Syspro: eight positive COVID-19 technology trends
As we emerge from lockdown and enter a new normal, we should acknowledge the digital technologies that have played a crucial role in keeping our society operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe the involuntary adoption of these technologies will have a long-lasting impact well beyond COVID.
- Contactless payments
Cash used to be king, but since banknotes could carry Coronavirus, contactless digital payments, via credit cards, smartphones and smartwatches are the recommended payment method to avoid the spread of the virus.
This is how 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.
- 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 trialling 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.
- The ‘Australian Made’ movement
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused chaos for the world’s economies, it has also revitalised 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.
- 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 were shut down. While demand for food and personal protective equipment have skyrocketed, some countries have banned the exports of some of these essential items.
The over-reliance on paper-based records in warehouses and distribution centres, 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 big data, cloud computing, the internet-of-things and blockchain are establishing more resilient supply chain management systems going forward by enhancing the accuracy of data.
- 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.
- Better security
Working at home has caused a 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 labour 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 pandemic, employers might reduce office rent costs and source flexible staff from countries with cheaper labour.
- Faster internet
Before COVID-19, many Australians 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.
NBN Co reacted quickly by introducing faster provisioning and increased capacity for telcos to improve home internet services. This prevented speeds being slowed and connections dropping out when too many people were using the network at one time.
Streaming services like Netflix, Disney and Stan, as well as social networks including Facebook and YouTube were asked to reduce video streaming quality to avoid straining the internet, as many were 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.
- 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 continue as usual during a crisis. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitised world and ensuring the latest technologies are implemented will be essential for any business to remain competitive in a post-COVID-19 world.