A Budding Industry, Part 2
4 more ways weed is disrupting the tech landscape
New to cannabis technology? Get started by checking out part one in our series on weed tech innovations.
As marijuana legalization continues to spread across America—with nearly a dozen states clearing it for recreational use—cannabis startups are rapidly innovating to keep up with an industry that is aiming to generate $75 billion in America by 2030. And now that Canada has legalized recreational weed at the federal level, our neighbors to the north are showcasing even more innovations that Americans can take a cue from soon. Here are four more ways weed is changing the North American tech industry as we know it.
Cannabis is a multi-sensory experience, and it’s hard for connoisseurs to select a new variety online with nothing to go on but a two-dimensional image and short description—after all, a visit to a dispensary lets you look at, touch and smell what’s in store. So when Canada’s Shopify announced that it would be building augmented reality tech that small businesses could use for enhanced online shopping, players in Canada’s newly-legalized cannabis industry were some of the first to sign on. AR company NexTech is using Shopify to develop an AR-driven dispensary that allows customers to view 360-degree images of cannabis flowers, gear, pre-rolls and more right in their home. NexTech is also working with cannabis analytics firm Cannvas Medtech to build AR-driven cannabis education kiosks around Canada that’ll analyze a shopper’s needs and location and help them choose a strain that’s right for them.
Mobile cannabis testing
Once you have your marijuana in hand, you may want to check if it’s the right purity before you consume it. Sending a sample to a lab for analysis takes a few days, so a new crop of smartphone-enhanced portable analyzers is filling the gap. Using tech developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab to detect chemicals in space, CannaDx uses a Bluetooth-enabled analyzer to “sniff” the flower’s cannabinoid content; then it sends the chemical profile to a smartphone app that give you extra information on how it’ll make you feel. If you don’t want to give up even a small bit of your pot for analysis, you can use a computer vision tool like HiGrade, which uses a specialized microscope that attaches to your smartphone to measure potency and look for nutrient deficiencies, pests and mold; your weed’s analysis is sent to your smartphone in 15 seconds.
In the medical marijuana sector, taking an accurate dosage is important—just as it is for any other medicine. Resolve Digital Health has developed a “smart flower inhaler” that not only features dosage control, but also uses Bluetooth to connect to an app that lets users track dosages and symptom relief effectiveness for problems such as chronic pain and insomnia. Resolve’s goal is to develop an algorithm that can get to know patients and forecast health issues they might experience in the near future, such as headaches. Monitoring how patients react to different strains is another major goal of medical cannabis research, and Medicinal Genomics is using an innovative blockchain technique to do it. The Boston-based company uses a service called StrainSEEK that analyzes different cannabis strains and maps their DNA; the information is then stored on the Bitcoin blockchain and registered on Kannapedia, their publicly-available database.
Blockchain-based social networks
All these new cannabis enthusiasts need a place to connect, and cannabis businesses want to connect with them. Since social media has strict advertising restrictions for cannabis businesses—and many cannabis users prefer to keep their use a secret from their social connections anyway—both are turning to anonymous social networks built on blockchain. Some of the most popular ones are Smoke Network, which offers cryptocurrency rewards to active participants; CannaSOS, which is building a large database of strains and dispensaries that members can access; and MJLink, a network that is focused on connecting cannabis businesses with each other. MassRoots, the oldest and largest cannabis social networking app, is planning to convert its database to Blockchain as well.