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AI will be like R2-D2, not Terminator

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As artificial intelligence continues to capture the imagination of the tech and mainstream media, Forrester’s new AI TechRadar report for customer intelligence professionals (CI) takes a pragmatic view of what it can do for business in the future.

Well publicised breakthroughs from major tech companies, like Google, Apple and Amazon, have placed AI high on the technology agenda. However, business leaders are struggling to make sense of how this technology could and should be deployed in their organisations.

“To put it mildly, this is confusing for businesses, who are trying to determine what is real and what is mere snake oil,” writes Forrester senior analyst and co-author of the report, Brandon Purcell. “Forrester believes AI will significantly disrupt the way organisations win, serve, and retain customers… eventually. To do this, it will take massive amounts of data to train artificially intelligent systems to perform their jobs well enough to replace their human counterparts.”

In the report, Forrester points out that as storage and processing power advances, AI is gaining some traction amongst businesses, allowing companies to generate insights and engage with their customers.

Forrester says AI is uniquely suited to help optimise customer interactions across touchpoints and channels. This is largely driven by the technology’s ability to process huge amounts of data, which can inform real time action. Moreover, in the near future, business leaders will be able to blend technologies such as facial scanning, text analytics, machine learning, and natural language generation (NLG) to better engage with their customers.

AI also has the ability to surface insights automatically, with banks today already using such technologies to detect anomaly for fraudulent transactions. Combing through massive data sets will also allow for better data analysis, particularly when it comes to unstructured data.

Despite these early successes, Purcell believes that it may take time and work before the real benefits of AI will be realised.

“AI is not a homogenous set of technologies, and some tasks will take longer to automate than others. And, despite the fact that the goal of AI technology is to free humans from some intelligence tasks so that they may more effectively focus on others, the process of creating this state has significant challenges for human designers and engineers,” Purcell comments in the report.

One of the main challenges facing the adoption of AI into mainstream business is the lack of a clear business case. Forrester points out that the research and academic communities were the first to develop and deploy AI technologies, and businesses are only now jumping onto the bandwagon. Organisations still require a clear ROI to justify an AI investment.

Time and skills are also potential hurdles. Artificially intelligent systems require massive amounts of training data to learn to perform specific tasks. While some vendors offer pre-trained solutions, even these will require many additional hours of training and refinement before they can be deployed.

When it comes to skills in the field, Forrester says there is a clear dearth of talent. “If data scientists are unicorns, then specialists in AI are their even more rarely mentioned winged cousin, Pegasus,”  comments Purcell in the report. “There are a handful of notable researchers in academia who specialise in deep learning and AI, but the talent pool for businesses is extremely shallow. Additionally, since AI adoption for businesses is so nascent, there are even fewer people with the ability to deploy AI in a business context.”

Making use of its TechRadar methodology, Forrester identified and analysed the current and future prospects of 12 AI technologies and solutions in their comprehensive report. According to the analysis, the company placed two technologies in the Creation phase, six in the Survival phase, and four in the Growth phase. None were placed in the Equilibrium or Decline phases due to the relative immaturity of AI, with the company saying that, when it comes to AI, “…we are still in chapter one.”

Summing up the analysis, Forrester points out that, despite many doom-mongers, AI will not be a threat to most jobs. While there may be some losses in the call centre and other positions, for the most part, AI will free employees from banal or onerous tasks with little value-add. The report also assures readers that there is no imminent rise of the machines about to take place and that humankind is not facing an immediate threat from AI. In fact, it is the role of the Customer Intelligence leader to separate the myth from reality.

As part of its extensive AI research and analysis, Forrester has also completed a TechRadar report on AI for application development and delivery professionals.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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