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20 Technology Forecasts for 2020 (Part Two)

When I began this short series, I mentioned that the forecasts I’d be listing would be in no particular order. That wasn’t quite true, as I saved the ones that are closest to my heart – the ones from the IEEE Computer Society – for last. Here are 10 trends that I culled from their list:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the edge (AI@Edge). To date, machine learning (ML) has been cloud-based, but – thanks to 5G and smarter and smarter sensors populating the Internet of Things – the experts at IEEE see ML as moving closer to us, to living on the edge, where it “will have a far greater impact on our daily lives, such as assisted driving, industrial automation, surveillance, and natural language processing.”

Non-volatile memory (NVM) products, interfaces and applications. Non-volatile memory is nothing new, but the forecast that “NVM Express SSD’s will replace SATA and SAS SSDs within the next few years, and NVMe-oF will be the dominant network storage protocol in five years” is new. This technology will enable improved endurance and computational storage, and “allow more memory-like access to data.” Lots of interesting stuff to look forward to here.

Digital twins, including cognitive twins. We see the use of digital twins in the complex systems our technology works in. (A digital twin is a digital version of a physical asset and/or process, and is an example of how AI and the IoT are altering the overall technology-driven landscape. Cognitive digital twins are coming, meaning that digital twins will keep getting smarter and smarter.

AI and critical systems.  Whether we fully embrace it or fear of it unleashes are inner Luddite, there’s no stopping AI. As IEEE sees it, “within five years, there will be a significant increase in the application of AI in critical infrastructure systems, or “critical systems” [which] include power generation and distribution, telecommunications, road and rail transportation, healthcare, banking, and more.”

Practical delivery drones. IEEE thinks that the package delivery system is “ripe for disruption.” They see it happening more rapidly than I do. Personally, I don’t imagine that a drone will be dropping an Amazon box on my front porch anytime soon.

Additive manufacturing. I love the idea of 3D printing, and it’s becoming more and more possible to use it for “mass customization” manufacturing. The example they use is SmileDirect, which deploys “3D printers to generate tens of thousands of molds each day, each customized to make an orthodontic aligner for an individual person.” It’s also moving into other industries: healthcare, footwear, automotive. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this trend.   

Cognitive skills for robots. More better AI is bringing us more better robots, and they’re moving from the shop floor to the office. Not mentioned in this article, but something I read elsewhere: a pretty significant proportion of the workforce wouldn’t mind having a robot for a manager. They were actually talking about chatbot setups, where you interact with an AI-driven system for advice, and not about R2D2. Still… And if you want to see a human or, rather, dog-like robot in action, just google “robot dog climbing stairs.”

AI/ML applied to cybersecurity. This is an inevitable and much needed (and welcome) application of AI/ML. “AI/ML can drive down response times from hundreds of hours to seconds and scale analyst effectiveness from one or two incidents to thousands daily.” Bring it on!

Reliability and safety challenges for intelligent systems. With so much riding on all these AI/ML intelligent systems – systems that are getting more intelligent and more autonomous by the day, and more involved in life-and-death situations – it’s no surprise that “guaranteeing the required high levels of reliability and safety that are mandated for highly autonomous intelligent systems will be one of the major technological challenges to be faced by 2020, to enable a smarter world.”

Quantum Computing. Quantum computing has proven its viability: “At the beginning of 2020, experimental quantum computer demonstrations consume about 1/10,000 the energy of the world’s largest supercomputers while outperforming them by 1,000x or more”. Yet it’s still in search of applications. IEEE predicts that 2020 will be year of demonstrations that are compelling enough to nudge quantum computing from the theoretical to the real.

These are the predictions for 2020 I found most interesting. What are the ones that you’ve got your eye on?