When 2020 began, we didn't expect the global pandemic to strike the entire world and affect every single country on the planet. Needless to say, it's one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced in the 21st century. In just a few months, the pandemic has transformed our lives on an unprecedented scale, impacting every organization out there and altering their course of growth.
However, it would be a mistake to say that the pandemic slowed innovation down. In reality, it has pushed companies in new directions and, in many cases, brought about the long-overdue digital transformation.
In this article, we explore the status of technology in 2020, following the most important tech trends that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on to find out how different industries changed and how the tech industry has transformed during the last few months.
Table of contents:
- Mandatory digitalization
- Digital business models as the answer to the pandemic
- The impact of COVID-19 on the key technology trends
There's no denying that COVID-19 profoundly changed the digital landscape across practically every sector – especially ones that were slow to digitalize.
From one day to another, organizations were forced to move their workloads to the digital space, handle digital meetings and collaboration, and keep their operations going despite the fact that their workforce couldn't come to the office as usual.
Due to the new demand pressures, many companies accelerated their digital transformation agenda. Many of them have shifted their transformation efforts to develop a longer-term focus. Companies do that because they don't want to be caught off-guard the next time a pandemic hits.
According to PwC, we can expect greater investments in areas such as:
- collaboration services,
- the Internet of Things,
- artificial intelligence,
- advanced analytics.
Here are a few examples of upcoming industry transformations:
- Automotive companies are going to invest in advanced mobility services such as rental or sharing, connected vehicles, auto customer solutions, and data monetization.
- Energy organizations will become more interested in developing smart grid technologies and energy platforms, as well as reaping the benefits from data analytics and IoT-driven pricing strategies.
- The transportation sector will focus more on smart urban mobility services, mobility, and ride-hailing apps, and enhancing the existing digital transportation and logistics ecosystems.
- What about the financial services sector? This industry is going to concentrate on digital banking and robotic advisory, integrated payments, B2B payments, next-generation PoS, wealth management technologies, and insurance solutions (insurtech).
Two industries were particularly transformed by the pandemic: healthcare and manufacturing. Let's examine them in more detail.
Digitalization in healthcare
One of the key sectors that transformed under the pressure of the pandemic was the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations experienced higher pressure on operations that, in turn, increased their need for transparency and efficiency. These could only be achieved by implementing advanced data analytics and automation.
Some of the key digital solutions that emerged during the last few months are remote health diagnosis, online prescriptions, and treatment support solutions. These will only accelerate as digital health solutions are brought to the forefront of the fight with the pandemic. A great example of that is Medtransfer, an application that enables contactless sending of large files with medical imaging test results. We are a technological partner of this project, which is currently tested at the University Hospital in Cracow.
Healthcare organizations are also expected to capture critical health data and use special tools to check the spread of pandemics like COVID-19. To accomplish that, they will increasingly invest in geospatial location, the Internet of Things, and track and trace solutions that will drive the demand intern for sensor technologies, applications, and related services.
Digitalization in manufacturing
Another key sector experiencing massive changes today is manufacturing. Massive demand changes, variations in reopening schedules, and part or resource availability had a severe impact on the manufacturing sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To prepare themselves for the future, manufacturing companies need to reevaluate their operations, concentrate on business continuity, and optimize cost across the entire supply chain. They are expected to invest in AI and advanced data analytics solutions to achieve supply chain visibility and run simulations or scenario analysis. This will help to understand the implications of changing circumstances on the supply chains.
A lot of industrial companies will be investing in the Internet of Things to come up with safety strategies, improved collaboration with their suppliers, optimized procurement, monitoring, and maintaining their equipment. Thanks to such remote capabilities, industrial companies will be able to adapt to the new normal – all the while reducing costs, enabling physical distancing among their employees, and shifting to far more flexible operating models.
Digital business models as the answer to the pandemic
Once the initial shock was over, business leaders in many sectors started looking at the crisis caused by the pandemic as an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Impacted organizations with cash available for new investments will be spending more on building digital capabilities and filling innovation gaps by acquiring new technology assets.
Launching a new digital business is more complicated than ever due to the new market complexity and uncertainty caused by COVID-19. To spot attractive opportunities in high-growth sectors enabled by technology, companies need to gain a better understanding of trends and drivers for digital solutions.
