7 Trends of the 4th Industrial Revolution?

Things are moving fast in our world, with technology leading the transformation of businesses, job and society generally. The next decade is going to define the latest Industrial Revolution and there are a number of technology trends that are playing a core role.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning refer to the ability of machines to learn and act intelligently. We are already using it at home as Amazon presents us with products we might be interested in based on previous purchases. But it is going to get even bigger, and we will see it carry out a wide range of human-like processes, such as seeing (facial recognition), writing (chatbots), and speaking (Alexa).

The Internet of Things

This refers to everyday devices and objects that are connected to the Internet and which gather and transmit data. We have smartphones already, but soon we will have smart fridges, and smart everything.

Big Data

This is all about the explosion in the amount of data that is being generated as more ‘thing’s and services are digital. By analysing masses of data with intelligent algorithms, companies can identify patterns and relationships that they couldn’t see before, allowing them to offer more personalised services.

Blockchain

Although blockchain has been around since 2009, it is still expanding and changing its uses beyond cryptocurrency. Expect to see blockchain being used for storing, authenticating, and protecting data, and transforming banking.

Robots

Robots are intelligent machines that can understand and respond to their environment and perform routine or complex tasks by themselves.

We will see more Cobots in the next few years. These enhance the work that humans do and interact safely and easily with the human workforce. They are your new work colleagues!

5G Networks

5G is the fifth generation of cellular network technology, and it will deliver much faster and more stable wireless networking. It is necessary for all the ‘smart’ things we’re going to have, as mentioned above.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computing will make our current systems look as though Fred Flintstone used them. It will completely redefine what a computer is, and is bound to be a game changer in the world of AI.

Technology will drive this decade

This year the global pandemic has forced most of the world to rely more on technology. With more people working from home — something that is almost certain to become the new normal for those who can perform their job remotely –plus the need for more apps to assist with work and in monitoring public health, there has surely never been a bigger opportunity for the tech sector.

Bernard Marr in Forbes has identified 25 ways in which technology will define this decade, including an area I am particularly interested in, which is Artificial Intelligence. This he believes, and I agree, will be a driving force behind many of the other tech solutions.

AI will be central to the development of the Internet of Things, which is the ever-growing number of “smart” devices and objects that are connected to the Internet. We will also see a boom in ‘wearables’ that will go way beyond the current fitness trackers. There will be an industry dedicated to “wearable technology designed to improve human performance and help us live healthier, safer, more efficient lives.”

Big Data refers is another feature of the next ten years. It refers to the massive amount of data created worldwide and we’ll see advance augmented analytics emerge to deal with it, supported by AI.

Blockchain is another important tool that could revolutionise many parts of business, particularly as it facilitates trusted transactions, as Marr says.

For those of you who are of a sci-fi frame of mind, there will be “digitally extended realities. These will include virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality, all aimed at enhancing the virtual experience.

The concept of “digital twins” is also pretty futuristic. Marr explains: “A digital twin is a digital copy of an actual physical object, product, process, or ecosystem. This innovative technology allows us to try out alterations and adjustments that would be too expensive or risky to try out on the real physical object.” The potential applications are numerous, from the arts to science and more.

I’m sure you’ve guessed that there will be more Alexas and Siris, with chatbots being our first point of customer service for many brands, and facial recognition will grow, although the regulations about its use do need to be ironed out.

Many of us are also waiting for the quantum computers to be unleashed, and that could happen before 2030.

You can read about all the other opportunities at Marr’s Forbes article (linked above), or in his book, Tech Trends in Practice: The 25 Technologies That Are Driving The 4th Industrial Revolution.

Prepare yourself for what’s coming!

Free phones – but NO privacy!

Image result for Free phones – but NO privacy!

When I spotted an article in Forbes by Thomas Brewster, I was immediately intrigued. The headline is U.S. Funds Program With Free Android Phones For The Poor — But With Permanent Chinese Malware. It surely must strike anyone reading it as a giving with one hand and taking away with the other gesture. So, I had to check out what it was about.

