May 27, 2021

Covid, Technology, and Digital Transformation - A Perspective

Covid, Technology, and Digital Transformation

It has long been said that necessity is the mother of all inventions. COVID-19 has necessitated unprecedented participation from all countries and industries! The pandemic spread so quickly and with such ferocity. The crisis has always served as a fuel for technical growth, and the present worldwide pandemic has a silver lining as well. The future will look back at the 2020s as the Digital Transformation era where the most remarkable innovations happened like the "Great Depression".

Because of the scarcity of time and resources to respond to the crisis, as well as the necessity for rapid scalability in all circumstances, there has been a surge in technological innovation that will undoubtedly be valuable for many years. Here are my top eight innovations that have considerably expedited as a result of COVID-19.


Technology 1 - Artificial Intelligence (AI)

There has been an incredible amount of AI development since the pandemic and the AI market is expected to grow by $76.44 billion by 2025, progressing at a rate of 21%.

AI predictive algorithms are predicting the length of COVID-19 hospitalization and its outcomes for a patient. There is new AI technology that can accurately detect COVID-19 in people with no symptoms, just by analyzing the sound of their cough. It is also helping India track positive cases in the largest possible pilgrimage attended by millions of devotees.

Using patient data, AI is creating a 90 percent accurate forecast of whether a person will die from COVID-19. It can forecast how many patients will require a respirator and who should be the first in line for immunization.

The Exposure Notifications System (ENS), a Bluetooth-enabled privacy-preserving tool that warns users if they have been exposed to those who have tested positive for COVID-19, has been developed in collaboration between Apple and Google.

I see a silver lining in defeating the virus with AI, but I have big worries about data privacy. Let us wait and see, how all this healthcare data will be protected in the future.


Technology 2 - Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP as a technology has grown in leaps and bounds due to COVID-19. It is expected to garner $42 billion by 2027, growing at a rate of 20.6% from 2020 to 2027. The desperate demand to address the patients has multiplied NLP growth.

Users can use NLP tools like Google’s COVID-19 Research Explorer or COVIDScholar to ask questions like, "What are the quick molecular diagnostics for COVID-19?" The application generates a list of papers with highlighted passages. NLP can also be used to diagnose patients, match them to clinical trials, identify high-risk circumstances, and speed up drug discovery.

There is so much we do not know about the virus, but NLP is sure to help clear the uncertainty in due time.


Technology 3 - Cloud Computing

The worldwide cloud computing industry will increase at 17.5 % from $371.4 billion in 2020 to $832.1 billion by 2025, This is an increase from $257.5 billion in 2020.

In 2021, application infrastructure services will see the biggest gain in expenditure margins, up 26.6 percent. With $117.7 billion in forecasted investment, software as a service is expected to remain the largest segment of the worldwide cloud market.

In the midst of the present economic storm, cloud service providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet are developing at an exemplary speed. AWS, which remains its most profitable segment, saw a 29% growth altogether eclipsing its e-commerce segment and leads the $130 billion cloud market.

In the meantime, Microsoft's extensive exposure to significant cloud enterprises focused on digital engagement, virtual work, and workflow planning has aided the company in addressing a large market that is expected to reach $460 billion by 2025.

The current situation has highlighted the fact that by not going on the cloud there is a possibility of being left behind, this also presents a new reality that is going completely digital!


Technology 4 - Drones, Robots, & Autonomous Vehicles

Though self-driving cars are the focus when it comes to autonomous vehicles, autonomous robotics and drones are as important in today's world! Between 2020 and 2027, the worldwide drone industry is expected to reach $55 billion, expanding at a 19.9% annual pace.

Hospitals need medical supplies and laboratory testing more than ever, drones are the safest/fastest ways to deliver medical supplies and transport samples from hospitals to laboratories. In China, drones helped carry large-scale remote temperature machines in most apartment complexes.

Safeway, a supermarket chain, pioneered a new driverless cart service to deliver groceries to local residents. Hyundai deployed a robot, DAL-e to showrooms that greets customers and helps them find the right vehicle. DAL-e automatically detects and notifies customers to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

It is becoming easier to integrate robotics into a supply-chain operation as robotic technology gets less expensive and design advances. Robots can work alongside humans with little to no supervision because there are no barriers to entry in terms of cost, knowledge, or set-up times.

COVID-19 has proven to be an incredible challenge for every industry, but technology has brought a great deal of progress and improvement.


Technology 5 – Mixed Reality (Augmented & Virtual Reality) – AR, VR, MR

MR, AR, & VR technologies ingeniously integrate virtual information with the real world. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed people to experience the charm of “virtual” more deeply. The global AR, VR, and MR market is forecast to reach $18.8 billion in 2020. This would be an increase of over 78% in 2019 (AMAZING).

