Society is constantly changing. The world that we inherited from our parents looks drastically different from the one they inherited from their parents. It’s a fact of life — a natural progression signaling the advent of new concepts and ideas that change our perception of the way the world works. No longer must we use paper maps to guide us from juncture to juncture, because we have GPS to do it for us. No longer must we dust off oversized encyclopedias to retrieve important information, because it’s all just a keystroke away. With each technological advancement, we inch closer to the establishment of a digital world that’s faster, simpler, and more convenient than the one that preceded it — and this is largely due to emerging technology.
At the center of this conversation is blockchain. Industry experts have long hailed the decentralized ledger as the next great frontier for technological innovation; an advancement so wide-reaching that its mainstream applications transcend industries and practice areas. But while enthusiasts are quick to label blockchain as all encompassing, it’s important to remember that blockchain is only a piece (albeit a substantial one) of a much bigger puzzle in the tech space. Below, we’d like to take an opportunity to discuss other areas of emerging technology that we believe will play an important role in the near future. In doing so, we hope that you can come away with a greater understanding for the future tech landscape, as well as how blockchain technology will play a formative role in its development.
When some people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they envision lifelike computers akin to the loveable Star Wars character C-3PO. Admittedly, we’re not quite there yet; however, AI applications are fast becoming a fundamental aspect of daily life. Law firms can use AI to quickly sift through thousands of documents using due diligence criteria aimed at sorting and collecting pertinent information during discovery. Cybersecurity agencies can use AI to monitor and flag potential anomalies in network traffic and automatically institute firewalls upon detection of bad actors. Healthcare companies can use AI to analyze patient data and cross-reference it against thousands of different disease profiles, potentially saving countless lives in the process. So long as it has a digital element, it has an application for AI.
So where does blockchain fit into the overall equation? Experts continue to recommend that companies meld AI applications with blockchain in order to provide a secure and efficient network in which AI applications can flourish. At least in the short term, AI mechanisms will require human oversight in order to prevent inadvertent errors and ensure accuracy — a process that can be both costly and time-intensive to implement. Using blockchain, however, companies can more easily monitor AI output with confidence that the ledger has not been altered or tampered with. As machine learning becomes increasingly sought after for its fast processing times, these assurances will be crucial to maintaining the trust of the general public.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most prominent emerging technologies in the world, yet casual observers might not even know it exists. It’s the network by which your phone communicates with your speaker, your car communicates with your garage door, and your TV remote interacts with the lights in your living room. Amazon famously brought IoT into the mainstream with the release of its voice-activated smart speakers Alexa, which can respond to a variety of commands and play music direct from streaming services. By connecting cutting-edge technologies through IoT networks, we can more easily leverage their value to make daily life as efficient and convenient as possible.
Unfortunately, IoT devices still require centralized infrastructures to connect to other network devices. Your phone must be able to “talk” to a server that then locks your house or turns off the lights. While convenient, centralized networks with access to multiple devices create huge security risks. By using blockchain to integrate smart contracts into IoT applications, however, we can ensure that data is protected as it travels from one place to another. Granted, companies like Amazon will still have access to your basic information (i.e., your voice will still need to be processed by Amazon’s servers to run Alexa); however, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The need for cybersecurity isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. With experts predicting that there will be an estimated 20.4 billion IoT devices by 2024, blockchain will soon become a best practice for companies looking to secure their data.
Robots are no longer just figments of our imagination; they’re fundamental tools with applications in just about every industry on the market, including agriculture, entertainment, and healthcare. Drones can be used to optimize food production in crop fields, mitigating the risk of health crises by flagging areas requiring special attention. Robot-assisted surgery allows doctors to perform minimally-invasive procedures at fraction of the time, cost, and trauma of conventional methods, thereby speeding up recovery times and improving patient outcomes. We’re nearing a future with robotics infrastructures in in its sights. But in order to achieve its true potential, companies using robotics must have a network underpinning the technology that can adequately support its success.
Blockchain has an important role to play here. Imagine the potential impact that a philanthropic organization would have if it was able to gain a clearer picture of areas of need before sending resources via drone. With blockchain, volunteers on the ground would be able to send real-time information back to dispatchers, who can then ensure that aid is sent where it’s needed most. Consider the importance of data security in information collected and stored via robotics tools employed by the military. Using blockchain, we can ensure that sensitive information is protected at every step of the way. In the pursuit of robotics integration, security and efficiency will almost certainly be a topical concern facing companies considering such automation, and blockchain will almost certainly be a solution.
These are just a few of the possibilities that blockchain affords emerging technologies. As society progresses, as technology improves, and as new ideas arrive, we can expect blockchain to find many more potential applications with emerging technologies, perhaps in industries that have not even been invented yet. Wherever the industry may lead, we at Wachsman will be there, ready to advocate for the many companies working to ensure that our children (and their children) inherit a better, faster, and more connected world than we did.