Topping the minds of the region’s technology leaders this year is the talk of cyber security and the need for businesses to arm themselves against an ever-growing arsenal of threats.
Hardly a day goes by that a story about cyber security and its effects on national and economic security is not brought to light, said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council and a speaker at the 2015 Northern Trust Economic Trends Breakfast presented by BizTimes Media.
The issues raised by cyber security are particularly relevant to Wisconsin, Still said, in light of the sectors located here.
“It’s a topic that hits home for Wisconsin very directly because of some of the business sectors that are located here – financial services, insurance, retail, health care,” he said. “Those are all sectors that need to be thinking on a daily basis about their cyber security, and they also have to be strong sectors in Wisconsin.”
On the supply side, the state is home to some “excellent” companies and academic researchers focusing their work around cyber security needs, Still said.
“That combination speaks well to Wisconsin’s ability to get more involved in that issue,” he said.
Tina Chang, chairman and chief executive officer of Brookfield-based SysLogic Inc. and another Economic Trends presenter, refers to the security actions leaders are taking as the rise of “cyber diligence” as leaders recognize the need to protect more than their physical walls.
“You absolutely need to prioritize securing your virtual walls,” Chang said, noting that new entry points to a business or home, through the Internet, email and other avenues, amplify the cause for concern.
Another technology trend to keep an eye on is the continued development of the “Internet of Things,” defined by the interconnectedness of systems and devices and “the power of mass data collection, especially in a consumer environment, in order to be able to drive insights,” Chang said.
With the connectivity of so many different devices, “you’re really allowing mass research and offloading the collection of that research to your individual users and consumers,” Chang said.
The Internet of Things is just starting from the point of relevant functionality to the consumer and data collection, Chang said.
“The real power of the Internet of Things will be the more advanced interconnectedness and analysis of the data, which is just starting within many enterprises,” she said.
Chang also believes that using data, collected both internally and externally, to drive better business insights will be a technological priority for a lot of companies and executives throughout the year ahead.
How companies leverage internal and external data varies dramatically as some companies must first get a handle on organizing their internal data while others are fully prepared to begin integrating external data with their own.
For instance, Chang said, a printing company wanting to optimize its energy footprint could monitor its energy usage and then draw in external weather data to reinforce its optimization.
Looking broadly at Wisconsin’s technology economy, Still is confident that it is positioned to be an “emerging force” in the country’s tech-based economy, particularly as it has diversified.
“I think that Wisconsin is increasingly diversified when it comes to its tech-based economy,” Still said. “There was a time 10 or 15 years ago that if you talked about technology in Wisconsin you were often talking almost exclusively about biotechnology.”
Today, the sector also encompasses medical imaging, medical devices, health care information technology, software, advanced manufacturing and energy-related technology.
It has become much more broad based, and that means it is a more sustainable sector overall, according to Still.
Still predicts health care information technology will continue to rise as almost a standalone sector.
He is equally confident that the state will attract more angel and venture capital to early-stage companies in every sector. There has been slow but steady improvement in gaining more venture and angel capital, according to Still, and that capital is key to the startup and scale up equation in Wisconsin.
“If we are truly interested in creating more companies, angel and venture capital is one of the ways to get there,” Still said.