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Technologists and CXOs would have often heard critics voicing that “blockchain is a solution looking for a problem". While this scepticism is healthy, blockchain is a promising open distributed ledger technology that is making the supply chain process more efficient and reducing time to market, and even helping banks reduce non-performing and other stressed assets—albeit with the help of permissioned or private blockchains.

Other than financial institutions, blockchain is finding favour even with retail and manufacturing firms in India because of the transparency it ushers into the system. Further, there are blockchain technologies such as Neo, Stellar and Hashgraph that are built on Directed Acyclic Graph technology. Since they remove miners from the equation, they can perform more than 10,000 transactions per second in real-world scenarios and are perceived to be more secure. All these characteristics make blockchain a formidable ally for businesses but certainly not an answer to every industry problem.

Likewise, artificial intelligence (AI) is gathering steam on the back of increasingly sophisticated algorithms, greater and more widespread availability of Big Data on which these algorithms can be trained, and greater computing power at lower costs. AI is also being combined with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to deliver a lethal combination of technologies that has the potential to transform businesses. A smart city is a good example where governments can use AI with IoT. Of course, given the Indian government’s predilection for surveillance, we have to build consensus for a robust privacy legislation and audit trails.

Another noteworthy concept is the so-called “Digital Twins"—a virtual representation of a product created with 3D design software. Digital Twin technology, according to General Electric Co., enables companies to better understand, predict and optimize the performance of each unique asset of theirs. By building virtual models to test in reconstructed “real world" operating environments, explains Goldman Sachs Research’s Joe Ritchie, companies can get an accurate picture of how their products will behave in the field.

The products could be cars, bridges, jet engines or even rockets. The Digital Twin paradigm for future NASA and US Air Force vehicles, in a bid to make them lighter and carry higher loads in severe weather conditions, is a case in point.

Connected sensors on the physical asset collect data that can be mapped onto the virtual model, and help anyone looking at the Digital Twin to see crucial information about how the physical thing is doing out there in the real world, according to International Business Machines Corp.

Leslie D’Monte is national technology editor at Mint.

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