The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new sense of urgency to innovation efforts. Although we have always had the specific people and resources needed to innovate, there has never been the level of urgency that COVID-19 has dictated that is pushing us to achieve quick results. It is his push that is orchestrating the innovation of deep tech domains in the near future.
COVID-19 provides a unique opportunity to institutionalize a blueprint for such deep-tech innovation. The key lies in matching priorities with capabilities, funding projects without the usual red-tape, facilitating collaboration, and easing barriers to licensing of intellectual property. Once all those elements are coordinated, it can spark a tech revolution that can propel the human race into a new chapter of technology for the foreseeable future.
Remote Working is Becoming the Norm
COVID-19 has called for a vast majority of companies to have their employees work from home. Remote work is enabled by technologies including virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIPs), virtual meetings, cloud technology, work collaboration tools and even facial recognition technologies that enable a person to appear before a virtual background to preserve the privacy of the home. In addition to preventing the spread of viruses, remote work also saves commute time and provides more flexibility.
Digital and Contactless Payments
Due to many sources saying that physical paper cash could possibly be a carrier for COVID-19, banks all over the world have implemented various measures to ensure banknotes are clean before they go into circulation. Of course, this is a huge undertaking, and isn’t the end-all solution once the notes are put into circulation because businesses and people often don’t implement the same stringent cleaning standards.
Now, contactless digital payments, either in the form of cards or e-wallets, are the recommended payment method to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Digital payments enable people to make online purchases and payments of goods, services and even utility payments, as well as to receive stimulus funds faster.
Education: Distance Learning
As of mid-April, 191 countries announced or implemented school or university closures, impacting 1.57 billion students. Many educational institutions started offering courses online to ensure education was not disrupted by quarantine measures. Technologies involved in distant learning are similar to those for remote work and also include virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing and artificial-intelligence-enabled robot teachers.
3D printing technology has been deployed to mitigate shocks to the supply chain and export bans on personal protective equipment. 3D printing offers flexibility in production: the same printer can produce different products based on different design files and materials, and simple parts can be made onsite quickly without requiring a lengthy procurement process and a long wait for the shipment to arrive.
Robotics & Drones
COVID-19 makes the world realize how heavily we rely on human interactions to make things work. Labor intensive businesses, such as retail, food, manufacturing and logistics are the worst hit.
COVID-19 provided a strong push to rollout the usage of robots and research on robotics. In recent weeks, robots have been used to disinfect areas and to deliver food to those in quarantine. Drones have walked dogs and for delivered items.
Our Post-COVID Digital Readiness
COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of digital readiness, which allows business and life to continue as usual — as much as possible — during pandemics. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world and stay current in the latest technology will be essential for any business or country to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world, as well as take a human-centered and inclusive approach to technology governance.