IBM Israel hosts virtual summit focused on COVID-19 cryptography, AI

The entire future of supply chains and retail can be transformed thanks to innovation at Blockchain technology, Gabi Zodik told the 'Post'.

Coronavirus & Israeli Tech (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
Coronavirus & Israeli Tech
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
The future of global supply chains, retail, banking services – even learning the distance between the atoms of a caffeine molecule – are at the focus of the Wednesday's virtual "Think Digital summit at IBM Israel."  
Used to create blocks of data and then seal them with a time stamp, Blockchain means that actions are registered instantly and nobody needs to approve them. This is why it was used to create Bitcoin: No government can hack the nearly infinite amount of data blocks to discover who paid what to whom. No user can hack into the other person’s block and change what was done. There can be no disagreements; each action is “sealed.” Such principles, according to Gabi Zodik, director of Blockchain and IoT Platforms at IBM Research, can shape the future.  
“Banks could decide they want to improve their financial services between each other by using one shared ledger,” he explains. With blockchain, the ledger is both shared and secure, so both sides know exactly what took place in real time. Natixis, Barclays and Commerzbank announced they began using such technology three years ago, Reuters reported. 
“Imagine if we use it to improve global supply chains,” Zodik suggested. Chain Stores wouldn't need to throw away all milk cartons if some are contaminated. Each item would have its own “data block” so only tainted products would be thrown out. The “block” can be in dialog with other factors such as time and heat.  A tomato shipment heading to market stuck in traffic for too long could be re-routed to a ketchup factory. “There are thousands of people starving around the world,” he said. “We could ensure that production is for needs.” This meshes well with the new global trends of sustainable farming and less wasteful production.  
“During the COVID-19 pandemic,” he explained, “an airline worker has no way of knowing what is the quality of the evidence a passenger presents.” Blockchain technology can create a “digital signature” informing the airline, or border control, that one is healthy, breaking the chains of infection.  
WITH A QUANTUM computer in the background, IBM Quantum Europe director Noam Zakay offers insights into one of the most exciting science frontiers at the moment.
Regular computers are binary, using 0 and 1; quantum computers deal with the range between 0 and 1. Using a metaphor, he explained regular computers use heads or tails, his machines spin that coin.
Quantum computers deal with situations: the probability a coin will land on its head or its tail.
"This means a quantum computer can handle many more combinations, which means more possibilities for computing complex problems," he shared with The Jerusalem Post. Such problems include creating models to better understand how the weather works, or a global market, or atomic processes.
How to simulate chemical bonding is such an issue, he pointed out. Today, we can't simulate a simple caffeine molecule using regular computers because they cannot represent the distance between atoms. A quantum computer, in the near future, could do just that.  
"We are still in the noisy quantum era," he said, "which is why the technology is kept in a lower temperature than that of even outer space" as “this makes atoms move slower” and reduces the noise levels.
"IBM is focused on enhancing the performance of quantum computers," he said, "from generation to generation we are seeing better and better performance." 
Unlike most chatbots, which are limited to responding to a fixed set of questions, IBM's Watson Assistant is a conversation AI platform that can understand intent.
Developer advocate Tal Neeman was able to automatically generate more answers based on standard epidemiology questions people are asked. In only two days, he was able to put forth a virtual agent that can help conduct an epidemiology interview with people who are at risk for COVID-19.   
As millions of people around the world go online to get info about their own health, are they infected? Call centers and health providers must find ways to up efficiency. And the bot that handles more, saves more lives.