With lockdown restrictions beginning to lift across most of the country, we look at the technologies that helped society function as best possible throughout lockdown. Many of these technologies that were once considered impractical to implement may now be part of the new norm post-lockdown.
Here, we look to identify the 10 key technology trends that have helped build a more resilient society and will have long lasting impacts on how we perform businesses, workers and just about all other key areas of our lives.
1. Online Shopping
The first rise we saw in online shopping was in the SARS outbreak of 2002, seeing the online marketplace become the primary use of both business to business and business to consumer transactions.
Of course, online shopping is now commonplace, but we have seen an additional surge in online buying and an alternative approach used with the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Once again, we have seen a forward-thinking approach to online shopping in China. Many bars and food places are offering discounts and ‘happy hours’ to those that order online at certain times.
In addition, the delivery method is changing. In-person delivery is neither virus proof nor cost effective, so China have introduced dedicated drop-off locations instead of person to person delivery. In extreme cases, businesses are using robots and drones to deliver goods. Whilst Europe and the US are not yet ready for this, much like we have seen before, the increase in this delivery method is likely to impact all of us in the future.
2. Contactless and Digital Payment
With the handling of cash becoming a problem in terms of spreading the virus, many businesses are encouraging customers to use contactless instead.
With contactless payments in the form of cards or e-wallets widely used already, those that were not using this form of payment are quickly adapting. Digital payments equally for the few that had not become familiar have very likely made the shift through this lockdown period.
3. Remote Working
Many companies were under the idea that their employees needed to come into the office to do their job effectively. Whilst this is true in some cases, many companies were faced with ‘business as usual’ with workers from home.
With communication being the biggest challenge, the ease of use of video conferencing made meetings relatively easy. Emails and other communication methods meant that workers were up to date with work.
It is worth considering the risks and drawbacks involved, however. Information security and privacy concerns, combined with remote tech support required at a greater level can leave many companies under greater stress, particularly in the early phases of remote working.
Those remote working have voiced concerns over the phycological impact of remote working also. Laws and regulations will need to be implemented to ensure workers continue to operate at a minimum level of working conditions.
Whatever way you look at it though, we are very likely to see an increase in remote working as a result of COVID-19, even as lockdown measures are eased. The cost saved for businesses by having workers at home include reduced leasing costs for physical premises and a wider talent pool to tap into, with location less of a concern.
4. Remote valuations and transactions
Many in the financial sector have been surprised at how work can be adapted remotely. Taking the housing sector as an example, the introduction of virtual valuations on property and online meetings to secure finance has been a surprisingly easy transition.
When it comes to viewing property, virtual viewings have also become hugely popular. Although used to some extent before lockdown, the ability to ‘virtually’ view a house without having to attend became essential throughout lockdown for those looking to narrow down their choices.
This looks set to continue even after lockdown. Overseas buyers will have the ability to view a house and even make a purchase without coming to view the property, aiding the housing market. Buyers across the UK can also narrow down their choices using virtual viewings, something that is likely to become part of the house viewing process in the future, with major property websites supporting the change.
5. Distance learning
In mid-April, a time when most of the world was ‘put on hold’, a massive 1.57 billion students across the world were faced with the reality of studying from home.
From primary to university level, students adapted to learning over the various video platforms available to educational bodies online. To many people’s surprise, the result of distance, remote learning was largely successful.
This has led to a wider choice of remote courses becoming available at universities. The benefit to those overseas of receiving a top-quality education without having to attend the facility will be a big step in the right direction.
For many, the idea of attending a gig from their sofa just a few months ago would have been an absurd idea. However, lockdown has brought out the best in human creativity when it comes to entertainment.
Bands have live-streamed sets for fans, museums and zoos have done virtual educational tours and film companies have even released films to fans, in some cases for free. With many people suffering from physical or phycological issues, the ability to get involved without having to leave the house is a trend that we expect to continue past lockdown.
7. 3D Printing
3D printing became a necessity at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. With a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and export bans being introduced, 3D printing offered a buffer to create additional PPE, likely savings thousands of lives in the process.
3D printing offers flexibility to produce products on a printer using the required design files and materials without delay. Whilst intellectual property and regulatory approval issues are going to be an obstacle here, the huge potential and positive impact 3D printing will provide is very likely to shape the immediate future.
8. Supply Chain
The global supply chain has had to be reshaped throughout the lockdown period. With distancing and quarantine orders in place for the future, some factories have even faced shutdown.
There has long been a heavy reliance on paper-based records when it comes to inventory management, something that has become a vulnerable practice in current times. A shift to technology in the form of big data, cloud computing and blockchain is helping to build a more resilient, accurate and relevant management system that is safer to use in the current climate.
With many companies adopting a smarter approach to the supply chain, we cannot see these companies taking a step back, with a digital supply chain the new normal.
As touched on earlier, robotics has had a big impact throughout COVID-19. The reliance on human interaction to make things work became apparent, with retail, logistics and food being hit the worst.
The rollout of robots to deliver food, disinfect areas and even aid those suffering from the virus itself has been a welcome help. Whilst there are fears robots will replace human workers, for the time being, this will create opportunities to manage the robots and introduce policies to maintain positive social welfare.
10. Introduction of 5G
Many of the previous mentioned technologies rely on a stable, high speed connection. 5G has gone on to demonstrate its importance in many key sectors, most notably in the healthcare sector. Whilst the use of 5G is still limited across Europe, the positive effect it has had during the pandemic is likely to see it introduced earlier than anticipated.
If the lockdown has taught us anything, it is that we need to be ready to adapt to the technological changes that present themselves that provide a positive impact.