Nasa used when it landed an astronaut on the moon in 1969. The trick has been to make that power available at a price that the average person can afford. Technology Pioneer Tobii Technology has gone a long way towards doing just that with a system that uses an invisible beam of infrared light to track eye movements. Patients paralysed from the neck down can use Tobii’s equipment to steer a wheelchair, while victims of locked-in syndrome or advanced stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can move a cursor towards letters or icons on a screen simply by looking from one spot to another. The system can easily be used to simulate a synthetic voice, which lets many victims of paralysis communicate effectively for the first time since losing the power of speech. In one notable example, Tobii’s system enabled a bedridden Harvard professor, almost completely paralysed by ALS, to finish writing a significant work on emotions and psychiatry. The company’s latest system is being designed to work with Windows 8 and a PC, making it affordable to an even larger audience.
Promethean Power Systems’ co-founders Sorin Grama and Sam White’s contribution is a “thermal energy battery”, a system that retains cold for extended periods of time. The first application is a “milk chiller” for rural farmers in India. Once the unit’s coolant has been chilled with a few hours of electric power during the night, the chiller can keep milk at a steady 4C throughout the day. One of India’s largest private dairies immediately showed interest. It had previously been making twice-daily pick-ups from 8,000 villages and rushing the milk by motorcycle to central collection points. Milk can last four hours without refrigeration in India’s hot climate, but the dairy found that the trip to collection points could often take up to six hours. The chiller makes it practical for insulated trucks to collect a larger quantity of milk every other day. India annually loses an estimated US$ 10 billion worth of perishable food that goes bad because of exposure to heat, so Promethean’s relatively low-cost invention could have a revolutionary impact on the economy. Promethean’s co-founder Sam White sees a future in insulated containers using thermal battery technology to keep harvested vegetables cool for prolonged periods so that farmers can sell produce at a higher price later in the season.
In a similar vein, Azuri Technologies has focused its attention on African villages that are too remote to have any connection to an electric power grid. Azuri’s technology uses solar cells and the latest lithium battery technology to run two powerful LED lights for up to eight hours, eliminating the need for expensive kerosene lamps. What makes Azuri unique is its business model. Instead of selling the system, Azuri leases it at a cost that even poor villagers can afford. The basic equipment is available for a nominal fee, and the customer then leases time on it by purchasing scratch cards at a local village outlet. The customer registers the card by sending a mobile phone SMS to Azuri’s servers. A return SMS provides an unlock code that the customer enters on the unit’s control panel. The system is then operational for the period specified on the card. The cost for a week’s electric power is about US$ 1.25, roughly half the cost of using a kerosene lantern for the same period. Early reports indicate that the technology is already having a significant impact on primary education, with students in villages, where the system is currently being used, studying an extra two-and-a-half hours a night. The company’s long-range goal is to bring more aspects of 21st-century technology to remote areas currently off the grid.
Making machines adjust to people, instead of the other way around
Another encouraging trend among this year’s Technology Pioneers is the effort to simplify the interface between machines and people. This means designing machines to do more of the work. Israeli pioneer start-up PrimeSense has pushed the idea to the extreme with its algorithms, circuitry and hardware that equips a machine to react to human movements and gestures. PrimeSense licensed its raw technology to Microsoft, which incorporated the company’s new concepts in its Kinect system that provides the brains for the interactive Xbox 360 video game console. In PrimeSense’s version, a small box projects coded infrared dots at 60 cycles a second. These are captured by the system’s camera, and processed by three sets of algorithms, which decode the information and let the machine understand which objects are moving in front of it. Move your hand, and the system coordinates an image that moves on the screen. While the most current common spectacular use is in games, the approach could also be used for a variety of applications. As with Tobii, interaction-enabling technologies will allow robots and other machines the capacity and capability to interpret people’s gestures and to react in a relevant and appropriate manner. This type of innovation has the potential to significantly transform future services and products from a wide array of industries such as media and entertainment, healthcare and automotive, to name but a few.
On a different score, mc10 focuses on ultra-thin electronic circuits so flexible that they can be attached to the human body without being noticed. The actual integrated circuit is shaved from a block of silicon and then attached to mesh only a few microns thick. The result is a patch that can adhere to the body like a piece of Scotch tape. The patch can be used to keep continuous watch on various body functions, either to monitor a medical condition or to track body functions to enhance athletic performance. Applications can work on a variety of supports ranging from textiles to paper, wherever flexible electronic circuitry is needed.
Maximizing performance, minimizing waste
RightScale takes much of the risk out of choosing a cloud computing system by offering a free edition of its myCloud platform for developing and testing private cloud infrastructures. The open-source model is almost as revolutionary as the technology. The company makes its profit from services, once the cloud is up and running. Its specialty is fine-tuning servers to handle different types of data seamlessly while providing strategies that create as little downtime as possible.
Solar power systems are not without risks too. One big problem is the “Christmas light effect”, in which a single bad light knocks out an entire string of perfectly good lights. In a similar fashion, most solar systems are connected in series to an inverter that changes the power generated into electricity in a form that can be used. When a cell loses power, it reduces the output from other cells to the lowest common denominator. Tech Pioneer Enphase gets around this drawback by assigning a small micro inverter to each cell individually. The arrangement makes it possible to connect the cells in parallel and it also considerably reduces system weight and makes installing systems much easier. Enphase’s approach draws the maximum output from each cell, and uses a computer relying on a wide area network (WAN) to coordinate the output.
China’s Anhui LIGOO New Energy Technology provides an equally ingenious technology to manage multiple battery cells in electric vehicles. LIGOO’s BMS, or battery management system, measures the temperature and output in each cell of an automobile’s electric battery and computes the most efficient output while balancing the entire system. Getting it right is important since overly rapid charging or discharging can create a fire or explosion. LIGOO systems have been deployed in electric vehicles and in back-up electrical storage systems for ocean-going ships and other situations which need to draw on stored electrical power,
Technology Pioneer Transphorm sees its mission as increasing the efficiency of voltage conversion in electronic systems. While electric transmission lines are most effective at moving alternating current over long distances, most devices operate internally on direct current. Silicon-based converters manage only to transform about 85% of the electric power. The remaining 15% is lost in heat that can damage delicate electronics. By basing its converters on gallium nitride, Transphorm plans to capture 90% of the energy lost by the older silicon technology, significantly reducing excess heat. The company has targeted huge cloud computing servers for its first generation of converters and plans to adapt the technology to laptop and desktop computers. Transphorm claims that the technology, applied universally, could eventually save hundreds of terawatt-hours annually.
