Over the past year, it’s become normal for me to order my groceries online, make telehealth appointments for my family and attend dozens of virtual meetings every week. And I am not alone.

Last year not only brought an increase in the use of digital technologies. It also brought with it a shift in consumer expectations. In almost every industry, consumers now expect technology to be part of their experience. From doctor appointments and prescription refills to banking and travel, digitization has given us all the ability to do more at our fingertips.

Along with this newfound ability comes a sense of empowerment. When we have more choice, we can be stronger advocates for our own health, safety, mobility, and financial security – all in a sustainable way.

As digitization increases, it seems only natural that we should ask ourselves what consumers will expect of technology in the future. What problems do they expect it to solve in their communities, and what gains do they want to see in efficiency, safety and sustainability?

If we look at technology adoption as an opportunity for businesses and governments to partner with consumers and citizens to better meet their needs, global digitization starts to feel like an incredible opportunity.

Let’s look at a few examples where analytics and AI, in particular, have potential to bring about positive change for a healthy, secure and sustainable future.

Improving access to healthy foods

One of the ways we create a healthier world for all life forms – plants, animals and humans – is through nourishing, sustainable food sources. A couple of ways I see AI helping in this area are with food traceability and with advances in the AgTech arena. Food traceability gives consumers insight into where their food came from, how it was grown and whether it includes additives or allergens.

FoodLogiQ is an example of a technology that provides these insights – and more to consumers through an app as they’re shopping.

Another AgTech company using AI to protect crops is Boragen. The biotechnology company combines crop science with data science to understand how boron can be used for sustainable fruit and vegetable production.

As we slowed our pace and spent more time at home during the pandemic, more families have grown their own produce and cooked for themselves. Transparency into ingredients, seeds and plants can help bring awareness to healthier foods and habits, and new growing options can improve global food access and sustainability.

Watching the developments in the AgTech industry are especially exciting for me since I grew up on a family farm.

Connecting patients to health care everywhere

During the pandemic, we saw artificial intelligence help in surprising areas, like optimizing hospital resources, predicting future outbreaks and improving the process of disease surveillance.

We also saw consumers expanding the ways they think about health care to include more mental health, telehealth and home health care services, and to explore genetics-based health options and wearable health trackers. Usage in each of these areas continues to expand, and the resulting data-based service options are being driven by consumer excitement.

While the pandemic accelerated the need for telehealth and mental health services, there’s no going back on the benefits brought about by that change. Consumers have realized that simple health appointments can take place virtually. And many now realize that mental health cannot be ignored or deprioritized over other areas of health – even during a pandemic.

New health care solutions in all of these areas will continue to expand into a growing market that will benefit consumers now and into the future. In some cases, AI advancements in genetic testing and treatments could even save lives and stop the cycle of generational health problems.

Expanding financial security

In much the same way that we care about the long-term health of our families, we also want to provide financial stability for our loved ones.

As consumers become more comfortable with mobile banking and mobile investment options, the use of these services will increase and so will the data about their usage. AI is traditionally used to prevent fraud and improve customer engagement in banking, and the use of analytics in this sector continues to grow to meet consumer demands.

Online investment options and cryptocurrencies have opened up trading and investing to a new type of investor. While our traditional ways of evaluating the market and understanding risk still provide value for institutions, new systems are needed to evaluate these speculative and emerging market trends.

Another trend driven by consumers is the recent interest that banks have taken in sustainability and climate change, especially when evaluating risk.

Easing mobility and transportation

If you’ve spent any time on the subway or in an airport, you know there’s always room to make improvements in mobility. The ways we transport ourselves and our daily essentials from place to place are ripe for optimization.

Beyond the trends in ride sharing, bike sharing and even scooter sharing, we’re looking at larger mobility trends that combine data across transportation and supply chain networks to offer more efficient and optimized options for everyone.

For city dwellers, this might mean scheduling a train ride and a car ride and a ferry ride all through one simple transaction. For the many people who’ve recently relocated to the country, it means bringing some traditionally urban transportation options to rural areas. For supply chains, it means combining transportation for products that have similar shelf lives or cold storage requirements, and finding ways to improve access to local product deliveries.

Smart supply chain companies like C.H. Robinson are working on solutions for transportation and mobility that include “data loop” capabilities that trigger suggestions and changes in the supply chain in real time.

It’s exciting to keep your eye on this idea of a data loop and consider whether it can be expanded into other areas of mobility.

Digitizing our future

When we look at the many changes taking place across industries, it’s clear that consumers are driving the need for advancements in AI and analytics. Consumers want healthy and sustainable options for eating, traveling, investing and health care.

As technology developers, we’re invested in helping to meet these needs – and to helping our customers use data and analytics to advance in these areas too.

In a world of digitization, what outcomes can we hope for? What changes can we accelerate with data and analytics? When we partner with consumers to answer these questions, we are bound to find some worthwhile answers.

This is why I love working at SAS. Our purpose is to turn data into intelligence to create a faster, healthier, safer and kinder world. Learn more about an important aspect of that world on our AgTech page.


About Author

Paula Henderson

Former Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer, Americas

Paula Henderson led teams across the Americas in industries such as government, financial services, health care, life sciences, consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, energy and telecommunications. She partnered with industry leaders to create transformational digital solutions designed to modernize and optimize the performance of corporations and communities.

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