2018 ICS Projects and Predictions

January 16, 2018

Professors Kurt Squire, Ramesh Jain and Vladimir Minin provide a sneak peak of what technological innovations are ahead in 2018.

What technological innovations are on the horizon, and which industries will they affect? Here, we get a sneak preview of 2018 from three professors in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science (ICS):

Squire, Jain and Minin predict ICS trends and discuss the focus of their own research for 2018, but first, they take a quick look back at 2017.

What were some of the biggest surprises of 2017?

Squire: The biggest surprise continues to be the ways in which we consume and process information and the distinct differences in how people participate in media and information landscapes. The rapid growth of digital assistants also surprised me, somewhat.
Jain: The first surprise was the application of blockchains in many diverse domains, from cryptocurrencies to land ownership. The second came in December, with the end of net neutrality, although the implications of this aren’t yet clear.
Minin: I would say the staying power of data science — especially in terms of open data projects, such as those for open government and infectious disease surveillance. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the speed at which we, as a community, are getting better at storing, organizing and processing the data that is constantly streaming into our lives!

What will be the main ICS trends for 2018?

Squire: First, people will continue to ask questions about reasoning, trying to understand things such as how it’s possible for people to believe that the world is flat in the year 2018. There will be continued study of augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) to see if or how these technologies will reach consumers and fit into our daily lives. We will also see the continued broadening of games, including gaming technologies in learning environments.

Jain: Personal health applications on mobile phones will become increasingly popular and influential as more sensors emerge to measure people’s health states and as wearable devices become more integrated with other data sources. AI, machine learning and cognitive computing will work together to revolutionize this area.

Minin: In statistics, the focus will remain on complex, realistic models with high numbers of parameters and on ways to automatically find appropriate model complexity for the data at hand. This model adaptivity via regularization is not a new idea by any means, but there are still plenty of unsolved problems in this area.

What industries will be most affected by these trends?

Squire: A lot right now depends on net neutrality, but I think that news organizations, big and small, will be affected by concerns about information, information literacy and media ownership.

Jain: ​Currently, most computer applications relate to enterprise and social media, but the new emphasis on personal health, behavior changes and quality of life will affect companies focused on healthcare, wearable devices, and health insurance. ​

Minin: It is hard to come up with industries that won’t be affected by advances in data science. Decisions will be increasingly data-driven as tools for decision making under uncertainty become more widely available.

Is there an underexplored area that you’d like to see get more attention in 2018?

Squire: I know that it has been discussed, but the social and economic impact of self-driving cars is immense. This is probably also true for the accompanying delivery services, such as for groceries.

Personal assistants are interesting in that they are a very subtle intrusion into our lives in terms of privacy and also convenience.

Jain: ​Health remains a greatly underexplored ​area for technology applications. The healthcare industry is far behind in adopting the latest technology and applying sophisticated applications to improve our quality of life. More research must be devoted to novel sensors and their applications through the pervasive use of smartphones.

Minin: I specialize in biological applications, and some areas of biology are very statistically mature (such as genetics and epidemiology). However, there are biological specialties that have been less driven by data analysis — immunology, for example. New technology now allows immunologists to generate data that can tell us more about how our adaptive immune system works. This makes computational and statistical immunology an exciting field that I hope will see many interesting discoveries in 2018.

What will be your research focus this year?

Squire: I’m working on wearable technologies for social-emotional intelligence and tools to help gauge student interest in topics.

Jain: The goal is to build a platform for a personal health navigator. Two very important components in this will ​be developing a personal model of each individual and closing the loop using sensors to continuously provide guidance based on the user’s health state.

Minin: I’m working on predictive modeling for infectious diseases and on trying to understand how our adaptive immune system works.

What should people be most excited or concerned about in terms of technology affecting their daily lives?
Squire: It will be easier to reach people, but new expectations of accessibility will be an intrusion into people’s family and personal time.

Jain: ​New applications should make us healthier, improving our quality of life by helping us, in the short term, make positive daily changes and, in the long term, avoid diseases. However, this will require collecting a tremendous amount of data for personalization, which could result in serious issues related to user privacy and security. ​

Minin: People should be excited about more publicly available data, but this is a double-edged sword in that privacy preservation will remain a problem. It will be interesting to see how new data collection technologies and statistical methods advance vaccine development, including a possible HIV vaccine or a universal flu vaccine resulting in long-term influenza immunity.

Shani Murray