AI and data: The 15 next big things, from culture-aware algorithms to password-free security

Microsoft and InfernoRed’s platform for safer elections, fraud-preventing puzzles, a tool for detecting bias in automated decision-making systems, and more.

AI and data: The 15 next big things, from culture-aware algorithms to password-free security

If you’ve been following the news in 2021, you can be forgiven for harboring deep skepticism about the technology industry’s use of artificial intelligence and big data—which, in worst-case scenarios, poses a threat a threat to everything from our privacy to public health. But all the news is not bad. These products, services, and technologies leverage AI and data to address an array of very real problems, including bias at work, online fraud, and the challenge of keeping voting systems secure and trustworthy.


See a full list of Next Big Things in Tech winners across all categories here.


For turning data into new DEI insights
Payroll giant ADP’s DataCloud service now includes a diversity, equity, and inclusion dashboard that offers companies insights based on anonymized information from 30 million workers. It allows companies to answer questions such as “Which areas of my organization are not diverse?” in real time and with hard data.

Arkose Labs
For foiling both human fraudsters and bots
After identifying potential fraud on websites, Arkose Labs intercedes by deploying visual puzzles that are nearly impossible for algorithms to solve and take too long for human click farms to tackle. This enforcement tool has helped clients such as Expedia and Chime stop bad guys while ensuring that users still have a good experience.

Beyond Identity
For finding a way around pesky passwords
Founded during the pandemic, this startup uses the same technology that secures digital transactions to eliminate the need for passwords. Users’ identities are tied to each device and cryptographically validated each time they log in, extending a chain of trust from the enterprise to each user.

For giving data a mind of its own
With Keyavi’s API platform, individual pieces of data become self-aware and intelligent, reporting where they’re going and ensuring that only authorized users are accessing them. That means the owners have full control over who can access data and when, a breakthrough that has led to Keyavi being granted 16 patents.

Microsoft and InfernoRed
For securing the democratic process
These companies partnered to create ElectionGuard, an open-source system that keeps data encrypted even while it’s being processed, allowing people to check that their vote has been counted while keeping their ballot secret. It’s designed to work with both electronic voting machines and paper ballot scanners.
[Illustration: Noma Bar]
For cutting AI down to size
This Princeton University spin-off helps creators of equipment such as medical devices, network appliances, and wearables build AI applications that run locally rather than in the cloud. Unlike conventional AI, these apps don’t require vast amounts of computing muscle, energy, or training data to do valuable work.

For nipping AI bias in the bud
PwC’s Bias Analyzer examines output data to help the firm’s clients spot biases in automated decision-making systems that could impact processes ranging from insurance underwriting to clinical trials. The service examines output data rather than algorithms, allowing companies to keep proprietary models confidential.
[Photo: courtesy of Spherex]
For making TV and movies more culture-aware

Spherex’s Greenlight technology allows production companies to adapt their content—and marketing strategies—to fit within a country’s specific societal or cultural guidelines. Using a mix of AI and human curation, it analyzes cues from more than 240 countries and territories.

Honorable Mentions

For eliminating the need for passwords with blockchain and biometrics

For decentralizing the recruiting process

For teaching AI to understand reams of legal documents


Pipeline Equity
For using data to prove that pay equity is good business

For infiltrating cybercriminal communities to prevent attacks

For protecting inboxes from cybersecurity threats