The Benefits of Tech — Even Those That Don’t Cut Costs

Technology makes processes easier, faster, safer, and more efficient. Shouldn’t it, therefore, also reduce costs?

This isn’t always the case. That’s because researching and developing new technology can cost millions of dollars; add to that the cost of materials and production. By the time that technology is launched, billions may have been spent developing it.

New technology has brought immense benefits to the following four industries, but it hasn’t necessarily lowered costs for consumers.

Healthcare

Medical technology is so innovative that doctors can now insert tiny robotics into the body to repair internal wounds or remove objects. This is a branch of medicine called nanomedicine. Nanomedicine uses nanosized (even smaller than microsized) carriers to transport drugs to specific cells or tumors in the body. This form of technology opens up a new way to treat cancer, for instance. Rather than subject the entire body to chemotherapy, nanotechnology can deliver chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor.

These types of treatments, however, don’t come cheap. In fact, healthcare costs in the United States continue to rise. In 2018, the U.S spent $3.6 trillion on healthcare, which works out to an average of $11,000 per person. This is projected to increase to $18,000 per person by 2028.

One of the main drivers of escalating healthcare costs is medical technology. According to a report by The Hastings Center, healthcare economists found that 40 percent to 50 percent of annual healthcare cost increases were linked to new medical technologies.

Energy

Sustainable energy has a positive impact on the environment. Solar- and wind-powered energy mean less reliance on harmful fossil fuels for energy production. Electric cars eliminate toxic fuel emissions.

But solar panels can be costly to install, and electric cars are often more expensive to buy than traditional cars. Electric vehicles can range in pricing from $31,915 for a Nissan Leaf to $70,875 for the Jaguar I-Pace.

The good news is these products pay for themselves over time with the savings on your electric and gas bills. In addition, buying an electric car or implementing energy-saving technology in your home can make you eligible for a rebate. States like California offer rebates of up to $500 when installing solar products and up to $7,000 when buying an electric vehicle.

Aviation

Many of the aviation safety systems that are standard on planes today were born from past mistakes. When an airplane crashes, a thorough investigation is conducted. The lessons learned from a catastrophic disaster often lead to improved safety technology.

The aviation industry has made giant strides in technology to make flying safer, lower the cost of fuel, and find ways to reduce airplane emissions. Engineers are looking at ways to manufacture lighter engines and using 3D printing to design and produce lighter aircraft parts. Every part that becomes lighter, even brackets and hinges, helps decrease the plane’s overall weight and boost fuel efficiency.

In their quest to reduce their carbon footprint, aircraft manufacturers are following the example of the automotive industry and testing electric engines for airplanes. They’re also testing biofuels, such as sugarcane and cooking oil. According to NASA, a 50/50 blend of jet fuel and biofuel can cut soot emissions by 50 percent. While this is great for the environment, flying a plane with biofuels costs more than traditional jet fuel.

Despite new technology and lower fuel costs, travelers are unlikely to see a drop in the cost of flights. And with the COVID-19 pandemic grounding planes across the globe, many airlines are likely to try to recoup losses by charging higher fares when travel resumes.

Car Safety

Car safety technology, like collision avoidance systems, blind-spot monitoring, automated braking, lane keep assist, and rear-view backup cameras have become standard on most new cars.

Despite the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agree that safety tech in cars is effective in reducing car crashes, insurance companies haven’t lowered their rates on cars that feature them. The only car safety technologies that lower insurance rates are electronic stability control and telematics.

If car tech helps prevent accidents, why aren’t insurance rates lower? Insurance companies cite the following reasons:

  • The cost of repairs with new safety tech is higher.
  • There’s not enough data to prove that technology prevents car crashes.
  • Human error is still a factor and may increase as drivers become overly reliant on safety features.

Technology improves our lives in many ways, but it doesn’t always lower costs. In some cases, it may even increase the cost of goods or services. The tradeoff is in what we gain from new technologies: more efficiency, better safety, time-saving convenience, and less damage to the environment.

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