Which tech players gained the most in 2021, and what trends can we expect in 2022?
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It’s was a buoyant year for technology in 2021, with new developments in almost every industry.
Facebook became Meta, which Mark Zuckerberg called “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.”
Semiconductor shortages prevailed the physical world, with chip makers and makers of chip making equipment riding high.
And space tech took a big leap forward with commercial flight. Captain Kirk himself made it to the final frontier.
This year ScoMo muscled his way into the semiconductor sector, making us part of the Quad alliance with India the US and Japan – with the aim to identify vulnerabilities and bolster supply chain security for semiconductors and key components.
He also jumped on the space bandwagon – announcing up to $50 million for a consortium of Australian businesses and researchers to develop and build a small rover that will head to the Moon with NASA as early as 2026.
The program is expected to deliver right along the supply chain. Space tech has historically been the catalyst for growth, resulting in LEDs, GPS, MRIs and smoke detectors that us plebs down on earth use.
But it’s not the only sector making waves down the supply chain.
Remote work has seen a plethora of small stocks appearing on the ASX, from VR companies, to software as a service (SaaS) players now an essential part of the hybrid and remote working environment where the cloud is king.
Even tech giant Google invested $1b to develop Aussie tech talent, as working from home became the new normal.
And the Federal Government just launched the National Artificial Intelligence Centre to help unlock the potential of AI for business by coordinating Australia’s AI expertise and capabilities.
It’s part of the Government’s $124.1 million investment under its AI Action Plan – which aims to position Australia as a global leader in AI tech.
A smart move since AI technologies have been forecast to contribute more than $20 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
Here’s a list of tech stocks and their performance in 2021:
Revasum (ASX:RVS) was the biggest semiconductor winner, up 93% for the year.
The company designs and manufactures equipment for the Silicon Carbide (SiC) fabrication market and wafer sizes ≤200mm and manufactures solely in the US at a time when the country is pouring money into securing its supply chain.
In 2H21, the $74.15M market cap company was fully booked for equipment manufacturing slots and entered the second half with over US$10 million sales order backlog.
Up 61% was Silex Systems (ASX:SLX), who’s working on advancing its uranium enrichment pilot demonstration project at its 51% owned US-based exclusive licensee Global Laser Enrichment ‘s (GLE) Test Loop Facility in the US.
The company is confident that with the outlook for nuclear power continuing to improve around the world and the demand for uranium, enriched silicon and other isotopes increasing, it’s well placed to “respond quickly and efficiently to opportunities as they arise”.
Weebit Nano (ASX:WBT) was up 46% for the year, and signed its first commercial agreement with US based fab SkyWater in September.
The company expects that by the end of next year it should be qualified and then be able to start mass production.
It certainly helps that Weebit uses standard material in the fab, making it as simple as possible to ramp up manufacturing, which adds a 5% cost to the wafer – as opposed to 10-20% with flash.
The biggest semiconductor loser was Sensera (ASX:SE1) who dropped 84% over the last 12 months, taking a hit in October when its customer NanoDX decided to go with an entirely different design to the company’s MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS).
In November, the company announced the proposed sale of its MicroDevices business to major customer Abiomed (NASDAQ:ABMD) for US$7.5 million.
The transaction is subject to shareholder approval at the AGM on 23 December, and upon completion Sensera will no longer have an operating business.
In July the company acquired a specialist artificial intelligence company focused on predicting Aortic Stenosis (AS) heart condition – and since then it’s been all systems go, with a clinical trial of the Echo IQ tech funded by heart valve replacement manufacturer Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE:EW).
AI chip developer Brainchip (ASX:BRN) was up 98% for the year, with its Akida 1000 Neuromorphic System-on-Chip able to learn in real time, mimicking neurobiological architectures and working like a mini brain.
The company made a swathe of announcements in November, entering into a four-year licence agreement for its Akida IP with MegaChips – a pioneer in the Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) industry.
BrainChip also completed functionality and performance testing of Akida, which achieved performance and lower power consumption results.
Trailing the pack was Spectur (ASX:SP3), which was only up 19% over the last 12 months.
The company provides remote-sensing surveillance cameras for public and remote places such as beaches, parks, bushlands and other isolated facilities, with its AI tech able to process complex scenarios very quickly with a high degree of accuracy and features including facial and object recognition.
In September Spectur generated $597,000 of revenue in September, an increase of 61% compared to September 2020 and expects demand to increase as summer holidays loom.
Location sharing app Life360 (ASX:360) is on top, having gained 207% in the last 12 months.
The company saw a surge in users in the June quarter after teens on TikTok sent the hashtag #Life360hacks viral with tips n tricks to circumvent the app.
It could have backfired, but CEO Chris Hulls jumped on the platform and turned things around, with the company now boasting 33.8 million monthly active users, 1.1 million of which are paying users, and a $2 billion market capitalisation.
Last month, Life360 bought tracking tech firm Tile for US$205 million and is aiming to list on the NASDAQ in CY22.
Up 142% for the year was edtech platform Janison Education Group (ASX:JAN) who announced in May it had been accredited by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the exclusive provider of its PISA for Schools learning platform.
