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Synovus’ Dan Morgan offers his top tech picks for 2019

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With the markets in turmoil, shedding loads of value seemingly by the day across the board, it’s no longer a sure thing to bet on the tech sector or even its most prominent companies.

It used to be that investors could put some money in the famous FAANGs — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google parent company Alphabet — and be assured of doing well. But Apple and Google’s stocks are down for the year, and Facebook’s has fallen off a cliff. While both Amazon and Netflix’s shares are still up for the year, they’re way off their highs.

Read this: Dow drops 640 points for the worst Christmas Eve trading day on record

What’s more, Wall Street analysts are forecasting that the technology sector’s profit growth rate will slow dramatically next year after being boosted by President Donald Trump’s tax cut this year, said Dan Morgan, a long-time tech investor with Synovus.

Going into 2019, “you just have to be very discerning in the tech sector,” said Morgan, a portfolio manager at Synovus Trust. He continued: “You have to do your homework and zero in on some of [the] trends.”

So what’s an investor to do? What are the big trends to watch?

Many tech sectors are looking uncertain right now, said Morgan. Although he’s not predicting a recession next year, he does think economic growth will slow, and that will hit some areas harder than others.

The consumer sector in particular looks shaky right now, because many of the big companies face other obstacles in addition to a potential economic slowdown, he said.

Apple’s stock, for example, is highly dependent on its ability to sell iPhones, and those sales have started to decline, he noted. Google and Facebook’s business models, built around collecting highly personal information from consumers, have come under increasing scrutiny of late amid a series of privacy and other scandals.

Netflix and Amazon’s stocks and businesses have held up, but both look to be the exceptions in the consumer technology sector that prove the rule, he said.

So Morgan’s advice is to look to the cloud.

Spending on cloud services is growing at a rapid rate as businesses of all sizes increasingly shift their technology spending to them and away from their own data centers, Morgan said. The industry will soon see a $10 billion windfall from the US Defense Department, which is planning to move some of its own computing infrastructure to the cloud as part of its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, he noted.

“That’s an area that’s still very strong,” he said.

In fact, he thinks the prospects for the area are so good, his theme or 2019 is “roll into the cloud.”

With that in mind, here are Morgan’s top picks in tech going into 2019:

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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