Tech giant IBM has launched new AI and 5G-centric edge computing products at its first virtual Think Digital conference, as new CEO Arvind Krishna sets out “digital transformation” that could come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

IBM’s annual Think Digital conference is usually attended by around 30,000 people, but like many other businesses, IBM has had to move the event online.

The free virtual event, which over 75,000 people have signed up for, brings together global business and technology leaders to discuss issues including AI, edge and cloud computing and how such technologies can help organisations survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

Krishna, who was appointed IBM CEO in January following the news that Ginni Rometty would be stepping down from the position, delivered the keynote presentation.

Krishna acknowledged the significant impact of the current situation, but that it could also be a catalyst for business transformation:

“History will look back on this as the moment when the digital transformation of business and society suddenly accelerated,” Krishna said. “This is an opportunity to develop new solutions, new ways of working and new partnerships that will benefit your company and your customers, not just today, but for years to come.”

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“Technology platforms are the basis for competitive advantage in the 21st century,” Krishna added. “They will determine how quickly you can pivot to new market opportunities, how well you serve your clients, how much you can scale, and how fast you can respond to a crisis like the one we’re facing today.”

IBM Think Digital focuses on “transformation and recovery”

At the event, IBM discussed the state of business in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and made a number of announcements, focused on “transformation and recovery, resilience and discovery”.

It announced a new range of AI-powered capabilities and services designed to assist Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in automating their IT infrastructures. Named Watson AIOps, the new offering will use automation to detect, diagnose and respond to IT anomalies and will integrate with other products such as those from Slack and Box.

Considering that many businesses around the world have had to make the switch to remote working due to lockdown measures, this is designed to enable them to be “more resilient to future disruptions and to help reduce costs”.

Krishna called hybrid cloud and AI “the two dominant forces driving digital transformation” and that soon “every company will become an AI company, not because they can, but because they must”.

IBM and Red Hat, which it acquired last year, also announced new edge computing solutions “for the 5G era”. New services and solutions will help enterprises and telecommunications companies in their transition to edge computing during the rollout of 5G. With low latency and high speed, 5G can enhance the benefits of edge computing. With the new edge services, organisations will be able to “tap into the potential of 5G” and benefit from not having to send workloads to a centralised cloud.

It launched two new edge solutions, IBM Edge Application Manager and IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager, as well as a portfolio of edge-enabled applications and services.

“In today’s uncertain environment, our clients are looking to differentiate themselves by creating more innovative, responsive user experiences that are adaptive and continuously available – from the data center all the way out to the edge,” said Denis Kennelly, general manager, IBM Hybrid Cloud. “IBM is helping clients unlock the full potential of edge computing and 5G with hybrid multicloud offerings that bring together Red Hat OpenShift and our industry expertise to address enterprise needs in a way no other company can.”

Read more: Amazon results see $4bn coronavirus outlay as tech giant sures-up long-term success.