There's no doubt we'll hear more on the progress of artificial intelligence, gene editing, quantum computing and robotics for years to come. Based on the trends and an unfolding story, it looks like blockchain and cryptocurrencies may end up in the dustbin of history, while cybersecurity and data privacy will become even more prominent in the 21stcentury.
It's revealing to see the upcoming trends based on carefully calculated investment decisions that tech behemoths have made in 2018 and extrapolate their importance and influence on the years to come.
Here, I highlight three major acquisitions that have happened in 2018 or are about to happen which will propel Cloud Computing, Healthcare AI and Smart Devices to an unprecedented scale in 2019.
- CLOUD COMPUTING: IBM acquiring Red Hat for $34 billion
IBM is often associated with the essence of what a computer is. Founded 107 years ago and obtaining more US patents than any other business for 25 consecutive years, IBM manufactures and markets computer hardware, middleware and software, and provides hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology. The company has made its way into our understanding of artificial intelligence with Watson making headlines and creating a commotion around the ever-increasing intelligence of machines and a Terminator-like competition (Jeopardy won against human players back in 2011).
Red Hat has held a steady leadership in cloud computing and open source Linux OS for many years. It is present in most financial and governmental institutions. IBM's decision to buy Red Hat pinpoints its desire to cement its position as a go-to company for major players and heavily regulated industries.
Moreover, procession of big data and AI manipulations involve huge amounts of compute, often times the creation of an abundance of synthetic data.
IBM’s acquisition of the cloud-computing giant will open completely new horizons for the company’s quest for Artificial General Intelligence and further commercialization of Watson.
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: GSK bought a $300 million stake in 23andMe
As always, pharma has been a spotlight in 2018, with rumors of Amazon entering the pharma field and major pharmaceuticals and universities opening biotech divisions to further experiment with CRISPR technology.
Despite ever-increasing prices of medication, the issues and predicaments in the pharmaceutical space might seem insurmountable, with years of ongoing choices and trials for the right combinations of drug candidates, withyears of clinical tests and closely regulated pharmacovigilance. Add the public demand for cheaper medication and the well-off demand for genetically engineered pills and you end up with a highly competitive landscape where you need to run before you can walk.
GSK's acquisition of a vast pool of 23andMe customers’ genetic data has two goals in mind:
- shortening of the drug discovery phase by applying AI to test molecules on readily available genetic samples
- opening a whole new dimension in preventive medicine
Unless you're expecting a Black Friday promotion of an individually targeted health plan, you might be well advised to delete your data from 23andMe. However, considering that we are most likely moving towards genes and lifestyle priced health plans in the coming decade I would not mind having accurate medical records.
Why fall ill and shorten your lifespan if you can prevent an upcoming disease by opening your genetic coffins to a pharmaceutical giant like GSK?
- INTERNET OF THINGS: Qualcomm’s bid to purchase NXP Semiconductors for $44 billion
Everyone has heard of iPhones, Google Android, Nokia and Samsung phones while few of us know the chip company that stands behind most omnipresent handsets. Its Qualcomm chips that empower our "more memory than the computer that sent people to the Moon” smartphone computing.
On its official website, Qualcomm positions itself as a chip producer for the upcoming Internet of Things (IoT). While annually investing around $3 billion in R&D Qualcomm is lagging behind in the gigantic manufacturing capacity of its competitors Intel and NVIDIA.
Qualcomm’s bid to buy NXP would be a logical response to Intel’s 2017 acquisition of Mobileye, a driverless systems’ manufacturing company. Qualcomm has set its eyes on Dutch NXP, which describes itself as driving Internet of Things (IoT) innovation in the secure connected vehicle, smart connected solutions, end-to-end security and privacy markets.
Just like Intel, Qualcomm is striving to move beyond its core computer semiconductor business and enter the promising world of impending self-driving cars.
Being the last concerned stakeholder, the Chinese government has finally given its blessing to the acquisition late in 2018. While the deal deadline set out by Qualcomm has officially passed in July this year, a potential acquisition of a niche IoT player could cement chip giants’ steadfast reorientation towards more profitable connected devices, especially in the automotive sector.
Get ready for driverless cars in 2019. Intel and Qualcomm are chipping in.
Kate Levchuk, blogger, is a London-based futuristic blogger writing on transhumanism, AI and the philosophy of tech.