As we witnessed in the first round of global lockdown measures, critical supply chains of basic goods, medication and food were disrupted, and in some cases collapsed. What we know as traditional supply chains—billions of connected information nodes—have been altered forever. Supply chains depend on the declaration of information between one node and another. This linear transmission of information has inherent weaknesses. But future supply chains will rely on multiple continuous alternative data points, such as sensors and monitors, which are synthesized onto one complete view of the supply chain based on facts, and not declarations. This infusion of technology into supply chain nodes will help to stabilize markets and effectively respond to market needs. For example, satellite tracking of goods on oceans and roads can be mapped against production activity in manufacturing plants, to ensure streamlined production and delivery of goods, ultimately avoiding shortages and directing goods to where they need to go.
The opportunity for revolutionizing the infusion of emerging technology to enhance human life lies in the countless innovative ways we can manage and make sense of massive amounts of data points using intuitive communication interfaces that will empower our decisions and actions.
As a result, Intelligent Automation (IA) will play an increasingly important role to bring this together by ensuring that any business process can seamlessly integrate technology to automate manual processes and continually improve productivity over time.
In the healthcare sector, we are witnessing radical advances in the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are elevating healthcare delivery. This includes activities such as the administration of medication, quarantine support, remote monitoring devices (such as pacemakers and stroke detectors) and even remote surgeries. Drones are delivering medication to outlying areas, robots are standing in for humans in high-risk environments, and autonomous surface-area disinfection is becoming commonplace in hospitals and public spaces. Together with open, centralized blockchain solutions, patient data and statistics such as blood pressure and glucose levels can be available at any given time.
Many of the latest smartphones and banking interfaces already require facial recognition. This will proliferate by 2022, particularly as access control to public spaces is required to manage infectious outbreaks. The benefits of facial recognition to bypass the need for biometric touchpads and fingerprint scanners for identity verification are obvious. As governments and state institutions consider the repercussions of their centralized data solutions, in the longer term we could see the complete phasing out of current formats of bank cards, passports, identity documents, and even banknotes and coins, toward a reliance on facial or even optical recognition scanning.
Voice-activated devices and voice recognition interfaces will also bypass the need for traditional touch keypads and scanners. We can expect to see an increase in such technologies, not only for entertainment or hands-free activities but also for access control, payments and identity authentication.
Social interactive experiences will increasingly move toward capitalizing on technology to connect people. Extended Reality (XR) devices and interfaces will become more affordable as the appeal of bringing immersive digital experiences into the home grows. The opportunities for education, entertainment, retail, consumer products and real estate in the XR space are considerable and will help to drive innovation and lower the cost of development and production.
In the future, consumers will experience technology in a deeply infused and integrated way. IoT devices and interfaces will become part of daily life and human activity, with no discernable distinction.
As we increasingly integrate technology to meet our daily needs and improve our lives, our individual digital footprints and technological dependencies will grow. Those who own that data, namely corporations and governments, will have intimate knowledge of every transaction, interaction and activity we undertake. With this enormous power, it is critical that societies insist on transparency, accountability and controls to be built into policy and governance frameworks. The potential harm that could be inflicted by the abuse of that data is unthinkable.