Alibaba: Tech trends to look out this year

The academy expects 5G, IoT devices, cloud computing and edge computing to accelerate the fusion of information, communication and industrial control systems


CLOUD computing, artificial intelligence (AI) blockchain and data intelligence are expected to accelerate the pace of digital economy this year, according to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s global research initiative, Alibaba DAMO (Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook) Academy, which has published its forecast of the leading trends in the technology industry in 2020.

“We are at the era of rapid technology development. In addition to exploring the unknown through scientific and technological research, we are also working with industry players to foster the applications of innovation in different industries, making technologies more accessible for the businesses and society at large,” Alibaba DAMO Academy head and Alibaba Cloud Intelligence president Jeff Zhang said in a statement.

Here are some of the trends predicted by the academy that are expected to create big impacts this year.

1) The evolution of AI to cognitive intelligence.

According to the academy, AI has reached or surpassed humans in the areas of perceptual intelligence such as speech to text, natural language processing and video understanding.

However, it is still at the early stages the area of cognitive intelligence that requires external knowledge, logical reasoning, or domain migration.

The academy believes that cognitive intelligence will draw inspiration from cognitive psychology, brain science and human social history, combined with techniques such as cross domain knowledge graph, causality inference and continuous learning to establish effective mechanisms for stable acquisition and expression of knowledge.

This might be the key factor to achieve breakthroughs from perceptual intelligence to cognitive intelligence.

2) Industrial IoT powers digital transformations.

The academy expects 5G, rapid development of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, cloud computing and edge computing to accelerate the fusion of information, communication and industrial control systems.

Through advanced industrial IoT, manufacturing companies can achieve automation of machines, in-factory logistics and production scheduling to achieve consumer-to-business smart manufacturing.

In addition, interconnected industrial system can adjust and coordinate the production capability of both upstream and downstream vendors that can significantly increase the manufacturers’ productivity and profitability.

3) Large-scale production-grade blockchain applications will gain mass adoption.

Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) is envisioned by the academy to further reduce the barriers of entry for enterprise blockchain applications.

Subsequently, a variety of hardware chips embedded with core algorithms used in edge, cloud and designed specifically for blockchain will also emerge, allowing assets in the physical world to be mapped to assets on blockchain.

The academy predicts a large number of innovative blockchain application scenarios with multidimensional collaboration across different industries and ecosystems will emerge in the future, and that large-scale production-grade blockchain applications with more than 10 million daily active items will gain mass adoption.

4) Growing adoption of AI technologies that protect data privacy.

The academy said the compliance costs demanded by the recent data protection laws and regulations related to data transfer are getting increasingly higher to date.

With growing interest in using AI technologies to protect data privacy, it will enable the data user to compute a function over input data from different data providers, while keeping the data private.

Such AI technologies promise to solve the problems of data silos and distrust in today’s data-sharing practices which will unleash the value of data in the foreseeable future, said the academy.

5) Cloud becomes the centre of IT innovation.

Not only is cloud computing making new IT technologies more accessible for the masses, it is reinventing IT as well.

The ongoing development of cloud computing technology has contributed to its massive growth that has exceeded far beyond the scope of IT infrastructure and gradually evolved into the centre of all IT technology innovations, said the academy.

It has become the backbone of the entire digital economy as it is connected with almost all IT technologies including new chips, new databases, self-driving adaptive networks, big data, AI, IoT, blockchain, quantum computing and many more.

New technologies such as serverless computing, cloudnative software architecture, software-hardware integrated design and intelligent automated operation are also created through cloud.