As I live outside the USA, I was not aware that low income households in the States have been able to get cheap cell service and even free smartphones via the U.S. government-funded Lifeline Assistance program. And there is one provider of this service called Assurance Wireless that offers a free Android device along with free data, texts and minutes. It sounds good on the face of it.

But according to security researchers at Malware Bytes there is a significant drawback to the distribution of this largesse. The Android phones come with preinstalled Chinese malware, which effectively opens up a backdoor onto the device and endangers the users’ private data. And, the researchers say that one of the types of malware is impossible to remove.

Malware Bytes informed Assurance Wireless about the issue. Assurance is a Virgin Mobile company, just as a matter of interest. So far Malware Bytes have not received a response from the service provider. So, users should be aware that their devices are vulnerable. Interestingly, after Forbes published the article a spokesperson for Sprint, which owns Virgin Mobile and Assurance Wireless, said: “We are aware of this issue and are in touch with the device manufacturer Unimax to understand the root cause. However, after our initial testing we do not believe the applications described in the media are malware.”

The FCC, which runs Lifeline Assistance, confirmed to Forbes that the law requires “its fund not be used by partner carriers for spending on devices.”

As a result questions are being asked. Senator Ron Wyden asked the FCC why these phones are being distributed to low-income citizens: “It is outrageous that taxpayer money may be going to companies providing insecure, malware-ridden phones to low-income families. I’ll be asking the FCC to ensure Americans that depend on Lifeline Assistance aren’t paying the price with their privacy and security.”

According to the Forbes article, the affected device is a UMX phone shipped by Assurance Wireless, and one of the bits of malware is the creation of a Chinese entity known as Adups. It basically auto-installs apps and the user has no way of controlling that. Furthermore Adups tools have been caught siphoning off private data in the past. This included the full-body of text messages, contact lists and call histories with full telephone numbers.

All this begs the question that Thomas Brewster asks – is privacy only for the rich?

AI and information crime

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is moving at speed into the mainstream. Almost every day we are learning about new uses for it, and discovering the ways in which it is already a part of our daily lives. Just this week medical researchers have revealed that the use of AI in testing for breast cancer is more effective than the work of expert radiologists. As one doctor interviewed said, this use of AI frees up radiologists to do other important work. And that’s a great benefit, as it takes roughly 10 years to train in radiology.

On the other hand, people are concerned that AI may take over almost every area of our lives, from self-driving cars to fighting wars. And it may do our laundry as well. Basically it comes down to this — will AI replace humans? That’s the great fear, but one which is largely exaggerated. As Kathleen Walch writes: “However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that AI is not a job killer, but rather, a job category killer.” I have also written about this aspect of AI before, pointing to the fact that “jobs are not destroyed, but rather employment shifts from one place to another and entirely new categories of employment are created.”

Indeed, as Walch says, “companies will be freed up to put their human resources to much better, higher value tasks instead of taking orders, fielding simple customer service requests or complaints, or data entry related tasks.” What businesses must do is have honest conversations with their employees about the use of AI and show how it can allow humans to be more creative by giving the dull, routine tasks to AI.

The one area where AI is causing us issue is in the generation of fake news in a range of formats. It is already almost impossible to tell if an image is real or AI-generated, or if you’re talking to a bot or a real person? AI-generated ‘disinformation’ is not necessarily generated by criminals: as we all now know, State actors are perhaps the worst offenders, and we have plenty of example to look at coming from Russia, the USA and the UK. Lies are fed to the citizens using social media accounts that appear to be reputable government sources, and the social media companies collude with these sources, as Facebook has shown us. Walch says, “Now all it takes is a few malicious actors spreading false claims to traumatically alter public opinion and quickly shift the public’s view.” Brexit and the election of Trump are good examples of this in play.

And it is in this area that we must consider the ethics of using AI most closely right now. As Walch says, “Governments and corporations alike will have to think about how they will reign in the potential damage done by AI-enabled content creation,” and she adds, “we must encourage companies and governments to consider fake content to be as malicious as cybersecurity threats and respond appropriately.”

What we are talking about is essentially propaganda. There are those of us who can see through the smoke and mirrors, but many can’t, and these citizens need protection from the malicious acts of the information criminals.