What technologies are developing in Ukraine: observations at Kiev International Economic Forum 2018
Kyiv International Economic Forum is one of the largest and most significant events in the world of Ukrainian business. This year the forum was held for the fifth time. As usual, government officials, leaders and top managers of the largest corporations in Ukraine and the world took part in its work. Forum speakers were international experts, businessmen, scientists, etc. For Ukrainian business, KIEF is not only a place where you can get industry insights from decision makers at the global level, or find new partners and customers. It is also an image event, participation in which means that the company is included in the cohort of the most successful enterprises in the country.
Despite the fact that the word "economic" is present in the name of the Forum, not much was said about economics. The main theme of KIEF 2018 was the coming (and inevitable) digitalization of modern society, the future of the country in the high-tech world, where breakthrough technologies changed the rules of the game not only for individual markets and industries, but also for the whole society. It was this topic that became unifying for panel discussions, during which one discussed artificial intelligence, the digital transformation of the banking system, and leadership in the digital world. The participants in these discussions, either explicitly or implicitly, sought an answer to the following question: "What position in the race to the digital future is Ukraine in?".
Opinions of the KIEF speakers on this occasion were different. Some pointed to a significant backlog of Ukraine from the leading countries in the development of technology. Others said that not everything was so bad, citing cases of digital technologies as proof. However, the expo-zone of the Forum, where Ukrainian enterprises demonstrated their breakthrough solutions, was more eloquent than any panel discussion.
From VR to rockets
Since KIEF is still a discussion platform, and not an exhibition of technologies, the expo-zone of the Forum did not strike with the number of participants. Instead, KIEF made a bet on breakthrough technologies in Ukraine, demonstrating both smart devices for the home and integrated production management systems.
Apparently, a heyday is coming for augmented and virtual reality technologies. The range of AR/VR application is very wide. Large corporations and small companies can work with them. For example, Sensorama demonstrated its personnel training program based on VR technology. The program, developed in conjunction with the energy holding DTEK, simulates the work of an electrician installer, allowing testing the skills that an employee already has or to train new recruits. According to the developers, such a program allows staff to be trained without affecting the current working process and, once created, can be used for training during the entire period that this business process is relevant.
AR (augmented reality) differs from virtual one in that it allows combining real and virtual objects on displays. Examples of the use of AR technologies in production were shown by IT-Enterprise. To date, it is the only Ukrainian company that has received the right to test the new smart glasses of the Google digital giant – Google Glass Enterprise Edition. The application, written by IT-Enterprise, allows performing a variety of tasks – contacting technical support, creating orders for repair of equipment, taking photos and generating reports on work, asking for instructions for specific tasks, and much more. All these options are realized through the display of glasses or using voice control, freeing the employee's hands and greatly increasing productivity.
One of the most striking exhibits of KIEF was the stand of Firefly, a Ukrainian-American aerospace enterprise. The product of the company is two-stage rockets designed to bring small loads into low earth orbit. The demand for small satellite devices used for various purposes has shaped the need for new means of delivering them to space. The Firefly company stands out for the fact that its missiles are optimized for precisely these purposes. Therefore, the costs of one launch are reduced to $ 15 million. Missiles are manufactured in the USA, Texas, but the owner of the company is a Ukrainian businessman, and the main R&D office is located in the Dnieper. The first launch is scheduled for the third quarter of 2019, and by the end of 2020, the company plans to launch monthly.
Another solution for the space industry from Ukraine is the electric rocket engines from SETS, which make it possible to correct the trajectories of satellites and other spacecraft. They help prevent the formation of space debris, providing a controlled descent of the apparatus to Earth after the expiration of its operation. Such propulsion systems are now being installed on almost all satellites and spacecraft. Thanks to SETS, Ukraine is also present in this market.
The cheaper launch of satellites into orbit opens up many new possibilities. One of the startups participating in KIEF presented a solution to create a 3D-simulation of the earth's surface. Such technologies are used in scientific research, but the developers suggest using it to monitor changes occurring in cities. Three-dimensional digital models of cities, created on the basis of data obtained from space, make it possible to observe how individual processes occurring in the life of a city interact in a complex system. This data can be used in developing strategies for urban development, solving infrastructure problems in a global manner and increasing the comfort of residents.
The topic of startups was highlighted separately at KIEF. The development of the startup culture in Ukraine has already led to the emergence of world-famous cases, which contributes to the development of the corresponding IT infrastructure. The IoT Hub accelerator lab showed a trailer for a film about a Senstone startup, a voice assistant, which collected $ 300,000 on Kickstarter. Support and promotion of solutions, finding investors and promoting the product are important prerequisites for success for any startup.
There also was the laboratory of digital production and rapid prototyping Fablab Fabricator, equipped with modern machines, devices, 3D-printers and other devices. For a small monthly fee, anyone can use the laboratory equipment to create their innovative product. The project was launched with the aim of helping startups to realize ideas, attract funding and launch a new product in mass production. Among the products already produced, there are smart collars for animals, a Ukrainian-made fitness bracelet, equipment for biological experiments, and designer lamps.
What is the result?
So, the stereotype about the hopeless lag of Ukraine in the field of modern technologies should be abandoned. However, most innovations are represented in our country only in the form of isolated examples. In order to get the maximum benefit from new technologies and solutions in the near future, they need to be combined into single value added chains. First, it is necessary to achieve an understanding of the possibilities and strategic importance of these technologies among decision makers, both in business and at the state level.