Tech Forecast 2019: Looking through a clouded glass

In the twentieth century, we had political economists like the legendary Joseph Schumpeter. He regularly sounded the alarm bells for businesses trying to cope with what they thought was a rapidly changing world.  Schumpeter, an Austrian who fled Europe for Harvard in America at the beginning of the Second World War, constantly warned about the dangers of shortsightedness in business and politics.

“The competition that should keep business people awake at night is not from his rivals cutting prices, but that of entrepreneurs making his products obsolete,” he wrote.

In a chapter he wrote for his landmark text Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy he drove home the point more sharply.

The same process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within is also incessantly destroying the old one and incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact of capitalism.”

Schumpeter died in 1950 at the age of 67.  Almost 70 years later, memory of his life has significantly dimmed. Despite that, his teachings live on because they have real relevance in a world advancing at a speed unthinkable in his time.

A modern futurist

paul barterOne man who has taken the late economist’s teachings to heart is Altitude Accelerator Entrepreneur-in-Residence Paul Barter. He is a respected Canadian futurist and business advisor who lives and works in the Greater Toronto Area. Barter believes in Schumpeter’s insights.

“If your business isn’t looking forward you are at risk of falling victim to the creative destruction that Schumpeter identified as the beating heart of capitalism.”

After all, Barter’s business is to look to the future. According to Barter, “we use a technology lens to scan the landscape for trends and shocks that may create opportunities for startups. Once identified, we dig in and advise our customers on the impact and opportunities those disruptions can produce and suggest specific responses that may be appropriate.”

These insights will be outlined in Barter’s upcoming book Who’s Next?

In an online introduction, he writes that “ten years ago if you wanted to watch a video you could check the yellow pages for the nearest Blockbuster and head out to pick one up. Today people are watching more videos than ever before, but Blockbuster and the Yellow Pages Group have both gone bankrupt.”

“In this book,” he continues, “we’ll touch on some of these things. But, very quickly we’ll move on to the more important question; for you, for the firms you might work for, for the industries you might work in and for the cities and countries that you will make your home. Who’s next?”

Who’s Next? is scheduled for release in Spring 2019.

And on December 6, attendees of Altitude Accelerator’s Tech Forecast 2019 will get a preview of Barter’s current thinking.

He says there will be ten broadly defined areas of great interest to business in his presentation. There are 3 that he is sharing in advance of his talk.

Hardware is cool again. But is Canada behind the curve on hardware?

Get the answers to this and more pressing questions about the state of tech on December 6, 2018.

Get your tickets now


The first is an emerging trend Venture Capital and Angel Investors are embracing everywhere. Everywhere, it seems, except in Canada. According to Barter, it is the move to hardware-based startups.

With the enormous growth of the internet in the 1990s and the dot-com bubble that followed, hardware fell out of favour with investors. It’s a trend that lives to today. In recent years, the biggest investment targets have been enterprise software and software as a service (SaaS) startups.

“A lot of companies were being turned down for investment simply for having hardware as part of their startup. That is now changing. The Silicon Valley VCs are starting to look at hardware again.  In one of the fastest growing startup hubs in the world, Shenzhen, China, they are looking entirely at hardware.”

While software companies now run the world of business, it’s hardware that drives real change. For example, Altitude Accelerator partners Arrow Electronics work closely with former Indy Car racer, Sam Schmidt. Schmidt recently became the first quadriplegic to be granted his driver’s license back through some ingenious tech by Arrow. The SAM Car allows the driver to turn left and right with just head movements. But it’s not just in the accessibility space.

The movement towards hardware startups is significant because the next generation of hardware successes will profoundly change our definitions of employment.  Robotics and automation will significantly disrupt entire industries. But while this might be a problem in the short-term, Barter says, “Look for increased wages, lower priced products and new kinds of jobs in the long-term.”

The two biggest markets in the world have started investing in hardware again. So is Canada behind the curve?”

arrow electronics


The digital world we have wrapped ourselves in is constantly under attack. Just ask American Electoral officials. And even the big tech companies aren’t safe. A hack of Google+ in October 2018 exposed 500,000 users to data theft. Google’s response was to shut down their social portal completely. Even for the second highest valued company in the world, the liability of the theft outweighed any possible benefits of keeping Google+ alive.

The previous month 30 million Facebook accounts were compromised. Hackers used a bug in the Facebook platform to access accounts.

Large scale data-breaches like these may have been the result of bugs in the system. What is significant, according to Paul Barter, is that most data fails are the result of employee negligence.

That creates a big opportunity that companies like Toronto startup Nymi can take advantage of. Nymi is pioneering a wristband that can be used in place of an access card. Its unique feature is its ability to identify its owner’s unique heartbeat as the validation key for activation. Barter likes the company because incorporates his interest in hardware as well as security.

Artificial Intelligence

The third trend Paul Barter discussed in advance of his December 6 presentation at Altitude Accelerator’s Tech Forecast 2019 is no surprise.  The whole world is talking about artificial intelligence.  What may be surprising is Barter’s view that AI will become the world’s next general-purpose technology.  In the 18th century, steam paved the way for the industrial revolution.  Electricity became ubiquitous in the early 20th century. Later, the microprocessor was added to the list.  Soon, everything will run on AI because AI can do everything better.

AI can already diagnose cancer at a higher rate than human doctors. Google’s ongoing LYmph Node Assistant (LYNA) project can detect metastatic breast cancer with 99% accuracy, even if the cancer cells have spread beyond the breasts.

Canadian company, Farmer’s Edge, uses sensor technology to give farmers valuable information like microclimate information, crop and soil health and more. Using AI, farmers are then notified of ideal harvest times so that they can maximize yield and reduce food waste.

So why AI is still tricky?

Artificial Intelligence is not without risk. Amazon experimented with an AI system to help the company’s recruiters. Engineers fed the program 10 years’ worth of resumes. With this information, it could pick a handful of good candidates out of hundreds of applicants. The only problem was that over the course of time, more men had applied to technical roles within Amazon. With this data, the machine learning algorithm learned to discriminate against women applying for similar roles. Amazon ended the experiment shortly after realizing what was happening.

While this might put AI in a bad light, Altitude Accelerator client, Knockri, uses it to remove unconscious bias from recruitment. By getting potential candidates to take a short interview over video, the algorithm then detects a person’s fit for a job based just on their facial movements.

The only difference between Amazon and Knockri was the data fed into the system.

Corporations now have access to a million points of data but AI can’t help them make the right decisions until we understand how to productively use that data.

2019 tech trends

Let’s set the stage for 2019

Joseph Schumpeter was not opposed to growth or change.  His comments simply pointed to the truths that many in his generation chose to ignore. Paul Barter does not put himself in the same league as the great economist. But it is clear they do play the same game. Both men speak to the need to look to the future. For Barter, that future begins on at Tech Forecast 2019 at Altitude Accelerator on December 6, 2018.

Tech Forecast 2019

On December 6, 2018, get ahead of the competition by understanding how key technologies will affect business in the coming year.

Get your tickets now

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