- Many of the World's Most Innovative Companies of 2018 were elevated to distinction by sophisticated and effective technology stacks, from back-end hardware and software engineering to customer-facing augmented reality and artificial intelligence offerings. Fast Company surveyed thousands of global businesses across sectors to create general and industry-specific rankings.
- Apple cinched the overall top award for its product innovations and improvements and, more importantly, the software, hardware and AI engineering the company integrates into its products and harnesses to better understand its customer base.
- The top 10 was rounded out by, in order, Netflix, Square, Tencent, Amazon, Patagonia, CVS Health, The Washington Post, Spotify and the National Basketball Association. Most of these companies operate primarily or increasingly through digital platforms and were recognized for a variety of technologies, including advanced data science operations, artificial intelligence, mobile applications and software.
The list recognized many companies for advanced technology stacks that don't often appear on the same lists as Amazon and Apple. For example, Cava, a Mediterranean fast-casual chain, was ranked No. 37 overall for its integration of data science and sensors throughout its locations to improve productivity, protect food quality and streamline customer interactions.
While many winners were unsurprising choices, the recognition of companies like Cava goes to show that recognition is not just about an organization applying a technology, but applying it well
Tech leaders can implement every buzzword from AI to blockchain, but unless these technologies are being used to deliver unique and profit-maximizing benefits or improve the end-user interaction, it can far too easily end up squandered.
After all, the useful AI application is smart, not sexy — just like a cucumber sorter.
Sector-specific rankings recognized companies for more specific technologies, including:
- Artificial intelligence, led by AliveCor, Pinterest, Darktrace, Jigsaw, Microsoft and Nvidia
- Augmented and virtual reality, led by Lowe's, Houzz, Wayfair, Unity Technologies and Blippar
- Data science, led by Stitch Fix, Thumbtack, Cava, Rover and Textio
- Enterprise, led by Amazon, Slack, The Muse, Box and Cloudflare