While maximizing efficiency of electricity usage and minimizing the amount of electricity lost is key to living in a more sustainable manner, it is also just as critical to minimize wastage and maximize efficiency of other kinds of energy, namely heat. Creating a barrier that keeps heat away from sensitive materials is the specialty of va-Q-tec, a pioneer in ultra-thin vacuum-insulated panels (VIP) that demonstrate an efficiency normally reserved for liquids in vacuum thermos bottles. va-Q-tec’s panels are made by extracting the air from lightweight porous carbon-gel panels and then sealing them. The isolation from heat or cold is about ten times as efficient as conventional insulation. The company’s technology is particularly useful in transporting sensitive pharmaceutical products and biological samples. It is also effective in protecting electronic circuits in confined spaces.
Cleaner and more efficient models for the planet
Liquid Robotics’ chief of innovative applications, Edward Lu, a former astronaut, often remarks that we know more about outer space than we do about the oceans on which most of life on Earth depends for survival. The company’s Wave Glider, which looks like a surf board packed with instruments, is trying to change that. Company founder Roger Hine got the idea when an investor asked him how he would track the migratory routes of humpback whales. The gliders, which rely on wave motion to maintain a speed of around 1.5 knots and count on solar energy to power transmitters that send data to overhead satellites, can carry out advanced ocean surveying for about US$ 3,000 a day, compared with the US$ 50,000 a day that a conventional research vessel requires to do the same job. BP, a recent client, used a Wave Glider to report on an 8,500-mile trip across the Gulf of Mexico. An added advantage is that any number of Wave Gliders can be networked together to provide instantaneous real-time information across a wide area, something that is difficult for any research vessel to handle on its own.
While the oceans play an important role as the world’s largest thermal batteries, they can also be a tantalizingly elusive source of fresh drinking water. Until now, desalinization has been fairly limited because of the cost and energy required to operate systems using reverse osmosis. The high-pressure pumps used to force water through micro pores and strip out the salt and other contaminants in most reverse osmosis systems only manage to recover 50% to 70% of the initial volume as fresh water. The rest is run off as toxic brine. Technology Pioneer Voltea, a spin-off from Unilever, has opted for an alternative approach known as CapDi, or Capacitive deionization. The process separates salt from water by passing water between positively and negatively charged electrodes that magnetically attract the ions naturally found in salt. Once the electrodes are saturated, the electric charge is reversed and the captured salt is repelled from the electrodes. Voltea’s system traps the released salt between two membranes and flushes it into a holding tank. Voltea says that it can recover 80% to 90% of the input as fresh water with considerably less waste than reverse osmosis. Even better, the system, which uses only a fraction of the energy, can be scaled from a small unit for laboratories or the home to an industrial operation, capable of desalinating thousands of cubic meters of water an hour.
Ethanol, which has proven to be a convenient source of renewable energy, nevertheless raises concerns about displacing agricultural production needed for food. LanzaTech may have found an answer to the problem by genetically engineering bacteria to create ethanol while feeding off carbon monoxide, a nasty byproduct of steel production, auto fumes and a variety of other industrial processes. The company’s patented microbe is anaerobic, so it does not function in plain air. Instead, it comes to life when immersed in a patented fermentation solution inside a bioreactor, which is then flooded with carbon monoxide gas piped in from a nearby industrial site. A chemical soup resulting from the fermentation process is then siphoned off and separated into ethanol and other chemicals that can be used in producing synthetic rubber and nylon. LanzaTech has been running a 100,000-gallon demonstration plant in China producing ethanol from carbon monoxide emitted by a steel plant. Two additional plants, each capable of producing 30 million gallons of ethanol, are planned in China by the end of 2013, and LanzaTech’s technology has been licensed to India for the conversion of solid waste into biofuel. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the USA has provided a US$ 3 million grant for studying the potential for use in aviation jet fuel and Virgin Atlantic has also been involved in talks about the economic viability of the process. By some estimates, the process could produce up to 50 billion gallons a year from the world’s steel mills alone.
Technology for an economic advantage
The sustainability of any technology depends to a large extent on sustainability in the marketplace. Several of this year’s Technology Pioneers offer disruptive innovations that promise to be economic game-changers. California-based Coulomb Technologies is betting that its technology will dramatically increase the practicality of electric automobiles by turning electric-charging stations into a powerful economic incentive for many businesses. Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Richard Lowenthal became interested in electric vehicles when he was mayor of Cupertino, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Technically savvy, Lowenthal had previously run a big division for Cisco as well as a number of successful start-ups. He says that a major focus of the company now is on developing viable business models for fuelling the electric auto industry. The plan is to pepper the state with electric-recharging stations that can easily be adapted to credit cards or to corporate employee incentive plans. As Lowenthal sees it, each car depends on at least two charging stations: one at home; one at work. A car park can use a station to draw in customers, or a big corporation can use it as an added employee perk that cuts the cost of commuting to practically nothing while saving the environment, not to mention California’s air quality. With the market for electric cars likely to take off as the US government tightens emission controls, Coulomb sees a promising future.
On a more classical retail note, shopkick sees its mission as nothing less than enabling traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to compete more effectively with online shopping. Company Chief Executive Officer Cyriac Roeding bases his strategy on linking smartphones to the retail shopping experience. Surveys indicate that the biggest challenge for any retailer is to get customers to physically enter the store. Once that happens, there is a 20% chance that a customer interested in fashion will make a purchase. For electronics, Roeding says, the odds for making a sale go up to 50%. For food they can be as high as 95%. Roeding’s solution is a mobile phone app that awards customers redeemable “kicks” for simply entering a store. An ultrasonic transmitter in each participating store sends coded signals to the phone. The app can track a customer’s movements through the store and additional kicks are given for scanning selected bar codes. The kicks can be redeemed for credit in participating stores or for incentives ranging from gift certificates or theatre tickets to downloadable songs on iTunes. shopkick, which has signed up more than a dozen discount chains and worked out a partnership arrangement with MasterCard, is now the fourth most popular shopping app in the USA, with more than 7,000 stores participating. It claims to have registered 8 million store entries since it went online in 2009.
Practice Fusion applies a similar free-offer approach to electronic medical records. Most doctors can see the advantage of consulting patient records, X-rays and test results online, but until now making the switch to go electronic has been costly and beyond the reach of many small medical practices. Incompatibility of competing systems can also be a problem along with the danger that the network may go down making crucially important records temporarily inaccessible. Practice Fusion’s business model is an advertiser-supported system that is completely free to participating doctors. The interface is sleek and intuitive enough for a beginner to be up and running in as little as five minutes. Ads are discreet and located at the bottom of the screen. Any subscriber who doesn’t want the ads can pay a nominal fee of about US$ 100 a month to have a completely clean version. Not surprisingly, doctors love the concept and Practice Fusion has emerged as one of the fastest growing electronic medical record (EMR) providers in the US, with an estimated 160,000 physicians and healthcare workers serving 35 million patients.
