We’ve heard plenty about mega companies releasing their “innovative” and “one-of-a-kind” products and services. But, today, we pause to ask, what really classifies as innovation?
Simply something novel? Or something contemporary that brings a difference to life as we know it? (Think: a safety hat for construction workers so advanced that it speaks to you when you are about to step into a disaster-prone area.)
Over the years, the definition and examples of innovation have changed, and organizations are at the forefront of this wave.
Groundbreaking innovations found on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, plus the hundreds of others honored across our sector lists, are brimming with insights into how organizations can make a meaningful impact—on their organizations, their industries, and society at large.
Often, countries have self-reported their greenhouse gas emissions, but the data is outdated and incomplete. Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions), a coalition of organizations formed in 2020, updates and maintains greenhouse gas emissions estimates to give countries the insights they need to direct climate mitigation efforts more effectively.
In partnership with former US vice president Al Gore, Climate TRACE uses remote sensing and artificial intelligence to independently track emissions in near real-time. More recently, the company is also betting on satellites and AI to help save the planet—it can pinpoint emitters down to the country and sector. Additionally, starting in October, it will be able to highlight the individual power plant, steel mill, or cargo ship.
Founded in 1995 by chemist Wang Chuanfu, Warren Buffett-backed Chinese battery company BYD has become a powerhouse of carmakers. Backed by innovation in core technologies, BYD, which started making cars after acquiring a carmaker in 2002, grew sales of its hybrid and all-electric passenger vehicles by more than 231% year over year in 2021, selling nearly 600,000 of these “new energy” cars globally.
By producing all the essential components for its EVs, BYD avoided the supply-chain disruptions that hobbled other carmakers in 2021. And unlike Tesla, BYD makes its batteries and sells them to other automakers.
Unlike Google or Facebook, smaller companies don’t always possess enough data to spot fraudulent login attempts. Deduce seeks to bring this capability to the rest of the internet. The company can identify and alert customers to emerging fraud techniques and coordinated hacks targeting the same user across multiple companies.
Guardhat aims to change the way industrial jobs operate today. In a sector prone to injuries and accidents every year, the company’s Internet of Things- and cell-enabled hard hat has been used by leading manufacturers since its 2020 rollout to protect their employees.
Used by companies in chemical production, construction, and mining, Guardhat’s Communicator hard hat facilitates voice and video calls. It also tracks the wearer’s location and monitors the temperature, humidity, pressure, and noise levels. Paired with Guardhat’s software, the hat allows real-time worker safety monitoring.
Sites can create virtual boundaries that alert even offline wearers to avoid areas with, say, chemical spills or active cranes.
The primary purpose of creating Biotricity was to give people with cardiac issues a tool to monitor their conditions. So, in 2018, the company introduced Bioflux, a wearable, 24/7 electrocardiogram that continuously collects and transmits cardiac data, with abnormalities monitored in real-time by a call center. In November last year, it released Bioheart, a direct-to-consumer, wearable EKG that pairs with a smartphone to help users better track their heart health. Recently, the company debuted its Biokit, which contains a connected thermometer, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure cuff, allowing patients to send more information to their physicians.
There’s a growing mental health crisis worldwide, and it has only worsened after the pandemic. But, telepathy startup Brightline aims to offer vital support to children and their families. It makes children’s behavioral health accessible via virtual therapy sessions and online coaching programs. In 2021, Brightline expanded beyond traditional therapy to include behavioral coaching, offering affordable mental healthcare options.
Maven is a platform for digital experts to freely share knowledge on platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. It lets creators and influencers monetize their skills and knowledge through online courses emphasizing real-time peer-to-peer learning rather than the asynchronous model of online courses. Maven requires instructors to take a class in cohort-based teaching and recruit people to sign up. It focuses mostly on trending topics such as crypto and creator economy.
For climate-conscious homeowners, solar panels are just the first step. There’s also battery storage, resilient roofing, heat pumps, and electrical panel upgrades. GoodLeap has established itself as the technology bridge between good intentions and the installers, manufacturers, and banks who can fulfill them, thanks to its underwriting engine and payment plans. By the end of 2021, GoodLeap announced that it had funded over $10 billion in residential solar and sustainable home improvement projects in the US, including $4.8 billion in 2021 alone.
A shocking amount of security breaches are caused by human error, such as clicking on a phishing link. In May 2021, Arctic Wolf analyzed an estimated 1.6 trillion events weekly to help banks, hospitals, and municipal governments mitigate cyberattack risks and launched the managed Security Awareness educational program. Beyond simply requiring employees to watch a boring video on best security practices, the program reinforces knowledge by engaging employees several times a month with short, often funny lessons based on real-world active threats. The videos have high production values and leaderboards to make learning a game, while integrated coaching keeps employees from getting lost on tough challenges.
Flexport, a software platform for companies to manage every aspect of their supply chain, has a goal. It wants to solve customer problems. Amid the supply chain chaos, Flexport rose to the challenge, bringing online everything from customers’ factories in Asia to the trucks that deliver to fulfillment centers. With each node it digitizes, there’s more data to help customers resolve issues and inform Flexport services, including order management, ocean freight procurement, and customs assistance. The company made over $3 billion in 2021 from customers who used its services.
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Patrick Chalhoub on his passion for art, culture and retro-futurism