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This Year’s Key Trends in 14 IP-Intensive Industries

By Ryan Kuhn. A Harvard MBA, Ryan founded M&A advisor Kuhn Capital 35 years ago. Since then, the firm’s principals have initiated hundreds of high-IP mid-market M&A transactions together worth more than $3 billion.

Introduction

Every year we look for the most impactful trend in each of the 14 high-IP industries we serve.

In all but one case, these trends are driving strong economic growth. Hardware is the one exception: concerns over climate change and green initiatives are playing a central, usually costly, role in the business of making electronic devices.

No surprise for most, in 2024 AI/ML convincingly dominates across many of the industries we serve and certainly others. Yet what remains surprising is in how many ways it has made itself useful.

Its omnipresence today is the culmination of years of the ever-growing impact that data analysis has had on nearly every aspect of human endeavor. Maybe for once, the hype cycle of a technology justifies its investors’ expectations. Are we approaching the day when the value of intellectual property eclipses that of tangible assets?

At any rate, today the owners of IP should be increasingly motivated to cultivate and preserve its value. For how to do that see our Ways to Value & Protect Your Intellectual Property.

See below for the key trends in the 14 industries we cover. (Note: we are not compensated by your clicks on links.)

Audio ElectronicsFintechPublishing
ConsultingHardwareSoftware
DataLogisticsTech Services
Education/TrainingManufacturingTeletech
EMSMedtech

Audio Electronics

Trend: Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) Technology

Description: ANC tech has been around a while but it has now become nearly indispensable to the sale of diverse audio devices. While we rank the trend highly due to ANC’s ubiquity alone, we rank it #1 for its potential to use AI not only to mute unwanted sounds, but — we think in the future — AI’s ability to fortify ANC also with the ability to accentuate or even create desired sounds according to user preference.

Leaders

  • Sony WH-1000XM4: Critics rave about these Sony headphones for their superior ANC.
  • Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: As with Sony’s headphones, Bose’s earbuds take top honors for ANC combined with high-res audio.

Consulting

Trend: Strategic Planning

Description: Always the bedrock of the consulting industry, strategic planning remains today its key trend with Bain a long-time leader and Oliver Wyman, a strategy boutique founded in 1984 and a comparative newcomer.

Data

Trend: Data & Tools for Decision-Making

Description: The business of creating, collecting, storing, cleaning and transmitting data to feed the voracious appetites of AI and ML is driving remarkable enhancements in sales, marketing, operations, customer experiences, and strategic decision-making.

Leaders 

  • Palantir: Palantir’s data analytics platforms are used in over 20 industries including by the U.S. government for intelligence and defense purposes.
  • Tableau: Sells data visualization tools used by companies like Verizon to gain insights into how to improve customer service and network performance. As AI and other applications gain ground, we hope chatbots everywhere stop wasting so much customer time.

Education/Training

Trend: AI-Powered Learning Platforms

Description: Leverages artificial intelligence both to deliver adaptive learning experiences (content customized to the unique needs of the student) and to automate administrative tasks.

Leaders:

Valamis: Uses AI to create adaptive learning experiences and track learner progress.

Skillsoft: Personalizes learning paths and delivers content tailored to individual needs via AI.

EMS (Electronic Manufacturing Services)

Trend: Customized and Rapid Prototyping

Description: As electronic devices become ever-more commonplace — with ever-shorter product lifecyclesPCB, EMS — EMS providers must increasingly deliver rapid prototyping and customized solutions. They meet this demand by expertly managing short runs operating 24/7 on quick-change manufacturing lines. EMS players without this core competency risk losing to competitors whose prototyping skills place them in the best position to fill customers’ follow-on mass production orders.

Leaders

Plexus: Uses 3D printing for rapid prototyping on highly adaptable manufacturing lines, thereby allowing design refinements nearly in real-time.

Benchmark Electronics: Comprehensive prototyping services, including design, testing, and validation, all to support clients’ need for speed.

Fintech

Trend: Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

Description: We rank CBDCs as the single most transformative fintech innovation for its global reach and deep societal impact. Central banks are piloting and launching digital currencies they claim to enhance payment efficiency and avoid cryptocurrency’s notorious volatility. But while re-making national and global financial systems, CBDCs also present unprecedented risks of government control over its citizens like that imposed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Leaders

China’s Digital Yuan: The People’s Bank of China is currently piloting use of the e-CNY, a digital currency.

JPMorgan’s Onyx: A collaboration among central banks to develop and test CBDCs and related payment systems.

