Massive Cyber Attacks, Autonomous Electric Cars And ‘Augmented’ Workforces: Israeli Industry Experts’ Predictions For The Next 5 Years
In the next round of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel should prepare for massive cyber breaches to critical infrastructure that may do real damage and bring in a new element to war, warned Yuval Shachar, the executive chairman of the leading Israeli cybersecurity think tank Team8. The warning was one of several observations made by Shachar at a conference in Tel Aviv this week that brought together leading Israeli figures in the tech ecosystem to unpack trends and forecasts for the next five years in fields such as cyber, artificial intelligence, robotics, digital media, automotive, blockchain, and e-commerce.
Shachar took a half-joking tone to say that “2017 was a scary year” in the cyber world, noting major hacks like the WannaCry ransomware attack and the Equifax breach, “and 2018 will be worse.” In 2017, he said, damage from ransomware attacks cost an estimated $5 billion, according to a 2017 report by Cybersecurity Ventures, up from $325 million in 2015. And the potential for even greater damage is high, as industrial networks, government agencies, and even national elections, especially in developing countries, are exposed, Shachar said.
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But Israel will remain a world leader in the cybersecurity world, said Shachar, whose Team8 has produced a number of companies tackling cyber sub-sectors, like Illusive Networks, which develops deception tech to detect hacking attacks, Claroty Networks, which provides advanced solutions to secure critical infrastructure systems, and Sygnia, a military-grade cyber consulting and incident response company.
Shmil Levy, a managing partner at venture capital firm Sequoia Capital in Israel, who also spoke at the conference hosted by Israel-based IVC Research Center and law firm Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal to unveil their joint report on exits by Israeli companies in 2017, said Israel has no fewer than 450 active cyber ventures, which make up 20 percent of Israeli high-tech, of which 80 percent are likely to shut down within a few years.
Levy said investment in cyber companies has high risk, but high reward as Israel enjoys a prestigious reputation in the field, but that companies will have to look for niches in the sector if they want to survive.
Shachar agreed, noting that 2018 will see a consolidation of the market as companies grow in size and capabilities and take on bigger issues.
In the related but separate field of automotive, Adam Fisher of Bessemer Venture Partners, said there is great entrepreneurial interest in the fast-growing sector as players across industries such as smartphone makers, sensor and chip companies and cybersecurity firms, want in on the market.
“Existing tech companies are discovering that their technology is relevant to the auto industry,” said Fisher.
Fisher said car makers understand that the industry is being disrupted and are undertaking ventures and acquisitions, such as Germany’s Continental AG buying Tel Aviv’s Argus Cyber Security, which provides end-to-end security solutions that protect connected cars from hackers and malicious software, for $430 million late last year.
“Israel will continue to be a chief destination for the field,” he said, even if building the next Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based developer of cutting-edge autonomous driving technologies acquired by Intel in 2017 for a staggering $15.3 billion, will be very difficult.
But the technology required for fully autonomous cars will be ready in five years’ time, he asserted, and autonomous cars will also be electric, environmentally friendly cars.
“Large passenger vehicles (buses and shuttles) will likely be the first to go full autonomous and this will happen in cities with strong mapping and data collections,” he said, adding that it should come as no surprise that the field will be highly regulated.
Ofer Schreiber, a partner at YL Ventures and head of its Israel office, said that by 2020, he expects that 250 million vehicles across the world will be connected cars and that 75 percent of all new cars will be “smart.”
But with the new possibilities come the dangers as such cars are essentially “data centers on wheels,” and “defending IoT (Intenet of Things) is different than IT.”
“In IoT, cybersecurity means safety, usually to humans,” he said, warning that the potential for large-scale attacks is high.
If hackers target thousands of cars of a certain make and brand, that is a high-impact attack, he said, noting that current cyber solutions offer detection, rather than prevention and given the potential harm to human life, in an autonomous vehicle, for example, the industry must turn its focus to prevention.
The biggest changes over the next five years and beyond, will be in artificial intelligence, said Eyal Niv, managing general partner of Pitango Venture Capital, as we move from “machines who think for themselves to machines who observe, learn and adapt by themselves.”
“Artificial intelligence will eat the world,” said Niv, borrowing from a famous headline in a Wall Street Journal essay in 2011 by Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and more recently venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz. It will go beyond the changes and disruption brought on by the mobile and cloud industries, said Niv.
“AI will be in everything; infrastructure, processing, storage, applications,” he asserted.
Erez Schahar of Qumra Capital took it one step further, saying that “AI will be as transformative to us as electricity was to our ancestors,” and that the “AI Age will have a more dramatic impact than the Information Age.”
Regarding the oft-repeated concern that AI will make human employees obsolete, Schahar said humans will stay relevant because of their emotional intelligence where they have a competitive advantage.
There will be a premium on top-notch critical, creative and innovative thinking, as well as emotional engagement, negotiation, and collaboration skills, he said.
Schahar noted that whereas in the Information Age, “being smart” meant doing well on tests, having vast knowledge and a great memory, in the AI Age, it will mean having higher levels of critical thinking, listening and engaging.
AI will allow humans to “stop doing things that don’t need much intelligence and do more things that need real human intelligence,” said Niv.
Innovation, in any field, does not mean unemployment, said Roy Oron, managing partner at OG Tech Ventures.
The future will have jobs we haven’t heard of, “less cashiers and travel agents and maybe more VR therapists,” he said.
Among other notable trends, according to Oron, are that more companies will have an “augmented workforce” that combines human tasks and automated tasks, and that workers will have more dynamic careers, with a focus on mentorships and learning on the job.
In the field of Big Data, Jonathan Saacks of Tel Aviv-based F2 Capital said that the next few years will bring a shift to decentralized computing as control of data will return to users, brought on by blockchain technology. Users currently don’t own their own data and remain at the mercy of companies and social media giants, Saacks indicated.
He also noted a growing trend in the O2O (online to offline) experience, as the retail industry changes with some massive deals in recent years such as Amazon acquiring Whole Foods, Walmart buying Jet.com, and Alibaba purchasing Israel’s Visualead QR code tech.
“Physical chains can’t survive alone but neither can digitally native retailers,” he said, adding that the online and offline worlds will reconcile.
Saacks’s third prediction was that “voice” will be the interface of the future, as major improvements in human speech recognition tech are being made, and the fields of Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are “perfect matches” for voice.
Barak Pridor of Saban Ventures also thinks voice is the future, predicting that “voice dictation will outperform keyboard typing” in the future, and that blockchain will be a major part of returning power to users for “Digital Rights.”
In the digital media industry, Pridor also said that mobiles will soon support an “acceptable” AR experience as head-worn displays will become more mainstream and that engagement-driven content will dominate the field.
On a darker note, Pridor said that the next few years will bring more scientific understanding of the long-term health hazards related to mobile, not just radiation but also behavioral effects like addiction.
The future may be bright; the question is will it be safe?