Some cool AR & VR solutions that have been used during this pandemic - People participating in community activities at home, taking virtual tours of international heritage sites, working from home, distance learning, taking virtual fitness classes, immersive entertainment, and having online social interactions.

I personally liked this idea where HTC held a developer conference through VR. Players perform operations in the scene through VR and similar is the case with the China Spring Cloud Auto Show to present its products to the public.

The gaming industry is another area that has attracted a lot of attention. Over the predicted period, it is predicted to expand at a rate of 32.75% (2021 - 2026). For a long time, virtual gaming has been a significant draw in the immersive entertainment area.


Technology 6 - eCommerce

It used to be just one of many options we had when it came to making a purchase, e-commerce instead became sort of a lifeline. Consumers worldwide spent nearly $4.29 trillion online till now (WOW).

Some of the coolest advancements worth mentioning are: Virtual fitting rooms are one of the most intriguing innovations in the retail industry. Since the “try-before-you-buy,” approach is more difficult to manage while adhering to public health mandates, virtual fitting rooms have taken the cake.

With social distancing still relevant, cashier-less, and staff-free stores are an important retail trend. Amazon’s Just Walk Out system, tracks what consumers place into their cart. When a customer leaves a business, the store will immediately charge the credit card on file with the customer.

Walmart's Voice Ordering service is a great example of how this technology can be applied. They can place orders entirely with voice commands, such as asking smart speakers to add items to a cart. These items can then be made available for pickup by Walmart staff.

As the world of eCommerce gets more crowded and competitive than ever, this development is both a tailwind and a headwind for digital firms.


Technology 7 - Edge Computing

Many firms have been forced to immediately adopt remote working as a result of the pandemic, scattering staff across the region, country, or planet. Edge computing is now rising to the forefront as a vital component of the network architecture to sustain this new distributed workforce as organizations re-evaluate their long-term network needs based on their experience addressing the current problem.

The global edge computing market will rise from $1272.2 million in 2018 to $6 billion by 2024, at a rate of 34%. It is the edge’s ability to reduce latency in applications. Healthcare firms are storing and processing data locally rather than relying on centralized cloud services in life-or-death situations. As a result, professionals now have faster access to critical medical data such as MRI or CT scans.

With shelter-in-place orders across the globe, the adoption of various streaming services has obviously skyrocketed but with low bandwidth also following. So, most of the major media entertainment players are edging for edge computing. Example – A sports streaming service, FloSports, turned to edge computing to increase the delivery speed of its premium sports content. The broadcaster saw a 125+% increase in new net subscribers worldwide immediately.

Another edge computing trend, federated learning, has gained popularity as a viable solution in this pandemic setting. This automated system is helping reduce the burden on healthcare systems across the world that has been under a lot of stress.


Technology 8 - mRNA Technology

mRNA is a new approach to medicine. The global market for mRNA Vaccine is estimated at $31.9 billion in 2021. mRNA is a set of instructions by which cells make all proteins and send them to various parts of the body to fight specific issues in the body. mRNA technology takes advantage of normal biological processes to express proteins and create a desired therapeutic effect.

mRNA vaccines offer comprehensive instructions to our cells to generate the coronavirus that causes COVID-19's unique "spike protein," lowering the likelihood of infection and blocking severe sickness.

However, the narrative of mRNA does not end with COVID-19: It has far-reaching implications that go far beyond this outbreak. BioNTech is working on customized medicines that would produce on-demand proteins linked to specific tumors in order to teach the body how to fight advanced cancer.

Like BioNTech’s chief medical officer said, “In principle, everything you can do with protein can be substituted by mRNA technology.”


My Thoughts: Looking Ahead

The pandemic has shaken up the world, bringing with it some great surprises. The global pandemic has compelled us to reconsider how we live, work, and conduct business. We must remember to examine the long term when our attention is drawn to the most pressing threats. Looking beyond the current crisis can provide a more complete picture of the threats we face, as well as opportunities we may not have considered and solutions we can implement.

This pandemic, like every great struggle in human history, has brought forth the best in human intellect and invention and will continue to do so. One common thread emerges from each of these fascinating new technologies: efficacy may not be quantifiable, but casting a wide net is more likely to provide meaningful technological applications.

So, what are your thoughts on these 8 technologies? – Am I missing anything? Thoughts, Comments, and Ideas are welcome!

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This post was written by Asokan Ashok, the CEO of UnfoldLabs. Ashok is an expert in driving customer insights into thriving businesses and commercializing products for scale. As a leading strategist in the technology industry, he is great at recommending strategies to address technology & market trends. Highly analytical and an industry visionary, Ashok is a sought after global high-tech industry thought leader and trusted strategic advisor by companies.


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