As a commercial graduate with a foundation knowledge of digital business processes I jumped at the opportunity to explore digital innovations and technology trends at Microsoft Future Decoded (ExCeL Centre London). In a nut shell, throughout the two days, Microsoft continually pushed the cloud (Microsoft Azure) and the edge (mobile and IoT) and it soon became apparent that AI (machine learning), IoT, server abstraction and blockchain are Microsoft’s four key digital innovation trends.

Artificial Intelligence 

I was not surprised at Panos Panay’s (Microsoft Corporate Vice President) prediction that in three years, 50% of the global workforce will be mobile and that AI will go a long way to simplifying and securing processes. AI is an exciting technical innovation and will be used to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology and staggeringly, Microsoft predicts that AI will generate $1.2 trillion in revenue in the next three years, creating three million jobs but contentiously replace 1.8 million.

Blockchain

With the growth of crypto currency Bitcoin and emergence of Ethereum I was excited to learn more about blockchain. In short, blockchain is a secure, shared and distributed ledger technology and results in the decentralisation of information and removes the disintermediate nature of data distribution. As predicted, Microsoft suggested that blockchain will help reduce fraud and increase efficiency/speed and increase revenue and sales as data is immutable (crypto-security), open to interrogation with zero reconciliation. However, the lack of confidentially and proof of work (security) does result in low throughput and high latency (e.g. Bit Coin mining), this could be a concern for businesses and could hinder widespread adoption. However, Microsoft believes that it will solve the negative aspects of blockchain with confidential computing.

Mixed reality 

As fan of virtual reality and spatial audio technology, I made a beeline for the mixed reality seminars. The mixed reality technical innovations presented by Microsoft and development companies such as VISR highlight a catalyst for digital transformation, underpinned by the HoloLens head mounted holographic computer. I predict that mixed reality will result in new lines of revenue (customer choice), reduced costs and promotion of ingenuity. Microsoft will soon roll out Office suite 3D content integration.

Cybersecurity 

As a relative novice to large scale cyber security I was amazed to learn, that on average a threat remains on a breached network for 144 days! Opportunistic threats are taking advantage of the change in the IT landscape and it is imperative that customers understand the IT environment and operate a system of protect, detect and respond. Microsoft predicts that machine learning (AI) will go a long way to providing a solution and that GDPR compliance will be accelerated with imminent Office 365 developments surrounding simplified governance, discovery and control, resulting in improved cybersecurity.

Quantum computing 

Quantum computing was an entirely new concept to me and by the end of the two days I was sold. Although not accessible yet, quantum computing will result in the potential to compute across infinite universes (Microsoft’s exact words) and the ability to action large computations. It is exciting to think that quantum computing could result in simultaneous permutation computations, solving the world’s hardest problems and challenges in seconds, hours or days rather than generations. Microsoft is set to release a quantum programming language, Visual Studio extensions and quantum simulators.

Finally, Karin Strauss (Microsoft Research) transported the audience to the (not so) distant future where data will be stored in synthetic DNA molecules as it is predicted that we will run out of storage by 2040. The growth of the cloud will result in zettabytes of data by 2020, as a consequence it is integral that we have adequate storage capabilities in place. To date, 400mb of data has been stored and fully recovered from DNA molecules!

Suffice to say that there are exciting digital innovations on the horizon and we are at the edge of a shift to more intelligent computing….

Marc Matthews

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