by Marco Tomko, GOTO Conferences
Since the dawn of the internet, organisations have had to constantly evolve and undergo continuous digital transformation journeys to stay relevant. New technologies that make things better, faster and more efficient are always emerging, and most businesses find themselves in an endless – and exciting – battle to improve the way they work to stay ahead of the competition.
GOTO Conferences, held annually in Chicago, Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen, give their attendees the chance to remain at the forefront of breaking technology by gathering leading industry experts to help software developers and technology leaders keep up with the world’s latest and greatest tech developments – and to teach them how to best implement these technologies in order to prepare for whatever lies around the corner.
In keeping the community ahead of the information curve, GOTO has access to some of the first insights into new technologies such as wetware and quantum computing, and how those technologies will soon become the norm with practical, everyday applications.
One of the latest developments in wetware – a programmable combination of living cells and software – was explored at GOTO Copenhagen 2018. Osh Agabi, founder of Koniku, gave the audience a look into an early practical adoption of this technology: artificial noses used in security applications.
Dogs have around 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared with about six million in ours. Because of this incredible sense of smell, they can be an extremely valuable resource in security applications, capable of smelling out drugs, bombs, poison and many other substances.
Osh displayed how Koniku can extract cells from dogs’ noses and grow artificial versions with the same scent capabilities. They can then attach a microprocessor to the artificially grown nose and programme it to smell specific scents.
The applications of this technology could revolutionise military tools and prevent people from having to risk their lives in the field when an artificial nose is used to smell out bombs on a drone. Airport security could replace conventional security systems with tiny devices able to sniff out any contraband. Even hospitals and general practices with devices could point out early stages of cancer, and be able to treat it before it’s too late.
We could soon see wetware technology take over many applications across industries, not only boosting the effectivity and efficiency of current systems, but ultimately saving lives in a number of practical uses.
Another technology springing into popularity is quantum computing. Once a mere topic of sci-fi films, the day of super powerful computers has arrived. Although still mostly found in high-tech labs and universities, quantum computers can now be purchased by members of the general public – those with $15 million to spare.
Quantum computers work very differently to the “classical” computers we use at the moment. They have the potential to disrupt how we fundamentally store, process and use data and could provide significant breakthroughs in complex systems and artificial intelligence.
At GOTO Chicago 2019, award-winning quantum computing researcher Jessica Pointing gave attendees an introduction to this technology with her talk, “(Almost) Everything You Need to Know about Quantum Computing”. Jessica covered what to expect with quantum computing, its applications and how powerful these computers can really be – displaying a concrete problem that would take a classical computer more than a billion years to solve, she showed how a quantum computer can do it in just 100 seconds.
This computational power could be put to use in many applications, with the most promising being modelling the behaviour of molecules – practically impossible using a classical computer. With the ability to model molecules and develop an understanding of how they behave, we could potentially save 2 per cent of the world’s energy consumption and open doors to groundbreaking discoveries in medicine.
Other applications include using quantum computers to help us create new materials by understanding mineral properties in greater detail, or to help us solve current machine learning algorithms much faster.
Jessica also mentioned that, although we don’t have a quantum computer powerful enough to break security encryption yet, we likely will in the next 10 years, and rebuilding all our security systems to work with quantum in mind is a task that in itself will take years to complete. So while we may still be in the early days of quantum computing, now is the time to start thinking about a world where it exists.
Digital transformation is a constant journey – there will always be a next new big thing lurking in the distance. It’s more important than ever for organisations to seize the opportunity to jump ahead of the competition and discover how concepts that may seem distant can help their business stay ahead of the curve.