2020 Tech Predictions from IBM

By: Yasmin Ranade

February 3, 2020

IBM has shared its view on the top tech trends to watch for 2020 and beyond, and they highlight AI, quantum computing, blockchain, edge computing, and the hybrid cloud.

Dave McCann, Managing Partner, Global Business Services, IBM Canada

I asked Dave McCann, Managing Partner, Global Business Services, IBM Canada to describe what he sees ahead in a few of these fields.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

“We are already seeing how AI is changing the way we work across all industries,” began McCann. “Some, like banking, seem more obvious where easily automated tasks are being assumed by AI, giving more time for workers to do higher value work. Less obvious might be industries like oil and gas or mining where AI is being used. For example, accurate analysis of large amounts of data is instrumental in finding drilling sites or exploration targets. Using AI to do this faster than humanly possible enables workers to do things machines can’t do, like industrial strategy or design. As a result, workers can benefit as tasks that complement AI solutions take on greater value, which could mean increased compensation. Keeping people out of potentially dangerous situations also improves worker safety.”

McCann explained, “More generally, recent research out of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab found that tasks that could be performed by AI are appearing less frequently in job ads, with more emphasis put on “soft skills” like creativity and judgement. This is just the tip of the iceberg, though, in how the workforce is being transformed by AI and so it is imperative that we pay attention to these changes and grow our skills so that we can prepare for the jobs of the future.”

Quantum Computing

“Quantum computing will be the next big disruptor for industries as it is poised to move out of labs and into a phase of commercialization that will have significant global impact,” said McCann. “We’ll soon see quantum computers substantially improve applications in areas ranging from manufacturing to telecommunications to security and more.”

Added McCann, “I think where we’ll witness the most significant impact of quantum is banking with everything from financial forecasting to encryption, and in healthcare pharmaceuticals where chemical compound discovery will be done with a speed and accuracy that we can’t even touch now.”

“In 2020, quantum will move beyond the realm of theory into the world of practical experiments and applications. This is where we’ll begin to realize the real potential of quantum computing in how it can solve some of the world’s problems that are too complex for today’s computers.”

Blockchain

“Blockchain has the potential to positively impact the healthcare of people around the globe,” shared McCann. “At a basic level, blockchain can be used to reduce the complexity of the food supply chain, which is especially important in a world where 50 million people each year get sick from contaminated food.”

McCann also described the positive impact blockchain plays in health-related data management as well as research. “Effective healthcare in clinical settings often depends on the successful management of data, which is generated through test results, medical records, pharmaceutical dispensing and more. Often, this data is siloed into separated databases which makes integrated care much more difficult. The immutability of blockchain provides secure streamlining of data that can help fix that. Imagine what the real-time sharing of information between clinicians would do for the speed of diagnosis and treatment.”

“Last year, IBM Canada announced we were working with pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim to explore the use of blockchain technology in clinical trials,” explained McCann. “In the past, regulatory authorities had found that the quality of clinical trials are frequently inadequate, and records often erroneous or incomplete, which can put patient safety and interpretability of trials at risk.

“In 2020, I expect we will see more cases of blockchain being used in the healthcare industry to manage things like patient consent and the security of data, as well as other complexities that are inherent to the industry.”

Edge Computing

What is it? “Simply put, edge computing is a computing model that decentralizes applications, data and other computing sources closer to where they are needed,” stated McCann. “Common examples where this would be applied are for mobile computing and IoT technologies, where data is processed by a local computer or a device rather than being routed through a data centre.”

“In 2020 and beyond,” shared McCann, “we are going to see a surge in edge computing, largely aided by the rollout of 5G technology, which will make decentralization of data to computer servers at the edges of networks much easier. Edge computing opens the opportunity to provide real-time insight into everything from how street traffic is flowing to whether a factory robot needs maintenance.”

“Another real-world example can be found in an application recently announced by IBM and Samsung that will … support the health of police officers, firefighters and other first responders by tracking a worker’s vitals,” said McCann. Heart rate and physical activity, for example, will be monitored “to determine if that person meets their definition of distress and dispatch help. In this case, we can easily categorize edge computing as life-impacting.”

The Hybrid Cloud

2020 will also, according to IBM, further develop and see more adoption of the hybrid cloud to support the security, data protection and compliancy that today’s businesses demand. Analysts see hybrid cloud as a global, $1.2 trillion market opportunity, and nearly 80 percent of IT decision makers see it in their future.


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