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Four important tech trends

by Hans Dembowski

In brief

Using big data: Twitter is very popular in Indonesia, so it makes sense to monitor tweets in regard to flooding.

Using big data: Twitter is very popular in Indonesia, so it makes sense to monitor tweets in regard to flooding.

Advancements in information technology are opening up new frontiers. Four important trends are artificial intelligence, automation, big data and block chain. Here is what they mean.

Artificial intelligence means that computer programmes perform cognitive and intellectual tasks that only humans were capable of previously. Speech recognition is an example. Typically, algorithms analyse databases of human behaviour to pick the correct choices. Depending on what job needs to be done, the databases vary. Highly sophisticated programmes are designed to support medical doctors’ diagnoses, and they will be based on the decisions of physicians who specialise in the relevant fields. Algorithms of online retailers that show you items that people liked who bought the same items that you bought are obviously much simpler.

Big data refers to huge databases. Systematically analysed, they can reveal trends that would otherwise not be obvious. At the same time, the scrutiny of an individual person’s data trail can disclose private information concerning his or her health status or political preferences, for example. Big data is systematically generated by consumers who use the internet, smartphones or other appliances. The records of insurance companies and utility companies can amount to big data too. Moreover, satellite imagery is sometimes considered big data.

Blockchain technology serves to create files that cannot be manipulated after being transferred from one computer to another. The reason is that the files automatically contain encrypted documentation of all previous transactions. The best known application of blockchain technology is Bitcoin, the crypto currency. Proponents argue that it is a safe kind of money because it cannot be manipulated by government institutions. Recent experience, however, showed that the value of Bitcoin can be quite volatile due to speculation.

Automation means that machines perform tasks without being directly operated by a human being. Computer programmes steer the machines which require elaborate sensor systems and are able to use tools. Robots have been very important in the car industry since the 1990s. Increasingly, AI’s systems are used to operate automated machines. Self-driving cars are expected to be viable in the future.

Hans Dembowski

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