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(P)Review 2020/2021: Areas of Change Featured Signal of Change: SoC1204 January 2021

Author: Martin Schwirn (Send us feedback.)

Every January, Scan™ highlights developments that saw significant movement and change during the preceding year and have the potential to create a wide range of opportunities and pose substantial threats in the marketplace in the coming year. Scan highlights one area that has seen expansive developments in 2020 and likely will see even more far-reaching changes: SoC1203 — (P)Review 2020/2021: The Year of the Pandemic discusses events and developments that put spotlights on dealing with the acceleration of existing trends, the need for uncertainty management, and scenario planning as an important strategic tool. Other developments also left a mark on 2020 and will have far-reaching effects on markets and companies' operations; many of these developments also experienced the coronavirus-disease-2019 (covid-19) pandemic's influence as a change agent. Changing urban environments, accelerating automation of operations and processes, adjustments of business models, and emerging new energy worlds will mark commercial markets for decades. This Signal of Change discusses these developments. Although the Scan team considered the amount and level of change that occurred in 2020 when choosing the topic areas to highlight, the choices represent a subjective selection with a perspective on commercial impact for 2021. The Scan team welcomes feedback from sponsors of the program and is looking forward to discussions about potential changes in the marketplace in 2021.

Changing urban environments, accelerating automation of operations and processes, adjustments of business models, and emerging new energy worlds will mark commercial markets for decades.

Changing urban environments will affect virtually every commercial activity for decades. Retail has been at the center of the economic crisis that the covid-19 pandemic brought about in 2020. SoC1187 — Retail Metamorphosis, SoC1181 — Retail Interruption, and P1516 — Smart-Retail Innovations discuss related changes. Parts of these changes relate to the pandemic's social-distancing policies, as P1506 — The New Homebodies and P1503 — The Great Working-from-Home Experiment outline. Another development that will have a substantial impact on future cities is the increasing use of technologies, which SoC1193 — Technologies Benefit Urban Environments, SoC1139 — Data for Urban Management, and P1542 — Digital Twins of Buildings and Cities mention. Urban environments will experience a wide range of changes, which will have substantial impacts on most businesses. SoC1195 — City Centers' Challenging Changes; SoC1190 — Next Cities, New Concepts; SoC1175 — The Rise of Vertical Farming; and SoC1169 — Urban Features for Future Pandemics touch on a variety of these changes.

Automation has been ongoing for centuries; however, in 2020, the covid-19 pandemic's countermeasures put a premium on automated services and interactions, which sped up automation. SoC1196 — Specters of Indiscriminate Data Use, SoC1194 — Automating Data Use, and SoC1192 — Automating Data Capture discuss the automation of requesting, acquiring, and processing data. Some automation advances reach jobs that require a high level of skill, which SoC1182 — Automating Innovation and Creativity, P1533 — Lab in the Cloud, P1460 — Automation's Effects on Labor outline. Meanwhile, SoC1198 — Automating Privacy in Data Use looks at opportunities to use automation in the service of privacy protection. Policy makers and civil-liberty groups usually have concerns about automation and related technologies such as those that P1564 — Ubiquitous Surveillance Tech, P1554 — Toward Pervasive Sensing, and P1541 — Intelligence from Above present. Data exchange is crucial for the automation of applications and services to take additional steps forward. SoC1145 — Governments' Stake in Companies' Data Sharing, SoC1137 — Companies' Move toward Data Collaboration, P1577 — Developments in Data Governance, and P1574 — Connecting Data, Proliferating Applications provide examples of data sharing and collaboration among companies and organizations. As AI and machine learning are advancing automation, concerns about and limitations of such technologies are becoming apparent—a development that P1551 — AI and the Trough of Disillusionment, P1528 — Digitalization's Unintended Consequences, P1499 — Can AI Explain Itself? and P1485 — An AI Winter in the Making? outline. The automation of physical work also deserves attention; SoC1158 — Digital Companions: Creepy, Cute, and Useful? P1560 — Working with Robots, and P1510 — The Ascent of Robots during the Pandemic discuss some of the factors that relate to this matter.

Adjusting business models is an ongoing process, but the sudden shock to the economy that the covid-19 pandemic brought about resulted in almost frantic changes to business models and operations, as P1509 — The Pandemic's Effects on Business Models highlights. Although the pandemic's impacts affected the economy as a whole, one of the pandemic's first impacts specifically affected supply chains around the globe, which P1521 — Reviewing Supply Chains, P1482 — Supply-Chain Risks, and P1445 — Operational Experiments discuss. Meanwhile, corporate social responsibility is gaining relevance in the marketplace, and P1580 — Technology Governance, P1483 — Stakeholder Purpose over Shareholder Profit, and P1481 — Sustainable Retail mention some related considerations. Although the pharmaceutical and health-care industries are working particularly hard at reinventing themselves, innovation remains an important aspect of value creation. SoC1191 — Innovative Thinking in Companies, SoC1176 — Desperately Seeking Innovation, SoC1160 — Innovation Realities, P1567 — Innovation Disperses, and P1552 — Innovation Partnerships for Health look at some of the challenges to innovation and the approaches for innovating.

New energy worlds are emerging rapidly. Fossil energy remains in widespread use but faces manifold headwinds. P1575 — The Beginning of the End for Fossil Energy, P1569 — Fossil-Fuel Liabilities and Investment Shifts, P1531 — An Investment Focus on Fossil-Fuel Alternatives, P1524 — Headwinds for Fossil Fuels, and P1461 — Aviation Emissions as a Catalyst for Change? list many of the forces that oppose fossil energy. Renewable-energy technologies are advancing, but more speculative energy alternatives are emerging; SoC1142 — Speculative Energy Solutions, P1584 — Next-Gen Nuclear Energy, and P1557 — Solar Considerations mention some such energy alternatives. Electricity demand is increasing rapidly because of the promise of electric vehicles (EVs); SoC1152 — Electric Vehicles and Regional Differences, SoC1136 — Hydrogen Vehicles Garner Attention, SoC1134 — Electrification of Movement, P1582 — Envisioning Emission-Free Vehicles, P1561 — EV-Market Inundation, and P1535 — Transformational EV Concepts offer evidence of this development. Energy infrastructure will have to adjust to multiple changes in the energy landscape, and P1578 — Electricity Economics, P1570 — Grid Lock, and P1463 — Emerging Energy Worlds discuss some related factors.