Home / Blog / Post-Pandemic Scenarios – II – Pervasive Artificial Intelligence

Post-Pandemic Scenarios – II – Pervasive Artificial Intelligence

That Artificial Intelligence will become ubiquitous in this decade it is a given. The question mark is on the form that it will take, how it will transform the landscape and what might be the sources of AI, Personally, I bet the smartphone will be a key player.

The first topic addressed in the Future Today Institutes’s report is Artificial Intelligence and I concur in their choice: AI is bound to be the underlying force that will shape this decade and will change the landscape in the next one:

  • autonomous vehicles
  • personalised  and contextualised web-spaces aka Spatial Web
  • personalised healthcare
  • collaborative/symbiotic human machine landscape
  • shared knowledge

AI has been able to match, and in a few situations to exceed, human capabilities. The SuperGLUE benchmark has been exceeded in January 2021 by MS AI for Natural Language Understanding.

Overall the AI market is expected to keep growing at a 42% CAGR throughout most of this decade.

AI is already a widespread reality, thanks to the growing amount of data and data streams (correlation is a key enabler) and to the continuous increase in processing capacity and availability. Additionally, the growing availability of APIs for AI and of low-code software designed to foster the creation and application of AI with minimal amount of coding needing is making AI affordable to a variety of business. In synch with the easier and more affordable trend in AI software development we are seeing an increasing effort to develop chips to support AI at hardware level and FTI foresees that more and more these chips will become available at the edges (in the last decade specialised chips to support AI, like Synapse, Cerebra and NVIDIA were targeting the servers in the Cloud and in the big data centres).  This means that AI in this decade will move both as Machine Learning and as application much closer to the points where data are created (smart IoT clusters).

The Digital Twins are becoming smarter, by embedding AI that operates on their local data and correlates them to contextual data. It is expected a strong evolution during this decade providing a further impulse to embedded AI exploiting local data.  An interesting point made in the FTI report is the expectation of a growing use of “Deep Twins” in the Operating Room (for surgery). The Deep Twins are a variation of Digital Twins able to mirror a patient form the point of view of a surgeon. The surgeon is using, through simulation software, also AI based, the Deep Twin to perform a virtual surgery and once she has found a satisfactory procedure  will apply that on the real patient. The Deep Twin is present throughout the surgery and is being used in case a complication arises to allow an on-the-flight simulation and indicate alternative procedure.

AI has been applied in the healthcare space in the design of new drugs. The Covid-19 has both accelerated the effort to exploit AI for finding vaccines (and symptomatic cure) and proved that indeed AI can accelerate the design and testing of vaccine. Having been able to move from need to market in just one year is an unprecedented success that is largely based on AI.  This is going to accelerate the application of AI to healthcare.

The report provides many more insight on the evolution of AI in various sectors, on the research trends and on the societal aspects. The overall message is that AI will both grow in performances and in application with a shift towards the edges (decentralised AI) and this is possibly the novelty expected in this decade.

What I see at the core of this AI percolation in any vertical and of its mass market penetration is the rise of ultra-smart phones. These phones will have:

  • huge storage capacity – up to 128 TB
  • huge processing capacity
  • neuromorphic embedded processing (SoC)
  • full network node capability (6G)
  • local AI contributing to federated AI

These (expected) characteristics are the needed ingredients for supporting a mass market distribution of AI and at the same time are creating a gigantic platform for applications, As I indicated in the drawing I see the emergence of super smart phones that will encapsulate our personal digital twin . This PDT is the aggregator of data, both of the ones created through the smartphone and the one made available by other personal devices (like wearables, laptop, tablets…), and the processing point of data to create intelligence. This is made possible, as indicated in the drawing, by the ever increasing processing and storage capabilities of the smartphone -including the use of SoC, System on Chip, embedding neuromorphic architectures to support AI- and the participation of these smartphones to a fabric of communications at the edges (look at this in terms of a “fog”, tiny local interconnected clouds). This fabric connects local points of intelligence -the ultra smartphones- into a federated architecture that further creates an emerging intelligence that feeds back onto each ultra smartphone. Additionally, each of this ultra-smartphone becomes a local hub connecting other intelligence points, like smart vehicles, smart appliances, smart environment….

In short, my vision for AI in this decade foresees the smartphone as a major component that will accelerate the growth of AI through decentralisation and federation.

A lot of research is needed but I see some clear signs pointing in this direction.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.


  1. Derrick de Kerckhove

    Yes, I share your vision Roberto and it is in line with the general trends even as it renews the stock of new tricks that the big providers of smartphones compete with to entice us the fork over 1000 euros every year or so as to stay on top. The only addition I would include if my phone is really going to be my twin is capacity to record my lifelog, that is the collection of every experience I live every day taken from camera, microphone and body sensors etc. Losing our ‘natural’ memory to delegating it to the imperfect and braindead recording devices we use today will require some stronger and more reliable substitutes. Don’t you think?

    • I guess that from a pure technical standpoint the capability to create a lifelog will be there. Having 100+TB would seem to provide sufficient capacity. The problem I see, and I am not qualified to answer, is that we are what we rememebr and how we remember but this is just marginally related to what the factual experience was, and what a smartphone can record is the factual experience, not the perceived one and even less the one that keeps being transformed as time goes by….