“Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together.” – Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
The time period from around March 2020 when the covid pandemic started to take over the whole world has forced humans to think in a different perspective and act in manners never thought of before. The term “New Normal” made popular during these trying times summarizes the state of things prevailing. Though it has been challenging to cope up with the new normal, it presented many opportunities also for the nimble minds to come up with innovative solutions needed for the time.
The situation prevailing where the movement is restricted has shown the value of digital preparation and penetration which enabled many businesses to continue to survive and sustain. Work from home has become the new reality as people and businesses struggle to maintain the balance. Even Schools and Colleges have resorted to providing education through online classes to complete the syllabus. Ironically, children who were chided for spending time on gadgets are now being exposed to the digital screens more than ever. Technology is extending its help in all the above situations and lending its hand for continuity.
Many technology trends have caught up during this period which are either directly or indirectly providing the much needed encouragement for life to go on. Innovations are the norm of the day that are automating the processes, reducing physical contacts and helping in increasing productivity. The technology trends achieving the aforesaid are much in demand and will continue to be in future as well.
Education/Meetings through Online Tools
Online classes by schools, colleges, coaching centers and office meetings are being conducted through videoconferencing tools like Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Skype, etc. Dedicated education apps like Byjus, Toppr, Simplilearn, etc are seeing a huge growth as more and more students aredependent for their learning on computers, tabs and cell phones. Even tests are also being conducted online. The trends set by the covid period are expected to continue till the situation is completely under control and normal.Owing to the restrictions in travel and lockdown situations, face-to-face meetings and conferences have been replaced by virtual meetings. The sudden and tremendous spurt in usage of applications supporting this is a testimony for the things to happen post covid also as maintaining social distance will be the norm.
Online Shopping and Robot/Drone Delivery
The earlier outbreaks of similar pandemics saw a tremendous growth of online marketplace platforms like b2b and b2c. Similarly, Covid has also transformed the online platforms from convenience to necessity. Shopping online needs the support of a robust logistics to manage and deliver the goods on time to the consumer. Personal delivery is not advisable in these times and so the concept of contactless delivery has become the norm. Many companies are experimenting and speeding up their capabilities to delivery through robots/drones. Even robots/drones are being used for the process of disinfection, deliver food/medicine to people in quarantine. Drones walking the dogs are also a sight today!
Digital and Contactless Payments
Usage of cash might result in spread of the virus and so banks in many parts of the world have implemented various measures to ensure the notes are clean before they go into circulation. But the best bet against the spread is to go for contactless digital payments, either in the form of cards or e-wallets. Digital payment modes enable people to make online purchase of goods, services and even make utility payments.
Contactless digital payments can help reduce the spread of the virus and also help businesses continue their activities without hindrance.However, according to the World Bank, there are many unbanked people, particularly in our country, who may not have easy access to digital payments as these facilities rely on availability of internet and compatible devices for conversion of cash from physical to digital.
Entertainment Online (OTT Platforms)
The quarantine measures because of the covid pandemic has reduced the person-to-person social interactions to a large extent but has increased the dependence on the online entertainment. Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms (like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar, etc.)that expanded popularity and increased viewership by streaming the content onlinehave gained traction around the world. Due to unavailability of physical theatres for release owing to lockdown, even movies are being directly released on these online streaming apps. Online gaming traffic has also seen a huge surge.
Online health consultations have become popular and inevitable due to restrictions in physical movement and fear of contracting the virus during hospital visits. The situation calls for the health insurance to be reimagined and include online consultations also in the coming days. The doctors also should become digital literates with proper connected devices and communication to perform the activities seamlessly. Of course, the regulations need to be changed to suit the current and future requirements.
All the technological developments and trends mainly rely on affordable, very stable and high speed communication network and devices that support it. The rollout of 5G technology is around the corner in the major countries of the world and its wide adoption will further help in the usage experience and popularity of the future digital trends. While 5G network became available initially during 2019, they are still in emerging phases, very expensive, not widely adoptedand limited to major cities. During this pandemic, when working from home/anywhere is the norm, access to high speed networks is important and vital for continuity of business.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The demand for everything ‘Smart’has rapidly increased as more and more people are enabling their homes to become ‘Smart’ homes. From small devices like light bulbs to other big household articles like refrigerators, all devices are becoming smart.
For example, motion detecting light bulbs that switch on when they detect someone’s presence and switch off automatically; refrigerators that take stock of the items and order provisions as per instructions fed, wearable health monitors that continuously track and send the inputs to your health advisors, and so on and so forth. The wide spread availability and affordability of the next generation communication networks (like 5G) will further aid in adoption of IoT. This will also lead to manufacture and usage of the devices/sensors that are capable of receiving/storing the data and communicating it to a (central) location where it is processed and monitored on continuous basis.
With the evolving new technologies and increase in the number of connected devices, the possible threats to security is continuously growing manifold. So, awareness to overcome the threats by means of proper digital education, implementation of firewalls, email security, antivirus solutions, malware protection solutions are very much needed to protect all the connected devices like computers, networks, clouds, sensors, etc. To achieve this, human resources also need to be reskilled to understand and sustain this technology outburst.