By MITCH MAIMAN //
To say the least, 2020 was an extremely unusual year.
But the current disrupted environment – COVID has obviously had substantive impacts on our personal and professional lives – calls to mind the prescient words of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and military strategist who noted, “In chaos, there is opportunity.”
The tech-innovation world has seen our ways of working totally disturbed. For longer than I’ve been in the workforce, the norm has been centralized office and laboratory facilities. In 2020, this wasn’t a practical option.
While everyone at our firm is still fully engaged in productive work, few come into the office. They use a plethora of digital tools, and the only ones coming into the office at this stage are those who need direct access to our laboratories and other fixed assets. These days, it’s a familiar story.
For 2021, expect the gradual re-occupancy of the office – but working in centralized offices will not be the norm for everyone. Working in this “new normal” for nearly a year, knowledge workers have found ways to be productive remotely, and many have a strong preference to continue working this way.
So, a new model will evolve, where staff comes to the office more frequently than they do today – but nothing like the 100 percent onsite models of the past.
As the dust hopefully settles on the COVID pandemic, employers in the tech community will find many things do not return to “business as usual.” Employers everywhere should be wary of pressuring staff to return to the office; in tech, where talent is scarce, we may find that forcing old norms results in employee defections.
Long Island has a tech community increasingly involved in med-tech development. This demand will not slow down in 2021. When the crisis passes and the FDA emergency-use authorizations taper off, tech development will revert to something more similar to the traditional processes of 2019 and earlier – meaning a renewed focus on traditional market needs and conventional validation processes.
On Long Island, that will include exciting developments in med-tech – with a new focus on breathing-assist devices, including “smart” models with enhanced connectivity. The pandemic showed a clear need for simple, less-expensive alternatives to high-end ventilators.
Optimizing remote healthcare with improved software and hardware is another imperative. Remote healthcare is a lower-cost option for providing quality care, and health insurers are going to keep the pressure on, if only to mitigate their own costs.
Artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies are everywhere already, another trend that will continue in 2021. Lower forms of AI are currently being deployed, but you can expect machine intelligence to continue evolving, with new sensors and smart devices emphasizing the role of Internet of Things connectivity. With its strong academic and technology base, Long island is well-positioned for a key role in developing new AI and AR applications.
While 2020 certainly threw us a curveball, it has created myriad new opportunities. The new year should bring new, redefined definitions of where and how we work in the tech community, with a renewed focus on traditional pursuits – on Long Island, useful medical technologies, incorporating new AI/AR protocols.
It will be interesting to look back this time next year and see what happens on the other side of the pandemic.