5 Digital Trends I'm Following Right Now
Whether we like it or not, we have officially (like years ago) become a digitally co-dependent society. Nowadays, it is rare to go a day without technology influencing your everyday life --- from wearable technology to contactless payment options --- technology has infiltrated our lives. In my downtime, I’ve been reading up on four digital trends that bring promise as well perplexity to the way we will connect, work, and live in the future.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI): The Beauty & The Biases
It is not a new topic, but artificial intelligence (AI) has cemented its presence in society. While AI is known for its ability to improve business efficiencies, it has also created a great divide in how effective it is. Just about every organization uses some form of AI, whether it is to personalize an experience or to superpower predictive user data; however, the trend I am watching is the discussions around AI biases. In particular, how AI biases are stemming from inaccuracies in data or lack thereof. There have been many online discussions and ways we can remedy this issue, but the core of having ethical data practices requires having a diverse team to make that change possible. Biases exist around us all day, so to take AI to the next level, it will require a more inclusive process in the way ethical data is sourced and programmed for good. The biggest and probably one of the most controversial trends going on right now is how the criminal justice system is using AI for criminal sentencing. With all the racial and social injustices going on, I'm not confident in society going in this direction yet with AI; especially, in our existing justice system. It's no secret we do not all agree with the current U.S. justice system structure, so it's difficult to see an opportunity in a superpowered tool that could be sentencing innocent people to prison.
Similar claims of AI discrepancies were recently called out in financial and lending practices, where predictive data is used to determine if someone qualifies for loans to buy homes or start businesses. In particular, marginalized groups have been raising their voices about these frustrations and concerns about how this type of technology is being used against them, thus, feeling shut out from the process of potentially building generational wealth.
Until we address matters behind the curtain, it will be difficult for me to get fully behind AI integration in our justice system as well as our social lives. The core reality is humanity is flawed; therefore, how can we expect AI to be right ?
2. Cybersecurity: Lurking Vulnerabilities in a Remote World
Now that we have an insatiable co-dependency on digital products and services, the cybersecurity industry has been working on overdrive to keep up with consumer consumption. When you drop in a pandemic in the mix and a forced work from the home culture around the world, it has required all companies to revisit their cybersecurity strategy. Cyber-attacks have always been around, but now, vulnerabilities in a company network have heightened. The top three threats I’m watching are data breaches, cloud security issues, and malware activity. Coupled with these concerns is still the looming skills gap with cybersecurity. Without enough skilled workers in cybersecurity, this also poses a threat to all companies who depend on ethical cybersecurity practices to protect their businesses.
3. 5G Network Explosion and Beyond The rise of the 5G Network isn’t something I am entirely immersed in yet. Other than knowing that this new network promises a faster, stronger and more reliable experience, I’m not sure what else I have to look forward to. The roll out of the 5G Network is also conveniently rolling out when the world probably needs it the most. Between all the virtual learning, Zoom conference calls, gaming, streaming, contactless payment transactions and beyond, the existing network is slammed. Do you all remember we used to dial-up a connection to the Internet? Can you imagine using dial-up connection during a pandemic? LOL Anyway, the point is, I’m interested to see how 5G unfolds and what further advancements come out of its implementation.
4. Contactless Economy: Is this our forever future?
The contactless economy was already in motion before the pandemic, and it’s probably one of the most favorable things that have somewhat sustained us during these unprecedented times. While not all businesses had a contactless strategy in place, a few brick-and-mortar business owners saw an opportunity to make the pivot to keep their businesses afloat. Additionally, a few online businesses had an existing e-commerce platform that saw a spike in transactions due to the draw of new customers who were in search of convenient and safe ways to shop for what they want or need. Because the pandemic has caused complete disruption in every industry, many other organizations have seen opportunities to take their businesses to the next level, such as the healthcare industry. Telehealth, by far, has been growing by the hour. New platforms are being launched around the clock to help alleviate the swell of patients who still need healthcare services for other medical conditions. With all the talk about America’s complicated access to affordable and quality healthcare, people are exploring avenues to receive the care that they need, even if it means treatment begins at home with a virtual appointment.
Another industry that I am following in the food-tech industry. Apps like DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart, GrubHub, Caviar, and even Amazon’s grocery delivery service were popular in many households pre-pandemic, but now, they have become survivor staples. Through food-tech applications, customers can still enjoy their restaurant-quality favorites while safely dining in the comfort of your own home. The next industry that has been thriving in the financial tech or “fintech” industry. Fintech has been brimming with new ways for Americans to beat student loan debt (think of Earnest), build generational wealth, simplify payment options (think of CashApp, Venmo, or Apple Pay) and promote financial literacy and investing (think Ellevest, Robinhood, or Acorns). Another industry that is gaining speed is real estate: homeownership and real estate investments, specifically. It has been a buyer's dream right now to purchase a home with the lowest interest rates ever-- it’s hitting below 3% in most places. Buying and selling a home on apps like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia have become normalized and contactless solutions to promote a healthy and safe home buying experience. Additionally, apps like Fundrise are creating opportunities for people to become more in touch with real estate investing at their fingertips.
One trend I am excited to learn more about is robots, vehicle automation, and drones since most people are moving toward living an automated lifestyle. I’ve read things about pilotless planes to military robots used for search and rescue missions. Could drones start delivering medicine? Will we all be given a robot in our homes? This trend has emerged within newer homes incorporating smart home technology in the final build and design of various home models, as well as including voice-operated devices like Alexa and Google Home. These types of gadgets have become intertwined into our daily lives (Alexa can order a pizza, remind you to walk the dog, and play trivia with you -- it’s wild!). What I love most about this trend is that we are slowly finding innovative ways to build inclusive technology that serves a larger population of people who have a range of needs and services. Technology still has a long way to go in improving inclusive design practices and using ethical data practices, which truly captures the real picture of what people need. One trend I'm watching is how contactless technology is going to be used to serve our aging population. The fact is most people are living longer, so I wonder what new contactless technology will be born out of this pandemic? Especially, for the aging population, who remains to be one of the at most risk groups to get COVID-19. With still so many looming concerns about COVID-19 and the unknowns of our future, I predict that more contactless innovations will be on the rise.
5. Work for home? I Say, “Work from Anywhere”
Ever since the global pandemic hit, businesses of all sizes have had to shift gears to relocate their workers home full-time. Some have viewed this social experiment as a gift and curse, but for the most part, I’m pretty confident that the work from home culture is here to stay. For the last 9 years, I’ve worked on remote teams -- I even had the luxury of moonlighting as a digital nomad in Asia where I met and worked alongside a plethora of professionals who have been living (and working) their best lives in the most magical places. While most of the U.S. is still adjusting to working from home, most of the digital community (and I) are on the wave of working from anywhere! That’s right, anywhere in the world where wi-fi and workspace access is permitted. I have so much hope for the future of work as it continues to evolve, and I believe that more families will see potential and flexibility in this new work arrangement --- just give yourself and your family time to adjust. Granted, there are some hurdles that digital nomads face to keep their work/life in balance --- odd work hours, steady and secure wi-fi connections, reliable phone service, and, of course, insuring your equipment. The only way we will all learn to be a better remote worker is through practice and patience. I’ll be sharing more of my remote working tips in a future article, but for now, embrace the adventure of the remote working revolution.