Reading between the data

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In July the International Space Station, located more than 200 miles above Earth welcomed its first AI space assistant – CIMON (short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), designed to work with Alexander Gerst, the European Space Agency astronaut commanding the Horizons mission. Built as a partnership between IBM, Airbus, and the German Aerospace Agency (DLR), this free-flying, zero-g-ready AI is being used in various scientific experiments and, in raremoments of leisure, engages in a friendly conversation with Gerst. CIMON joins a long list of space achievements for IBM, which has helped NASA and other organizations from the early space missions to the present.

The average person makes 35,000 decisions today, many unconsciously, but especially important are willful ones that require deep thought and important facts, like should I refinance my house? Or who should I vote for in the next election? Very soon such questions could be answered with the support of AI such as IBM’s Project Debater, which can ingest billions of sentences to provide unbiased facts to help us all make the right choice.

CIMON Photo: Airbus

There are many indications that we are approaching the cusp of a transformative industrial and technological revolution. Against the backdrop of radical disruption, no one knows how South East Europe will develop over the next decade.But one thing is clear – today’s leaders in industry, academia and government must actively navigate the journey to digital excellence in order to prepare the region for the next decade and avoid marginalisation.

South East Europe is not alone, however. Mastering the latest digital technologies and their applications is and will continue to be a key component of economic development and competitiveness for all countries. We are only at the beginning of the digitalization process – a process sure to touch every aspect of the economy and society, every facet of our professional and personal lives. The success of a nation will depend on how well it understands and accepts that the competition is global with geographical distances as well as national borders largely disappearing due to increasingly more efficient communication networks and globally available platforms and applications.

Indeed, increased connectivity will ignite an explosive upsurge in the amount of accessible data. It is expected that by 2030, around 200 billion devices, sensors, and people will become interconnected, expanding from the 11 billion connections today. Such an influx of data and data sources will no doubt create numerous opportunities in all areas of industry and society and effectively become the engine of growth and differentiation. Technological advancement in fields such as data acquisition and sensor quality will aim to enable high-precision data collection from all areas of life.

Over the coming 10 to 15 years, the digital identity of an individual will become more important than ever. Combining collected information from various sources could provide new and timely insights into society and serve as a basis for accurate predictions in various areas of application, including healthcare, education and finance. Essentially, our digital imprints and the analysis thereof could become a key source for automatic decision-making processes and for solving a large number of problems. The potential is huge, but not without major challenges. Issues around cybersecurity, data integrity, privacy and data ownership in the digital world are growing and must be addressed in a sustainable manner before the full potential of digitisation can be exploited for the benefit of the general public.

Progress in information technology is accelerating to the extent that it will prompt innovation in most industries and perhaps pave the way for the standardization of today’s budding technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Block-chain, Virtual Reality and IOT as major data provider. Such promising technologies as well as the availability of accurate real-time data sources will enable the transition to highly personalized and
fine-grained service provisioning and consumption in major areas of society as finance, mobility, working environment, retail, insurance, healthcare, to name a few. As the digitalization process continues to progress, new technological possibilities will create new social needs and demands. The transition from education to work will become more fluent and we need to prepare that it will become a repeating cycle in growing number of professions.

Those cities, industries and countries in which infrastructure and social structures respond the fastest to these demands and dynamics will establish themselves as global innovation hubs. In this respect, South East Europe has got preconditions to leapfrog and profit in the new era. Key enablers, including economic stability, vibrant start-up community as well as investments into advanced infrastructure and education, put the region in a very favorable position.

Later this year at Think South East Europe, 400+ business leaders and opinion makers from across South East Europe will gather to discuss what’s next for businesses and industries across the region and the whole world. If you feel like joining the discussion, follow this link: https://www-05.ibm.com/si/think-see/

by Michael Paier,
General Manager, IBM South East Europe