The impact of tech on people’s lives often comes under a harsh spotlight. However, a new report by Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading social tech investor, highlights the tech trends that are set to transform lives for the better.
Based on an analysis of 400 NT100 projects and 10 in-depth case studies, the report shares key insights into what it takes to enable social tech ventures to achieve impact at scale.
Looking to the future of social tech, the Trust reveals five emerging trends which are set to transform lives globally and showcases 10 pioneering ventures that demonstrate the transformative potential of these trends.
Nominet Trust’s top five social tech trends for 2018
1. Blockchain to bring inclusion to billions
The rise of this secure, decentralised and transparent system is set to continue in 2018, with socially motivated ventures harnessing its potential to improve financial systems and bring inclusion to billions of people. Alice is using blockchain to help homeless people get off the streets of London by restoring trust in charitable giving, while BanQu is harnessing the tech to give refugees a secure and verified ID, tracking everything from transaction history to educational qualifications.
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2. AI to scale up key services
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already a part of our everyday lives, from Google search rankings to iPhone’s face ID. This year AI will help us handle ever more complex data to transform how we deliver key services including healthcare and education.
Zebra is transforming disease diagnostics by using AI to scan medical images to detect cancerous cells, achieving a reported 91% accuracy. Meanwhile WYSA’s AI enabled chatbot app provides people experiencing mental health issues with advice based on established techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy.
3. Broadening the boundaries of bionics to deepen impact
This year, developments in neuro-tech and smart contact lenses will take bionics to a whole new level. BrainGate has developed pill-sized electrode implants that respond to thoughts, aiming to restore a level of independence to millions of people affected by paralysis. The Smart Lens Program is developing a contact lens that measures glucose in tear fluid by creating a non-invasive solution to monitor diabetes.
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4. Immersive tech to reimagine healthcare
Although most well known for their use in immersive gameplay, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have huge potential to transform our lives, from delivering healthcare to changing the way we learn, understand each other and navigate the world.
In hospitals, AccuVein is improving the accuracy of intravenous therapy with a handheld AR scanner that projects visual images of a patient’s veins onto the skin’s surface. Patient’s Virtual Guide, an AR app, has been developed to guide children through the hospital environment before they are admitted as patients, easing stress and anxiety, and improving outcomes.
5. Autonomous vehicles to accelerate access
With trials already taking place, it won’t be long before unmanned and autonomous vehicles become mainstream. The Zanzibar Mapping Initiative uses drones to capture aerial images and topography of the island, helping to monitor and respond to floods and disease. In Canada, Cyberworks has developed a motion-sensor module that can be attached to a power wheelchair enabling it to navigate through a building autonomously, controlled by voice, eye-gaze or a touch screen.
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Vicki Hearn, director of Nominet Trust, commented: “We firmly believe that, when social needs are baked into the very early stages of tech development, the transformational effect on people’s lives is multiplied. During the five years we’ve been curating the NT100, we’ve amassed a rich bank of knowledge which we’re sharing to help accelerate the growth of socially-motivated tech around the globe.”
“The insights and trends brought together in our new report aim to inspire the next generation of innovators, and to encourage those who have the resources and expertise to create an environment in which socially transformative tech can grow and scale.”