JAN acquired school assessments business Quality Assessment Tasks (QATs) in October and last month acquired Academic Assessment Services (AAS), with AAS expected to provide a suite of premium K-12 assessment content of approximately 15,000 test items that extends Janison’s existing libraries .
Specialist IT consulting services company CPT Global (ASX:CGO) was up 115% for the year.
The company enjoyed revenue growth of 33%, a record net profit of $3.4m and a record net profit margin of 10.2% despite COVID challenges.
In FY22 CPT plans to start laying the foundations for a software development business based on its existing intellectual property and expertise by building tools that complement and enhance the company’s consulting services.
Cloud tech solutions company Jcurve Solutions (ASX:JCS) also made it over the 100% mark, up 111% for the last 12 months.
The company announced a 136% increase in sales growth to $1.3m for the month of July 2021 – up from $0.6m in July 2020 and has just rebranded with new sub-brands: Optyc, Quicta, Vyzeri and Dygiq with the aim of growing subscriber numbers across the new products and service lines.
Prophecy International (ASX:PRO) was ahead of the cyber security pack, rising 119% over the last 12 months.
The company plans to make its Snare cyber security platform available to purchase on a subscription basis as an on-premises or as a hosted cloud offering.
After booking total revenues of just over $10m in FY21, Prophecy said it’s on track to book revenues of more than $15m in FY22.
Up 40% for the year was school cyber safety provider Family Zone Cyber Safety (ASX:FZO), who grew annual recurring revenue by $2.5 million to $46 million in the September quarter – and said it now services 9.78 million students and 19,278 schools across the group.
That works out to more than 9.5% of US school districts and 38% of the UK schools.
FZO aims to integrate products and cross-sell Smoothwall and Linewize products into each customer base and is planning to launch Monitor in the US with a pipeline exceeding $1 million and expects to launch Linewize’s Classwize offering into the UK in March quarter 2022.
And down 67% was global online cybersecurity exchange marketplace Whitehawk (ASX:WHK).
Last quarter the company secured a 2nd year contract extension from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) CISA QSMO Cybersecurity Marketplace, as a sub-contractor to Guidehouse for US$1.5-$1.8 million.
The company also executed option Year 1 of 4 as prime contractor on US Federal Government CISO Cyber Risk Radar for up to US$1.18 million annually.
According to Queensland AI Hub chairman and CEO and co-founder of Max Kelsen Nicholas Therkelsen-Terry, artificial intelligence is going to impact every industry – in fact, we’re already having hundreds of interactions with AI every day.
“Most people don’t realize that they’re encountering AI systems, multiple if not hundreds of times a day in a standard life, and that’s only going to increase,” he said.
“It’s really penetrating every sector in the market at the moment. Financial services are adopting lots of AI, miners and oil and gas companies are adopting AI quite aggressively.
“We’re right in the middle of that transition of a technology that’s really been nurtured and matured in tech companies and spilling out into the real economy and ending up everywhere.”
Therkelsen-Terry added that the AI resources sector is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity – but he flagged AI health care as an emerging biotech trend.
“When we look at the market projections for AI, generally for commercial AI its around $150-160 billion by 2027, but the market predictions for healthcare AI in the same period is $60 billion – so 1/3 the size of the total market,” he said.
“The opportunity is absolutely enormous. We have some really great companies in Australia, there’s a number of providers and cardio diagnostics, including the first FDA machine learning device ever approved, which is based here in Queensland, through to some exciting start-ups like Harrison.ai AI who recently raised a massive round down in Sydney.”
While the move online is great for remote workers, it also opens the door for cyber-attacks – so it’s no surprise that the cyber security sector is slated to grow in 2022.
Almost 75% of Australian businesses experienced as many as 10 cyber incidents or breaches over the last year and self-reported losses from cybercrime to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) totalled more than $33 billion.
Almost 75% of leaders with more than $40 billion in revenue reported to Deloitte’s Future of Cyber survey that they intend to spend more than $130 million on cybersecurity protections this year.
Even Visa has developed a cyber security roadmap for 2022 which requires ecommerce payment providers in Australia to ensure they invest in botnet detection capabilities to identify and prevent enumeration attacks, by October 2022.
And cyber insurance is now a thing, according to Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre Senior Analyst Karly Winkler.
“It’s at least some protection for the most vulnerable or at least the ability to recover for most vulnerable,” she said.
“They may not employ a security company to protect them to stop them getting done in the first place, but at least they can get back on their feet afterwards.”
Winkler said the trend to remote working and running businesses online has opened up a tonne of security vulnerabilities in mobile phones.
“There’s a lot less security on phones which is ironic when the function they fill for people in society is so much broader, such as checking in to places with COVID checking, using internet banking, and using it to do two factor authentication for secure services,” she said.
“Most people understand that you’re supposed to have an antivirus and firewall and some cyber security consciousness your computer, but they haven’t yet figured out that you should do that with your phone – so the uptake of security software on people’s phones is low.”
So far, the only telco taking some steps to secure mobile networks is Telstra (ASX:TLS) with its Cleaner Pipes initiative to block malicious SMS messages, with the company noting a jump from 50 scam text reports last year to a staggering 11,000 this year.