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Technology Industry News & Trends, September 2017

Early autumn breezes not only created piles of leaves, they also blew a lot of tech news our way. Apple once again was the leading newsmaker. The giant, aiming to go beyond the smartphone market, plans to turn its smartwatch into a healthcare adjunct. The latest iOS version brings a new machine learning framework to Apple products, arming developers with augmented reality tools. Regardless of the decline in investment volume, the fintech market remains hot because of the surge in regulatory technology (regtech). Blockchain is suffering from negative sentiment courtesy of the ICO ban in China and South Korea. And Google dips its toe into travel industry waters threatening European tour operators. Let’s have a look at these September events.

Apple is conquering healthcare and releasing iOS 11

Apple’s annual products presentation makes it a traditional September headliner. And it didn’t disappoint. A lot of interesting updates were presented by the company this year. But we won’t talk about iPhone X or iPhone 8. Instead, let’s focus on the Apple watch. The corporation announced an improvement to the heart rate app developed in partnership with Stanford University. The app tracks cardio activity, analyzes it, and sends notifications to a user in case of arrhythmia.  Additionally, using the watch, Apple plans to conduct its own heart study based on data gathered.

Wearables hit the market with a lot of healthcare hype several years ago. The market size was expected to reach $7.2 billion in 2016 and is forecasted to be $41.3 billion in 2020, according to Soreon research.

Market Size for Smart Wearables in Healthcare 2014-2020

Souce: Soreon Research

Lucas F. Lu, Co-Founder of Frontier Solution, says: “Wearable technology in my opinion might be one of the best things that happened to us, especially within the healthcare industry.”

Currently, wearables are mostly used to track health conditions related to cardio diseases, obesity, sleep disorders, and diabetes. Although, the market is not that big, compared to the $435.1 billion smartphone market, Tim Cook boldly claims that healthcare looks pretty attractive for Apple. Just for a notice, the overall healthcare spendings in the world account for $7 trillion. And we point out several reasons why Apple may succeed in their healthcare push:

  • Apple has access to 85.8 million iPhone users. As part of this audience will provide their healthcare data, this looks like an opportunity for up-sales.

Apple Potential in HealthCare

Source: Apple, CBInsights, UCI

  • Recently, Apple signed an agreement with Aetna, health insurance giant with 23 million clients. The insurance provider will partly cover the cost of the Apple watch for its insureds who may benefit from the wearable for health-tracking purposes.
  • Apple is partnering with Dexcom, healthcare tech manufacturer, on glucose monitoring features. Diabetes is predicted to become the largest wearables healthcare segment. So far, the challenge here is legal limitations, so we don’t expect Apple in the diabetes segment anytime soon, but the company is paving the way to get into the competition. For instance, an Apple competitor, Fitbit, also partnering with Dexcon, has already stepped into the diabetes segment. The industry incumbent, Tony Warren, CEO of BreatheSimple.com, believes that Apple will eventually succeed: “I think that the wearable winners – Apple certainly will figure out how to add more and better sensors – certainly blood oxygen, and even blood sugar which can move the devices further into the medical realm.”
  • In 2015-2016, the company launched ResearchKit and CareKit. The former aids in the conduct of medical research and the latter simplifies healthcare app development for iPhone.

The other cool thing is iOS 11. Maybe this product can’t eclipse the Apple presentation of new devices, but it provides some interesting features:

  • ML Core provides the integration of a wide variety of machine learning models into apps. It supports extensive deep learning with over 30-layer types and standard models like tree ensembles, support vector machines (SVMs), and generalized linear models.
  • ARKit brings augmented reality to the platform. The first AR app was presented at the September conference.

AR/VR expert, Paul Ryznar, CEO of OPS Solutions, says: “With the recent launch of the Apple iOS AR Kit, AR as a tool will become even more powerful and accessible.”

  • Depth Map API allows for creating custom depth filters for AR environment mapping.
  • MusicKit powers third-party apps with search, playback queues, playlists, and recommendations

“Hello, world!” for Swift 4.0

September brought us a new version of Swift. The three-year-old technology created by Apple rapidly gained popularity close to that of Objective-C. The last Stack overflow survey shows that Swift is preferred by 6.9 percent of professional developers versus Objective-C with 7.3 percent. The new Swift solves several problems with the package manager, which makes it safer and controlled. New comparability models improved control over migration. And there were some general language improvements, like the Collection management updates and command removal. If you are considering Swift development, take a look at our article dedicated to the pros and cons of Swift.

RegTech and Blockchain driving interest to FinTech

Although the total investment volume in fintech keeps declining, the investors are still there. Mostly, the funding decline is caused by the low activity in early-stage investments. It makes the competition stronger as small companies engage into an aggressive environment from the beginning.

Despite these difficulties, the fintech is developing. Here are some insights on the future trends.

