Follow Innovation’s Tech Trends For 2016

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Since our top tech trends report for 2015 was published, the Follow Innovation team have been nurturing relationships with a growing number of the most promising startups from across London’s digital scene, interviewing their Founders and watching many of their ideas progress from prototype through to investment.

Here we are with a roundup of the top trends for 2016:

TECH FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Serial entrepreneur Benji Wakeham drew inspiration from his post-uni travels when it came to setting up his latest venture, Pollen. Last June, he told Follow Innovation how he discovered first-hand the risky and laborious methods used for payroll in some parts of the world. At one mining company in Mozambique, a truck load of cash is delivered to the site each week.

“An official would stand there, in front of all the workers, counting cash and stuffing it into envelopes,” Benji said. “The workers would then have to take the cash back home and set about loading it into their mobile phone, or prepaid cards – it’s dangerous and needless”.

Pollen allows companies the world over to manage payroll via a cloud-based system which enables them to make mass payments directly to the workers’ bank, mobile or prepaid card accounts. This is especially useful for employers in developing countries, whose workers often do not have traditional bank accounts.

Pollen’s online nature allows it to undercut the fees charged by banks, which can also eat into the salaries of low paid workers. A smoother system and lower charges – reason enough for anyone in the world to give Pollen a try.

SMART HOMES

Peeple, like many an invention, was born as a result of an entrepreneur’s personal circumstances. Following a potential crisis when his four-year-old son decided to embark upon a solo trip to Houston from his home in Austin, Chris Chuter recognised that the traditional front door peephole still leaves residents with a ‘blind spot’.

The Peeple device attaches to existing peepholes and can connect to the home’s Wi-Fi network, enabling users to see who is attempting to enter – or leave – their home from a mobile app. Chris describes Peeple as ‘Caller ID for your home’, reinforcing the fact that an everyday function of home and mobile phones is usually unavailable when it comes to your place of residence unless you happen to be standing behind the front door.

Available now for pre-order and due for imminent release, Peeple is set to bring peace of mind to many – or simply some peace and quiet.

SMART CITIES

Parking space in the capital is undoubtedly at a premium, with garage bays in Kensington available on property websites for upwards of £100,000.

Advertiser Dan Hubert found that the manifold frustrations of being a driver in London were compounded by the lack of information on what was available, where, and under what conditions. He began moonlighting as a digital chronicler of the city’s parking zones, and has now mapped over 70% of London with the help of his team.

AppyParking allows users to find the best space for their needs, including the option to search for disabled bays, loading bays and areas where long stays are permitted.

During the long-winded mapping process, Dan realised why nobody had done this before – but therein lies the key to the app’s USP.

“There’s no other company that does the whole approach; holistic and agnostic,” he told Follow Innovation in August last year. “It doesn’t matter what parking provider or what borough you’re in, you can select what’s right for you.”

OPEN SOURCE

PlayCanvas started out as a project to create a smoother experience for video game developers, but, as often happens in tech and in business, quickly developed into something more.

Founded in 2011 by gaming industry veterans Will Eastcott and Dave Evans, PlayCanvas is the first free, open source and cloud-based platform for game development, allowing collaboration between teams and easy playability for gamers.

Although the platform was designed for the development of video games, Will and Dave realised that creative agencies were eager to come on board in the hope of finding an innovative way to promote brands. Speaking to Follow Innovation in June, Will described how PlayCanvas has adapted to cater to this untapped potential.

“We offer a platform, on which you can not only make games, but make interactive advertising content for mobile – which is what other competitors can’t do. We’re addressing a deficiency in the market.”

The platform now enables users to create content in 3D, taking the gamification of marketing materials to the next level.

LOAN NOT OWN

Museum curation is going digital with the help of Vastari, a system that connects owners of private art collections with institutions searching for pieces to include in upcoming exhibitions. With much of the industry relying on offline collections, missed opportunities abound.

Vastari allows art collectors to securely offer relevant pieces on loan for an exhibition before it has been announced to the public. Curators can also source pieces while keeping the name of the museum anonymous.

“Some museums can be protective about intellectual property and forthcoming exhibitions programme, so for example, if you are the British Museum and post a request on the system, you can do that anonymously,” explains co-founder Francesca Polo.

The platform also allows individuals to manage their private collections online – the perfect solution for anybody struggling to catalogue their library of masterpieces.

HIGH TECH ACCELERATORS

Gaining a place on an accelerator program is often an early goal for entrepreneurs who know that the experience can gives them the necessary boost to propel their startup towards the next milestone.

Entrance is often dependent on a certain stage having already been reached, but Entrepreneur First works with individuals who may not even have a fixed idea in mind. The candidates are often Engineering graduates with ‘deep tech’ skills, but they may lack the support of a business partner or team. Entrepreneur First works with them to build high tech startups from scratch, encouraging them to take risks by making changes to their ideas or team structure in the first phase of the program.

