Technology can measure your heart rate while jogging, tell you which way to turn when driving and so on. But the entrepreneurs at the Cube Tech Fair in Berlin are betting on bigger things, says DW's Timothy Rooks.
Over the years, start-ups have often been the incubators that have given us many new technologies which have changed the world in big and small ways. However, after having changed how the whole world works, these entrepreneurs now want to digitize it.
Smart cities. Smart supply chains. Smart retailing. Smart farming. Suddenly if you can't locate and track it, it doesn't exist. Everything is silently collecting data and interconnected. It's all about reducing production time, digital development and solutions. Now we have machines to wash windows on skyscrapers, build scaffolding, and help farmers determine when to water or use herbicides.
It's more than just machines - it's people
Just where is all this innovation coming from? In late 2016, Germany was voted the second best place for start-ups among the top-twenty industrial and emerging economies in the world. Within Germany, Berlin is seen as the hot-spot software hub while Munich is the hardware and machine capital.
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It has not always been that way. In the past, Germany was best known for its family-owned manufacturing companies rather than for start-ups. But that has been slowly changing.
Now foreign-born dreamers are coming and bringing their creativity and ideas with them. The Economist reported that in 2015 around 44 percent of newly registered businesses were started by people with foreign passports.
Overall, 20 percent of everyone engaged in entrepreneurial activities were born abroad.
Though setting up businesses in Germany is not easy, these global inventors do not let that get in their way. The Institute for Employment Research (IAB) reported this week that there were over 1 million unfilled jobs in Germany in the first quarter of this year.
A day later, the Cologne Institute for Economic Research (IW, Köln) noted more specifically that in April employers were looking to fill nearly 240,000 positions in mathematics, computer and natural sciences, and as technicians - a 38 percent increase on last year.
Read the fine print
Among those looking to grow is Ai Build, a three-man team from London. They are among the many start-ups working on 3D printing.
3D printing allows companies to print prototypes quickly, cutting down on development time and cost. After that they can print the molds to be used or final products.
They use machines made by other companies, but build the sensors, cameras and software necessary. They have been able to create programs that allow printing robots to make real-time decisions. The robots learn from past printing jobs and can build up a databank of information on which to make ever-better choices. This cuts down on time, energy and mistakes.
Another 3D printing start-up specializes in large construction projects and has aleady printed a small house. There is even a company that prints in glass.
The software that will make you cry
Technology doesn't just have to run warehouses or businesses. It has successfully been used to monitor health, find disease and generally make life better for millions around the globe. But now it can also literally give people a voice.
Millions of individuals around the world suffer from severe speech impairments, whether they were simply born that way or through a degenerative disease, stroke or accident. Current voice recognition software cannot deal with impaired speech. Voiceitt, an Israeli-US start-up, has developed a software application to let these people communicate - some of them for the first time.
The Talkitt software can be installed on devices that people already own. At first it must be manually programmed, but it is able to learn and can soon pick up on speech patterns. Since it is individually programmed, it knows no language boundaries.
This technology not only helps the person, but also everyone around them like family, friends and caregivers. Family members have been known to burst into tears when hearing the clear words of a loved one.
Thus as machines and algorithms become more ubiquitous, it is important not to forget that we are still human. The control and optimization of platforms and supply chains is amazing, but the poor, the elderly and those without smartphones cannot be left behind. Technology can change all lives for the better. Hopefully the entrepreneurs and start-ups of tomorrow won't forget that.