This feature first appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
I love this century! Innovations and advances in technology have grown exponentially with new technologies emerging on a seemingly daily basis. This century and, indeed, this decade, is like a candy shop to sci-fi loving technology geeks.
Information technology continually changes. Sometimes something that wasn't even on your radar at the end of a given year could become a big part of your job by the end of the following year. With the year 2023 still fresh out of the package, let's take a look at the technology trends that could shape IT advances and research across the next 12 months.
Once again, artificial intelligence (AI) remains a hotspot when it comes to future IT trends. Artificial intelligence has literally become one of the cogs that make our modern world go round. You’ll find AI everywhere from smart assistants, devices, autos, appliances, hardware, visual and image enhancements, algorithms in internet shopping, and much more.
The integration of AI into almost every facet of our lives is growing exponentially across all industry sectors, a fact which is supported by the unprecedented growth in AI-related patent application filings. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, there has been a 100 percent increase in AI-related patent filings since 2002.
The USPTO also reported that a whopping 42 percent of all patent applications filed in the United States in 2018 were AI-related. Currently, more than 60,000 AI-related patent applications are filed annually in the United States across a variety of technology areas ranging from agriculture to healthcare to fitness and training and everything in-between.
Even the typically agrarian Midwest has become a hotspot for AI-related patent applications. This continuing trend of exponential AI growth isn’t limited to the United States, either. Global Data reported a 28 percent annual average growth rate (AAGR) for AI patent filings in the first quarter of 2022, which makes AI one of the most hottest and bountiful technologies on the planet.
When history looks back on this era, it may well be that AI technologies will be considered right up there with the steam engine, or the invention of the cotton gin, in terms of altering the way we live, work and play. Major AI patent technologies included areas such as machine learning, natural language processing systems, speech recognition, and image analysis.
Be sure to keep an eye out for innovations in the realm of adaptive AI in 2023. Adaptive AI systems are unique in that such systems learn from “real time” feedback, thus enabling them to self-adapt to changing circumstances post-deployment.
At its simplest level, adaptive AI systems can be thought of as an iterative “loop” with inputs from one stage feeding into the next until it circles back to the beginning. At the development stage, engineers build goals into the adaptive AI systems. During runtime, adaptive AI systems gather real-time feedback from human experiences and accumulated data.
The lessons learned from the feedback and experiences gathered are then uploaded during the development stage and the cycle begins again. Because adaptive AI systems self-adapt, value is continuously improved and organizational goals remain aligned.
According to Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2023 report organizations that adopt adaptive AI systems will reap significant financial rewards. Enterprises adopting and implementing adaptive AI systems can now expect to outperform their counterparts as early as 2026.
AI Trust, Risk, and Security Management (AI TRISM)
As with all IT technology, risk and security management for AI systems is of primary importance. In the case of AI technologies, consumers need to know that they can trust that the data sets upon which AI makes its decisions are complete and that the results are unbiased and accurate.
According to the Gartner report cited above, the types of trust, risk, and security governance measures currently in use do not adequately meet the requirements of emerging and expanding AI technologies. To ensure “model reliability, trustworthiness, security, and privacy” Gartner promotes a new model of AI Trust, Risk and Security Management (AI TRISM).
Adopting and implementing secure and transparent AI TRISM methodologies enables business enterprises to achieve organization goals as well as educate users and consumers enabling them to trust the given AI technology. While not exhaustive, some AI TRISM recommendations include tasks such as:
Form an organizational AI TRISM task force charged with identifying organization goals and ensure AI models reflect those goals.
Identify and implement preferred AI TRISM tools.
Develop and implement best AI TRISM practices to protect data sets and integrity of results.
Establish and implement privacy policies.
Standardize AI TRISM procedures and establish a baseline for audit purposes. Ensure transparency in how data is collected and used by AI.
Utilize automation when possible to obtain immediate notifications of anomalies in data set results.
Metaverse — The New Internet?
To best understand what the metaverse is, it’s probably helpful to first understand what it isn’t. While some have billed the metaverse as the new evolution of the internet, there are some fundamental differences between the internet and the metaverse.
The internet is first and foremost a network that connects servers, computers, and devices in such a way as to enable communication between connected devices. Thanks to the internet, consumers are able to browse the worldwide web and directly access connected systems, search for and gather information, buy and sell, take courses, conduct business, and more. Consider the internet the “foundation” or “platform” upon which the metaverse is built.
Consumers don’t browse the metaverse: They interact with a virtual world through the use of AI, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) technologies and devices such as VR controllers and headsets.
The metaverse allows consumers to virtually travel, attend holographic meetings, communicate, conduct business, participate in gaming activities, make purchases, try on clothing virtually, and more. Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who not so subtly rebranded his company in 2021) predicts a billion people will be engaged in the metaverse by the end of the decade. The potential future uses of the metaverse are limited only by imagination.
Digital or virtual twins have been around for a while — but I have to say that I really love the whole concept of digital twins and the potential real-world applications. A digital or virtual twin is exactly what it sounds like: an identical virtual model of a real world physical object.
The potential applications are limitless. Just imagine a world where a surgeon is able to routinely practice complicated surgeries on a virtual twin, accounting for all of the possible "if it can go wrong it will" scenarios before the main surgical event.
In terms of technology, digital twins provide professionals across all spectrums the ability to run simulations, and test new designs, products, and technology in a safe virtual environment. Performance issues can be identified and potential solutions vetted, tested, and approved pre-deployment. Digital twins lead to better research and development outcomes and improved efficiencies.
Security and Internet of Things (IoT)
You can’t talk about AI, the metaverse, or digital twins without acknowledging the importance of the Internet of Things (IoT). In a way, the IoT is the glue that keeps our very smart world connected. Our homes and business are filled with smart devices that exchange data and communicate with similar physical devices and objects.
“Smart” technology and the IoT is everywhere. You’ll find it in watches, phones, cameras, security systems, home appliances, thermostats, tools, gadgets, medical devices, home automation, wearable technology, and much, much more.
As we continue to see growth in the use of smart devices and greater interconnections between such devices, concerns regarding the privacy and security of the IoT are likely to surface and become an ongoing focus area. Currently, there is no single standard, regulation, or set of guidelines regarding the security and privacy issues related to the use of IoT devices and technology.
In 2020, on Dec. 4, H.R. 1668, the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2020 became Public Law No: 116-207. The act requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to “increase cybersecurity for Internet of Things (IoT) devices.”
The IOT-CIA Act spells out specific steps which the NIST and OMB must take to comply with its provisions. While the scope of the IOT-CIA Act is limited to use of such devices by the federal government, it will have an immediate impact on any manufacturer who develops, manufactures, or supplies such devices to a federal entity, as they must comply with the adopted guidelines.
It’s likely that we’ll see an increased focus on creating a national and international set of standards, guidelines, and regulations regarding IoT devices.