Teleconferencing start-up Vidyo bases its strategy on the fact that today’s smartphones, tablet computers and laptops are powerful enough to handle the kind of video processing that would have been unimaginable a decade ago, when the first smartphones were tentatively entering the market and the kind of network bandwidth required for a large-scale telepresence conference call could easily cost several hundred thousand dollars. Today a video call over Skype is virtually free, although the video quality is still not good enough for most professional purposes. Enter Vidyo, which has just launched an iPhone app capable of participating in a teleconference with up to four participants in high-definition video. The innovation makes it theoretically possible to join a teleconference while in a taxi on the way to an airport. In June 2012, Vidyo launched its Panoram program for telepresence, which is able to connect from three to 20 screens in a teleconference with high-definition 1080p video at 60 frames a second. The cost in bandwidth is only US$ 0.02 a minute, compared with US$ 6 a minute for many of the mainstream systems. Vidyo’s breakthrough technology is Adaptive Video Layering, based on the H264SVC (scalable video recording) compression standard, which enables the video stream to be adjusted to whichever end terminal is being used.
Pushing the envelope on creativity
SoundCloud, which was originally developed to create a platform for musicians to send samples of their work to other musicians, has gradually evolved into an all-purpose vehicle for exchanging almost any type of sound, like sharing an idea or thought on Facebook. Visual media has taken centre stage over the past few decades in the form of television and, more recently, online media. As a result, the concept of sound has taken a back seat in recent years. But SoundCloud hopes to reverse this, making sound an integral part of a complete online media package and experience. Users can record sounds, event or moments on their mobile phones and upload them to Facebook, Twitter or any supporting platform much as they would a status update.
Furthermore, as a platform for sharing music, SoundCloud lets musicians use their own URL for tracks, which makes the system ideal for promoting and distributing music. A graphic audio wave matches the playback so listeners can insert comments at the precise moment when the sound is being heard. Another attractive feature is that SoundCloud carries no advertising. Its founders rely on subscribers being so pleased with the product that they voluntarily sign up for a paid premium version to express their appreciation. It’s an extraordinary expression of confidence in the quality of the platform.
Mind Candy is the brainstorm of British entrepreneur Michael Acton Smith. The company’s web offering, Moshi Monsters, targets pre-teens from age 5 to 12. Children who sign on to the site can adopt a cute cartoon monster that serves as an avatar to interact with other monsters belonging to children who have the same age and outlook. Moshi Monsters can be used as proxies to play various games, visit friends and hold conversations, but their strong point is that they offer a safe way for young children to begin experimenting with online social networking. Acton Smith emphasizes that special software protects against potential predators. All conversations are in the open and the system is constantly monitored for behaviour that might be inappropriate. More than 60 million children have signed on since it went online in 2007. What are the advantages? Acton Smith sees the idea as one approach to what he calls “stealth learning”. Children acquire online skills through play without even being aware that they are actually learning. More important, he thinks that the site provides excellent training on how to approach social networking on sites such as Facebook, where online traffic is less protected and can turn out to be much more threatening.
Each of the companies designated as a Technology Pioneer 2013 has distinguished itself with a cutting-edge contribution to a big question facing the world today. In a sense, these companies have not only demonstrated bold entrepreneurial spirit by investing in the future of the planet, but also they are helping to define what that future is likely to be. In a broader sense, they are the future.
Profiles of the Technology Pioneers
Information Technologies, Telecommunications and New Media
- AlienVault Inc.
- Lookout Mobile Security Inc.
- Mind Candy Ltd
- PrimeSense Ltd
- RightScale Inc.
- shopkick Inc.
- SoundCloud Ltd
- Tobii Technology Ltd
- Vidyo Inc.
Energy and Environment
- Anhui LIGOO New Energy Technology Co. Ltd
- Azuri Technologies Ltd
- Coulomb Technologies Inc.
- Enphase Energy Inc.
- LanzaTech Inc.
- Liquid Robotics Inc.
- PassivSystems Ltd
- Promethean Power Systems Pvt. Ltd
- Transphorm Inc.
- va-Q-tec AG
- Voltea Ltd
Life Sciences and Health
- Ingenuity Systems Inc.
- mc10 Inc.
- Practice Fusion Inc.
Twenty-three companies have been selected as the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers 2013.
They come from three main categories: Information Technologies, Telecommunications and New Media, Energy and Environment and Life Sciences and Health. Candidate companies are nominated by Members, constituents and collaborators of the World Economic Forum, as well as by the larger public. A selection committee, comprised of top technology and innovation experts from around the world, reviews all candidate companies and makes a recommendation to the World Economic Forum, which then takes the final decision. Technology Pioneers are chosen on the basis of the following criteria:
- Innovation: The company must be truly innovative. A new version or repackaging of an already well accepted technological solution does not qualify as an innovation. The innovation and commercialization should be recent. The company should invest significantly in R&D.
- Potential impact: The company must have the potential to have a substantial long-term impact on business and/or society.
- Growth and sustainability: The company should demonstrate the potential to be a long-term market leader and should have well-formulated plans for future development and growth.
- Proof of concept: The company must have a product on the market or have proven practical applications of the technology. Companies in “stealth” mode and with untested ideas or models do not qualify.
- Leadership: The company must have visionary leadership that plays a critical role in driving the company towards reaching its goals.
- Finally, the company must not currently be a Member of the World Economic Forum. This criterion applies to the parent company; thus, wholly owned subsidiaries of large firms are not eligible.
Information Technologies, Telecommunications and New Media
1875 S. Grant Street, Suite 110
San Mateo, CA 94402
AlienVault: A collaborative approach to network security
Industrial espionage over the Internet is evolving quickly and no single security system has all the answers. In today’s world, no mid-level to large company can afford not to employ a SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) system.
AlienVault’s unique contribution is an open-source platform that integrates a broad range of security tools while providing an interface that enables network security officers to track vulnerabilities, assets and prevention measures at a single glance. AlienVault’s open-source OSSIM (Open Source Security Information Management) platform enables centralized control over a wide range of company enterprise networks, and not only tracks open attempts to penetrate the system, but also spots any anomalies in habitual usage. An upgraded commercial version provides forensic logging. Because the public version of OSSIM is open-source and can be implemented for free, a company can experiment with the system fundamentals at practically no cost before fully committing to AlienVault’s more sophisticated commercial system.
A significant feature of AlienVault’s approach is its AlienVault Open Threat Exchange, which constantly updates information on security threats and the latest strategies from 18,000 OSSIM users. The system immediately warns its members of the latest threats and advises on the most effective counter strategy.
LOOKOUT MOBILE SECURITY
Lookout Mobile Security Inc.
