Netexplo is an independent observatory that studies the impact of digital tech on society and business. Through its international spotting network, made up of globally renowned universities in the technology sphere, Netexplo explores the world for new uses of digital tech. Since 2011 Netexplo is a partner of UNESCO.

The 11th edition of Netexplo Forum 2018 took place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, on February 13th, 14th and 15th. The event showcased 10 breakthrough digital innovations from a pool of 2000 others spotted worldwide through the Netexplo University Network. Innovators and experts offered insights from Artificial Intelligence, big data, biotech, IOT, gaming, cybersecurity, robotics, blockchain, social media and 3D printing. The underlying theme of the event, “Zero interface, Zero decision, Human Reloaded” offered a reflection upon the relation between humans and technologies and the future developments that can take place.

The conferences were structured in two parts. The Innovation Forum which allowed the audience to discover 10 cutting-edge ditigal innovations with the potential of profound and lasting impact. The Talent Forum which featured leading personalities delivering their visions for future key challenges related to digital transformation in society, organizations and business.

Among the 10 Netexplo Digital Innovation Award Winners , 6 of them icluded AI. Here are 5 of the winners which I have chosen for you.

Neurala Air Shepherd Drones

Smart drones to fight poaching

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These AI-powered drones help protect endangered species from poachers. Currently deployed in South Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe by the Lindbergh Foundation for its Air Shepherd program, the drones are equipped with artificial intelligence software developed by Neurala. These smart drones can identify animals, vehicles and poachers in real time without any human input. If a poacher is spotted on screen, rangers are alerted and can intercept poachers before they have a chance to hurt endangered species. The software can analyse infrared footage, and therefore is really helpful at night, when poachers usually strike. This innovation is a good example of successful cooperation between digital intelligence and human action where one makes up for the other’s weaknesses greater efficiency. And moreover, for the greater good!

Wysker

Data-driven and blockchain-powered mobile shopping

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Between Pinterest, Tinder and Amazon and based on the blockchain, Wysker aims to revolutionize mobile shopping by giving power over their data back to consumers. The more they use the app by selecting the products they like, the more their data gains value among brands. If they allow their data to be communicated to advertisers and agree to see sponsored content, the users earn « Wystokens ». They can use these tokens on the websites of featured brands and benefit from discounts.

One of very first German actors to stage an ICO (Initial Coin Offering), Wysker proposes a new model of mobile commerce based on what they call “advertising based on consent”. The idea is to give the consumer back the rights to own, control, and sell their data. Powered by the Ethereum blockchain, Wysker lets consumers trade their data directly with advertisers without compromising their privacy.

Stentrode

A brain stent to thought-control an exoskeleton

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Just like a vascular stent, this device equipped with electrodes is implanted into a blood vessel next to the brain’s motor cortex. It can pick up signals that would normally be sent by the brain to create movement. The signal is then sent to a computer commanding an exoskeleton. Paralysed people could control an exoskeleton (or any robotic limb) by thought. The device was successfully tested on live sheep and a clinical trial on a group of paralysed patients is planned for early 2018.

One advantage of this technique is that it doesn’t require invasive brain surgery. The research team is working to adapt the stentrode so it can provide an alternative treatment for other neurological conditions, including epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a good example of fluid and almost immediate collaboration between a human intention and an action by a digital machine.

Giuseppe by The Not Company

An AI creating plant-based substitutes for animal products

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The Not Company is a food-tech start-up that uses artificial intelligence to create food from plants. They have developed Giuseppe, an algorithm which generates substitutes of popular food from only plant-based ingredients, imitating the taste and the texture of the original food. Giuseppe was fed by a database describing the molecular properties of a large number of food and plants. It is then capable of detecting which plants to combine to reproduce the desired taste and texture. The Not Company already markets its mayonnaise and other products like yoghurt, milk and cheese should soon follow.

With Giuseppe, artificial intelligence is driving sustainable development. The start-up’s founders start from the principle that if we asked science for the best way to feed the 7 billion human beings on the planet, the answer would certainly not be « animals ». And according to them, 80% of their customers are not vegans, which shows that plant alternatives could go mainstream.

Status

A mobile OS based on blockchain

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Status is a user-friendly messaging interface for Ethereum the second most popular cryptocurrency network in the world. Status brings simplicity to the complex world of blockchain and decentralised web. Status lets you easily send encrypted messages (photos, videos, texts, sounds), execute transactions of cryptocurrencies but also access a number of decentralised apps based on Ethereum decentralized protocols.

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies remains abstract concepts for most people. Status is an open source project that aims to make easier the transition towards a more open financial system based on Ethereum. The app just pulled off record fundraising of more than 300 million dollars, or more accurately crypto-dollars.

If you are interseted about other digital innovation award winners you can visit www.netexplo.org