Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 ushered in an unthinkable amount of change and uncertainty, but also progress, in a short period of time — especially regarding technology.
As chief technology officer of Pie Insurance, I am constantly looking out for trends that are relevant to our business and also impactful on corporations globally. This year showed us we must be nimble and open to thinking and working differently. As we consider the future, I urge us all to find ways for technology to improve not only our bottom line but also the experience for customers, employees and society. I look forward to seeing what 2021 brings and how these predictions play out.
AI is maturing.
Artificial intelligence is no longer a future trend. Just like cloud computing six to seven years ago, AI has now become widely adopted. Today, 50% of surveyed businesses use AI, according to McKinsey’s 2020 State of AI survey, and I expect that percentage to rapidly increase in 2021 and beyond. The same survey found that companies that use AI generally see revenue improvements and cost reductions as a result.
AI tools have drastically evolved over the years. They’ve gone from having a 20-person team taking years to model data, to having developers and data scientists working together to more efficiently bring AI and machine learning into production. This evolution makes these technologies more accessible, reducing barriers to entry.
Because AI can be used to solve many problems, it will be up to every company to apply this core technology how they see fit. For instance, insurtech companies have used AI from the beginning to better scale their businesses while keeping operation costs down. Other possible use cases include companies using intelligent chatbots, or using natural language processing to more accurately pull information from forms. Even more sophisticated use cases will emerge as more businesses begin using AI in a meaningful way.
Technology that supports remote hybrid workplaces will continue innovating.
The technology adjustments that enabled employees to work from home in 2020 will have lasting effects. Technologies will need to support new working conditions as some employees re-enter the office environment, others stay home, and some do both.
At Pie Insurance, we approach our workforce with a “work from anywhere” model, meaning that employees based in our Washington, D.C. and Denver offices, those traveling, or those working from home can be productive and successful at their jobs. Central to our strategy is the approach not to host any software ourselves. We use a wide variety of software-as-a-service tools with integrations to avoid the infrastructure and security headaches that come with hosting services like HR systems. Many companies that did not have a “work from anywhere” model in place were likely shell shocked when COVID-19 hit. Some businesses were forced to essentially turn off as they scrambled to figure out how to transition to the cloud.
I believe we will continue to see improvements in video conferencing technology to allow a more dynamic working environment. We are already seeing features like breakout rooms on Zoom used more regularly. Improved collaboration capabilities that aid the creative process will be the next big step in video conferencing and will make the virtual experience feel more authentic.
Intelligent automation will help improve internal processes.
The workplace as we knew it before 2020, in which employees worked at one or a few office locations, may no longer be the most efficient way to operate. For technology companies, this change has been happening for years, and COVID-19 has forced this trend to become more of a reality for all. The traditional tools for doing business process management have been clunky at best and are not agile enough for rapidly changing business models and a distributed workforce.
The promise of robotic process automation, which leverages AI and machine learning, has significant potential to automate processes across all business functions by mimicking human actions like moving files, logging into applications, connecting to APIs, interacting with data, and much more. Companies that implement intelligent automation tools will likely see increased efficiencies across the business.
Healthcare technology must modernize.
The rapid creation of COVID-19 vaccines has shown us that effective and safe results can be achieved by breaking traditional thinking.
The pandemic also drove some other incredible healthcare tech advances this year. AI has demonstrated its usefulness in contract tracing, thermal screenings, and more. Wearables like Fitbits have shown it may be possible to indicate if a wearer has COVID-19 (per a company study), and telemedicine became a lifeline for many patients who needed to be in touch with healthcare professionals. A September 2020 report from Doximity projected that telemedicine would account for 20% of all doctor visits that year. In the aftermath of the pandemic, other industries will likely look to these promising innovations in healthcare as models for using technology to make a positive impact on the world.
These trends are just the tip of the iceberg of the many that I’m keeping my eye on in 2021. 2020 has shown us that anything can happen, and I’ve never been more excited about the possibility for the positive impact of technology innovation.-30-
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