• The fast-changing, uncertain and ambiguous environments that organisations operate in today, require organisations to re-think all their internal business processes and customer touch points. In addition, due to the availability of Emerging Information Technologies such as big data analytics, blockchain and artificial intelligence, it has become easier for startups to compete with existing organisations. Often these startups are more flexible and agile than Fortune 1000 companies, and they can become a significant threat if not paid attention to. Therefore, focusing purely on the day-to-day operation is simply not enough and organisations have to become innovative and adaptive to change if they wish to remain competitive.

    When big data, blockchain and AI are combined, it will change collaboration among individuals, organisations and things, moving from pure human-to-human collaboration to increasingly human-to-machine collaboration and machine-to-machine collaboration. It will turn every organisation into a data organisation. All these technologies enable organisations to design smarter businesses and incorporating these technologies within your organisation has become easier than ever before. Last week, I was invited to attend IBM Think Australia. An event that discussed how emerging technologies are changing the way we live, work and interact with one another every day. The event was all about exploring the relationship between humanity and technology and showing how organisations can benefit from these amazing technologies.

    Things will never be slow again

    It was an inspirational event, where IBM clearly showed their belief that we are living in exponential times. The opening keynote was delivered by Commander Chris Hadfield who said, “things will never be slow again”. According to IBM, we now create 2,5 brontobytes of data per day, an almost unimaginable amount of data and it is only getting more in the years to come. However, it is not about getting more data, it is about doing smart things with that data, and for that, you need intelligence, human and artificial intelligence seamlessly working together.

    Organisations can now leverage that data and embed learning in every process and empower people with all forms of intelligence and put smart to work. As Harriet Green, Chairman and CEO IBM Asia Pacific, told the audience, we now experience the greatest opportunity of all time, requiring organisations to make big bets for the future and dare to think the impossible. Organisations should go on to the offensive and disrupt their industry if they want to survive in this fast-changing and the fiercely competitive world.

    However, “smart only matters when you do something with it”, said Commander Chris Hadfield during his amazing keynote in which he shared his personal stories about travelling to space. You can have all the technology in the world, but it comes down to what you are going to do with that smart technology, how you will put it to work and how you take an idea and change yourself and the organisation. IBM tries to create change with their Five in Five.

    IBM’s Five in Five

    Every five years, IBM comes up with five innovations that will help change our lives within five years. Recently, IBM unveiled their five in five for the coming period and the eccentric John Cohn, IBM Fellow and Distinguished Agitator, discussed them with the audience. They focus on blockchain, security, saving our oceans with AI, preventing bias in AI and making quantum computing mainstream:

    1. Blockchain to unite against counterfeits using crypto-anchors and the world’s smallest computer or even edible ink. The idea is to attach crypto-anchors to any product, edible or not, and trace it using a blockchain. That way, provenance can be ensured which can be extremely useful in the retail industry as I discussed last week.
    2. Secure our data, now and in the future, by using quantum computing to solve math problems that we rely on: cryptography. Their objective is to develop so-called lattice cryptography, which is easy to compute but impossible to crack.
    3. Clean our oceans, using AI-powered microscopes. Tiny autonomous AI microscopes, deployed around the world and networked in the cloud can monitor the condition of our oceans to protect our most critical natural resource: water.
    4. Ensure unbiased AI. A massive challenge, because AI requires training data and training data is inherently biased. IBM wants to ensure that we can trust AI, as only fair AI will create a better world.
    5. Make quantum computing mainstream and move if from the lab into the real world. IBM is working hard to build better quantum computers and make them mainstream so that they can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

    Apart from the IBM showcase, IBM invited multiple organisations to share their story and how they develop smart solutions, obviously using IBM’s technology. We heard from Telstra, Australia’s largest Telcom organisation, who uses technology to re-imagine their business and empower customers to connect. Qantas shared their story of how technology is driving their move to become a digital company that offers a seamless, enjoyable and frictionless journey. Since Qantas uses the same airports and planes as all other companies, their only differentiator is technology. Finally, we heard from Westpac, an Australian bank, that uses technology to drive customer experience and wants to work together with academia, corporates and governments to solve the skills shortage in technology.

    Big Data, Blockchain, AI and Quantum Computing

    It was an interesting event, where we heard multiple stories of startups offering solutions using big data, blockchain or AI. Ranging from the fascinating conversational AI company Soul Machines who are building humanised chatbots to respond to your emotion, to blockchain-provenance company Everledger that allows the tracking and monitoring of valuable products such as diamonds. Finally, the company Q-CTRL offered insights into the world of quantum computing, disagreeing with IBM that quantum computing will be mainstream in five years as it will take much longer. They offer a much-needed solution to control Q-bits to reduce decoherence that currently limits quantum computing.

    Emerging technologies are rapidly changing how we work and live, and organisations have to adapt to these new technologies if they wish to remain relevant in the future. IBM put on a great show and showed how various organisations in Australia and New Zealand are developing innovative solutions, whether they are a large corporate or a startup. We are experiencing a huge shift, which IBM believes only happens every 20-25 years, where business and technology change and grow at an exponential rate. By doing so, we are experiencing a paradigm shift and entering a future that will never be slow again.

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