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Countering AI bias, domestic robots and detecting deep-fakes: 10 predictions for 2020 and beyond

Many of CCS Insight’s tech predictions have implications for citizens and the future of cities.


Global analyst firm CCS Insight has revealed its predictions for the connected world in 2020 and beyond at its annual event in central London.


Many of these should be on the radar of city leaders.

1. By 2021, algorithmic and anti-bias data auditors will emerge to tackle ‘pale, male and stale’ artificial intelligence.

Skilled women and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the artificial intelligence (AI) industry and data, the fuel for AI. Regulatory pressure to address this is growing: in 2019, an algorithmic accountability bill was introduced to the US Congress that would require certain algorithms to be reviewed regularly for signs of bias. This need to resolve data and compliance challenges will spark the emergence of ‘an AI intelligence economy’, made up of firms like algorithmic auditors and companies that help source high-quality, diverse and unbiased training data.

2. By 2023, psychometric testing of software developers will become commonplace.

As data and technology underpin all aspects of the modern world, there will be greater scrutiny of those building the software. This will affect hiring policies, and ethical psychometric testing will appear more regularly as part of the interview process.


This is already the case in security-sensitive roles, but it will expand into all other sectors. Demonstrating support for an ethical code of conduct drives organisations to be more rigorous during the initial stages of creating software solutions. This should lead many to embrace the ethos of ‘Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should’.

3. By 2021, Amazon will buy 5G mobile spectrum for its own use in at least one market.

This will enable the giant to take end-to-end control of the technology when using it for various applications, including Amazon Web Services, warehousing and delivery. It mirrors Amazon’s desire to oversee every aspect of its operations, such as its development of drones and robots for last-mile delivery.


4. In 2020, Apple will launch its Apple Privacy brand to bolster and communicate its stance on protecting users’ private information.

The expected move follows prominent scandals involving companies such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Apple believes personal data should remain on the device and not be used for advertising or shared with third parties.


5. By 2021, a Premier League football club will launch a facial recognition ticketing system.

This reflects the likelihood that organisations not affiliated with state or local authorities will accept the technology for authentication by the end of the 2020s.


It will be introduced initially as an adjunct to an existing ticketing system but will receive a boost in 2023 when a major sports stadium moves to 100 per cent biometric ticketing. Privacy concerns will be answered by claims that the system identifies troublemakers and makes entry quicker and more convenient.


AI is also likely to replace referees in a major sporting event by 2022, such as a tennis tournament, where decisions tend to be quite clear-cut. Amazon’s deep investment in rights to broadcast tennis matches will lead to an exhibition tournament umpired by Alexa. The success of this initiative will lead to the technology being adopted more widely in sports at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028, for example.


AI is also likely to replace referees in a major sporting event by 2022, such as a tennis tournament.


6. Environmental pressure will see virtual reality displace 20 per cent of business travel by 2029.


This will be driven by the need to control spiralling costs as well as the advent of more environmentally aware young people in the workforce.


7. By 2025, one in 50 households in affluent markets will own a domestic robot.


Already the success of robot vacuum cleaners has seen households embrace such products to help with household chores. Other functions such as security, entertainment, monitoring pets and providing companionship will follow.


Amazon is to become a major player in this area, unveiling an Alexa-powered robot, adding mobility to its hugely successful Echo devices.


8. Brain-computer interfaces will evolve beyond medical applications into commercial offerings by 2027.


This will be ushered in as the technology to control devices using our brains improves. The interfaces will evolve to be used as in several commercial applications and their usage eventually spreads to consumer settings.


9. By 2023, a lack of diversity in data sets will push a wearable device maker to pay users for their data.


Those who wear devices are an underrepresented demographic group. The move will aim to improve the quality of research and data for the training of artificial intelligence models.


10. ‘Deep fake’ detection technology will emerge by 2021.


These tools will be developed to counter doctored and convincingly realistic videos, created with AI, and released on social media. These videos and fake content bots, like Grover, take our challenges with fake news to a new level. In a landmark case, a celebrity will sue a news organisation, hosting provider or software creator for damages caused by a fake video.


Security and fake-detection systems, currently in research, will rapidly become commercial to tackle the ubiquity of these videos and the risks they pose to elections, governments and businesses. Like the fakes it is designed to deal with, the detection technology will also be based on neural networks and use techniques like digital watermarking to help spot manipulation and validate authentic content.


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