Businesses are recovering in different ways. While some follow the same path and expose themselves to opportunities and risks dependent on the recession and COVID-19, others will take on different approaches.
The truth is that the pandemic has changed consumer needs and expectations. The demand for telemedicine and virtual care in the healthcare industry is most likely to become part of the new normal. The demand for many services increased exponentially during the lockdown, and it's likely to continue beyond that. Some of the most attractive opportunities available to business leaders today are in areas such as digital health, biotech, digital commerce, automation, cloud, and cybersecurity.
The impact of COVID-19 on the key technology trends
Personalization is a key trend across a wide range of offerings in sectors like retail, financial services, travel and hospitality, and even transportation. In the future, organizations will focus more than ever on a new model for personalization that emphasizes customer agency. COVID-19 has significantly changed the role digital experiences play in people's lives.
In the short-term, organizations will be updating their personalization strategies to keep up with the rapidly changing social trends accelerated by the pandemic. Businesses need to find new ways to quickly update their understanding of customer needs and stop relying on information that is no longer valid. Moreover, giving customers the agency to direct their own digital experiences will become a critical method for learning what these new requirements and needs are.
On a long-term basis, the increased focus on personalization will change the purpose of digital experiences. Digital communities and truly shared digital experiences are now more in demand than ever due to lockdown restrictions. This need is likely to accelerate in the future as both businesses and consumers will be looking for alternatives to in-person gatherings in the post-COVID-19 world. That's why organizations are now busy building personalized, shared, and interactive virtual communities that can carry this preference into the future.
2. Artificial intelligence (AI)
Leading enterprises are now building on the human-AI collaboration, which brings artificial intelligence solutions together with human capabilities. AI was at the top of the mind of many executives across industries even before the pandemic started. Today, it's even a higher priority, and its benefits look evermore promising.
On a short-term basis, AI will be used to augment employee experiences. The pandemic introduced new challenges and constraints that AI systems might help to overcome. These include new ideas for collaborative workspaces and solutions for building more flexible organizations that can easily adjust to new circumstances because it already operates so well in the digital space.
What is the long-term vision for AI? The COVID-19 pandemic helped organizations to show the human-AI collaboration at its best. This could potentially ease the social concerns about this technology. Lack of employee adoption was cited in 2019 as a critical roadblock to scaling the technology across organizations.
Social distancing rules have become commonplace today. This pushed robots to move from control environments to brand-new, uncontrolled environments across many industries. And this is happening much faster than expected. Both businesses and governments are now looking for contactless solutions that allow to maintain social distancing regulations and enable new services without the need to expose human workers to risk.
In the near future, robots will be taking on new responsibilities. For example, they will join front-line workers and help fight the virus in healthcare contexts. On a long-term basis, experts expect the robotics ecosystem to accelerate its growth. COVID-19 has strengthened the case for AI, automation, and robotics. And the growing need for automation is only going to increase. Many new use cases will emerge that require increased data transfer rates and decrease latencies – and this is where new Internet of Things devices and 5G will help.
4. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The COVID-19 pandemic increased consumer needs for smart connected products – especially those that offer public health benefits. We are now seeing smart devices becoming critical tools in the fight against the pandemic.
For example, smart health devices can help physicians to monitor patients, identify symptoms, and collect data to develop valuable databases, helping researchers and governments to save lives. Many robotic devices were quickly updated to help healthcare providers in fighting a COVID-19. They dispense hand sanitizer and remind people about distancing in public spaces.
While introducing such new features may have created concerns in the past, in the context of COVID-19, they're much more welcome. However, the question of data privacy is likely to emerge here.
Many consumers out there are concerned that their data might be used against them in the future. That's why organizations are going to focus more on introducing new features that are in line with the current data regulation systems.
Technology in Times of COVID-19 - wrap up
We hope this article helps you understand how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the technology landscape. We are seeing an unprecedented acceleration of technological innovation and the emergence of solutions that would otherwise take months, if not years, to become used. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unusual situation that propels the new technologies to rise and pushes technological innovations in new directions, transforming every industry out there.
If you need expert consultancy about how to adapt your business model to the new technological demands, get in touch with our consultants. We deliver technology consulting services to companies across various industries to help them make the most of the innovations available today.