Technology is transforming innovation at its core, allowing companies to test new ideas at speeds and prices that were unimaginable a decade ago.
Companies today are blending digital technologies and conventional systems to test out ideas and using advanced information systems to analyze data.
Here’s a list of companies leading the world of innovation and technology.
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SpaceX proved it’s possible to fly a rocket into space carrying a payload, bring it back, refurbish it, and launch it again with a new payload. Reusable rockets make space travel far cheaper and faster: they are critical to SpaceX’s long-term goal of establishing an interplanetary transport system. The startup also compressed the time needed to refit its recycled rockets (from one year to a few months).
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Alphabet’s subsidiaries are technology leaders in AI, autonomous vehicles, and AR and VR, among other areas. Its DeepMind division keeps devising new ways for Artificial Intelligence systems to mimic human intelligence and learn more quickly. Its self-driving car project, Waymo, continues to improve performance and has aggressively defended its intellectual property by suing rival Uber after a top engineer switched teams.
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Face++’s – a facial recognition software that powers many of the most popular applications in China. Alipay, the recognized online payment platform, uses the technology to let users log in and make payments using their face as ID. The five-year-old startup is believed to be the first facial recognition “unicorn,” having raised at least $145 million in recent years.
Among businesses focused on sustainability, Tesla remains the best example of a brand success, advancing the technology and economic viability of electric vehicles, energy storage, and solar. The company rolled out its much-awaited, more affordable, Model 3 which is designed to attain the highest safety ratings in every category. Its 400,000 plus pre-orders explain the car’s high demand.
5. Quanergy Systems
Quanergy is the first to develop compact, low-cost, high-quality lidar systems for autonomous vehicles using solid-state technology, which increases the reliability of the laser-scanning radar. The startup’s lidar is also relatively cheap to make because it uses some of the same materials and manufacturing processes as computer chips.
6. Vestas Wind Systems
Vestas cemented its position as the world’s largest wind turbine supplier and edged ahead of General Electric to lead the market in the United States. Overall, it added nearly 6,500 megawatts of capacity in the second half of last year, according to Navigant Research.
Amazon is using a range of AI technologies, including computer vision, machine learning, and natural-language processing, to reinvent mobile computing and shopping. The company’s voice-activated assistant Alexa now controls everything from TVs to cars and is poised to be the next important computing platform.
Derided of late for a lack of innovative new products and tepid customer response to Apple Pay and the Apple Watch, Apple has launched a Siri-enabled speaker called HomePod to compete with Amazon’s Alexa-equipped Echo speaker. It’s also begun to tout its AI chops, including acknowledging its work on autonomous driving systems. Apple has been quietly hiring some impressive robotics and AI talent for its project.
Using its process for rapidly printing objects with high-performance polymers like polyurethanes and epoxies, Carbon is pursuing a technology that enables it to print polymer objects rapidly, in some cases thousands of times faster than other 3-D printers, and use a wider range of materials, including rubber-like elastomers and durable, hard plastics. Carbon has a growing number of clients, including Adidas, which is using its technology.
DJI continues to lead the consumer drone market by making smaller, more capable aircraft at a lower cost. The company’s latest drone, the Spark, fits in the palm of a hand, weighs less than a soda can, and can be controlled with hand gestures. DJI is also targeting the more lucrative enterprise market with a rugged drone, the Matrice 200, designed to do industrial inspections and search-and-rescue missions.
11. Rigetti Computing
Rigetti Computing not only aims to build the world’s most powerful computer using quantum computing, but it also plans to make that computational power accessible to a range of companies. The company has already created a prototype quantum chip and is developing a cloud computing platform that will leverage the chips to support AI and computational chemistry.
Quantum Computing in 200 Seconds from Rigetti Computing on Vimeo.
The maker of iPhones and a dominant force in contract manufacturing in China, Foxconn is considering a $7 billion investment in a U.S. display-making facility. Foxconn makes its own manufacturing robots, known as Foxbots, 40,000 of which are already in operation. Eventually, Foxconn executive Dai Jia-peng has said, the company aims to fully automate the making of PCs, monitors, and, yes, iPhones.
The largest off-grid solar operator in sub-Saharan Africa, it offers clean power to consumers in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania for a daily fee. It connected its 500,000+ homes, to sell its products through the major communications company Safaricom and others, and has put its new solar TV systems in over 60,000 households.
ForAllSecure’s cybersecurity tools, which automatically find and fix vulnerabilities in software, draw upon more than a decade of research from Carnegie Mellon University. The Pittsburgh startup spun out of CMU in 2012 and attracted global attention in 2016 when its cyber-security system outmanoeuvred more than 100 automated machines to win DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge.
The sneaker maker is changing the way it manufactures shoes, launching a robot-intensive micro-factory in Ansbach, Germany. Simultaneously, Adidas is working with 3-D-printing company Carbon on new ways of manufacturing materials, including the lattice-structured midsole used in its Futurecraft 4D shoes.
Futurecraft M.F.G. – Adidas
Through IBM, corporate customers such as Walmart are using blockchain to track products as they move through global supply chains. The company’s newer businesses – including blockchain, cloud computing, and AI services – brought in more than 40 percent of the company’s total revenue last year. IBM also continues to develop quantum computing technology, which it plans to sell as a cloud service.
17. General Electric
General Electric’s recent focus has been on investing aggressively in forward-looking industries like wind and renewable energy and building up its data-driven services. Its large services business, built around the monitoring of existing products like aircraft engines, locomotives, and gas turbines, is an area where the company has been focusing on capturing and interpreting data.
18. Blue Prism
Blue Prism’s “Robotic Process Automation” software mimics the way humans complete rules-based tasks, such as manually entering data from a paper form into a database. The U.K.-based firm recently expanded its U.S. and Australian operations and signed partnerships with Accenture and IBM.
Daimler AG is delivering electric vehicles to a broader class of customers with the introduction of Urban eTruck, the first all-electric heavy-duty truck. With a limited range of around 124 miles, it is intended primarily for city deliveries, offering a way to reduce noise and emissions in one important piece of the transportation puzzle.
Baidu keeps pouring money into AI research despite declining revenue growth and the defection of some prominent AI experts. In January, it launched a voice-enabled smart assistant called DuerOS, which is similar to Amazon’s Alexa. To bolster its driverless-car initiative, Baidu also acquired a computer-vision startup, signed partnerships with component makers Bosch and Continental.
The future of innovation and experimentation will continue to evolve, thanks to improving technology. It looks like the coming decade of innovation in the global marketplace will be even more tumultuous than the last.