January 4, 2020

I want us to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and go back about twenty (20) years.  Two decades ago, at the start of the millennium, IT (Internet Technology) was deeply concerned about Y2K.  I remember being an employee of General Electric at that time and GE programmers were paranoid over what might happen relative to Y2K.  It was a big deal and preparation for an IT apocalypse was being considered.  I have no idea as to how many terabytes of data was backed up on a daily basis getting ready for what might happen.  Also, the iPhone, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and Facebook didn’t exist—had not been invented or at least commercialized.  So, what’s in store as a new decade begins?

Let’s take a very quick look at computer technology and how that technology drives just about everything we do now days.  Here we go:

Automation 2020: Hyper-automation.  In my younger years, I worked for a great engineer named Bob Ditto.  Now we are talking about the mid- 60’s so you will understand his vision when you hear his admonishment to me to get “computer-savvy” when the time comes.  He said: “if it can be automated, it will be automated and everyone better get ready for it.”  He was absolutely correct in that assessment.  Hyper-automation takes applications for performing various tasks to the next level. It enables application of advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (MI), to increasingly automate processes and augment human requirements.

Multi-experience is the new experience 

From 2020 onward, multi-experience will see the traditional idea of computing evolve from a single point of interaction to include multisensory and multi-touchpoint interfaces, such as wearables and advanced computer sensors. Over the coming decade, this trend will become what is known as ambient experience.  If you read the literature, you will see that wearable technology is certainly one trend that will continue and advance relative to all possibilities, especially in wearable medical technology.   Multi-experience currently focuses on immersive experiences that use augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, multichannel human-machine interfaces and sensing technologies. 

Democracy, 2020 style

The democratization of technology means providing people with easy access to technical or business expertise without extensive or expensive training.  Most people in our society today are not programmers and even if we are, we are not proficient enough to exact usable code but the day is approaching where “citizen access” will be possible. “Citizen access” will focus on four key areas: 1.) application development, 2.) data and analytics, 3.) design, and 4.) knowledge.  Democratization is expected to see the rise of citizen data scientists, programmers and other forms of DIY technology engagement. For example, it could enable more people to generate data models without having the skills of a data scientist. This would, in part, be made possible through AI-driven code generation.

Augmentation gets human 

The controversial trend of human augmentation focuses on the use of technology to enhance an individual’s cognitive and physical experiences. It comes with a range of cultural and ethical implications. For example, using CRISPR (clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeats) technologies to augment genes has significant ethical consequences. Physical augmentation changes an inherent physical capability by implanting or hosting a technology within or on the body. It’s a scary to think about human augmentation but that technology is being discussed and evaluated by medical literature.  Right now, most human augmentation is brought about by wearable technology but that is not the only way to accomplish specific ends.  Legislation is way behind this technology and it is truly sneaking up on the population at large.

Greater transparency and traceability

OKAY, do you really trust social media, GOOGLE, your bank, etc. with the data they collect on an hourly basis? You cannot go to an ATM without being tracked and documented.  You must know that.   This evolution of technology is creating a trust crisis. Particularly as consumers become more aware of how their personal data is collected and used, organizations are increasingly recognizing the liability of storing and gathering data. But many are also using AI and machine learning more to make decisions in place of humans.  This is a further cause of concern, which is driving the need for processes such as explainable AI and AI governance. This trend requires a focus on these key elements of trust: integrity, openness, accountability, competence and consistency. More legislation similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is likely to be enacted around the world in the coming years.  If you provide code you had better realize greater transparency will become a necessity in the upcoming decade.

The empowered edge

The growing edge computing trend is based on the idea that keeping traffic local and distributed will reduce latency. This involves a topology where information processing and content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources of the information. The empowered edge employs the technology on the internet of things (IoT). This extends to the role of devices as the basis for smart spaces and moves key applications and services closer to the people and devices that use them. By 2023, there could be more than 20 times as many smart devices at the edge of the network as in conventional IT roles. 

The distributed cloud

The distributed cloud refers to the dispersal of public cloud services to locations outside the cloud provider’s physical data centers, while still in the control of the provider. In the distributed cloud, the provider is responsible for all aspects of cloud service architecture, delivery, operations, governance and updates.  The evolution from centralized public cloud to distributed public cloud ushers in a new era of cloud computing. The distributed cloud allows data centers to be located anywhere. This solves both technical and regulatory issues, such as latency and data sovereignty. It also offers the combined benefits of a public cloud service and a private, local cloud.  Now, with that in mind, there are many people who have issues with privacy when using the cloud.  Great idea but rife with areas where privacy can be compromised.  I certainly share these concerns and have had my engineering data compromised.  This is a real worry and companies providing cloud services must be on top of this one.

Even more autonomous things

Autonomous things, which include drones, robots, ships and appliances, exploit AI to perform tasks traditionally undertaken by humans. This technology operates on a spectrum of intelligence ranging from semiautonomous to fully autonomous and across a variety of environments including air, sea and land.  In this morning’s news, a segment regarding drones flying over Colorado and Kansas, logging data, is a concern.  No one seems to know what they are doing or who they are doing it for.  It remains, for the time being, a big mystery.   While currently, autonomous things mainly exist in controlled environments, such as warehouses, they will evolve to include open public spaces. Autonomous things will also move from standalone to collaborative swarms – such as the drone swarms used during the Winter Olympic Games in 2018.

Towards practical blockchain

Let’s define blockchain:  Blockchain technology enables distributed public ledgers that hold immutable data in a secure and encrypted way and ensure that transactions can never be altered. While Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are the most popular examples of blockchain usage, this “distributed ledger technology” (DLT) is finding a broad range of uses. Data storage, financial transactions, real estate, asset management and many more uses are being explored

Enterprise blockchain today takes a practical approach and implements only some of the elements of a complete blockchain. Everyone with permissioned access sees the same information, and integration is simplified by having a single shared blockchain.  In the future, true blockchain or “blockchain complete” will have the potential to transform industries, and eventually the economy, as complementary technologies such as AI and the IoT begin to integrate alongside blockchain.  This expands the type of participants to include machines, which will be able to exchange a variety of assets. For example, a car would be able to negotiate insurance prices directly with the insurance company based on data gathered by its sensors. Moreover, blockchain will be fully scalable by 2023.

Greater AI security 

Evolving technologies such as hyper-automation offers transformational opportunities in the business world. However, they also create security vulnerabilities through potential new points of attack. Security teams must address these challenges and be aware of how AI will impact the security space. 

Future AI security will have three key perspectives: first, protecting AI-powered systems, securing AI training data, and training pipelines and machine learning models; secondly, leveraging AI to enhance security defense, and using machine learning to understand patterns, uncover attacks and automate parts of the cybersecurity processes; third, anticipating nefarious use of AI by attackers – identifying attacks and defending against them. 

CONCLUSIONS:  Get ready for another decade of disruptive technology—and this is only in the IT and computer world. 

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