Emerging Trends in Technology: 5G, AI & Blockchain
Technology is an incredibly fast-paced industry, which makes it challenging to stay on top of all the latest trends. New technology is always changing the way we interact with the world, and consequently, it is important for businesses to keep up with changing trends.
Last week, I had the privilege of providing a short keynote at General Assembly’s discussion on Emerging Trends in Technology, followed by a panel session and questions from the audience. Topics for discussion covered 5G, smart cities, connected industries, eHealth, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligence augmentation, machine learning, data science, and of course my passion and area of expertise, blockchain and its business use cases.
5G is here, and it’s x20 faster than 4g
According to Dr David Soldani, CTO of Huawei Australia, 5G arrived faster than expected. It took 10 years to achieve 500 million subscribers for 3G, five years for 4G and only three years for 5G. Large scale commercial deployments has begun, and some examples of 5G pioneers include empowering Cloud VR, Cloud Gaming, Live VR Video and even fish farm digitisation as 5G improves efficiency, saves labour cost and reduces wasted fish feed each year.
5G will impact other industries too, enhancing broadcasting to redefine the media industry, enabling advanced flexible and wireless manufacturing, providing connected telemedicine and remote doctor opportunities (using robotics and medical education) and creating smart cities by allowing remote and autonomous driving. It is predicted that the drone economy can be doubled with wireless 5G connection. 5G will revolutionise and connect a lot of industries to make them smarter.
Intelligence Augmentation – the new machine learning
Referencing Deep Thinking by Garry Kasparov, Ian Hansel, Director at Verge Labs discussed the value of intelligence augmentation – that is, the synthesis of humans and computers working together as a team to create an outcome greater than the individual human team or computer alone. This model, he said, provides the highest performance, as complementary kinds of cognition compensate for individual failures and enhance performance.
What is vital in these systems, however, is the design or interface. The user experience (UX) or interaction between the computer and algorithm, is a vital step in the ability of the machine to perform at its peak. It is known, said Ian, that a weak human and machine that has a superior process is far better than a strong computer alone, and even more remarkably, better than a strong human and strong machine, that has an inferior process.
Blockchain – the ideal future state
We are at the beginning of this emerging technology, and, as a quick survey of the room demonstrated, most people have not had experience with blockchain yet. As Blythe Masters, former JP Morgan & Digital Asset executive has pointed out, blockchain is as significant now as the internet was 25 years ago. Similarly, the beauty of the blockchain, like the internet, is that it owned by everyone. As a decentralised peer-to-peer network, the blockchain has the advantages of being transparent, secure and immutable. Data on the blockchain is grouped together and organised in blocks which are then linked to each other and secured by cryptography. A blockchain is essentially a continuously growing list of records in an ever-increasing database.
The many use cases for blockchain
Blockchain has vast application across many divergent industries, including food supply chain safety, authenticating artwork, traceability of antiquities, insurance against identity theft, and within financial services, charities, and government.
Blockchain in the food supply chain
Due to the transparent nature of the blockchain, it has benefits in authenticating food sources, for example, beef from Australia or wine from California, and can securely source and trace products in seconds – not weeks – to mitigate contamination, food-borne illness, unnecessary waste and food recalls. Food’s journey from farm to table involves numerous transactions between different people and companies. Blockchain can simplify this process, enabling transactions to be shared securely and efficiently among every touchpoint in the supply chain.
IBM Food Trust™ uses blockchain technology to create unprecedented visibility and accountability in the food supply chain. It is the only network of its kind, connecting growers, processors, distributors, and retailers through a permissioned, permanent and shared record of food system data. Blockchain allows for unprecedented visibility into supply chain data to improve freshness, increase shelf life and reduce product loss. It can also identify inefficiencies, ensure quality of goods, track authenticity of products and certify provenance across the entire supply chain.
Blockchain assisting provenance
At the opposite end of the spectrum to food is the luxury goods markets. Blockchain is working here too, enabling the authentication of artwork and antiquities, and the traceability of diamonds to name a few. De Beers Group is using blockchain to lead the diamond traceability movement by developing Tracr, the blockchain-based end-to-end diamond tracing solution which is connecting the diamond industry by establishing provenance, authenticity and traceability throughout the entire value chain. Alrosa, the world’s second largest diamond miner, announced that it had joined Tracr, to ensure that conflict diamonds do not enter its supply chain. The Russian company revealed that it joined the project because it supported the goal of protecting consumers and ensuring the integrity and authenticity of their diamonds.
In May 2019, CCN reported that Signet Jewellers, the world’s largest diamond jewellery retailer, also joined Tracr as part of a growing movement to ensure that diamonds sold to consumers are not so-called ‘blood diamonds’ – products of illegal slave labour from African war zones which effectively fund wars and armed criminal groups in countries like Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.
Blockchain reduces the threat of identity theft
Imagine being able to provide immutable records that prove your identity – ones that cannot be faked or stolen. That is the hope of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) Building Blocks, which has implemented a blockchain facilitated system to enable refugees to get food and financial assistance. Building Blocks facilitates cash transfers while protecting beneficiary data, controlling financial risks, and reducing costs by eliminating up to 98 percent of fees issued by third-party institutions. These services had been made available using verification techniques like iris scans. Built on a private, permissioned blockchain, and integrated with UNHCR’s existing biometric authentication technology—WFP has a record of every transaction. This method is viable and secure, and refugees are getting direct benefits instead of relying on easily lost vouchers, cash or credit cards.
Blockchain as a financial alternative
Blockchain is also being used within financial services to offer alternative forms of payment. The concept of Bitcoin was developed 10 years ago as an example of cryptocurrency and was established utilising blockchain technology. These alternative payment forms are becoming more mainstream, with companies such as Starbucks, Whole Foods and Nordstrom accepting bitcoin payment. Developing countries with unstable economies such as Venezuela are also looking to cryptocurrency solutions as a way for citizens to be able to make financial transactions outside the control of a centralised government. Today, Venezuelans are adopting and experimenting with Bitcoin to evade hyperinflation and strict financial controls.
For charities too, blockchain introduces unprecedented transparency to the system to track transactions and let donors know precisely where the currencies are being spent. Charities can, therefore, assure donors and increase credibility. By implementing the smart contract systems and several other online reputation management systems, charities can increase efficiency, gain donor’s trust and create better prospects for their goals.
We are at the beginning of this new technology and a lot more is still to come that will revolutionise our society and how it operates. Big business, including JP Morgan, Facebook and Samsung, are all looking to launch their own blockchain or cryptocurrency projects, signalling wider and mainstream adoption of blockchain, cryptocurrency and emerging technologies. Governments too, such as the Dubai 2020 Blockchain Strategy, are using blockchain technology to enable greater transparency of banking records and increased security in a decentralised model.
Time will tell how influential this technology will be, but one thing is for sure, it is here to stay.
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About the speaker & author
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