Despite the remarkable increase in the adoption of digital technologies throughout the last decade, its expansion is far from over.
Rather, it’s continuing on an upward curve, as innovation and adaption become ever more ingenious and creative.
Moreover, it will be far more than just a further refinement of the established technologies that already reach into and enhance all areas of business and all aspects of everyday life.
Technologies presently in the experimental stage, such as quantum computing, are set to become a reality.
Here are just a few of the most exciting areas to keep your eye on.
Living on the Edge
“Edge is an enabling technology to deliver things that do work to the places that work needs to get done: Think of edge as the technology to get the workloads to the places where it makes the most sense to get the work done.”
Ryan Anderson, IBM platform strategist, CTO group for edge development
What piece of modern equipment doesn’t come with some form of sensor these days?
Everything from cars to factory floor machines, along with a growing variety of increasingly intelligent consumer devices, come equipped with sensors collectively generating petabytes of data.
Operating at the outer edges of networks, there are already 15 billion of these devices, and numbers are expected to reach 55 billion by 2022.
Edge computing is an efficient means of analysing all that sensor-generated data by performing computations as close to the source as possible, instead of sending it all back to a data centre via the cloud.
Compact computer servers located at the network’s edges places processing power where it’s most needed.
And 5G technology’s high-speed, low-latency wireless format is well suited to the close-to-the-source needs of edge computing.
The Greener Option: Sustainable Computing
‘’We must develop technologies which will sustainably advance and scale AI: It’s essential to develop energy efficient AI systems, and we’ll see some truly innovative software and hardware solutions for meeting these massive energy needs in the years ahead.”
Mukesh Khare, IBM Vice President Systems Research
We increasingly rely on data centres for everything from enterprise computing to accessing a wide range of social media, with AI workloads doubling every three to four months.
As a result, big server-packed data centres are becoming even more ravenous for electricity, accounting for as much as 2% of the world’s energy use.
One way of making these energy-intensive forms of computing more sustainable include building analogue AI hardware devices with new, non-volatile memory materials acting as resistors.
By putting memory and computation in the same place, analogue AI hardware speeds up AI model development and deployment while cutting power consumption.
Additionally, new materials for memory systems have been introduced and tested to optimise these analogue AI devices.
Similarly, a four-fold reduction in energy consumption can be achieved through ‘approximate computing’, a new algorithmic approach deriving performance and efficiency gains without accuracy loss, even for the most complex of AI models.
The Quantum Jump from Idea to Reality
“The technology dives deep below the atomic-level electrons of traditional chip-based computing to operate in the realm of sub-atomic quantum physics…Quantum computing seeks to solve complex problems that have been considered unsolvable using classical computers alone.”
IBM BrandVoice marketer and influencer
In 2016, IBM put the very first quantum computer on the cloud.
In 2020, and the decade beyond, quantum will move beyond the realm of theory into the world of practical experiments and applications.
Science and industry have begun to experiment with the first applications that combine quantum and classical computers to explore solution-specific problems related to chemistry, financial services, and machine learning.
But to take advantage of quantum computing, students taking computer science, chemistry or business courses will need to learn the right skill sets, ensuring they’re ‘quantum ready’ as they enter the workforce.
In other words, quantum computing must become an integral part of any university technical curriculum.
Flying High with Hybrid Cloud
“Hybrid multicloud is becoming more accepted by enterprises: So, in 2020 there’s going to be a lot of focus on execution.”
Bala Rajaraman, IBM Fellow and VP Cloud
As many organisations have discovered, they rely on too many technically disparate, far-flung data systems to place upon a single cloud platform.
The solution is hybrid cloud computing – a mix of public cloud, private cloud and on-premise solutions sourced from different vendors, granting the required flexibility.
Of course, businesses demand strict data protection and compliance requirements, and thankfully the public cloud services within hybrid environments have a proven ability to support the necessary security.
Hybrid cloud computing based on open standards allows software developers to build an application once and run it anywhere.
2020 is the year hybrid cloud will go mainstream, with nearly 80% of IT decision makers regarding it as an essential feature in their future development.
Forging the Links of Blockchain
“Blockchain is no longer a ‘what if?’ proposition: Today, enterprise blockchain platforms are already beginning to solve decades-long problems in industries ranging from food to international trade.”
Marie Wieck, IBM Blockchain General Manager
As blockchain has transformed into a business basic for ever more industries, it’s begun capturing millions of points of data, opening the door to new possibilities for machine learning and AI-based capabilities.
Blockchain networks like IBM Food Trust have continued to grow and mature, with TradeLens now carrying data on more than half the world’s shipping cargo.
As blockchain creates the need for new forms of governance, covering issues including decision-making, permissions for data access, and payment systems among parties, the technology focus is increasingly shifting towards interoperability – establishing open-system standards allowing existing blockchain networks to communicate and integrate with legacy systems and other external blockchain networks.
As businesses realise they can trust and verify every transaction, even when dealing with the largest of global supply chains, the digital-ledger technology will continue to mature and expand.
Working Alongside AI
“AI technology has the potential to increase the productivity of workers as well as productivity in all walks of life.”
Martin Fleming, IBM VP and Chief Economist, and author of the MIT-IBM Watson future-of-work report
Artificial intelligence technology will increasingly help us with tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, according to recent research from the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.
AI probably won’t take your job. But it’s bound to change how you work.
While having less direct impact on jobs requiring human skills, such as design expertise and industrial strategy, tasks complementing AI solutions will actually take on greater value.
As AI makes its way into every kind of workplace around the world, in 2020 workers will begin to experience its transformative effects.
As such, employees and employers alike will have to face the challenge of acquiring the skills required to build new career paths.
Keeping Ahead of the Curve
With their ability to draw on vast pools of unstructured data, solve nonlinear optimisation problems, and use fast, inexpensive computing power, today’s transformative technologies are different from anything that’s preceded them as they change and improve on an almost daily basis.
How do you keep up with it all?
You can find out extra details about many of the subjects covered above on our Journey to Cloud and IBM Analytics sites, while the regularly updated articles featured on our MSP Hub will ensure you’re fully up to speed on the very latest innovations.