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February 02, 2017

Winning in the 5G Era: Safeguard Scientifics Talks Business Innovation, ITEXPO

Today’s businesses are accelerating at break-neck speeds thanks to technology innovation. Mobile devices and networks are smarter than ever and are providing the power needed to emerge successful in today’s market.

Safeguard Scientifics has been in business for over 60 years providing capital and operational support for entrepreneurs across many innovative industries. Today, the company provides capital and relevant expertise to fuel the growth of technology-driven businesses in healthcare, financial services and digital media. Safeguard targets companies that are capitalizing on the next wave of enabling technologies with a particular focus on the Internet of Everything, enhanced security and predictive analytics.

One thing so many of these companies have in common is mobile technologies. Whether they’re using the tech to power apps, monitor security or save lives, its importance today undeniable.

Dr. Scott Snyder is Safeguard Scientifics Chief Technology and Innovation Officer and is helping to shape the company’s future technology vision including expanding its innovation ecosystem and helping partner companies to fully leverage emerging technologies.

Dr. Scott Snyder Safeguard Scientifics

Scott will be in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. next week participating in 5G Summit, collocated with ITEXPO, to speak with attendees about 5G Wireless. A special 2-part session will cover everything from how the industry is forming and evolving, to possible disruption models and use cases for 5G.

To hear more about the company and the upcoming session we recently caught up with Scott for a chat. Our exchange follows.

How have technology changes over the past 12 months helped businesses grow?

Given we are a VC; we look at the things that have enabled our portfolio companies to accelerate their growth.

These fall into a few categories:

The Amazon Effect – AWS has over 900 different features/functions to leverage on top of the basic EC2 cloud services.  Most of these are disrupting the economics of enterprise software/infrastructure and allowing many of our companies to scale faster with less capital.

The API Economy – Pressure to innovate has forced many legacy platforms like EMRs, POSs, etc. to open up APIs and allow 3rd parties to build new applications on top.  This is allowing many of our companies to avoid complex integrations and move faster.  

Mainstreaming of AI/ML – Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning/Deep Learning used to be black boxes relegated to government and specialty applications.  Now companies like Google, IBM, Salesforce, and others and making AI/ML accessible to 3rd party developers, allowing some of our companies to build learning/autonomy features into new platforms more easily without having to be a PhD Data Scientist/Programmer.  However, these systems still have a ways to go in terms of training/repeatable performance.

Are you leveraging big data/analytics to operate more efficiently?

Yes.  Our companies all have aggressive analytics strategies to leverage their data more effectively to enhance their existing product/service or create new ones.  The data exhaust coming from mobile and other devices is creating new opportunities for our companies to apply predictive analytics to better segment and target users as well as to optimize performance and experiences.

How can artificial intelligence best be used in business applications?

There are really two ways to apply AI.  One is to support real-time closed loop interactions at the edge like a security system deciding to deny access to a high-risk user or an insulin pump deciding how much to dispense based on blood sugar readings and other patient vital signs.  The other way is to create learning on large-scale data sets to find new relationships and then apply these as new patterns to look for/act upon like predicting demand signals for a given product based upon weather or commuting patterns.  There is both supervised (human in the loop to correct/train) and unsupervised (fully autonomous, self-learning) options.  Most companies are starting with supervised first to validate their models before turning unsupervised learning loose.

How have the growing number of high-visibility security breaches impacted your outlook on security?  Which breach is of greatest concern?

Century Oncology (2.2M patient profiles) given the criticality/severity of exposing sensitive health records and LinkedIn (167M profiles/passwords) given they are viewed as a Silicon Valley tech player that should have stronger security practices.

What percentage of your workforce would you consider mobile?  What technology decisions have you made as a result of your mobile workforce, to ensure they have the tools they need to remain productive?

Our companies are highly mobile (probably 100 percent penetration with more than 2-3 devices per person). We try to expose our companies to new emerging technologies in the mobile and connected device space like Amazon Alexa and IPTV services like Comcast X1.

What is your session at ITEXPO about and who should plan on attending?  Why should this be a must-attend session for the week?  

Innovation and 5G - 5G is a completely new network paradigm that will enable an entirely new wave of applications and services.  It will also allow new entrants into the game on connectivity, devices, and applications as it stretches into IoT, immersive experiences, and user-centric networks.  Every company needs a playbook for winning in the “5G era” and this session will get executives and leaders starting to think down this path.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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