The “DARQ” Age refers to a broad collection of emerging technologies that are expected to completely change the technology landscape of the future. Detailed in Accenture’s “Technology Vision 2019” report, Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Extended Reality (ER), and Quantum Computing are no longer niche competitive advantages – they are our new modern reality. In fact, 89% of businesses are already experimenting with one or more DARQ technologies, with expectations that embracing the DARQ age will provide them with competitive advantages not seen since the widespread implementation of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud technologies).
Distributed Ledger Technology (Blockchain)
Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) are only just beginning to see their potential as they revolutionize the possibilities of industries including finance, healthcare, and government. Popularized by the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, the DLT known as “Blockchain” uses the power of data redundancy across a distributed network to decentralize data. The data distributed and duplicated across a blockchain network is not owned by a single corporation or other entity, and any changes made to the data stored must be verified and accepted by all links in the blockchain.
How are DLT and Blockchain being used today?
A consortium consisting of a European customs organization, AB InBev, Accenture, APL, and Kuehne + Nagel demonstrated how blockchain will create dramatic efficiency improvements for the freight and logistics industry by eliminating the need for printed shipping documents. Their use of DLT translated into millions of dollars saved each year thanks to the improved efficiency and materials savings.
DLT also eliminates the need for trusted third parties in applications such as “smart contracts”. With DLT-backed smart contracts, a traditional written agreement can be replaced with self-executing computer codes. Once a condition of the smart contract is met it will automatically execute the next step, using a shared DLT to verify that the condition has been met.
For an overview of how Blockchain has revolutionized modern industries, check out this article by BernardMarr.com.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Long gone are the days of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as strictly a sci-fi fantasy. While not a new technology, AI programs have become much more commonplace and are continuing to evolve with applied AI programs being used in automated stock trading and driver assistance features in cars.
In addition to comparatively more basic applied AI, generalized AI systems have been revolutionized with the application of Machine Learning and Neural Networks. The ability for programmed systems to essentially “teach” themselves by using existing and added data sources to improve their functions has allowed for growth at a much more rapid pace. Rather than humans directly “teaching” (programming) computers based on what they know, AIs today can leverage the collective knowledge of the Internet and other databases to make advancements at an unprecedented pace.
How is Artificial Intelligence being used today?
Artificial intelligence is more commonplace than some may realize. Netflix has made excellent use of Machine Learning to study the content users listen to, offer related suggestions, and even use past customer viewing data to determine when regional servers need to be cached to maintain a smooth streaming experience during anticipated peak server load times.
Google’s Self-Driving Car
Google’s self-driving car “Waymo” uses population-based training (PBT) to improve the detection of pedestrians, lanes, obstacles, and the road. This use of AI reduces false-positives, creating a safer experience for potential passengers of self-driving cars in the future.
For insights on how Artificial Intelligence has been applied in businesses in 2019, you can read this article from Harvard Extension School.
Extended Reality (XR)
Popularized by the gaming industry, applications of Extended Reality (XR) technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) has had a boom-and-bust popularity cycle dating as far back as 1956 with the invention of the “Sensorama”, a multimodal experience that used multisensory stimulation to simulate the smell, feel, and sight of a city environment.
How are Extended Reality (XR) technologies being used today?
With the price of VR and AR technologies declining, Extended Reality is increasingly being used to create cost-effective simulations for training healthcare workers, police officers, military units, and public speakers in environments designed to mimic those they will see in their fields. Other evolutions in the use of extended reality include real estate viewings, mental health therapies, and arcades, among others.
Extended Reality (XR) has lead to improvements in the training and work process for workers that require the use of their hands. The Augmented Reality (AR) hardware Google Glass has been used by the logistics company DHL in 2017 for their “Vision Picking Program”, increasing productivity savings by 15%. DHL’s Vision Picking Program allowed workers to view task information during the picking process, including aisle, product location, and quantity, all within their normal field of vision without the need for manually manipulating and interpreting documents.
While the in-depth applications and needs for quantum computing are well beyond the scope of this blog, advancements in quantum computers are being made and are worth paying attention to. Our ever-growing reliance on insurmountable amounts of data warrants the development of specialized hardware that is capable of processing this data. While at this stage quantum computing is in its infancy and will not replace conventional computers anytime soon, industry leaders are paying attention and are dedicating their efforts to advancing this field, notably IBMs recent partnership with the University of Tokyo to advance the applications of the IBM System Q One, the world's first circuit-based commercial quantum computer, introduced by IBM in January 2019.
How is Quantum Computing being used today?
Two major quantum computing technologies are dominating the news cycle today - Amazon Braket and Google Sycamore. Sycamore’s computing power brought rise to Google’s claim to “quantum supremacy” by solving a complex computation in 200 seconds that conventional computers would be expected to require 10,000 years to solve.
Amazon Braket has recently been added to Amazon Web Services, granting a fully managed service that allows scientists, researchers, and developers to leverage the power of quantum computing through their platform. By reducing the barriers to quantum computing, Amazon Braket has the potential to provide the resources needed to fuel future innovations.
Moving Forward into the DARQ era
As with any bleeding-edge technology, many companies are not yet utilizing the technologies of the DARQ age as a part of their process. While Quantum computing is well beyond the needs or capabilities of most companies and uses for extended reality are often niche, modern companies looking to gain an advantage over their competitors may need to implement artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technologies as they seek to improve their capabilities.