Next Big Things in Tech 2021

Technology is the backbone of every company today. For the first time, Fast Company is recognizing the tech breakthroughs that promise to define the future of industries, from healthcare to agriculture to artificial intelligence.

Some of the world’s most intriguing innovations are so new that their full impact is yet to be felt. This is what we’re highlighting in the inaugural edition of Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech. The 65 honorees on our list, which includes global giants as well as intrepid startups, often harness research that’s fresh from the labs, applying cutting-edge tech to solve real-world problems in unexpected ways.

Our winners, which were selected by a team of 14 Fast Company writers and editors, cover a lot of ground, from financial tech to robotics to sustainability. There’s an affordable tractor that drives itself and uses sensors to improve crop yields. The first at-home COVID-19 test that uses CRISPR technology to deliver results that are both rapid and reliable. A dashboard that helps companies gain new insights into their diversity, equity, and inclusion progress based on hard data. A technology for keeping payments safe from quantum computing attacks that could instantly crack current encryption standards. And a streaming platform that turned a billion people watching a live BTS concert into a community. Other honorees take on equally ambitious challenges—and are poised to improve our lives at home, at work, and beyond.

These products, services, and technological breakthroughs may not all be on the market yet, but they’re real, and they’re reaching important milestones along the way toward availability. Their potential for the future is what excited us the most as we assessed candidates for this list.

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Money
Anchorage Digital
For solving crypto's custody problem
Grabango
For letting established stores ditch checkout lines
Mastercard
For protecting payments from quantum computing attacks
Orum
For moving money instantly
Zest AI
For making consumer lending less racist
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Smart Machines
Azumo
For building screens that stand up to sunlight
Diamond Foundry
For creating a material that can outperform silicon
GelSight
For helping robots develop a new sense
IBM
For giving Moore’s law new life
Lightmatter
For making AI faster and more sustainable
Monarch
For automating farms while preserving the environment
MTEK
For bringing new efficiency to factory floors
Rapid Robotics
For teaching robots to do everyday work
Relativity Space
For 3D printing rockets in mere days
SambaNova
For letting companies train AI models in the cloud
Skylo
For sending the Internet of Things to space
Tactile Mobility
For allowing vehicles to feel the road beneath them
Sustainability
Anuvia
For producing fertilizer from food waste
Automotus
For helping cities understand—and monetize—vehicle traffic
Bowery Farming
For designing an operating system for crops
Desktop Metal
For saving trees through 3D printing
Farther Farms
For fighting food waste with CO2
Form Energy
For creating the battery of tomorrow
GAF
For cleaning up our roofs
GM
For creating a practical—and scalable—electric vehicle battery
Li-Cycle
For keeping batteries out of landfills
MagniX
For electrifying short flights
MycoWorks
For replacing leather with mushrooms
Nuvve
For turning school buses into batteries
PepsiCo and Wint
For getting smart about water consumption
Sama and Orbisk
For using AI to reduce restaurant food waste
Turntide
For redesigning motors to run more cleanly
Upside Foods
For making cell-grown meat a reality
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AI & Data
ADP
For turning data into new DEI insights
Arkose Labs
For foiling both human fraudsters and bots
Beyond Identity
For finding a way around pesky passwords
Keyavi
For giving data a mind of its own
Microsoft and InfernoRed
For securing the democratic process
NeuTigers
For cutting AI down to size
PwC
For nipping AI bias in the bud
Spherex
For making TV and movies more culture-aware
Health
Biospectal
For measuring blood pressure through smartphones
Brightseed
For mapping plants’ chemical diversity and using it for medicine
Caption Health
For adding intelligence to ultrasounds
ClosedLoop AI
For giving doctors new insight into health outcomes
Microsoft and Adaptive Biotech
For using data to create a test for past COVID-19 infection
Outset Medical
For making dialysis less of a burden
Sherlock Biosciences
For applying CRISPR's power to COVID-19 testing
Synchron
For getting people with paralysis online
Tivic Health
For reducing sinus pain through technology
TruTag
For preventing pharmaceutical supply-chain fraud
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Experiences
Adobe
For performing magic with megapixels
Amazon
For democratizing special effects
Arcturus
For raising the volume on volumetric videos
Around
For making truly hybrid meetings possible
Audio Design Desk
For simplifying sound design
DressX
For outfitting influencers without the waste
Envisics
For streamlining distracting car displays
Hour One
For putting virtual people to work
Kiswe
For connecting fans to live events
Leica Geosystems
For miniaturizing the laser scanner
Neurable
For keeping tabs on our brains' needs
Pathway
For bringing whiteboards into the virtual era
Taqtile
For using AR to manage industrial equipment
Tilt Five
For giving table games a new AR twist

Contributors: Morgan Clendaniel, Amy Farley, Ainsley Harris, KC Ifeanyi, Suzanne LaBarre, Nicole LaPorte, David Lidsky, Harry McCracken, Jared Newman, Alex Pasternack, Adele Peters, Ruth Reader, Katharine Schwab, Mark Sullivan

Icons: Dept. of Tears

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