1 Front Street, Suite 2700
San Fransisco, CA 94111
Lookout Mobile Security: How to keep mobile devices safe and secure
The estimated 200 million smartphones currently in circulation are gradually taking over many of the traditional functions of a laptop computer. But because smartphones rely on simplified circuitry to save battery power, they can also be the weak link in any organization’s security system. A lost phone that contains sensitive information can be catastrophic not only for the phone’s owner, but also for the corporation. Currently more than 60 apps on the market offer some degree of protection for lost phones, but Lookout Mobile has emerged as not only one of the most comprehensive approaches, but also the one that is the most intuitive to use. Its geotracking system recovered an astonishing 9 million lost phones last year. The company offers an advertising-supported free app for basic protection, but its premium service offers the best chance at retrieving lost data.
As well as backing contacts and addresses to the cloud, the standard geotracking for a lost phone and the ability to remotely wipe and lock a stolen phone’s memory, the company offers its Mobile Threat Tracker. The tracker blocks “phishing” and malware attempts, and alerts subscribers to the latest threats on the network, including the three most dangerous pieces of malware encountered by Lookout in the previous week. By checking into an admin portal on the Web, phone owners can also have their phones scanned for hostile attempts at intrusion. Lookout’s intense focus on mobile phone security may be the best protection yet against what The New York Times calls “nomophobia”, the widespread fear of suddenly finding that your smartphone has gone missing.
Mind Candy Ltd
56 Shoreditch High Street
London, E1 6JJ
Mind Candy: Learning about the online world through cartoon monsters
Mind Candy’s Internet website, Moshi Monsters, is designed specifically for the 5- to 12-year-old set. Kids who sign on are invited to adopt an adorable cartoon “monster” as their online avatar. They can then take care of it, outfit its home with furniture, purchase items with a monster currency called “rox”, play any of the 35 online games and puzzles and begin to social network with the avatar monsters of friends. Chief Executive Officer Michael Acton Smith thinks that the website not only makes learning fun, a phenomenon that he refers to as “stealth learning”, but also he feels that it helps to prepare kids for the harsher reality of more mature social networking sites such as Facebook.
As for concerns about children spending too much time on the computer, Acton Smith points out that given the reality of the pervasiveness of technology today, it is best to let children start learning how to manoeuvre in the system at an early age. Well aware of the dangers of predatory hangers-on, Moshi Monsters keeps all communications in the system clearly visible and special software scans the system for inappropriate behaviour. Since Moshi Monsters went online in 2008, 60 million kids have signed on to the system.
28 Habarzel Street
69710 Tel Aviv
PrimeSense: Getting machines to understand and respond to the way you move
Just about everyone has seen a version of Microsoft’s Kinect, the magic box that enables an Xbox 360 video game console to transform a player’s physical movements into virtual reality on the other side of the screen. The raw technology and algorithms that enable the system to see movement and react appropriately were designed by PrimeSense, a small Tel-Aviv-based start-up that is determined to make computers respond to the physical gestures of users instead of the other way around.
PrimeSense’s interface projects thousands of invisible red dots across a room at 60 cycles a second. It then uses three complementary methods to create a 3D model of the space in front of it and any motion that takes place within range. The system can identify two or more people at a time, depending on the processing power available. At its most basic, it can eliminate the need for a remote. The technology is sensational in games. Swing a baseball bat or a tennis racket and an Xbox will make an imaginary ball come to life and fly into left field or bounce across the court on the screen in front of you.
The technology promises more than games, however. The Massachusetts Institute of technology has listed gestural interfacing as one of the key disruptive technologies of the future. PrimeSense’s algorithms may turn out to be the key ingredient that makes it possible for future robots to operate with true autonomy. The system is already being used in retail to sell clothing online. After a potential shopper has his or her body scanned to determine the proper size, they can try on clothes virtually by simply turning around in front of a screen. The screen image trying on the clothing chosen mirrors the shopper’s movements. If the shopper likes how it looks, he or she can order online.
402 E. Gutierrez Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
RightScale: Getting the cloud right
In theory, computing on the cloud offers enormous advantages, but the absence of a standard API (application progamming interface) means that developers who work on a cloud architecture can find themselves locked into a restrictive set of software. Companies that try to develop their own cloud can suddenly discover that their software is incompatible with other servers. RightScale’s solution is to offer its free edition of myCloud, a management platform for private and hybrid cloud computing, and then to act as a consultant to get the system up and running. While myCloud gives organizations a framework for developing and testing private cloud infrastructures at practically no risk, Rightscale says that the real profit comes from the service end of the industry, and specifically in designing a strategy for arriving at the most effective system.
RightScale’s co-founder, Michael Crandell, began his career with clouds by designing software for Amazon’s cloud efforts, and he quickly focused on the importance of being able to organize cloud resources quickly to handle large amounts of traffic with as few complications as possible. The goal is to equip companies to manage their own clouds, rather than outsourcing to external providers. An important consideration is to create an architecture that makes it easy to move to a different cloud system if necessary. A company that fails to get it right, Crandell warns, can easily find itself an accidental tourist in the cloud, and that can be costly.
558 Waverley Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
shopkick: Getting a kick from market retailing
Retail stores regularly use bonus points as an incentive. The problem is that these loyalty programmes usually involve collecting coupons or relying on plastic membership cards that are easily lost. shopkick simplifies the process by assigning the bonus point bookkeeping and ID functions to a free smartphone app that immediately begins adding up “kicks” as soon as the customer walks into the store. The app detects signals from a small, brick-sized transmitter that bounces ultrasonic waves off the store’s walls, giving each store a unique identifying interference pattern.
The company claims that its app, launched in 2009, is now one of the fourth most popular shopping apps after Amazon, eBay and Google. At least 3.5 million people have tried it in about 7,000 stores across the USA, with 8 million store entries recorded and more than 1 billion items scanned. The kicks can either be redeemed as credit at participating retailers or they can be exchanged electronically for downloadable songs, movie tickets or other incentive giveaways. Store rewards are counted up in the app and then displayed on the smartphone, which the shopper can show to the store’s cashier for credit or a reward. shopkick’s network includes a dozen leading discount retailers, and it recently signed a partnership with MasterCard to link credit card accounts to the shopkick app. Consumers receive 250 bonus points for each MasterCard they link to shopkick. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Cyriac Roeding says it is “the most powerful coalition rewards program in the US”.
13 Rosenthaler Strasse
SoundCloud: Sound-sharing platform for professionals and amateurs alike
When the Swedish musicians Alex Ljung and Eric Wahlforss founded SoundCloud in 2007 they were primarily interested in creating an Internet application that would let their fellow musicians share and talk about their latest work. They basically wanted to do for music what Flickr had accomplished for photography. Before long, their original concept had evolved into a full-blown online publishing platform not only for musicians but for anyone interested in sound. Among other things, the site carries podcasts of The New Yorker magazine’s weekly commentary on politics, and the London Sound Survey recently uploaded a recording of bats mating in a reservoir. In contrast to competing sites such as MySpace, SoundCloud lets sound creators upload sound files with their own URL, effectively making the site an excellent distribution platform.
