At the recent IBM Think 2018 event in Las Vegas, IBM Research unveiled its ‘5 in 5’ report: five innovations that will help change our lives within the next five years.
Representing the work of 3000 IBM researchers in 12 labs on six different continents, these five technologies will significantly change the world around us, from changes in business models and operations, to the way we live our daily personal lives.
In this blog, we highlight each of these innovations expected to shape the global landscape between now and 2023, and what they mean from the perspective of a service provider like you.
1: Nobody likes knockoffs. Crypto-anchors and blockchain will unite against counterfeiters.
It’s fast becoming established that Blockchain is going to be the future of digital transactions. A ledger of transactions that can’t be retrospectively altered, it has the ability to increase trust, transparency and efficiency into financial dealings, record-keeping and supply chains.
The next step is to apply this level of validation to physical products and assets as well as virtual ones, and that’s why IBM Research is developing crypto-anchors. These tamper-proof digital fingerprints could, for example, be miniscule computers or optical codes that are linked to a Blockchain. Embedded into the manufacture of a product, they can quickly and easily be used to verify that a particular product or item is the real thing, therefore protecting against fraud or counterfeiting.
As part of this innovation, IBM has developed the world’s smallest computer – smaller than a single grain of salt. Powered by a photovoltaic cell, containing a million transistors and costing just a few cents to make, it will make the idea of embedding Blockchain and crypto-anchors into everyday items a realistic and financially viable reality.
2: Hackers gonna hack. Until they encounter lattice cryptography.
Cybercrime is still growing in its sophistication, and in the extent of the damage it causes to people and businesses alike – the total cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $6trillion worldwide by 2021.
A significant proportion of this is caused by hackers and cybercriminals getting access to the data within unencrypted files. While encryption can protect data when it’s being stored or transported, the containing files still have to be decrypted to be used and edited. But this is about to change.
IBM researchers have been developing a new method of security: lattice cryptography. This involves data being hidden inside complex mathematical structures known as lattices. Cryptographers wanting to protect sensitive data like financial information or medical records can create lattices so detailed and complex that they could potentially be unhackable – even resisting the power of a quantum computer.
3: Our oceans are dirty. AI-powered robot microscopes may save them.
Water is essential to support human life on Earth. But we live in a world where a growing population, combined with increasing marine pollution, is making the cleanliness of our oceans a top international priority.
Plankton are a key part of the oceanic food chain, which acts as the main source of protein for a billion people worldwide. It’s known that even small changes in water quality can affect their behaviour, and yet widespread study of them is only realistically possible in laboratories at present.
To better understand plankton in their natural habitat, IBM researchers are developing small, autonomous, AI-equipped microscopes that can be placed into seas and oceans to analyse differing behaviours in various marine conditions. These microscopes use imager chips to capture a plankton’s shadow and generate a digital image of its health, and in the future, they will be able to analyse the data and report any abnormalities in real-time.
4: AI bias will explode. But only the unbiased AI will survive.
Artificial Intelligence systems aren’t made biased. But they’re only as intelligent as the data they’re fed. And if that data contains bias towards certain human groups – whether that be along gender, race or ideological lines – then AI systems will only reinforce discrimination that can be harmful to society.
To combat this, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and IBM Watson have joined forces in the form of an AI Lab. There, researchers are investigating how to make sure that human bias does not influence the data or algorithms used by AI systems to make suggestions and insights. IBM scientists have also created an independent bias rating system, so that different AI systems can be assessed for their fairness.
Not only can this improve the equality within the work that AI systems do, but it could also point out inconsistencies in human behaviour and therefore improve society as a whole.
5: Today, quantum computing is a researcher’s playground. In five years, it will be mainstream.
Quantum computers use the principles of quantum mechanics to take a new, and much more powerful, approach to processing information, when compared to the computers we use in our everyday lives. While today’s computers are capable of incredible feats of problem solving, the potential of quantum computers to take on complex tasks is far greater.
For example, IBM Research has already achieved several milestones with quantum computing in chemistry, including simulating atomic bonding in beryllium hydride (BeH2). But while this kind of computing power is currently only seen in advanced scientific fields like these, within the coming years quantum computing will extend to improving the technological needs of the general public.
By 2023, quantum computing will have reached a commercial era, where early use cases develop quickly and push the technology on to even greater things. It will also become a central part of education, not only for science, but for engineering and business, too.
The service provider perspective
These technologies will be the forefront of development over the course of the next five years. As they come to the attention of businesses in various industries, and the potential of these innovations to improve those businesses becomes better understood, they will quickly become the sought-after features in the solutions of service providers like you.
As is often the case in fast-moving marketplaces like service provision, early adopters of new trends and technologies are best-placed to gain a competitive advantage. So if you’re wondering how to keep your solution at the leading edge of the marketplace, start here.
To learn about each of the IBM Research ‘5 in 5’ predictions in more detail: