DQINDIA Online | April 28, 2021

In 1859, Charles Dickens wrote ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and, to paraphrase, its opening lines in the current context: “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times”. We live today at the intersection of helplessness and hope, and know that as the future unfolds, mankind must leverage technology on all fronts.

As early-stage venture capitalists, our mission is to find – and fund – Indian startups who will make a difference to the way we live and work via DeepTech across a spectrum of sectors. Since 2012, when we set up YourNest, we have seen how technology-led startups have shifted their core operations to increasingly deeper levels of technology. Our focus on several domains within DeepTech gives us access to a vast pipeline of techno-entrepreneurs (who we fondly refer to as ‘Challengineers’) and also visibility to rapid developments globally.

DeepTech that challenges and changes the way we live

To elaborate, we will focus on these over a series of articles here. And while it is fashionable to mention AI and ML in the same breath, the fact is that there are swathes of AI that are independent of ML. Data drives the compute engines of AI/ML, and startups may either generate or consume data, depending on their business model and their place in the AI-driven economy.

Consider these sub-domains within DeepTech and some overarching predictions:

Core Technology

Edge Compute: Edge computing will become a dominant factor across virtually all industries and use-cases as the edge becomes empowered with more sophisticated and specialized computing resources and more data storage. The goal of edge computing is to keep traffic and processing local in order to reduce latency, exploit the advantages of the edge and enable greater autonomy. The focus on the edge currently stems from the need for (IoT) systems to deliver disconnected or distributed capabilities into the embedded IoT world. 5G will make this all pervasive in the near future.
Digital Twinning: Digital twinning of the organization, allowing businesses to visualize how functions, processes and key performance indicators interact to drive value. The digital twin then becomes an integral part of the automation process, providing real-time continuous intelligence about the organization and drives business opportunities.
Human Augmentation: Human augmentation is the usage of technology to improve a person’s cognitive and physical experiences. It has been used by miners to better worker safety by exploiting information as well as by applications which boost learning or new experiences. This will entail implanting or hosting a technology within or on the body, while cognitive augmentation enhances a human’s ability to think and make better decisions.
Autonomy: Autonomous technologies will eventually evolve to include open public spaces although they currently exist in controlled environments, such as factories, warehouses or mines. We will also see collaborative – and not just standalone – autonomous swarms of the kind demonstrated via drones the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Application of Core Technology

DLT Applications: Blockchain still remains an imperfect fit for enterprise deployments because of a range of technical problems like poor quantifiability and ability, as well as its energy footprint. However, it has the potential to reshape entire industries by enabling trust, providing transparency and enabling price exchange across business ecosystems – undoubtedly lowering prices, reducing group action times and upping income. Some of the important use-cases include machine-controlled claims process, internal and shared record keeping, sensible cities and IoT.
Low-code or No-code Platforms: Platforms such as these provide people with far easier access to technical or business expertise without their having to invest in training. These include platforms which could enable developers to generate data models without being trained the way a data scientist has been and, instead, depend on AI-driven development to generate code and also automate testing.
Experiential Engagement: This replaces technology-literate humans with people-literate technology. It evolves from a uni-dimensional purpose of interaction to incorporate multi-sensory and multi-touchpoint interfaces that include wearables and advanced sensors. It might embody multi-experience development platforms that provide front-end development tools and back-end services which modify fast, are scalable in terms of developing seamless experiences that straddle devices, modalities and touchpoints.
AI-based Cybersecurity: The evolving IT landscape will create security vulnerabilities in new potential points of attack. Security teams will need to address new challenges and be aware of how it will impact the security space. 0-day attacks that were based on subverting code will now expand into subverting data patterns, including modifying public speed limit signs to coerce automobile AIs into executing unsafe behaviours With AI making inroads into everyday life, protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense, and anticipating dangerous use of AI by attackers will be the key areas to focus on.

We will, in the course of the next few articles, go deeper into some of these aspects with an India-focused lens.

The article is authored by Girish Shivani, Executive Director & Fund Manager, YourNest Venture Capital and Mohit Hira, Marketing Strategy Advisor, YourNest Venture Capital.

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