The interface shows a waveform of the music or sound as it is played, and users can leave comments on any part of the track for others to see. The files can be embedded anywhere and are easy to list on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, which makes distribution to specific audiences much simpler than with other platforms. A SoundCloud API (application programming interface) automates downloading on iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones. The API has also been integrated into a number of professional applications. In place of advertising, the company depends on users signing up for paid-for premium services. One testimony to the site’s popularity is that both Paul McCartney and 50 Cent have recently released singles on SoundCloud.
Tobii Technologies Ltd
P.O. Box 743
Tobii Technology: The look that circumvents paralysis
When the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History of Time, suffered near total paralysis from a neurological disorder related to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), he was able to continue to make significant contributions to science thanks to a sophisticated computerized synthetic voice that is now fairly recognizable to the wider public. That kind of technology, which only a few years ago would have been prohibitively expensive, is now available for a fraction of the price, thanks to Swedish-based Tobii, which has created a system that uses an infrared beam to track the movement of the cornea in a user’s eyes in order to move a cursor around a computer screen, much the way you might use a computer mouse. A patient suffering from locked-in syndrome or ALS can communicate simply by looking at icons on a Tobii flatscreen.
The system can also be used to steer a wheelchair. As with Hawking’s hardware, the Tobii system enables users to express themselves with a synthetic voice or to type text on a computer screen. A Harvard professor, nearly totally paralyzed by ALS, has been using the Tobii equipment to finish writing a book. As costs come down, the system may have other applications for users not suffering from paralysis. Tobii has also showcased a video game in which players were invited to destroy asteroids menacing Earth simply by looking at them. People who tried the game said that the effect reminded them eerily of comic book hero Superman’s famous X-ray vision. However, the wider practicalities and uses of this technology go even further as Tobii begins to explore its technology’s applications in healthcare, automotive, advertising and media industries, amongst others.
433 Hackensack Avenue
Hackensack, NJ 07601
Vidyo: High-quality videoconferencing on multiple platforms
Anyone who wants to check into a videoconference while in a taxi en route to the airport will appreciate Vidyo’s lightweight videoconferencing infrastructure, which transmits high-definition images to multiple endpoints ranging from desktop computer terminals to the iPhone4, iPad2 and even an iPod touch. Vidyo’s secret is its Adjustable Video Layering technology, which takes advantage of the latest H264SVC (scalable video coding) compression standard. While traditional videoconferencing relied on a central device known as a Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), which processed a different video stream for each type of end point, Vidyo sends out a layered video signal that can automatically adapt to every type of end terminal.
One of the company’s recent innovations is an app that allows up to four participants to hold a high-definition videoconference using iPhones. In Vidyo’s approach, much of the video processing formerly handled by the MCU is transferred to the computer or smartphone at the end of the line. A decade ago that might have been problematic because phones lacked the versatility to handle video signals, but most of today’s smartphones, which are essentially small computers, are powerful enough to handle the additional processing. While large-scale videoconferencing systems, known in the business as telepresence systems, can easily cost several hundred thousand dollars, the equipment for similar high-quality videoconferencing, using Vidyo’s system, costs only a fraction as much. A teleconference transmission that used to cost US$ 6 a minute can be as inexpensive as US$ 0.02 a minute because of the Vidyo’s reduced bandwidth requirements.
Energy and Environment
Anhui LIGOO New Energy Technolgy Co. Ltd
28 Hehuan Road
230000 Hefei, Anhui
People’s Republic of China
Anhui LIGOO New Energy Technology: Getting the most from mobile electric power
An intelligent battery management system, usually referred to as a BMS, constitutes the essential nervous system of any electric-powered vehicle. Overcharging or uncontrolled discharging can lead to fire or, in the worst case, an explosion. LIGOO’s BMS extracts the maximum power from a multi-cell system by measuring the precise level of each cell and adjusting the battery drain to get the maximum output, while ensuring that the entire system stays within safe limits.
LIGOO’s technology has been used to expand efficiency and improve safety for battery management ranging from electric cars and other vehicles to smart grid power supplies and mobile telecommunications systems. Basically, any technology that requires the monitoring, management and protection of high capacity energy storage systems is likely to benefit from a LIGOO BMS system. The company’s systems can also be expanded for large-scale industrial electrical backup.
LIGOO has managed to reconfigure a Porsche Cayenne to run on electric batteries and on a different project, the company provided a US merchant ship with a solar power array that powers lighting at night and served as an emergency backup when the ship’s main electric generators needed to go offline. LIGOO’s control panels, fitted into a cabinet in the ship’s central control room, providing real-time information on the ship’s available electrical power on a continuing basis without requiring additional maintenance from the crew.
Azuri Technologies Ltd
St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road
Cambridge, CB4 0WS
Azuri Technologies: Bringing light to rural areas
An estimated 1.6 billion people in the world have no access to electric power. Their main source of light after nightfall is kerosene, which is not only toxic in enclosed spaces, but also dumps an estimated 190 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year and can cost a family mired in poverty up to 30% of its earnings. Azuri Technologies’ solution is to rent solar-powered lighting to poor communities at an affordable rate. Villagers, cut off from electric power, can rent an Azuri system consisting of a solar charger and two powerful LED lights. They then purchase scratch cards in a local store and send the card’s number by mobile phone SMS to Azuri’s servers, which return an SMS with a code that unlocks the system for a designated rental period. A week’s power can cost as little as US$ 1.25. A bonus is that the system can also charge a mobile phone. Azuri’s basic kit can keep the lights on for up to eight hours. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Bransfield-Garth says that a typical routine is to use the light for four hours at night and then for another two hours in the early morning. Four thousand sets have been sold in Kenya so far and Azuri plans to boost those sales to 20,000 sets across Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa soon. Eventually the system will be offered in other developing countries, including India. One immediate effect of the system’s availability in Kenya is that school students spend an additional two-and-a-half hours a night doing homework. By drastically reducing the cost of basic lighting, Azuri hopes to help isolated villages escape poverty and begin to enjoy some of the advantages of 21st-century living.
Coulomb Technologies Inc.
1692 Dell Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008
Coulomb Technologies: Enhancing wide scale feasibility for electric transport
There are many ways to charge a battery. Coulomb Technologies is interested in the incentive end of the equation and hopes to provide enough incentives for businesses to make charging stations widely available. Coulomb’s Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Richard Lowenthal first became interested in electric vehicles when he was mayor of Cupertino and received an electric Toyota Rav 4 as part of a California state policy aimed at subsidizing alternative fuels for official use. The state legislature eventually reversed itself, and Lowenthal lost his electric car, but the idea stuck. Convinced that if electric cars are to make it, their future has to be based on market realities not policies imposed by fickle legislatures, Lowenthal decided to focus on creating a profit-incentive that would be attractive enough to get independent businesses passionately involved in contributing to a comprehensive network of recharging stations. The long range goal: save California’s environment by making electric cars a reality, something that is not likely to happen until drivers can feel confident that they will be able to recharge their car’s batteries away from home. Coulomb’s charging stations are designed to be used in housing complexes, car parks and by corporations that see the service as a perk for staff employees who can virtually eliminate commuting costs by charging their cars at the office. Lowenthal says that when he drives his Chevy Volt to San Francisco, he uses an app on his iPhone to see which garage offers charging. The cost is likely to be only US$ 2, while parking fees can be as high as US$ 30 or more. For car parks, the charge stations can be a powerful incentive to attract more business. Lowenthal says that three out of four Coulomb Technologies engineers are experts at business software. Their ultimate objective: create a sustainable business model that could save the planet.
