With a new year and decade right in front of us, TEQ wanted to pick the brains of Pittsburgh-area technology, business and nonprofit leaders about the issues they see as most relevant to their respective businesses and industries. From disruptive technologies like artifi cial intelligence and machine learning to making Pittsburgh a more livable city, there’s a lot to ponder. Opportunities are everywhere!

DISRUPTING THE GIFT CARD INDUSTRY YET AGAIN

By Jason Wolfe, Gift Ya

The last meaningful, game-changing innovation in the gifting space was the introduction of gift cards back in 1995, 25 years ago! Gift cards were fi rst launched by Blockbuster, a company that redefi ned the video rental industry, putting thousands of mom- and-pop stores out of business.

Ironically, they were put out of business by Netflix, who reinvented the industry with a mail-order DVD alternative that saved you the trip to the video store and offered a huge selection of titles with none of those annoying late fees. Within the same time frame, gift cards still remained largely unchanged, except for the introduction of current e-gift cards, a cosmetic change at best, which didn’t address many of the issues the plastic cards carry. Since their introduction, gift cards have come a long way to become the most coveted gift by Americans, growing into a $140B industry. Yet, they continue to carry a substantial amount of baggage. Gift cards are often lost, stolen or merely go unused, representing about $10 billion in lost consumer value.

Enter GiftYa. It is like the Venmo of gifting. We took the fi rst step at transitioning gift cards from the supermarket racks to your smartphones and desktops, building the largest online portal for gift cards. Now we see the opportunity to leverage technology to change the game altogether again with a product that offers convenience and personalization and is able to deliver on that human connection at the center of the act of gifting. GiftYa, a beautifully presented personalized gift alternative that cannot be lost or stolen, provides the ability to buy an e-gift from any merchant – local and national, small and large – anywhere in the country and delivered in seconds. We hope to pave the way, yet again.


5G IS LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR EMERGING TECHNOLOGY

By Jim Morozzi, President and CEO, DQE Communications

Emerging technology is more than just a buzzword – and businesses of every size and industry will need to prepare for automation and technology advancements on the rise. 5G is one prominent emerging technology that will bring big benefi ts: extremely fast speeds compared to 4G or LTS, the ability to move more data, lower latency, the ability to connect multiple devices at once, and more responsiveness, just to name a few.

However, businesses must have the network foundation in place to meet these new demands. Fiber-optic cabling is the primary technology capable of supporting these applications today and in the future, and more and more businesses are moving to this network infrastructure to keep up with changing technology demands.

5G is one prominent emerging technology that will bring big benefits.

Traditionally, 2G and 3G networks often used copper-based circuits. Although this architecture has indeed served the industry well for decades, it’s quickly showing its age with the advent of 4G and will certainly be outdated with 5G. The emergence of technology and high-tech applications is driving a need for better connectivity and bandwidth. This advancement will change the status quo and the way businesses operate IoT devices, communicate with consumers, integrate new technology and analyze big data. To keep up with emerging technology, invest in future-proofi ng your business with fi ber-optic network services.


VIDEO WILL DOMINATE THE TECH LANDSCAPE

By Christopher R. Evans
Director, Business Development, Video/Film Production Services, PMI

The new decade is off to a roaring start! The robust economy has accelerated our clients’ plans for fresh digital content, and we’re already seeing many new clients invest more heavily on internal corporate communications, HR and training areas since the start of the new year.

We’re seeing more influence on the creation, delivery, and consumption of this content by the viewers themselves, and we predict a closer integration of self-generated content and streamed video content which is watched on viewers’ own terms.

We predict more major media/content companies will continue to launch their own streaming services in ‘20, and we’re helping clients create productions which offer flexibility across all the possible delivery channels. Our agency partners are also closely monitoring and helping clients adjust their pricing and roll-out streaming service strategies to the changing market. We are closely watching the percentage of customers favoring streaming services over “cord” cutting cable TV.

Analytics are going to be a continued focus for marketers investing in video this year, as many sophisticated methods and technologies are available to determine what content is being consumed, shared and rewatched. Lots of growth of video is predicted globally in 2020, and many of our clients with international reach are planning increased productions for use on over-the-top (OTT) services of Disney and Apple.

Stylistically, we’re excited about further expanding the capabilities of our motion design department this year, as we’re seeing a lot of activity with motion design driving action and connecting with audiences.

We’re also working with clients to help explore new ways of using video across the web, social media and OTT delivery methods. 2020 will be filled with PMI-created content for televisions, smartphones/tablets, kiosks and screens!


