At the close of the last decade, a lot of predictions were made about what technologies we’re set to trend as evolutionary and revolutionary over the period to follow. Little did we know that a global pandemic would come out of the left field and cause such devastation just at the turn of the new decade. The unprecedented loss of life and livelihoods have seen the entire world having to adjust to a new way of life. Arguably, some of the laws implemented during this period wherein many nations declared a state of disaster, border on the infringement of civil rights. All this as those in power try to navigate novel (no pun intended) scenarios for which no manual had existed heretofore.
Owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, a prediction that has lived up to the hype is a surge in the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Albeit that the use cases may not necessarily be along the same lines as what we are seeing play out at present. Over the last few months, GPS, Bluetooth, cellphone masts, and AI-powered big data analytics have been put to use in countries across the world, with the goal of contact tracing, that is, to identify people who have come into close contact with people who have the virus.
The already exponentially rising number of connected smart devices constantly gathering data, connecting to other devices, and sharing that data – all without human intervention, is something companies are trying to contend with. Given the scenario described above, it can only follow that further augmentation of processing power and capacity of machines is now required to accommodate the data volumes, velocity, and variability, or big data as it is called.
In 2018, Logi Analytics wrote on a major market shift and what they termed the death of traditional BI. They declared that the future lay in embedded analytics and even though some traditional BI vendors “dabble” in embedded analytics, they fall short. While this transition may not have been fully adopted for a long while to come, the recent world events have been catalytic in ushering in a climate where embedded analytics is a requirement, particularly where mobile reporting and visual workflows are concerned.
What has undoubtedly now also become a real industry need is digital transformation. A simple example of this is seen where companies have now had to suddenly pivot to working from home, productively. Employee related processes that had been done manually now need to be moved into the cloud. Additionally, companies may now see it fit to actively, using various technologies, track employees’ work output.
Where digital transformation is the horse that had been flogged ruthlessly hitherto, vendors now could craft coherent plans of how to get their customers transformed, let alone a product that can take them there. The use cases are certainly emerging and unless vendors can, today, provide value that matters through market-ready software solutions, they will suffer the same fate as the horse they have been flogging up to now. The time of selling roadmaps is a thing of the past!
Many coronavirus conspiracy theories abound nowadays, one of which makes a connection between the so-called “pandemic” being used to usher in 5G technologies worldwide which could ultimately prove to be more deadly in the long run. Interestingly, the South African Minister of Communications recently gazetted a new policy that would let mobile networks build cell phone infrastructure such as 5G towers on private land. Many have expressed dissent at this policy, citing, for one, concerns about radiation. It remains to be seen how this will play out, but there is no denying that with just about everything now running in the cloud, together with the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G technologies would ease the transition to the new ways of doing business.
Another side effect of the coronavirus has been the dissuasion of the use of cash, with some businesses refusing to accept it altogether. This bodes well for cryptocurrency players, particularly in the US, where the move towards digital currencies is now being fast-tracked.
AI: Good or Evil
AI For Good hosted a discussion on 3 April 2020 which looked at using mobile phones & AI for contact tracing while respecting privacy. The line between invasion of privacy and the “common good” is certainly a thin one, with most such debates happening in the US, where a lot of the measures that have been implemented to combat the spread of the virus have seen the nation’s founding principles being trampled underfoot in what has been termed as the violation of citizens’ civil rights. Additionally, whether such newly enacted laws will be rescinded once we’re in the clear is causing consternation amongst many. Historically, this tends not to be the case as was seen following the 9/11 attacks.
Multiple arguments can be made for and against such AI use cases, a case in point being deep fakes, which is allowing for the superimposition of one person’s face over another, could easily lead to the distortion of the truth. Whether good or evil, one certitude is that we are living in the last days of our planet earth as we know it. The proximity of the crises all over the world is very much telling. Given this fact, perhaps one would do more to make their focus facing and conquering the enemy within themselves, which is a greater giant than any one of those without.