February tech roundup: From Pinterest’s e-Commerce rebrand to Google’s $300M for solar

SolarCity Loans

Note: This post was originally written for and appeared on the LaunchSquad blog.

Riding hot on the heels of the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and just before Mobile World Congress and SXSW in March, February was the middle child for tech this year. But despite being sandwiched between two monumental months, we did see a few big moves in tech over the past several weeks. While many of the glossy, futuristic gadgets we’ll see this year (or perhaps 30 years down the road) have already been unveiled at CES, February was a month for bigger trends: the insurance of a free and open Internet, the growth of e-commerce, Google’s extended foray into renewable energy and the explosion of machine learning.

Net Neutrality Scores Huge Victory for Most Americans

Since the creation of the Internet, lawmakers, tech giants and academics have argued its status as a public resource. As the FCC closed in this February to ensure the Internet was accessible for everyone, the world waited to see what the future of public information would be —and whether the knowledge gap would be increased or narrowed based on the FCC’s classification.

The Internet’s legal branding as a public utility demonstrates its cruciality and role in access to education and public information. While the tech world has occasionally been characterized by the bubble of the haves vs. the have-nots, the new laws will ensure that when it comes to access and opportunity, all are created equal—when it comes to ISPs, that is.

Pinterest Rebrands as Ecommerce Site

Perhaps those that emerged most victorious from the FCC’s ruling were the participants in the e-commerce industry and marketplaces. You may not have mentally categorized Pinterest as a mobile marketplace, but your favorite scrolling vice is looking to rebrand itself to an online marketplace, similar to Etsy. The company has introduced an advertising platform and raised $500 million in an effort to raise their valuation to $11 billion, showing that the growth of independent vendors and the explosion of online marketplaces are here to stay.

Tech Giant Energized for Solar

To bring rooftop solar and renewable energy to more homeowners, in February Google committed $300 million to Solar City as part of a $750 million project. The deal builds on Google’s $280 million commitment in the summer of 2011, showing that energy is not a siloed industry. As smart homes gain the eye of many a VC firm, we’re seeing that energy, technology and the connected home are becoming increasingly intertwined as we are no longer content with the “simple home” of previous generations.

Data and Machine Learning Take Off

Data and machine learning is a trend that’s taken off in 2015. From Microsoft launching its machine learning platform Azure to increased media visibility of digital facial recognition technology and augmented reality, machine learning has proven to be a key player in tech early this year. As brands continue to automate processes, gather deeper data and implement more sophisticated software and technologies, machine learning will likely prove to be a key element of business models and advanced future technology.

Although it wasn’t a month of new gadgets and toys like January was, February has shown that tech has made forays into nearly every industry, from solar energy to art and photos to facial recognition. And as the lines between industries continue to blur with the integrations of various technologies, we’re poised in 2015 to continue down this path, integrating technology into our lives and across industries in ways we haven’t yet explored.

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