IBM hosts Think 2020 conference with focus on AI, 5G coronavirus solutions

The conference has more than 250 labs on business, tech and innovative solutions for COVID-19

International Business Machines Corporation is hosting its "Think 2020" conference starting Tuesday, which is expected to have nearly 90,000 virtual participants.

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The conference will focus on artificial intelligence and 5G wireless technologies, IBM CEO and Think 2020 keynote speaker Arvind Krishna said Tuesday on "Mornings with Maria."

"When we used to do it physically, we used to maybe get to about 30,000 people. That was the maximum. That was last year in San Francisco," Krishna said. "I think it all depends on people's appetite for accelerating their transformations both toward hybrid clouds and toward AI, and that's what's driving the attendance and registration. ... It speaks to the interest in moving toward these technologies."

Arvind Krishna speaks on stage during the 2016 Wired Business Conference on June 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired)

The conference, which is usually held in-person, was launched as an entirely digital conference in just six days and includes more than 250 labs and sessions on business, technology and ways to use innovative solutions to tackle COVID-19.

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Krishna discussed IBM's role as a technology company amid COVID-19, the importance of 5G during a time when rapid Internet speeds are crucial to society's recovery and clients' interest in the future of AI and hybrid cloud technology, including the company's launch of "AI for IT" and "Edge Solutions for a 5G Era."

AI for IT is a set of capabilities that allow CIOs to automate IT infrastructures to immediately reduce modernization costs and be more resilient. One hour of an IT outage can cost as much as $250,000, Krishna said. Across the industry, about $265 billion could be wasted due to lost productivity because of IT outages.

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By 2024, enterprises that use AI will be 50 percent faster than those that do not, IBM said, citing information from market intelligence firm IDC.

A medical staffer holds up a phone in front of a Covid-19 patient for a video call with relatives at Bergamo's Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital, northern Italy, Friday, April 3, 2020. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

"We believe that AI offers tremendous productivity potential," Krishna said. "As we look toward moving more and more work remote, there's going to be a need for automation, and AI can bring that to bear."

"Edge Solutions" is a set of capabilities, services and partnerships that will allow enterprises and telecommunications companies to benefit from 5G computing, according to the company.

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"5G offers the potential, not only [for] much better speeds, much better latency, but really new cases of how enterprise IT can get used," Krishna said, adding that it highlights the need for 5G in places that cannot afford latency, including "on a shop floor or a hospital or inside an enterprise."

Discussions will also focus on the U.S. supply chain, IT infrastructure and remote working, using AI in medicine and more.

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"What we’ve learned from companies all over the world is that there are three major factors that will determine the success of AI in business: language, automation and trust," Rob Thomas, IBM's senior vice president of the company's cloud and data platform, said in a statement.

The COVID-19 crisis and increased demand for remote work capabilities are driving the need for automation at an unprecedented rate and pace.

"With automation, we are empowering next-generation CIOs and their teams to prioritize the crucial work of today’s digital enterprises—managing and mining data to apply predictive insights that help lead to more impactful business results and lower cost," he added.

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