  • As regtech in 2016 outperformed 2015’s results, as of Q2 this year it seems 2017 will best 2016. Currently, investors prefer funding the projects that work on advancing regulatory-related features in corporate software. On the other hand, the applications made for regulators aren’t that popular among venture capitalists. As financial companies are seeking ways to cut costs spent on regulatory compliance, regtech should become one of the most prominent branches of the fintech landscape.

Global Venture Investment in Regtech Companies

Source: CBInsights

Edward Sullivan, CEO and Founder of Trust Exchange, shares: “In most regulated industries, there are ‘trusted third parties’ that act as the source of data in each industry. For instance, Dun and Bradstreet is the standard data source for business information. Regtech will most likely drive to eliminate these middlemen by enabling businesses to exchange this information directly.”

  • Insurtech is driving towards a VC peak accounting for $745.4 million in Q2 2017. Brick-and-mortar players slowly but surely join the disruptive transformation trends. The current players demand AI, blockchain, and revamped customer experience. Today, insurtech companies work hard to provide white label solutions for traditional organizations and the number of insurance software applications is growing.

Venture Investment in Global InsurTech Companies

Source: CBInsights

  • Blockchain gradually expands its use cases from common ones like payments and reinsurance to something more specific like credit default swaps and supply chain. Large and small consortiums, including R3, R3i, governments, and cryptocurrency users, push the technology to wide adoption. The Bitcoin and ICO ban in China add some dark shadows to the blockchain picture, but it’s unlikely that these events will have long-lasting consequences for the technology adoption in other parts of the world.

Global Venture Investment in Blockchain Companies

Source: CBInsights

  • European fintech enhances positions on the global map. Investments soared from $880 million in Q1 to $2 billion in Q2 2017 as industry hubs spread across the continent, with Dublin and Paris becoming the most relevant fintech centers on the continent.

Google threatens travel industry incumbents

Google Travel launched predictive pricing and a metasearch engine for packaged travel. Neither feature was invented by Google. Metasearch companies and OTAs had already used forecasting technologies to enhance customer experience. The notable examples include Hopper, Kayak, and Fareboom, powered by a flight price prediction engine built in partnership with AltexSoft. The accuracy of such solutions is based on the quality and quantity of data. So, Google has a strong competitive advantage here. Who owns more data and has a wider audience than the search giant?

The other update is tour metasearch. Tour operators have especially strong positions in Europe, so Google started with the launch of the service in that region. The tool allows for comparing packaged tour prices with their individual components. The new feature may significantly cut margins of tour businesses in Europe, as customers become more price aware.

It seems that Google’s move will shift advanced personalization and value-added services from better-to-have to must-have aspects of the customer experience in travel. Today, personalization is the most powerful trend in the industry, including advanced search, price predictions, and other travel applications of machine learning.

 

China bans Bitcoin and ICO

Cryptocurrencies are in the spotlight this year. The world witnessed Bitcoin’s rapid growth in the spring and summer partly because of approvals from regulators. We discussed this in the May News and Trends report. But the environment changes rapidly. People’s Bank of China banned initial coin offering (ICO) and cryptocurrency trading in September.

The decision stopped any cryptocurrency fundraising in China and caused the closure of BTCC,  the oldest cryptocurrency exchange in the country. The exchange platforms that survived were forced to remove the yuan-bitcoin pair from their operations. There are at least 6 possible reasons for Chinese regulators imposing such restrictions:

  • Many ICOs are scams without real underlying projects
  • ICO development is uncontrolled and stochastic
  • The Chinese government tried to prevent a crypto-bubble on the market
  • It is rumored China is planning to issue a national coin
  • ICOs are an alternative to traditional venture capital significantly regulated by the Chinese government, which is prone to selecting its business favorites
  • China wants a cool-off period for crypto-mania and the ban is temporary

Bitcoin Performance after ICO Ban

Source: CoinDesk

Although the Bitcoin price dropped following the event, the market is rapidly restoring its positions.

China isn’t alone in its urge to control ICO. The US Security Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a warning about the risks of coin fundraising. And South Korea followed China banning ICOs.

So, cryptoworld is changing its poles. The next major destination for cryptocurrency operations is Japan, where the legislation is still loyal to blockchain finance. While recent events impacted virtual currencies, they impose a dark cloud on the blockchain industry.

Final word

Apple and medical care made the most interesting news in September.  In our opinion, Apple has a budding opportunity in the field. While they aren’t transforming into a healthcare tech manufacturer, the company is likely to get its own niche in the industry. Apple has a large pool of users who generate big data sets that pave the way to personalized medical care.  But what are the main barriers?

  • Lack of experience with medical devices
  • Legal issues
  • The company will have to ask customers for permission to gather and process medical data

Once these barriers are overcome, there’s nothing that can stop Apple from becoming a powerful healthcare player.

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