Enphase Energy Inc.
1420 N. McDowell Boulevard
Petaluma, CA 94954
Enphase Energy: Getting the most from solar arrays
A big stumbling block in the efficient use of solar power is the familiar “Christmas tree light” effect. When a bulb in a string goes out, it cuts power to the other lights on the string. Most solar systems are connected in series to an inverter that transforms the direct current output into usable alternating current. A panel that is inadvertently in the shade, or has suffered damage, can reduce the overall output to the lowest common denominator. Enphase successfully bypasses this problem by installing a micro-inverter on each solar panel so the system can be connected in parallel. If one panel drops out, the rest of the system continues to put out maximum power. Enphase manages the entire system through a standard WAN (wide area network).
Enphase’s technology has arrived not a moment too soon. Solar power companies are anxious to cut costs to survive cut-backs in government subsidies in the current global financial slowdown. Installing the much lighter micro inverters not only boosts overall output, but also reduces installation costs when it comes to setting up roof-top solar systems for the home. The market apparently agrees. Enphase currently accounts for 28% of residential solar systems in California, and for 16% of California’s commercial systems. The total worldwide inverter market is now estimated at US$ 7 billion.
LanzaTech NZ Ltd
24 Balfour Road
1052 Parnell, Auckland
LanzaTech: Producing ethanol from bacteria that thrives on carbon monoxide
LanzaTech’s breakthrough technology employs genetically modified bacteria that can convert carbon monoxide into ethanol while also producing other useful chemicals. The company’s synthetic organism is anaerobic, which means that although it thrives on industrial exhaust fumes, it cannot function in plain air containing oxygen. The technology uses a bioreactor containing a proprietary solution, which supports genetically engineered bacteria that feeds off of exhaust fumes from industrial production, waste and biomass. Carbon monoxide is fed into the system and the microbes interact to create a chemical broth, which is then processed to separate ethanol and butanediol. The latter can be used in rubber and nylon production.
The system achieves a double objective. It captures a key greenhouse gas before reaching the atmosphere and it avoids depleting finite petroleum reserves by providing an inexpensive fuel from a waste product that is not only in abundant supply, but is also considered a nuisance. An initial target is the exhaust given off by steel plants. LanzaTech has a demonstration plant producing 100,000 gallons of ethanol from carbon monoxide emanating from a Chinese steel plant, and it has licensed the technology to a company in India to convert solid waste for biofuels. At least two additional sites in China, each capable of producing 30 million gallons of ethanol, are planned for the end of 2013. Talks are under way to provide jet fuel for Virgin Atlantic, and the US Federal Aviation Authority has provided a US$ 3 million grant to push the research forward. Estimates are that carbon monoxide given off by the world’s steel mills alone could eventually be capable of producing 50 billion gallons of ethanol a year.
Liquid Robotics Inc.
1329 Moffett Parc Drive
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Liquid Robotics: Harnessing clean wave power to explore and scan the ocean
Liquid Robotics’ Wave Glider offers to dramatically alter that situation by offering ocean-going research for as little as US$ 3,000 a day. When deployed in an interconnecting network, the Wave Gliders, which are essentially instrument-packed, self-propelled surf boards, can cover a much vaster area than a more expensive research vessel, and they can upload their findings to satellites in real-time. Each Wave Glider is powered by a bank of solar cells on its deck, which provides power to onboard computers that feed data to overhead satellites. A bank of fins that looks like water-logged venetian blinds dangle beneath the surface and are attached to the board by a 20-ft long strap. As the glider crosses a wave, the fins pull it forward at the speed of roughly 1.5 knots. The data collected can range from information about oil spills to the migratory habits of fish or critical information on ocean currents.
The company got its start when founder Roger Hine was asked to develop a means of tracking humpback whales. An early client was NOAA, the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. James Gosling, the inventor of the computer language Java, is in charge of software engineering and eventually wants to network multiple Wave Gliders to provide information on larger ocean areas in real time. The Wave Glider has enormous potential to contribute to our knowledge of climate change. The oceans effectively act as enormous thermal batteries, a fact that is easily seen in the dramatic weather changes that follow El Niño effect, which results from the buildup of warm water off the western coast of South America. A better reading on exactly what is happening to ocean currents could have a huge impact on improving our ability to get advanced warning of severe weather before it happens.
Medway House, Newbury Business Park
Newbury, West Berkshire RG14 2PZ
PassivSystems: Maximize your home’s energy efficiency from a smartphone
Trying to achieve a zero carbon footprint requires mastering multiple technologies, which, in most cases, are likely to be incompatible with each other. PassivSystems not only simplifies the coordination of different sources of energy, but also it can be controlled by a smart phone app while away from home. More than just turning on and off heating and electric lights, the system employs indoor and outdoor sensors to monitor current conditions. It also memorizes a house’s normal routine to calculate the optimum energy usage with price information and other relevant data obtained from external servers. At least 20,000 systems have been sold in the Great Britain where heating, which accounts for about 80% of household energy use, depends primarily on imported gas.
If you return home from work at roughly the same time every day, the system will calculate the precise moment to begin heating the house to its optimum temperature. The company estimates that its system reduces energy costs by 23% or more. Colin Calder, who designed the system, came up with the idea when he tried to build a house with a zero carbon footprint in Tuscany. Calder found it almost impossible to make the available green technologies work together, and he saw the chaos as a business opportunity. “Sometimes you stumble across something that is so big that you have to act,” he says. Although the system has primarily been sold in England so far, Calder sees a large potential market in the Middle East where air-conditioning can be an important expense item.
PROMETHEAN POWER SYSTEMS
Promethean Power Systems Pvt. Ltd
T3/T4, Arvind Rachana
411004, Pune, India
Promethean Power: Cool solution for poor rural farmers
Keeping milk chilled hardly sounds like cutting-edge technology, but in India the economic implications are enormous. Hatsun, one of India’s largest private dairies, buys from 10,000 small dairy farmers. Since India’s electric power grid is erratic in rural areas, the milk is collected twice a day and rushed by motorcycle to central chilling stations to be collected by trucks. Because of India’s hot climate, the milk usually has four hours to reach the station before it goes bad. The problem is that the trip can often take up to six hours. Promethean’s co-founders, Sorin Grama and Sam White, designed a chiller that works essentially as a thermal battery. The system uses electricity from the grid during off-peak hours to cool a patented solution flowing through coils around a holding tank. The chilled solution, which resists changes in temperature, remains sufficiently cold to keep the milk at 4C throughout the day. With Promethean’s chiller, villagers can keep milk from going bad for up to two days, long enough to collect a sufficient quantity to make it economically viable for a truck with thermal insulation to collect the milk every other day.
