It’s not easy to predict what will happen with Pittsburgh tech — and, really, it’s not easy to predict anything right now. But one thing is certain. The city is finally firmly on the map as a technology center.

Pittsburgh now has multiple “unicorns” worth more than a billion dollars — Duolingo, Argo AI, Aurora — and keeps attracting tech giants such as DoorDash and Waymo (Google’s self-driving car division) to the city. Just as interesting is the proliferation of startups, many of which are growing quickly.

There’s a lot going on, so we asked experts in the tech sector to help form our picks for 10 tech companies to watch in 2022. We looked beyond the perennial big players and the companies we featured last year (with a few exceptions). This year’s list shows that Pittsburgh’s tech sector is much broader than robots and computer science.

Photo courtesy of Locomation.

Locomation

You’ve likely heard about all the supply chain problems as a result of a global economy snarled by Covid disruptions. One of those choke points is truck drivers — or a lack thereof. Though it generally pays well, it’s a demanding job that requires special training. Locomation is applying Pittsburgh’s expertise in autonomous vehicles to the problem — but doing it carefully and in stages.

The Strip District-based company offers an Autonomous Relay Convoy system, which tethers together two trucks electronically. The (human) driver pilots the lead truck with a second driver as a backup in the autonomously-driven follower truck. Periodically, they switch places. This enables two trucks to operate for 20 to 22 hours a day, delivering double the cargo faster, at twice the distance. Independent analysis indicates that this will also reduce a truck’s greenhouse gas footprint by 22%, fuel consumption by 21% and operating costs by 19%.

More than 1,000 Wilson Logistics trucks will be equipped with Locomation technology this year, the world’s first commercial autonomous truck order.

Gecko Robotics photo by Quinn Holub.

Gecko Robotics

Wall-crawling robots! No, not creepy at all. Actually, pretty useful — it’s hard to inspect tall things like power plants and pipelines by hand and with the human eye. Cracks and damage need to be detected before it’s too late, and Gecko Robotics’ wall-crawling robot does just that, for giant companies such as BP, Marathon and Duke Energy. Their robots perform ultrasonic and visual inspections that were previously too dangerous or costly to do.

Gecko is expanding into Nova Place on the North Side, taking approximately 70,000 square feet of space. Gecko has 185 employees, with about half located in Pittsburgh, and is looking to double its workforce in 2022.

Koop Technologies

Sure, autonomous vehicles are seemingly straight out of science fiction. But somebody has to do the actual homework and find out a way to insure these things — and Koop wants to do that here in Pittsburgh.

For everything from robotaxis to shuttles, drones and autonomous trucking, Koop has insurance technology solutions for all kinds of risks, from sensor damage to cybersecurity and software errors. The company recently raised $2.5 million in seed funding and plans to partner with some of the world’s largest insurance companies to develop programs for robotics and autonomous vehicles.

Photo courtesy of MagicMed.

Cognistx

Psychedelic drugs — stigmatized for decades as dangerous, illegal substances — represent perhaps the final frontier in psychiatric care. (Call it “higher tech.”) Psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), LSD and mescaline are being studied as potential game-changers for alleviating treatment-resistant psychiatric problems, ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Downtown-based Carnegie Mellon University spinoff Cognistx is working with Canadian biotech firm MagicMed (recently acquired by Enveric Biosciences) to develop an artificial intelligence platform to streamline pharmaceutical research and accelerate the development of psychedelic medicine. Millions of molecules must be tested for efficacy (and side effects) and Cognistx can use past tests and data to help figure out which ones are the most promising, and rule out those that are not.

Govenda

Formerly BoardBookit, this recently rebranded, woman-founded company made Inc. 500’s list of America’s fastest-growing private companies in 2020, with a three-year revenue growth of 340%. It has also grown into a complete board management platform for clear communication between CEOs, compliance executives and boards of directors.

As a bonus, Govenda is designed to keep up with changing needs for diversity, equity and inclusion imperatives, as well as environmental and social goals.