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April 04, 2024

A look at four industries, 30 years from now

Cognizant leaders reflect on industry transformation over the past three decades—and what’s to come in the decades ahead.

Thirty years ago, the internet was still in its infancy, and modern technologies such as cloud computing had another decade to go before transforming how data could be stored and harnessed. The pace of change that followed gave rise to technologies like mobile computing, automation and artificial intelligence, which would reshape how entire industries operated—from life sciences and banking and financial services to utilities and retail.

Organizations found themselves with access to expanding pools of data that, with advanced analytics, could be leveraged for better insights on customers, improved customer experience and faster time to market for products and services, as well as automated processes that could drive profound operational efficiencies.

As Cognizant celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, we’re also celebrating 30 years of service to our customers, helping them manage and transform the core infrastructure that powers the world's economies. In this blog, leaders across Cognizant's life sciences, banking and financial services, utilities, and retail industries reflect on what has defined industry transformation over the past three decades and what advancements will shape it in the decades to come.

"Retail will get even more experiential, interactive and personal." 

Philip Matthews, VP, Retail & Consumer Goods, Cognizant

From the days of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, shopping has transmuted into a world that combines smartphones and physical experiences, incorporating technologies like virtual reality and checkout-free stores. Customers now expect highly personalized, immersive experiences rather than passive transactions. Substantial technological advances have put vast amounts of purchasing pattern and customer behavior data into retailers’ hands.

Increasingly, eco- and ethically conscious customers are demanding that retailers procure, produce, package and sell in socially responsible ways. Via social media, they are quick to uncover and expose those who fall short or attempt to greenwash.

The emergence of quantum computing, generative AI, immersive technologies and edge computing capabilities will significantly change the retail space. These technological capabilities will further help retailers analyze data, increase business efficiency and deliver personalized and experiential purchases.

A pivotal factor in the retail sector's successful evolution will be building trust in AI for quick and accurate decision-making and ever more personal customer interactions.

"Financial institutions will provide hyper-personalized advice, digital payments and non-traditional banking services."

– Meena Athinathan, Vice President and SBU Head, Americas BFS Commercial, Cognizant
Nageswar Cherukupalli, Senior Vice President and BFS Head

Over the past decades, the banking and financial services sector has gone through significant technological advancements. From the introduction of the telegraph, enabling better coordination between banks and branches, to the rise of digital banking facilitated by the internet, the sector has continuously adapted to technological innovations. Subsequent milestones, such as online banking, smartphones, the 2008 global financial crisis and the emergence of cryptocurrencies, prompted a re-evaluation of risks and a more intensive and fast-evolving regulatory focus.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought another paradigm shift, leading to the rise of contactless and instant payment methods such as Venmo and PayPal. Today, open banking and embedded finance are becoming more prevalent, with banks considering the entire spectrum of how customers utilize and interact with their finances to provide value beyond traditional banking services and an enhanced customer experience.

Generative AI technology is poised to significantly reshape the industry, with financial institutions leveraging extensive customer data to provide hyper-personalized financial advice.

According to our latest research report, generative AI could enhance US productivity by 1.7% to 3.5% by 2023 and increase the US GDP by $477 billion to $1 trillion annually, depending on business adoption rates. Cognizant has committed to investing over $1 billion in the next three years to enhance generative AI capabilities.

Banking and finance will likely embrace decentralized finance, digital payments and cryptocurrencies while cautiously approaching emerging technologies such as generative AI and quantum computing to mitigate cybersecurity risks. Amid the many opportunities these advancements offer, they also necessitate thorough risk assessments to ensure data and system security.

"Energy and utilities companies will discover new ways to deliver value." 

 Niraj Seth, VP, Head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy and Utilities, Cognizant

The last three decades have seen the energy and utilities sector move from a predominantly regulated service toward a deregulated and highly competitive environment. The industry has witnessed technological breakthroughs, such as the Internet of Things, cloud computing, digital engineering and AI.

Asset modernization and demand for digital experiences like mobile apps, self-service and chatbots on par with financial, telecom or retail is the need of the hour. Implementing advanced technologies has benefited industry and government bodies, providing insights into real-time performance and maintenance needs through data analysis and AI.

In the next 30 years, energy and utilities providers will focus on innovative approaches to value creation, combining business and process expertise with intelligent digital platforms like smart-meters, flexibility exchanges and virtual power plants. By doing so, they will optimize business operations and move from tariff-based products and services to an "energy as a service" business model for both B2C and B2B customers.

Collaboration with other industries will be crucial for this sector's success. For example, energy and utilities company Centrica, which has traditionally sold electricity and gas, is collaborating with other industries to find its place in the smart homes and electric vehicle ecosystem.

"Life sciences will move to a patient-centric approach to deliver targeted therapies." 

– Bryan Hill, VP, Digital Health and Innovation, Life Sciences, Cognizant

Driven by scientific curiosity and underpinned by technological advancements, the life sciences industry has experienced significant milestones in the past 30 years. The most notable of these are breakthroughs in genomic sequencing, gene editing using CRISPR and the application of AI, all leading to advancements in personalized medicine and disease treatment. For instance, treatment outcomes for advanced lung cancer patients have improved, with targeted therapies to identify and attack specific cancer cells.

These developments also have the potential to automate research and development processes and identify insights in a fraction of the time required by traditional standards. They will also push life sciences organizations to adopt more patient-centric approaches and transform how they develop, manufacture and commercialize new therapies within an interconnected digital ecosystem.

Add quantum computing to the mix, and the future holds significant promise for streamlining data interoperability, analysis and design of new pharmaceuticals and medical technology.

At this point, the rapid rise of AI and soon quantum computing also pose a risk to those same emerging technologies' privacy, security and safety through potential misuse or malintent of bad actors.

Thirty years from now, we expect industries and humanity to benefit from and live alongside what is today considered cutting-edge technology. We will be truly living in the Star Trek age, where consumer-grade personal AI assistants will triage the needs of consumers.

Philip Matthews

VP, Retail & Consumer Goods, Cognizant

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Meena Athinathan

Vice President and SBU Head, Americas BFS Commercial, Cognizant

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Nageswar Cherukupalli

Senior Vice President and Banking and Financial Services Head, Cognizant

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Niraj Seth

VP, Head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy and Utilities, Cognizant

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Bryan Hill

VP, Digital Health and Innovation, Life Sciences, Cognizant

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