Jul 14, 2020

Accenture: Top five emerging COVID-19 technology trends

Technology
trends
Innovation
AI
Georgia Wilson
5 min
Artificial Intelligence
With COVID-19 disrupting organisations worldwide, we take a look at Accenture’s top five emerging technology trends out of the pandemic...

“When we published Accenture’s 2020 Technology Vision report, COVID-19 was not yet a global pandemic. Now, it’s the greatest challenge the world has faced in decades,” commented Accenture.

“In just a few short months, it’s transformed people’s lives on an unprecedented scale, impacted every industry, and altered the course of companies’ growth. But the pandemic has not slowed innovation—it’s amplifying it to historic levels.”

In a recent trend report by Accenture, the company explored the shifts in people’s values and how digital age technology models are out of sync. “This imbalance—when business value is misaligned with people’s values—is what we call "tech-clash." It’s a very different crisis, but COVID-19 does not overshadow the issue. It exacerbates it. Now more than ever, it’s critical that businesses think about outmaneuvering today’s uncertainty.”

‘The I in experience’

Exploring the evolution of digital experiences, Accenture notes that previous models for personalisation leaves customers feeling out of the loop and out of control. “COVID-19 has transformed the role and importance of digital experiences in people’s lives. Businesses will need more agile engagement strategies, now and in the future, if they want to thrive.”

Short term: with customer needs evolving, enterprises will need to update their personalisation strategies to be more flexible in order to keep up. “The enterprises that give people the agency to steer their own digital experiences will be the first to understand what their new wants and needs are.”

Long term: Accenture believes that “the purpose of a digital experience will be transformed,” with the need for digital platforms continuing to accelerate as businesses and consumers look for alternatives to in person gatherings. “The enterprises that start building personalised, interactive, and shared virtual communities today can carry that success far into the future.”

‘AI and me’

With human and artificial intelligence (AI) collaboration providing near limitless capabilities together with the human capability to direct and refine ideas, Accenture believes that “AI should be an even higher priority and the benefits have never looked more promising.”

Short term: “workforces desperately need augmentation.” Not only is human and AI collaboration playing a key role in finding a vaccine for COVID-19, outside of the medical industry, AI systems can help organisations overcome new constraints and challenges that have emerged due to COVID-19.

Long-term: Accenture sees COVID-19 enabling the world to see the benefits of human-AI collaboration, which could potentially ease concerns relating to the technology. “If enterprises invest in explainable AI and other tools that support and enable true human-AI partnership—people will experience the technology at its best. Success today could open new possibilities for businesses to reimagine their enterprise and workforce in the future.”

‘Robots in the wild’

With social distancing becoming the new normal Accenture is seeing robots move from controlled environments to uncontrolled environments faster than expected. “They are more critical than ever, as businesses and governments search for new, ‘contactless’ solutions.”

Short term: robots are adopting new responsibilities as a result of the pandemic. “They’re helping businesses do even more, while simultaneously demonstrating new use cases to regulators, workers, and the public.”

Long term: Accenture sees the robotic ecosystem accelerating, with the pandemic strengthening the business sense for robotics and automation. 

“The growing need for automation will boost more than just robotics,” noted Accenture. “Consider how 4G networks grew in lockstep with the rising popularity of smartphones. Robots, IoT devices, and 5G will likely have a similar relationship, as many robot use cases will need increased data transfer rates and decreased latency.”

‘The dilemma of smart things’

“Businesses need to confront the beta burden and the unintended consequences that occur when smart products are constantly in flux,” highlighted Accenture who emphasises that “COVID-19 is increasing our need for these smart and updateable products, which have great public health potential.”

Short term: where new technologies may have caused disruption and been met with resistance prior to COVID-19, Accenture has observed that in the context of COVID-19, new features and functionalities are much more welcome. 

Long term: Businesses need to ensure that they keep the risk of future backlash in mind. “Device-driven efforts to combat COVID-19 are already sparking conversations about privacy, and many are worried that their data could be used against them in the future. Enterprises need to consider how they can introduce new features to their devices without overstepping.”

‘Innovation DNA’

Exploring three areas of innovation - mature digital technologies, scientific advancements, and emerging DARQ technologies (distributed ledgers, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and quantum computing) - Accenture believes that businesses will be defined by the way they can merge and combine these separate strategies from all of these areas. 

Short term: “the pandemic is putting ecosystems through an innovation stress test. COVID-19 is pushing companies to work together in new ways, creating ecosystem-wide innovation.” As a result these partnerships, products and services built will have the potential to define business operations and technology in the future.

Long term: “the rules around innovation will never be the same,” commented Accenture. “The world is changing faster than anyone expected, and businesses need to be more flexible than ever.” As a result organisations are driving new innovation strategies and developing new partnerships in order to drive flexibility, agility and speed during the pandemic. 

“We need bold innovation to get through this, and we will still need bold innovation when it passes,” concluded Accenture.

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