One of the core principles of digital transformation is that it is meant to improve customer experience. But at the end of the day, humans are … wait for it … humans. Which means successful digital transformation isn’t just a company’s ability to earn customer relationship metrics. True success lies in a company’s ability to make customer’s lives better—whether those customers are buyers, patients, students, or otherwise. Digital transformation for good. It’s the next big thing in 2020.
Let’s face it: technology—especially AI—has gotten a bad rap, and for valid reasons. Because the technology is advancing so quickly, regulation hasn’t had a chance to keep up with it. Thus, we as a society have met some moral dilemmas. Should we allow for the use of facial recognition? What about emotional recognition? And when it comes to automation, how far is too far? Do we draw the line at automated robots in a manufacturing environment, or allow AI-bots to perform surgery or direct acts of warfare? These are all hard questions. Luckily, digital transformation for good isn’t quite that complicated.
When I say “digital transformation for good” I’m not just talking about the multitude of use-cases that are already in place in society today: AI and blockchain creating safer supply chains; empowering patients with greater knowledge and mobile access; the ability to ensure that the products we purchase are legit (rather than knock-offs). After all, these things are also focused on creating greater efficiencies and cost-savings for the business. What I mean by digital transformation for good is actually a new type of ROI: one focused centrally on the welfare of humankind. The following are just a few examples of what’s already happening in the world of digital transformation for good. I’m confident more, inspiring examples will come to surface in the next year.
Smart Cars for All
New prototypes for smart cars could allow even those with vision problems to not only drive but experience the view along the way. Yes, we all know smart self-driving cars are coming. But Ford recently shared a new technology, Feel the View, that helps blind passengers to feel the view outside the car’s window. As part of the program, a camera attached to the car window takes photos of the view and reproduces them as grayscale renderings in the window glass using LED lights. When touched, the shades vibrate at up to 255 frequencies, allowing the visually impaired person to mentally imagine the view by feeling the image. That’s pretty amazing, right? And for the roughly 10 percent of adult Americans who have trouble seeing, it could also be a life-lifter.
A Way Home for End of Life Care
We all know that AI and the IoT can help with aging in place, but it turns out they can actually help with in-home hospice care, as well. Research shows 70 percent of older people would prefer to die at home, but less than 35 percent actually do. By using AI and remote health care services, healthcare workers can receive real-time alerts regarding one’s wellness, and family members can get real-time answers to the questions regarding their loved one’s health. This could be hugely empowering for all of us who do not wish to experience prolonged hospital visits at end of life.
I’m a huge proponent of IBM’s Call for Code program, which has seen tremendous success in the past couple years. The entire program itself is focused on digital transformation for good—namely, helping first-responders and local victims during times of disaster and emergency evacuation. For instance, the winner of the very first competition, Project OWL developed an idea to keep WiFi up and running in times of disaster to facilitate recovery. OWL (organization, whereabouts, and logistics) is a two-part solution that provides offline communication structure for first responders via a physical “clusterduck” network of hubs that can float in flooded areas if needed. The ducks create a mesh network that can send speech communication to a central app. The app then uses analytics and data resources to create a dashboard for responders. The project is just one example of the good that can come from coders and technologies huddling together to develop digital transformation for good.
Global Internet Access
Programs to bring the Internet to the world’s underserved regions are being launched worldwide. Even New York City is hopping on board, hoping to make access to the Internet—and everything access brings, including education and work—to all of its residents. This would obviously have life-changing implications for those who access the internet for the first time.
As we saw with Facebook’s Libra, which claimed to hope to democratize banking, digital transformation for good can be complicated. Sometimes corporate agendas can get in the way of the greater good of humankind. As we move into 2020 and beyond, however, I believe we will be seeing a new kind of ROI measure for those involved in tech development, and one of those (hopefully heavily weighted) metrics will undoubtedly be how that technology contributes to creating a better life for those who use it.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.