The tech world is constantly buzzing with news of developments in AI and other groundbreaking technologies. AI for drug discovery and development in the race to treat and prevent COVID-19. Automated research for scientists and business professionals. AI that can draw paintings and write novels. Rapid applications and deployments of IoT and blockchain technology.
But which technological trends did scientists invest the most time in? Which technologies actually saw increased research focus in 2020, versus technologies that merely capture attention in the media?
We used NewsRx’s BUTTER platform to break down this year in technology research. The following six graphs explore technologies that have seen remarkable growth in quality published peer-reviewed articles*. These graphs paint a more accurate picture of what the next few years will look like in terms of new technologies on-the-ground.
*All graphs are data from January to December, 1 2020.
Amount of research and patents on AI up sharply
High quality research and patents on artificial intelligence more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, and the number for both areas is set to nearly double in 2020. It’s clear that scientists are just beginning to tap into the potential uses of AI in business and industry. This data backs up the broader observation that we are at the beginning of an era in which AI assists us in the workplace as well as our daily lives.
All major areas of AI application seeing growth
This graph shows which areas of AI are experiencing the largest volume of and fastest growth in peer-reviewed research. AI healthcare took off in 2019, and has quickly become one of the highest-interest applications for artificial intelligence. AI has a plethora of uses in healthcare, ranging from disease diagnosis, to finding new uses for existing drugs, to streamlining the patient experience.
Interestingly, the second most-researched field in 2020 was application of AI in law. Profit-minded corporate law firms in particular are big proponents of AI, and many have started to implement AI technology for due diligence, legal research, and contract review. Manufacturing was another major area, with AI applications in robotics, monitoring, and supply chain management.
Internet Of Things research rapidly growing
Peer-reviewed research on the Internet of Things is yet another field that has soared in the last two years. The fact that scientific research on IoT has grown so much, even when IoT devices have already started to make their way to market, goes to show that there is much more potential for what IoT can achieve.
Frontiers such as smart supply chain management and smart grids remain ripe for development. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), another emergent field, applies AI to medical devices, allowing devices to monitor patients in real-time and report emergencies to physicians, as well as provide additional analysis and insight during examinations.
Cybersecurity research exploded in the past couple of years
Possibly the most intriguing development in technology research in the last few years is the rapid ascent of cybersecurity as a field of intense interest. A number of high profile security breaches in the last few years, such as Equifax in 2017, Dubsmash in 2018, and Marriott in 2018 have highlighted the crucial importance of cybersecurity. With the rapid advancements being made in technology, there is a constant stream of new threats that need to be dealt with. Additionally, the field is relatively new in many universities and ahead-of-the-curve expertise is few and far between.
Given the increased use of facial recognition—and the very serious consequences of facial data getting into the hands of bad actors—cybersecurity research and investment is more needed than ever before. It’s likely that we’ll see continued growth of cybersecurity research, given just how small the field was a few years ago, and especially now that more official cybersecurity programs are continuing to pop up.
Bitcoin price may be volatile, but blockchain research is soaring
While the price of bitcoin has been all over the place in the last few years, as investors struggle to value the technology, scientists have latched on to blockchain for its variety of potential uses. Steady, nearly exponential growth of research on blockchain points to its diverse applications. In fact, blockchain has nearly as many uses as AI does: in intellectual property, stock trading and public land registration, data management, crowd-funding, currency, and the IoT.
Blockchain is one of those technologies that has gotten a lot of hype with far more potential applications than current use cases, but the surge in research shows that the potential is real.
That concludes six telling graphs about this year in technology research. Stay tuned for more articles on the latest scientific research trends and technologies.