The cost for a chiller with installation is currently about US$ 9,000. Promethean sees the chiller as only the beginning. India loses an estimated US$ 10 billion a year in spoiled food. A chilled storage container for produce would enable farmers to keep vegetables for sale off-season when market prices are higher. Promethean’s Co-Founder Sam White says: “It is harder to find a larger untapped market than this.”
115 Castilian Drive
Goleta, CA 93117
Transphorm: New power conversion breakthrough
Many appliances and electrical devices, ranging from radios to television sets and computers, depend on silicon semiconductors to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC). While AC is efficient in long-range transmission of electric power, direct current is more effective in powering the internal circuits that make an electrical device actually work, especially when it comes to computers. The problem is that silicon-based converters succeed in capturing only about 85% of the AC input. The rest dissipates as heat, which can cause havoc with delicate electronic circuitry. Transphorm’s Chief Executive Officer, Umesh Mishra contends that roughly 10% of the electricity in the US is lost in energy conversion. Replacing silicon with gallium nitride (GaN) could capture up to 90% of the remaining 10%-15% that dissipates as heat. The result is not only a savings in electrical power, but also a reduction in the need for additional cooling devices, including fans, that are often needed to keep electronic circuits from overheating.
While gallium nitride appears to have substantial advantages, it can also prove extremely challenging to work with. For one thing, gallium nitride can’t be mined; it must be chemically grown on a foreign substrate which can be a tricky process, particularly when high quality standards need to be met. Transphorm realizes that it is breaking into a completely new technology that will take time to penetrate the market, so the company plans initially to manufacture its own chips. It is targeting large mainframe servers as its first clients. After that, it will consider notebook computers, PV inverters and eventually automakers. One factor in Transphorm’s favour is that gallium nitride is already used in manufacturing white LEDs, so some tools for its production are already available.
va-Q-tec: VIP, when the objective is to stay cool
The acronym VIP usually refers to a “Very Important Person.” In the refrigeration business it stands for Vacuum Insulation Panel, which can be just as important. The idea is to wrap a porous material in film and then draw the air out, creating a sealed vacuum inside. The finished panel acts like a thermos bottle for liquids. In va-Q-tec’s application a VIP provides roughly 10 times the heat blockage of standard insulation, and all that comes in a panel that is amazingly thin and lightweight. A vacuum panel only 20mm thick provides the same thermal insulation as 20cm of conventional foam or fibre insulation. The obvious importance is where space is severely restricted, especially in electronics, but the panels can also provide an advantage with everything from refrigerated trucks to storage containers or even household and building insulation. An especially critical application is the transport of medicines, vaccines, blood products and other substances that are highly sensitive to temperature change.
Another va-Q-tec innovation is the rental of insulated shipping containers, which enables companies to take advantage of vac-Q-tec’s latest technology without the need for a huge capital expenditure. To make certain that a temperature-sensitive transport strategy really works in the field, vac-Q-tec helps clients with trial shipments and post-shipment analyses, and it can provide equipment to ensure sensitive temperature monitoring during shipment. Logistics planning, forecasting tracking and maintenance are also available along with a Technology Transfer Package that provides enough information to enable companies to smoothly transition to vac-Q-tec’s technology with minimal time and effort.
2171 AE Sassenheim
Voltea: An inexpensive approach to desalinization
There is an irony in the fact that three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but in many places fresh water for human consumption is in short supply. Desalinization using reverse osmosis is one solution, but it requires enormous amounts of energy, and the equipment is costly and hard to maintain. Voltea has opted for a different approach known as CapDi (Capacitive Deionization).The process involves passing water with an unacceptable salt content between two electrodes and magnetically separating the salt and other impurities. The ions in the salt and other impurities are drawn to the electrodes, effectively separating them from the water. Once the electrodes are fully saturated, the current is reversed and the salt is repelled from the electrodes. It is then trapped between membranes and flushed out of the system as salty brine. The desalinization process begins again. Since the system effectively acts as a capacitor, storing an electrical charge, it is possible to conserve energy by controlling the discharge during the regeneration process.
Voltea says it can purify from 80% to 90% of the water passing through the system, compared with only 50% to 70% for reverse osmosis systems. As a result, CapDi produces far less salt-brine as waste. Another advantage is that no chemicals are needed, so there is less danger of toxic pollution. The system is scalable from small models suitable for household or laboratory use up to industrial versions capable of producing thousands of cubic meters of fresh water an hour.
Life Sciences and Health
Ingenuity Systems Inc.
1700 Seaport Boulevard
Redwood City, CA 94063
Ingenuity Systems: Finding hidden connections in the genome
Ingenuity Systems, founded by a group of former Stanford graduate students, develops pioneering software at the cutting edge of bioinformatics. The company’s Variant Analysis and IPA (Ingenuity Pathways Analysis) Web-based software are especially adept at identifying causal variants in the omic data that is emerging from whole genome sequencing and exome sequencing experiments. IPA is currently used by nearly all leading pharmaceutical companies. Its strong point is its ability to interactively analyse vast amounts of data from a variety of platforms and to visualize a set of results from different perspectives. Experimental data can also be compared with biological interactions in Ingenuity’s Knowledge database, which contains the records of millions of individually modelled relationships between proteins, genes, complexes, cells, tissues, metabolites, drugs and diseases.
Ingenuity’s iReport for Real-Time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) provides a rapid and comprehensive understanding of pathways, processes and diseases relevant to gene expression. The company’s long-range focus is on enhancing the understanding of complex biological and chemical relationships within experimental data or models, as well as integrating biological information from multiple data types and sources. The tools that have emerged from Ingenuity’s research are designed to spot connections that will provide crucial insights needed to develop effective treatment for diseases previously classified as incurable. Experimental results can be compared with millions of biochemical interactions recorded in earlier experiments which are accessible through the Ingenuity Knowledge database.