SEVEN PREDICTIONS FOR THE ENERGY INDUSTRY

By Bob Meeder, President and CEO, Energy Innovation Center

As I look through the “lens” of the business activities and plans of the dozens of corporations that participate in or with the Energy Innovation Center (EIC), I predict that the following seven changes will evolve in the region’s energy industry over the next decade:

1. There will be significant increases in the use of natural gas as a power source to many systems and in many applications that heretofore were supplied by electricity.

2. Property owners, developers, engineers and architects will, finally, give more than “lip service” to the process of integrated collaborative design as a significant pathway to major energy savings for new construction and renovations…achieving savings that account for more than one-third of the facility’s energy costs.

3. Energy corporations’ talent recruitment managers will discover new, highly productive “veins” of employee prospects by deploying valid assessment tools and effective, quick-training processes to convert the skills/experiences gained by athletes and military veterans to corporate roles and the ability to “win again” in private industry.

4. The evolution of e-sports to STEM training will change the paradigm of energy corporate workforce training.

5. There will be a significant increase in the receptivity of change in the very mature, risk-adverse construction industry and building trades to adopt innovative changes in new, decentralized HVAC and electrical distribution systems as new technologies are infused into the walls, ceilings and surface coatings of residential and commercial structures.

5. The movement of air within commercial facilities will dramatically reduce the transfer of viruses and disease in the workplace.

6. The emergence of “ghost kitchens” will become a resource for immediate delivery of fully prepared fresh, nutritious food.

7. There will be a greater appreciation of historic preservation as a major energy savings strategy.

As CEO and President of the Energy Innovation Center, LP, I am excited for Pittsburgh’s role in the “big leagues” of global innovation over the next decade.


DATA AND AUTONOMY WILL DRIVE INNOVATION IN 2020

By Arvind Handuu, Visvero

As companies start to directly monetize data and leverage data for autonomous functions, we believe that 2020 will be a foundational year for CIOs to build new enterprise-wide competency, computing infrastructure and algorithms to support organization transformation.

Natural language processing1  – This represents a fundamental shift in how executives will engage institutional intelligence. The ease of interaction will also dramatically increase the user base and the use cases of applications.

Large data capabilities2,3  – Over the past several years, the convergence of enhanced database technologies like Big Data platforms, Cloud Databases and easily scaled computing and storage hardware has meant unique demands on data governance, management, security and innovative opportunities for true business transformations.

Data literacy4  will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in more than 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs. Additionally, we are seeing an increasing trend of corporate strategies explicitly mentioning information as a critical enterprise asset and analytics as an essential competency.

Public sector adoption – Public sector organizations will share data to develop innovative applications to drive program reach and outcomes management. We believe that the public sector will realize a dramatic increase in efficiency and trust created by outcomes transparency.

Our team has been supporting and developing autonomous transformation applications with aggressive investments in Denodo, IBM and Microsoft AI along with data virtualization and RPA (Antworks, BluePrism) technologies to dramatically reduce the time to implement and deploy experiments and applications across business functions.

12018 Ventana Research Assertions
2IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Analytics, Cognitive/AI, and Big Data 2017 Predictions
3Gartner 100 Data and Analytics Predictions through 2021
4Gartner: Our Top Data and Analytics Predicts for 2019


THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT FOR DOWNTOWN PITTSBURGH

By Jeremy Waldrup, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership

In the past decade, we’ve seen a revitalization of the Downtown neighborhood into one full of energy and vibrancy. Since 2010, the Downtown residential population has grown by more than 30%, 2,800 new residential units came online and 14 hotels have opened up. We’ve seen more than $4.3 billion invested into Greater Downtown through completed infrastructure, office, hotel and transit projects.

Quality of life continues to improve, as well. In the last decade, Market Square reopened as an invigorated public space full of daily activity, music and dozens of new restaurants and shops. Numerous historic buildings throughout Downtown have been brought back with modern amenities to ensure they are assets for the next 100 years.

Through 2030, we’re looking forward to seeing this momentum continue:

· More than 40 residential properties that are under construction or proposed will deliver 5,000+ units, both affordable and market-rate, bringing more than 7,500 new residents to the Golden Triangle.

· The Downtown streetscape will continue to transform as our streets become smarter through the use of AI and new technologies that make them safer for users of all ages and abilities, and congestion is reduced as better options than single occupancy vehicles become the norm

· Downtown’s economy will transform. As more tech and creative firms call the region home, Downtown will become the destination for businesses and individuals that want a dense, walkable experience with access to all the cultural and entertainment destinations that our neighborhood offers.

· The Cap Urban Connector project development will be completed, creating a seamless connection to the Hill District. In addition, Downtown and the Strip District will be more closely connected with a variety of mixed-use projects, town homes and housing, driving economic development throughout the urban core.

We’re excited to be a part of Downtown’s thriving next chapter, and invite you to join us in discovering all there is to Downtown Pittsburgh in 2020, 2030 and beyond.