Oct 26, 2020

VR and intelligent machines lead tech trends for 2021

Joanna England
4 min
AI tech and real-to-virtual experiences will be at the forefront of tech trends for the coming year, says Ericsson’s Group CTO
AI tech and real-to-virtual experiences will be at the forefront of tech trends for the coming year, says Ericsson’s Group CTO...

Living virtually and relying on smart technology is the shape of things to come, predicts Erik Ekudden, Senior Vice President and CTO for Ericsson.

The Head of Group Function Technology, who introduced the concept of network platforms and open market developments in his 2019 annual report, now says the virtual experience and intelligent machines will reshape lives in the post-pandemic era. 

In his latest report, titled Future Network Trends, he outlines how Virtual Reality is already in use in many companies as a tool for training and communications. But with stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and restricted travel, communication tools have experienced a progressive leap in 2020, and the social potential for VR, says Ekudden, has never been clearer. 

“The internet of senses will enable seamless interaction with remote things and machines, making it possible to fully realise use cases such as remote health checks, remote operation of machinery, holographic communication and virtual reality vacations. Among other benefits, the internet of senses is expected to have a significant impact in terms of sustainability, by dramatically reducing the need for travel.”

He explains that an “internet of senses” will be the next frontier in AI computing. Ekudden believes there will be almost seamless interconnectivity between the physical and virtual worlds. 

He explains, “As physical and digital realities become increasingly interconnected, advanced cyber-physical systems have begun to emerge. These systems consist of humans, physical objects (machines and other things), processes, networking and computation, and the interactions between them all.”

The function, he continues, will be to provide people, organisations and businesses with transparency to track and regulate assets and places which would generate value in terms of productivity. 

But building machine intelligence is usually a long-term process, as modern machine learning (ML) increases software capabilities via historical data. Ekudden explains that advances in tech have sped up the process. 

In a scenario that sounds dauntingly like science fiction, he writes, “Machines will become increasingly intelligent and autonomous as their cognitive abilities continue to expand. Their understanding of the world around them will continue to grow in tandem with their ability to interact with other machines as part of a cognitive system of systems.”

He points out that intelligent machines, which have three major subsystems made up of sensors, actuators, and control, have been with us for a long time. These include industrial robots, speech recognition/voice synthesis systems (like Apple’s Siri) and self-guided vehicles. “The complexity of control and logic skills makes expert systems central in the realm of intelligent machines,” Ekudden says.

Digital transformation is not a new concept, but it is one that has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And as companies and organisations become increasingly streamlined through technology, AI will form a major part of the workforce and environment.

In a recent Towards Data Science report, Ryan M. Raiker discusses the future of workspaces and employees, stating, “Digital robots [will be] taking up minimalist tasks in the office. Digital workers will be trained to carry out a business task just like any employee, only faster and without mistakes. All employees across the enterprise will have digital workers working alongside them in the future.”

Nathan Furr and Andrew Shipilov also wrote in the Harvard Business Review that the adoption of new, automated solutions would result in greater changes than is currently being addressed. “Managers often think that digital transformation is primarily about technology change. Of course, technology change is involved — but smart companies realise that transformation is ultimately about better serving customer needs.”

Ekudden expands on the concept of AI and VR, saying that these two arenas will be inseparable in the future – and will even become integrated physically with humans, commenting, “Body augmentation capabilities will enable humans to be smarter, stronger and more capable. Other examples are contact lenses that can display augmented reality (AR) content, universal translator earbuds that allow for language-independent communication and exoskeletons that increase physical strength.” 

He adds, “Eventually, brain-computer interfaces will enable communication at the speed of thought where, instead of speaking to machines, humans will merely think in order to direct them.”

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Jul 23, 2021

New government strategy to put UK ahead in global innovation

3 min
The government’s Innovation Strategy aims to set out plans to confirm the UK’s position as a leader in innovation and enable advancements in technology

The UK government’s plans to increase private sector investment into elevating the UJ’s position in the global innovation race have been outlined in a new Innovation Strategy developed and launched by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. The strategy is part of the government’s “long-term vision” to boost private sector investment in R&D across the UK, enabling tech companies such as mobile networks to create new technologies. 

While the private sector is important in boosting R&D spending, the government says that the UK “is still committed” to increasing annual public investment in Research and Development with the aim of reaching a record US$30.2bn (£22bn). 

What will the Innovation Strategy allow the UK government to do? 

By adopting the Innovation Strategy, the government claims it will be able to achieve several other goals. These include:

  • Ensuring government procurement is proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
  • Consulting on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
  • Commissioning the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including looking whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation
  • Introducing new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, and revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovative talent
  • Undertaking an independent review to assess the landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
  • Reducing complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank within the next 12 months
  • Expanding IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services to bolster innovative companies’ and researchers’ ability to confidently collaborate, export and invest overseas
  • Publishing of a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish
  • Investing £200mn (US$275mn) through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to target the growth-stage funding gap faced by UK life science companies
  • Supporting 30,000 senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement that “the UK can look back on a proud history of changing the world through innovation. From the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year, the impact on our everyday lives is undeniable.

“That spirit of discovery is still alive in this country today, but we have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.

“The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race”.

The organisation added that through the long-term plan, it aims to “rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery”, and to aid businesses in taking the “vast opportunities” brought about by innovation.

“If we get this right, we can build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow, and ensure British firms are at the front of the pack to turn world-leading science into new products and services that are successful in international markets”, the organisation concluded. 

To implement the strategy, the government plans to work with universities and research organisations with five projects receiving part of £127mn capital injection through the Strength in Places Fund, which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In addition to the Strength in Places Fund, £25 million of funding for the Connecting Capability Fund will help drive further economic growth through university-business innovation.


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