36 Cameron Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
mc10: Wearable electronic circuits that conform to the body
Miniaturization has led to smaller and smaller devices, but as MC10’s Chief Executive Officer David Icke, points out, the end result is often just a smaller version of the rigid bricks we’ve always used. The reason is that the integrated circuits at the heart of all electronics continue to be encased in hard silicon wafers. The wafer’s thickness is intended to keep the circuit inside from breaking. MC10 is reversing the process by stripping off an ultra-thin layer of silicon containing the integrated circle and then connecting it to a mesh of nano ribbons that can stretch or bend like spandex. As a result, a tiny biopatch, only 5 microns thick, can adhere to the skin like an ultra-thin Band-Aid that looks more like a discrete tattoo than an electronic monitoring device. The uses for this technology based on research by Illinois University’s John Rogers and Harvard’s George Whiteside, are practically infinite. A barely noticeable skin patch can continuously monitor the blood sugar level of a type II diabetes patient or the temperature of a newborn baby. Flexible sensors can be attached to smart stents or used inside the body to continuously monitor the status of vital organs. A flexible net installed inside the skull can alert sufferers of epilepsy in advance of an impending attack. In a similar vein, athletes can use the patches to keep a constant check on their body’s reaction to different performance levels. MC10 is able to weave the circuits into any kind of flexible support. “We are material agnostic” says Icke. The idea is to make the electronic circuit conform to the shape of the human body rather than forcing the body to adapt to a rigid structure.
Practice Fusion Inc.
420 Taylor Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Practice Fusion: Free medical records on the cloud
Hardly anyone questions the added value of taking medical records online these days, but several factors still make some physicians hesitate. An integrated system can cost US$ 30,000 or more, and there is no guarantee that it will work. The danger of running into network downtime when critically important records may not be accessible is another consideration.
San Francisco-based Practice Fusion seeks to overcome these obstacles with a new business model that offers a sleekly designed, Web-based electronic health record system that is free of charge. The company intends to make profits through advertising that appears in a mildly intrusive banner at the bottom of the screen. Physicians who don’t want the advertisement can pay a nominal subscription for a premium service that costs about US$100 a month. The company claims that the system is designed to be user-friendly enough for a new subscriber to be up and running within five minutes. A heavy emphasis has been placed on making sure that the computer network is running 99% of the time.
Practice Fusion is already one of the fastest-growing EMR suppliers in the USA, with more than 160,000 clients serving about 35 million patients. Besides offering free medical records, the service also includes electronic prescriptions and referral letters, and it guarantees to transmit critical medical data, such as X-rays, free to any assisting physician in the country.
Technology Pioneers Selection Committee
The World Economic Forum would like thank all of the following experts for their contributions during the selection process.
University of Southern California (USC)
Professor of Medicine and Director, USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine
Science, Technology and Innovation Council
Chair and President
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Marthin de Beer
Senior Vice-President, General Manager, Emerging Technologies Group
World Economic Forum
Managing Director, Chief Technology Officer
Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
World Economic Forum
Senior Director, Head of Energy Industries
Professor and Faculty Director, Stanford Technology Ventures Programme
Politecnico Di Torino
Professor, Department of Management and Production Engineering (DIGEP)
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
People’s Republic of China
George F. Colony
Forrester Research Inc.
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Kevin E. Comolli
Vice-President, PC Innovation Lab
Global Head of Ventures
SAS Institute Inc.
Global Head of Strategy
EDventure Holdings Inc.
World Economic Forum
Director, Head of Media, Entertainment and Information Industries
BT Group Plc
Managing Director, External Innovation
Chief Executive Officer and President
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd
Vice-President, Business Innovation
Global EV Leader
HackFwd GmbH & Co. KG
Founder and Executive Geek
Co-Founder and Partner
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd
People’s Republic of China
BT Innovate & Design
Vice-President, Business Development External Innovation
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
Director, Science Technology and Globalization
Alcatel-Lucent Bell Laboratories
President, Bell Labs and Chief Strategy Officer
Intel Technology India Pvt. Ltd
Senior Managing Director, Intel Capital
MIT, Department of Chemical Engineering
Rodolfo Lara Torres
World Economic Forum
Director, Head of Europe and Latin America Membership
Vice-President, Intel Capital, and Managing Director
Loic Le Meur
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Corporate Vice-President for Strategic and Emerging Business
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
Distinguished Professor, Director and Dean
Republic of Korea
Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd
President, Central Research & Development
People’s Republic of China
Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Arup Group Ltd
Director, Global Foresight and Innovation
World Economic Forum USA
Senior Director, Head of Information Technology and Telecommunications Industries
Chief Information Officer
Global Chairman, Information, Communications and Entertainment
Andrew S. Maynard
University of Michigan
Director, Risk Science Center
Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer
World Economic Forum USA
Senior Director, Head of Mobility Industries
TCG Advisors LLC
Girish V. Nadkarni
Managing Director and Head of Technology Ventures
Senior Vice-President, Cyber Services and Technologies
Nagra Kudelski Group
Senior Vice-President and Director, Advanced Advertising and Innovation
World Economic Forum
Senior Director, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries
Global Director, KPMG Technology Innovation Center; Marketing Director, Technology Industry
Novartis Pharma AG
Head, Partnering and Emerging Businesses
Senior Vice-President, IHS and Co-Founder
Alan E. Salzman
VantagePoint Capital Partners
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner
Stephen C. Savage
Chief Government Relations Officer
Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Global Vice-President, Corporate Business Development
Helmut M. Schühsler
TVM Capital GmbH
President, Online Operations
Founder and Managing Partner
CA Technologies (India) Private Ltd
Foresite Capital Management LLC
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
China Business and Finance Editor
Hong Kong SAR
World Economic Forum
Senior Director, Head of Environmental Initiatives
Vice-President, Global Head of Strategic Alliances, Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research
The Climate Group
Director, Greater China
People’s Republic of China
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd
Chief Medical and Scientific Officer (CMSO), Executive Vice-President and Board Member
*The positions stated above reflect the responsibility of the Selection Committee Members at the time the Selection Process 2013 was finalized.
Acknowledgements and Partner Companies
This report was prepared by the World Economic Forum, with the invaluable collaboration of William Dowell. The Technology Pioneers Programme is run by the World Economic Forum, with guidance from ABB, Accel Partners, Adobe Systems, Aetna, Alcatel-Lucent, BT Group, Burda Media, CA Technologies, Chevron Corporation, Cisco, Huawei Technologies, IHS, Intel Corporation, KPMG, Kudelski Group, Lenovo, Mahindra Satyam, Microsoft Corporation, Novartis, Omnicom Group, Publicis Groupe, Renault-Nissan and Takeda Pharmaceutical.
The Technology Pioneers Programme of the World Economic Forum was managed by Olivier Schwab until June 2012. It is now headed by Silvia von Gunten. Special thanks to Alexander Molterer, Satu Kauhanen and Tessema Tesfachew for their contributions and diligence during the Selection Process 2013, and to Marjorie Buchser for her support in the production of this report. Also, special thanks to Abdel El Yahiaoui for his technical support and management of the online evaluation platform.
Ann Brady, Associate Director, Head of Editing, World Economic Forum
Kamal Kimaoui, Director, Production and Design, World Economic Forum
Floris Landi, Senior Associate, Graphic Designer, World Economic Forum