In 2020, medical research is more important than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened eyes to the flaws of our global public health mechanisms and demonstrated the need for earlier, faster diagnosis - especially in the case of infectious diseases. The opportunities for AI within healthcare are infinite, enabling drug discovery, management of medical data, clinical trialling and more. AI is being deployed in thousands of medical initiatives, each that vary in approach and focus. Wider integration of these developments into the healthcare model could optimise the system and ultimately save lives. I’ve been looking into a variety of AI startups powering healthcare and discovering their ability to transform the pace, accuracy and success with which we conduct medical research in today’s world.
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to a team from Dell Technologies talking about high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads within enterprise organizations. The scale and complexity of HPC is growing tremendously. Even with a predicted slowdown for 2020, analyst firm Intersect 360 is still anticipating the market to grow to $55B by 2024.
Over 90% of the world’s data is transmitted around the globe by submarine fibre optic cables. Over 400 of these cables sprawl across our planet’s ocean floors, often hundreds or even thousands of miles long. There are over 1.2 million kilometres of subsea cables currently in service, ensuring that nearly every square metre on our planet is ‘connected’.
One of the unexpected silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic has been recognition of the role data centres have played in keeping our communities functioning during global lockdowns. Organisations scrambled to get their employees up and running in a work from home environment. Sadly, many realised their data center infrastructure was not up to the challenge.
Many businesses are recognising the potential and importance of colocation data centre facilities. Prior to the pandemic, colocation was a key – often growing – element in their overall IT operations; complementing or even replacing on-premise data center facilities and cloud-based services alike. In the last six months, the major hyperscalers - who have their own vast facilities - have turned to colocation facilities to quickly ramp capacity needs as the world turned online practically overnight.
Would a robot suit the role of a personal stylist? Whilst the latest vogue changes each month, the fashion industry wreaks environmental havoc. It's a huge culprit of overproduction, making it the 2nd largest water polluter in the world and also responsible for 300 million tonnes of waste each year. As ever, technology has an answer to this dilemma. Developing AI promises a brighter future for the fashion industry: one of invariably popular clothing lines and a personalised customer experience. Already, the current political climate has seen shoppers becoming more eco-conscious, and naturally, clothing brands are responding to this marketing incentive with environmentally-friendly changes. A new system, empowered by technology, could change fashion’s sustainability game for good... and all without being at the expense of a nice outfit.
As with all tradeshow events this year, ISC High Performance 2020 took on a very different look and feel. Overall, the event received high praise for adapting to a virtual environment, and the news coinciding with the event continued to generate headlines. One of the more interesting announcements was from NVIDIA and Mercedes Benz launching software-defined, intelligent vehicles using end-to-end NVIDIA technology.
In April of this year, Google announced that it is taking the next step in making its data centers greener and cleaner. The company indicates that it has been carbon-neutral since 2007, and it has covered its energy consumption with 100% renewables since 2017.
Many large corporations have undertaken similar commitments, covering the equivalent of their total electricity use with renewable energy from Power Purchase Agreements (PPSa). These PPAs match their total electricity consumption to the output of a new “additional” renewable facility built on their behalf. However, only the total volumes match, not the actual physical flows of power. For example, if a company were to offset its 100 megawatthours (MWh) of consumption with 100 MWh produced by a solar facility, then at times unused surplus solar would be sold into the market while at other moments (nights, for example) the company would be buying system power from the grid at whatever carbon intensity the grid was offering at that moment.
Clear canals in Venice and blue skies in Delhi: around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown is cleansing our planet of its usual levels of pollution and bringing us instead time to appreciate nature closeby. Thanks to new restrictions’ severe limitations on travel and industrial activity, our daily carbon emissions are seen to have fallen by 17% during the peak of confinement measures in early April, when compared to that of mean levels seen in 2019. Though these statistics bear a false sense of security, we must avoid being distracted from the pressing circumstances of today’s environmental crisis in which wider changes need to be made. As elements of lockdown ease and we prepare for a return to ‘business as usual’, the pressure to revive the economy risks accelerating at the expense of positive change made so far. Making green decisions remains as, if not more crucial. Environmental accountability is an essential selling point for any business or organisation in the modern-day, and a field Verne Global is committed to.
NVIDIA’s GTC going virtual in February was the main attraction for the rest of the HPC show industry. My industry event calendar has been replaced by an endless stream of Zoom-like briefings and webinars. Three months after Covid-19 disrupted the HPC industry some patterns are emerging. Businesses with a remote working, gaming, telemedicine, home delivery or drug discovery component are booming. My neighbor sells a cloud-based telemedicine solution and he’s been glued in his home office twelve hours a day, 6 days a week attempting to keep abreast of the demand.
I recently revisited Bristol, UK for an AI and HPC Meetup hosted at Graphcore’s HQ where they design the wicked powerful IPU CPU accelerator. There were three excellent presentations and the one by Helen Byrne, AI Research Engineer at Graphcore, about their 2020 research focus reiterated that my mathematics skills were well and truly rusty.
As a late sign-up for the recent HPC & AI Meetup in Bristol, I was feeling relaxed coming in without a speaking slot and only the objective of meeting some colleagues and hearing a few lightning talks. Well, all that changed with two minutes from the start when our MC for the night, Verne Global's fabulous Simone Warren, told me that I had just been awarded the honour of giving the closing remarks. Her rationale was sound - it was a technical meeting - perhaps the CTO should give the exit speech. Logical indeed, and while I do in fact enjoy a bit of public speaking, I will admit that I do like to over-prepare myself for any speaking role and I knew I was in for a new type of challenge. My mind had to focus in and quit thinking about that Banksy I was looking forward to seeing around the corner from the venue. Little did I know that he was stealthily working in the background on a Valentine's Day surprise.
I was recently in attendance for a rare event in my busy life - a book discussion. Our family is fortunate that our three boys are attending a school that not only challenges its students mentally and physically, but also promotes the engagement of the entire family unit. Our school’s headmaster led an engaging discussion on a book that will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year: Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele who currently serves as Professor of Psychology at Stanford University.
Perhaps it is because I returned from my last business trip of 2019 to a flooded house, but more likely it’s all the wicked cool water-cooled equipment that I encountered at SC-19 that I’m in a watery mood!