The whole world is currently facing a crisis that none of us could imagine. Quite evidently, COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives. While health workers and emergency service providers are fighting tooth and nail to make things go back to normal, technology, in various forms, is assisting every industry right now to sustain and continue their operations.
While most countries are currently under nationwide lockdowns, the technology is helping everyone perform the even basic things like grocery shopping to arranging a team meeting. Needless to say, the pandemic has a significant impact on the current technology trends. If you want your business to sustain during this period, you need to take advantage of these trends.
1. Online shopping:
Online shopping had been quite popular in the pre-COVID-19 time because of the convenience it offered. Now, it has become more of a necessity. In the state of lockdown, when it has been made mandatory to maintain social distancing, visiting a brick and mortar store for essentials may expose you to the deadly virus. Hence online shopping is the only viable option right now.
A number of delivery companies have started offering contactless delivery to reduce the risk of contamination. Chinese e-commerce companies are also working on making deliveries using robots and drones to avoid human contact. Obviously, the logistics industry plays a huge part in this. Thanks to their efficiency, it is now possible to deliver essential goods amidst the crisis.
2. Contactless payments:
During this pandemic, the World Health Organization is encouraging people to opt for contactless payments. It is believed that cash transactions may contribute to the spread of Coronavirus among people. This is the reason why there’s a massive surge in the use of digital payments – either in the form of cards or e-wallets.
Needless to say, all the contactless deliveries of goods are paid through digital modes of payment. Moreover, the world is now paying the bill for essential services and utilities using digital payments. However, the World Bank reports that there are more than 1.7 billion people with no bank account. So, there's a gap that technology is unable to fulfil.
3. Digital learning:
According to UNESCO, 90% of the student population in the world is being affected due to the nationwide closures of academic institutes. To facilitate education to students during this lockdown, a lot of schools and universities are offering online courses. Institutes that already had online courses in place are taking this opportunity to evaluate the efficiency of those courses.
Thanks to video conferencing tools and AI-enabled smartclasses, it is possible to create virtual classrooms and provide the students with a proper learning environment. However, a lack of infrastructure is coming in the way of providing education for all remotely. Educators are also concerned that technology may also create a wider gap in terms of digital readiness.
4. Working from home:
A significant number of companies across the world are asking their employees to work from their respective homes. Despite numerous challenges, technology is making the work-from-home scenario as seamless as possible. Virtual private networks (VPNs), cloud technology, work collaboration tools and other technologies have been quite useful in conducting remote work.
However, there are some major concerns regarding remote work. Recently, there has been class action filed against Zoom, the web conferencing platform for security reasons. Not to forget that the remote work is also affecting the work-life balance of both employees and employers. And while remote may have been feasible for desk jobholders, people who worked on the field are at the risk of losing their jobs if the lockdown period extends.
5. Digital healthcare:
Technology in healthcare has turned out to be quite effective in restricting the spread of COVID-19
. The Government of India has recently launched the Arogya Setu app that helps in assessing the risk of spread of the COVID-19 infection and ensure isolation if needed. Apart from such symptom checking applications, hospitals are also setting up chatbots and telemedicine tools to make the initial diagnosis.
Where the medical costs are high, the telemedicine cost is most likely to be covered by insurance. However, the biggest concern is that telemedicine tools require a certain level of tech literacy to operate. Moreover, they need a stable internet connection. So, even though the technology is available, the implementation of such technology is a big challenge.
6. Robotics and Drones:
Since humans are extremely susceptible to deadly Coronavirus, hospitals, and plenty of other essential services are using robotics to perform important jobs. In one of the hospitals in Wuhan, the first epicentre of the outbreak, the entire staff was replaced with robots. They did almost everything – starting from preparing meals to spraying disinfectants and much more.
Drones are also playing a significant role during this pandemic. China and Spain have used surveillance drones to monitor citizens during the lockdown. They have also been used in several countries to transport medical equipment and patient samples from the areas where people are more likely to catch the virus. Besides restricting the contamination, they are also doing faster deliveries.
7. Digital entertainment:
Since most people are in self-quarantine, there has been a significant rise in the use of online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and more. A lot of film production companies have even released their latest films across these OTT platforms to help people enjoy their time in quarantine.
Moreover, several museums and international heritage sites are offerings virtual tours to people at their home. On the other hand, the traffic for online games has surged since the outbreak. People are also able to enjoy “cloud raves” and online streaming of concerts during this period of lockdown.
8. Supply chain:
The nationwide lockdowns in most of the countries have made a serious impact on the global supply chain. Several factories and warehouses are completely shut down due to the social distancing regulations from the government, while some are operating but with limited manpower. Too much dependency on paper-based records and a lack of diversity and flexibility have made the supply chain system vulnerable.
In such a situation, the core technologies such as Big Data, Internet-of-Things (IoT), cloud computing and blockchain are developing more efficient supply chain management system for the future. This will enhance the accuracy of data and encourage data sharing.
9. Information and communications technology (ICT):
During this pandemic, when the social gathering is prohibited, properly functional communication technology is needed the most. However, a majority of the technologies mentioned in this list rely heavily on stable and high-speed internet that is cost-effective as well. This is why there’s a significant load on the internet, causing a significant drop in its speed.
5G technology has shown its significance in the areas of remote monitoring and healthcare consultation. However, the launch of 5G technology in Europe has been delayed when it would have made a difference. The biggest concern, although, is that the adoption of 5G will increase the price of compatible devices and the data plans, which will make it difficult for a lot of people to access the internet.
10. Artificial Intelligence:
Data analytics and predictive models are currently helping the medical professionals and researchers to understand the nature of COVID-19 virus. Baidu, a Chinese Internet company, has successfully developed its Lineartfold algorithm that helps in COVID-19 studies and support in predicting the structure of the virus.
The Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba, has also built a cloud-based coronavirus diagnosis tool that supposedly offers 96% accuracy and takes less than 20 seconds to work. It uses AI technology to detect the traces of the virus in an individual. Also, AI-powered infrared system, developed by Baidu claims to detect a change in temperature of the bodies of 200 people in one minute. In fact, it has been demonstrated in Beijing's Qinghe railway station.
To wrap it up,
There’s no doubt that these technology trends are influenced massively by the COVID-19 outbreak. However, experts are concerned that this sudden change in lifestyle can lead to some serious consequences. A lot of companies have already started to lay off their employees to reduce company expenses.
If you are currently running a business, you may find some of these technologies to be useful for your operations. However, you need to ensure that you are able to create enough opportunities for your employees so that they are able to contribute to the company's progress even during this state of global crisis.