2018 was surely a transformative year for technological innovation. We saw early development of ambient computing, quantum teleportation, cloaks of invisibility, genomics advancements and even robocops. Granted we're not flying around in our own cars like the Jetsons did yet, but we're closer. In 2019, we will continue on the transformation path and expand even more into adopting cutting edge immersive technologies. What's ahead for the coming year? I envision four emerging technology areas that will significantly impact our lives in 2019.
1. The Internet of Things and Smart Cities
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the general idea of devices and equipment that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable and/or controllable via the internet. This includes everything from home appliances, wearable technology and cars. These days, if a device can be turned on, it most likely can be connected to the internet. Because of this, data can be shared quickly across a multitude of objects and devices increasing the rate of communications.
Cisco, who terms the “Internet of Things,” “The Internet of Everything,” predicts that 50 billion devices (including our smartphones, appliances and office equipment) will be wirelessly connected via a network of sensors to the internet by 2020.
The term “Smart City” connotes creating a public/private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. The concept of Smart Cities integrates communications (5-G), transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies and security technologies and services. They are the cities of the future.
IoT is the cog of Smart Cities that integrates these resources, technologies, services and infrastructure. The research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates the combined global market potential of Smart City segments (transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, energy and governance) to be $1.5 Trillion ($20B by 2050 on sensors alone according to Navigant Technology).
The combined growth of IoT and Smart Cities will be a force to reckon with in 2019!
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Emergent artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, human-computer interface and augmented reality technologies are no longer science fiction. Head-spinning technological advances allow us to gain greater data-driven insights than ever before.
The ethical debates about AI are fervent over the threatening implications of future technologies that can think like a human (or better) and make their own decisions. The creation of a “Hal” type entity as depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001 A Space Odyssey, is not far-fetched.
To truly leverage our ability to use data driven insights we need to make sure our thinking about how to best use this data keeps pace with its availability. The vast majority of digital data is unstructured: a complex mesh of images, texts, videos and other data formats. Estimates suggest 80-90 percent of the world’s data is unstructured and growing at an increasingly rapid rate each day. To even begin to make sense of this much data, advanced technologies are required. Artificial intelligence is the means by which this data is processed today, and it’s already a part of your everyday life.
In 2019, companies and governments will continue to develop technology that distributes artificial intelligence and machine learning software to millions of graphics and computer processors around the world. The question is how far away are we from a “Hal” with the ability for human analysis and techno emotions?
3. Quantum Computing
The world of computing has witnessed seismic advancements since the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s. The past few years in information processing have been especially transformational. What were once thought of as science fiction fantasies are now technological realities. Classical computing has become more exponentially faster and more capable and our enabling devices smaller and more adaptable.
We are starting to evolve beyond classical computing into a new data era called quantum computing. It is envisioned that quantum computing will accelerate us into the future by impacting the landscape of artificial intelligence and data analytics. The quantum computing power and speed will help us solve some of the biggest and most complex challenges we face as humans.
Gartner describes quantum computing as: “[T]he use of atomic quantum states to effect computation. Data is held in qubits (quantum bits), which can hold all possible states simultaneously. Data held in qubits is affected by data held in other qubits, even when physically separated. This effect is known as entanglement.” In a simplified description, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits instead of using binary traditional bits of ones and zeros for digital communications.
Futurist Ray Kurzweil said that mankind will be able to “expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold” and that “the power of computing doubles, on average, every two years.” Recent breakthroughs in physics, nanotechnology and materials science have brought us into a computing reality that we could not have imagined a decade ago.
As we get closer to a fully operational quantum computer, a new world of supercomputing beckons that will impact on almost every aspect of our lives. In 2019, we are inching closer.
4. Cybersecurity (and Risk Management)
Many corporations, organizations and agencies have continued to be breached throughout 2018 despite cybersecurity investments on information assurance. The cyber threats grow more sophisticated and deadly with each passing year. The firm Gemalto estimated that data breaches compromised 4.5 billion records in first half of 2018. Moreover, a University of Maryland study found that hackers now attack computers every 39 seconds.
In 2019, we will be facing a new and more sophisticated array of physical security and cybersecurity challenges (including automated hacker tools) that pose significant risk to people, places and commercial networks. The nefarious global threat actors are terrorists, criminals, hackers, organized crime, malicious individuals and in some cases, adversarial nation states.
The physical has merged with the digital in the cybersecurity ecosystem. The more digitally interconnected we become in our work and personal lives, the more vulnerable we will become. Now everyone and anything connected is a target. Cybersecurity is the digital glue that keeps IoT, Smart Cities, and our world of converged machines, sensors, applications and algorithms operational.
Addressing the 2019 cyber-threat also requires incorporating a better and more calculated risk awareness and management security strategy by both the public and private sectors. A 2019 cybersecurity risk management strategy will need to be comprehensive, adaptive and elevated to the C-Suite.
I have just touched on a few of the implications of four emerging technology areas that will have significant impact in our lives in 2019. These areas are just the tip of the iceberg as we really are in the midst of a paradigm shift in applied scientific knowledge. We have entered a new renaissance of accelerated technological development that is exponentially transforming our civilization. Yet with these benefits come risks. With such catalyzing innovation, we cannot afford to lose control. The real imperative for this New Year is for planning and systematic integration. Hopefully that will provide us with a guiding technological framework that will keep us prosperous and safe.
Chuck Brooks, columnist, is the Principal Market Growth Strategist for General Dynamics Mission Systems for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies. Chuck is also Adjunct Faculty in Georgetown University’s Graduate Applied Intelligence program. He is an Advisor and Contributor to Cognitive World. In his full time role he is the Principal Market Growth Strategist for General Dynamics Mission Systems for Cybersecurity and Emerging Technologies. LinkedIn named Chuck as one of “The Top 5 Tech People to Follow on LinkedIn” out of their 550 million members. He is also an advisor to LinkedIn on cybersecurity and emerging technology issues. In both 2017 and 2016, he was named “Cybersecurity Marketer of the Year by the Cybersecurity Excellence Awards.