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Five tech predictions for 2021


Johannesburg, 25 Nov 2020
Read time 4min 40sec
Joe Petro, CTO, Nuance
Joe Petro, CTO, Nuance

With the new year around the corner, it’s time to take stock of annual technology predictions. 2021 holds great promise for new innovation, says Joe Petro, CTO of Nuance. “Some are driven by the ongoing challenge of the global pandemic, which has resulted in unexpected surges in cyber crime. Others result from natural tech cycles and increasingly competitive markets that demand a higher return on technology R&D investment.”

In addition, corporations can now realise more meaningful tech-based customer relations fuelled by the so-called “digital front door”.

“We will continue to see an enhanced focus on security, biometrics and fraud detection. And corporations that hope to maintain a competitive advantage in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence will be those that also focus on ethics (eg, data privacy) – a net win for consumers and the market.”

Here are Petro’s five top predictions for 2021.

A combination of advances in conversational AI and digital front door approaches to patient and physician engagement will drive healthcare constituent satisfaction. Conversational AI is creating a new standard and expectations for consumers and businesses across financial services, telco and retail industries. We will see these expectations quickly commute into healthcare – both from a provider and patient perspective. This will drive more health systems to focus on owning their digital front doors and providing more connected experiences to drive better user satisfaction across all constituents, including things like back-end systems that integrate, proactive tools that drive increased patient engagement, and real-time clinical decision support for physicians treating patients.

AI-based security, biometrics and fraud detection will be more important than ever as incidences of cyber crime increase, a result of greater online activity fuelled largely by the ongoing international pandemic. With the onset of the pandemic, more consumers are conducting business online and, as a result, we are seeing a significant increase in fraudulent activity and cyber crime (which is already higher in 2020 compared to 2019). AI solutions that provide advanced security, biometrics and fraud detection to protect consumers and brands will be even more important and we will see an increase in companies adopting and implementing these technologies, as well as consumers expecting and demanding them. Brands that leverage passive authentication technology, like biometrics, to provide an effortless but secure customer experience, will be ahead of the curve in providing state-of-the-art customer care that protects those who interact with their brands.

To remain relevant, AI solutions will need to provide real ROI to tangible challenges. Research and development will follow in step to help customers stake real competitive market positions and advantages. We will continue to see AI come down from the hype cycle, and the promise, claims and aspirations of AI solutions will increasingly need to be backed up by demonstrable progress and measurable outcomes. As a result, we will see a shift in the field that focuses more on specific problem solving and creating solutions that deliver real outcomes that translate into tangible ROI – not gimmicks or building technology for technology’s sake. Those companies that have a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges their customers are looking to solve will maintain the advantage in the field, and this will affect not only how technology companies invest their R&D dollars, but also how technologists approach their career paths and educational pursuits.

The need to satisfy the demands of data security conscious customers will result in heightened scrutiny of the AI partners customers choose. With AI permeating nearly every aspect of technology, there will be an increased focus on ethics and deeply understanding the implications of AI in producing unintentional consequential bias. Consumers will become more aware of their digital footprint, and how their personal data is being leveraged across systems, industries and the brands they interact with, which means companies partnering with AI vendors will increase the rigour and scrutiny around how their customers’ data is being used, and whether or not it is being monetised by third parties.

Integrated best-of-breed AI solutions will provide customers greater value for their investment. The continued increase for AI-based solutions will drive more technological partnerships across industries as companies with different specialties and focus areas combine resources and expertise to deliver deeply integrated and cutting-edge technology and state-of-the art end-user experiences. It’s no longer about the biggest brand names in the market, but rather what companies are delivering meaningful outcomes, a differentiated experience and more value.

“A high-level view of these predictions reveals a critical common trait – a focus on the consumer,” says Petro. “This is true as it pertains to healthcare, cyber security, the value of R&D, and data security. They are a welcome reminder that technology, no matter how simple or complex, should solve problems and push the envelope. The challenges of one year nearly always spill into the next – one need look no further than the current pandemic. But 2021 stands out as another year that will see technology challenge us, improve us and demand that we accomplish more.” 

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