Hardware

Trend: Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Manufacturing and Products

Description: Hardware is by definition physical, many of its components require heavy mining and refining, and some materials are toxic. As a result, the industry is heavily regulated and otherwise pressed to design devices that minimize environmental impact through energy efficiency, recyclable materials, and reduced e-waste. We rank this trend as the Hardware industry’s most important.

Leaders

Apple: The company uses recycled materials in its products and aims for a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2030.

HP (Hewlett-Packard): Promotes sustainability through energy-efficient products, economical printing ink use and electronic waste recycling programs.

Logistics

Trend: Using Data & Software to Drive Efficiency

Description: The most transformative of all Logistics (3PL) trends and that’s because big data andLogistics, EPL sophisticated analytics enhance all industry core functions — from route optimization to inventory management. The result is to make the process of storing and moving goods more efficient and flexible in the face of change.

Leaders

Ryder System: Uses data analytics to optimize logistics operations, enhance fleet management, and improve service levels. Leverages predictive maintenance to reduce fleet downtime, reduce delays.

Uber Freight: Provides data-driven logistics solutions, leveraging big data to optimize supply chain performance, reduce costs. Transplace’s “Control Tower” tech enables customers to view shipment status in real-time and make timely informed decisions

Manufacturing

Trend: Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Description: Traditional manufacturers create shapes by subtracting or bending a limited selection of material to form finished products. Additive manufacturers create shapes by adding layers from among a great variety of materials in a computer-automated process. 3D printing has been gaining market share for about 10 years but now it’s arrived as the most impactful manufacturing trend of 2024 due to its ability to create complex, one-off parts en mass. The tech reduces waste, shortens production times, enables highly flexible manufacturing processes and can generate products otherwise impossible to make.

Leaders 

Stratasys: Leader in advanced 3D printing solutions.

Desktop Metal: 3D metal printing technologies that enable both rapid prototyping and scalable production.

Medtech

Trend: Robotic-Assisted Surgery (RAS)

Description: Another technology that’s gradually gaining ground, robotic surgical assistants bring enhanced precision that reduces patient recovery times. Some novel and complex operations are even impracticable without them. The runway for greater RAS use is long. One day the technology will no longer merely “assist” surgeons.

Leaders

Intuitive Surgical: Developed the pioneering and now widely-used da Vinci robotic system.

Medtronic: Also an early RAS player, Medtronic’s device is called Hugo.

Publishing

Trend: AI in Content Creation and Curation

Description: AI is being used to help writers create and curate content as well as to generate personalizedPublishing reading recommendations by analyzing reader preferences and habits. While these AI capabilities by themselves represent a major shift in industry practice, even more fundamental is the tech’s rising potential to write content autonomously.

Leaders

OpenAI: Develops advanced AI models that helps writers create content and one day may replace them.

Tableau: A Salesforce division, Tableau develops AI-powered tools that convert data into narratives.

Software

Trend: Cloud-Native Applications

Description: The advantages of cloud-native apps are: 1) No CAPEX; 2) Flexible scaling; 3) Continuous development and releases; 4) They’re comprised of pre-packaged building blocks called “micro services” whose use speeds development and reduces bugs. We rank the cloud-native app trend the Software industry’s greatest due to its fundamental and beneficial impact on how software is developed, deployed, and managed.

Leaders

Amazon Web Services (AWS): Operates a suite of cloud computing services used to develop cloud-native apps that offer scalability and flexibility for varying workloads.

Kubernetes: Offers an open-source platform for managing the automated deployment, scaling, and operations of app containers across multiple.

Tech Services

Trend: Cybersecurity Skill Shortages and Workforce Development

Description: The tech services industry is suffering from an acute shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, so the delivery of specialized training and certification programs is the most impactful industry trend of all.

Leaders

KnowBe4: Provides security awareness training to upskill clients’ employees.

SecureSet Academy: Offers immersive cybersecurity training programs to develop skilled professionals.

Teletech

Trend: Telecom AI/ML

Description: McKinsey says AI/ML is transforming the Teletech industry by enhancing network management (e.g., “self-healing” outages, dynamic load balancing, etc.), field workforce optimization, fraud detection, and customer experiences (CX), among other uses. Who are we to disagree. We rank this trend highest due to its potential to revolutionize a number of industry practices through automation and data-driven insights.

Leaders:

Palantir: Uses AI to optimize network operations.

Ericsson: Applies AI to achieve “zero-touch” operations and to design complex Big Data 5G and Internet of Things (IoT and IIoT) networks.


© 2024 Kuhn Capital, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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06/18/24

Ryan Kuhn is the founder of Kuhn Capital (bio). This article is not the product of AI. AI is a product of this article.