For decades the world has remained in a comfort zone. Business models have been largely ‘analog’ in nature – reliant on cash transactions, human contact, and centralized office spaces. As we enter the world of ‘digital’ brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the adoption of new technologies will change the world as we know it.
Here are 8 technology revolutions that promise to force us out of the comfort zone:
1. Contactless payments
Cash used to be king. There was nothing more reassuring than having cash in hand. Today banknotes could carry the Coronavirus. The safer alternative is to tap and go through contactless digital payments, via credit cards, smartphones and smartwatches to avoid the spread of the virus. This is how the Apple and Microsoft stores have been operating for a while, but we are likely to see a significant reimagining of in-store point-of-sale zones and some stores might see a complete removal of traditional tills to reduce the need to queue and enable touch-free transactions using facial recognition technology.
2. Contactless delivery
The rise in online shopping has stress-tested many logistics systems. Given that in-person delivery is not virus-proof, many delivery companies and restaurants are now launching contactless delivery services where goods are left at the door or picked up from a designated location. Drone deliveries are still in their infancy, but they can already be used to deliver supplies to customers who live within a 10 km radius from a base station. Google is currently trialing a world-first drone delivery service for coffee and takeaway food in Canberra. However, before robot and drone delivery services become the norm, delivery companies need to set clear protocols to ensure the goods they deliver are virus-free.
3. The ‘Australian Made’ movement
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos for the world’s economies, it has also revitalized the shop local movement as Australians become wary of foreign-made products and begin to opt for ‘Australian Made’ to support our local economy and boost job creation. This is gaining greater traction as our borders remain closed and is part of the drive towards local versus global supply chains.
4. Supply chain 4.0
COVID-19 has severely disrupted global supply chains, exposing how volatile they are with a lack of contingency during a crisis like this. With social distancing and work from home orders in place, some factories have all but shut down. While demand for food and personal protective equipment has skyrocketed, some countries have banned the exports of some of these essential items. The over-reliance on paper-based records in warehouses and distribution centers, poor visibility of data, and a lack of flexibility have made the existing supply chain systems vulnerable to this crisis. Key technologies that form part of Industry 4.0, including AI, cloud computing, the internet-of-things and blockchain are establishing more resilient supply chain management systems going forward by enhancing the accuracy of data.
5. Collaboration technologies
A lot of companies have forced their employees to work from home, and whilst remote working has been made possible for some time by communications technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocol (VoIP), virtual video meetings, cloud services, and a multitude of work collaboration tools, many individuals have worked at home for the first time.
In addition to preventing the spread of viruses, remote work also saves commute times, provides more flexibility, and allows employees to enjoy an improved work-life balance.
6. Better security
Working at home has caused few headaches for employers and employees alike and it has exposed poor information security and corporate data privacy and the recent class actions filed against Zoom are a testament to that. Working at home can be challenging in terms of labor laws because it is tough for an employer to ensure they are providing a safe work environment and there are also implications regarding income tax. Employees may experience mental health issues due to the increased isolation from their colleagues. If remote work becomes more common after the COVID-19 pandemic, employers might reduce office rent costs and source flexible staff from countries with cheaper labor.
7. Faster internet
Before COVID-19, many people only experienced high-speed internet in their workplaces but had to suffer slow or unreliable internet at home on their residential plans. After the great work-from-home migration of late March, when huge numbers of office workers shifted to their homes, the lines have blurred between the two, as now there is a huge spike in business traffic on the residential networks. Streaming services like Netflix, Disney and Stan, as well as social networks including Facebook and YouTube have been asked to reduce video streaming quality to avoid straining the internet, as many are forced to work at home. Streaming video can account for over 60% of data transmitted from internet providers to consumers, but this has increased as many people are out of work.
8. Remote learning
In the age of automation, technology will be essential to reskilling the workforce remotely. Manufacturers should be offering their workforce online training and reskilling opportunities. This will mean that they are in a better position to offer them more skilled and consequently higher-paid positions when society enters a new normal.
I believe that COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of digital readiness, which allows business and life to continuing as usual during a crisis. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world and ensuring you are using the latest technologies will be essential for any business to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world.