Occupying a niche role in the realm of accelerators is not without its challenges, as described by co-founder Alice Bentinck: “No-one took us seriously for 18 months. The feedback was that we should help these people get jobs in startups instead of building their own.”

The common perception of what makes a successful entrepreneur is one that Entrepreneur First continue to challenge, with impressive results. Their ‘graduates’ of the past four years have now generated around $40 million in funding from external investors.

INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGIES

Queuing may have joined death and taxes as one of life’s inevitabilities, but Imogen Wethered and Fraser Hardy hope to lessen the blow with Qudini.

The technology aims to help companies provide a better in-store customer experience, reducing both wait times and walkouts. It allows available staff members to be identified and for customers to receive notifications of realistic wait times and service options.

The adaptability of the platform includes the ability to contact customers via SMS, thereby enabling businesses to reach a greater percentage of their client base than merely those with the latest smartphones.

Since its 2012 launch, Qudini has found success with House of Fraser and O2, with hospitality businesses Honest Burgers, Bodeans and artisan baker Princi also signing up.

According to Head of Marketing Niall Smith, the “ability to rebrand and customise the software to get the look and feel the clients want” is an important differentiator, which plays a large role in the company’s accomplishments to date.

CONNECTED WORLD

The lengthy slideshow (or Facebook album) of holiday snaps may soon be a thing of the past, as travellers using the new Polarsteps app start to share their journey with family and friends at home in real-time. The app uses location data enhanced by photos and text to build an interactive map, which is updated as travellers explore new places on their adventures.

The app has possibilities beyond a fun way to reassure your parents that you’re still alive, with scope for local tour companies and guides to advertise via the app. This opens up Polarsteps as a tool for planning and booking trips as well as recording them.

Co-Founder and CEO Koen Droste told Follow Innovation about his vision for the app last June: “What we want to do with Polarsteps is fundamentally disrupt the route-based travel market. What we eventually want to do is connect travellers with local entrepreneurs so as to elevate the travel-experience to a new level.”

Crucially, one of Polarsteps’ selling points is its low battery consumption – being that the cause of a dead iPhone during a tropical hike is the quickest route to the App Graveyard.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Crowdfunding for scientific research: entrepreneur Natalie Jonk believes that people are willing to back more than sleek prototype gadgets and Veronica Mars the Movie. Walacea opens up science from two angles, both by allowing researchers to secure funding through non-traditional means and by giving engaged members of the public the opportunity to back causes of topics they find interesting.

As she told Follow Innovation last year, “It’s about understanding what’s out there. People may have an interest in green tech, or solar energy but they might not know any scientists who are working in those areas. This is a great way for people to connect with scientists and find research in their areas of interest.”

Natalie’s commitment to crowdfunded science is such that she quit her corporate role in pharmaceuticals to pursue the project. With the team she hopes to build in place, Walacea could become the breeding ground for this century’s scientific breakthrough.

FINTECH FOR THE CONSUMER

‘Money’ isn’t a four-letter word, but it might as well be: the discomfort around managing or discussing finances is notorious.

Splittable is an app aimed at Generation Rent, removing the hassle and awkwardness of bill-sharing by allowing users to see the situation at a glance using the All Squared meter. Co-Founder Nick Katz told Follow Innovation that the team wants to “create the best experience for sharing living, empowering young people to take their property journey on with confidence.”

Pariti aims to tackle money matters on an individual level, reducing complex calculations down to two figures: how much they can afford to spend each week, and how much they have managed to save. CEO and founder Matthew Ford says that the inner workings of the app allow for a holistic view of the user’s financial health which can then be translated into suggestions on future money management.

“Once we have a view of our user’s position we try and encourage them on their journey to improvement, which could be anything from paying down their most expensive debt, building up a savings reserve for unexpected expenses so they don’t fall short, or getting a longer term savings account going,” he says.

CROWDFUNDING

Crowdsourcing funds for a product or creative enterprise is nothing new, but Phundee founder Ashon Spooney has more to add to the mix.

The platform is dedicated to projects and business propositions in the arts and entertainment industry, and goes above and beyond helping users to find the cash for projects by assisting them further by means of mentorship and an ambassador program.

The mentor works with each crowdfunder for four to six weeks to help them get their project off the ground, and introductions are made with relevant industry figures who can provide ongoing assistance.

Ashon illustrates: “Say for example a film maker is looking to get into Cannes film festival, the ambassador will connect them to someone at Cannes or to a specific organisation that can help out and add value.”

There’s no getting away from cold hard cash, but in the arts especially, it’s about more than money. Ashon’s aim for Phundee is for it to become “the most personable crowdfunding platform in the world”.