The year 2022 will see intelligence at edge of the Internet of Things, voice as the dominant user interface and advances in DNA and microbiome apps, top VCs said.
Churchill Club, a forum for thought leadership in Silicon Valley, annually asks top tech VCs to look out five years and beyond, and make predictions for what’s next in top investible trends. Here’s what you should know about this year’s bets.
The top predictions as voted by fellow panelists and the audience at our May 24 event, were two brainchildren of DFJ partner Steve Jurvetson. Jurvetson, who has a history of winning the annual panel’s most votes, predicted explosive growth for machine learning four years ago.
Looking ahead to 2022, Jurvetson now envisions a world that extends intelligence to the edge of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the day when voice becomes the dominant user interface enabling, “continuous persistent communications.” The majority of fellow panelists preferred to focus their big bets on biotech developments, specifically on advancements in DNA and human microbiome applications.
Jurvetson predicted voice will move from the interactive voice response being championed today by Amazon Alexa and Google Home to become the user interface for all devices in our everyday lives. New chips the size of shirt buttons that use little power will be layered on to all sorts of devices for as little as 40 cents to provide “always on, ambient listening things to respond to your voice and do what you want them to do,” he said.
Battery-powered voice devices won’t need Internet connectivity, he said. But this scenario requires improvements in deep learning, where he sees a lot of research that will bear fruit within the next two to five years. Fellow panelists tended to agree, only challenging the timing and whether voice would be on the only interface.
Jurvetson referred to his prediction on embedded inference engines as “tiny brains in everything” from appliances to cars, drones, robots and more. With 30 billion connected devices forecast in the next three years and trillions of devices to be connected to the Internet thereafter, Jurvetson said, if we don’t go to this model “the Internet would collapse under the weight of IoT traffic.”
Pushing intelligence to the edge also means, “data will stay local, and it will provide better privacy, latency, security, lower cost, better bandwidth and utilization,” he said.
All of this will be made possible by inexpensive neural networks running on a variety of sensors and other devices. Jurvetson’s perspective comes from chip investments made in companies such as Nervana and Movidius (bought by Intel) and his current investment in Mythic, which is designing an analog chip geared to dramatically lower costs and power consumption.
Most fellow VCs did not argue with this trend, but they suggested it was more obvious than not. Mike Abbott, of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, noted the inherent challenge in the Jurvetson model is going to be in training neural network models.
“How are models going to be generated and where will the data be coming from? These are non-trivial issues,” Abbott said.
Jurvetson agreed creating good models would be the biggest challenge, except for data rich companies like Google and Apple. Sarah Tavel of Benchmark also questioned the use cases and if the overhead required for what would typically be relatively low-powered devices would create enough value for effort.
Among other popular predictions from the panel:
- Mike Abbott saw a rise of DNA applications due to low cost sequencing.
- Hans Tung of GGV Capital said food production will be revolutionized globally.
- Rebecca Lynn of Canvas Ventures said microbiome engineering will help prevent a future plague.
- Sarah Tavel forecast a billion-dollar business will be built on understanding our microbiome.
A complete video recording of the event can be watched online here.
--Betty Taylor is a long-time Silicon Valley communications executive and member of the Churchill Club board.