Once upon a time not so long ago, Google was still the “Don’t Be Evil” company, it earned incredible public relations kudos from the “Flu Trends” service that could crunch search queries and detect the seasonal flu faster than health officials.
Flu Trends failed spectacularly during the 2013 flu season and Google quietly killed the project.
I can’t help but think back to that episode as I watch Google, and pretty much every company, grapple with the challenges and disruption of the coronavirus.
Today’s hottest tech companies are built on the predictive power of Big Data and AI; the notion that greater processing brawn and smarter algorithms provide a competitive edge. So it’s striking that tech companies don’t appear to be any better prepared for the cascading challenges of the coronavirus epidemic than other businesses.
In the span of just a few weeks, Apple and Microsoft went from regaling their shareholders with rosy business forecasts to warning them of virus-related sales shortfalls. Travel plans and workplace policies for tech company employees are evolving by the day, leaving some employees flustered and rumors circulating.