The coronavirus pandemic’s effects can be felt in almost every aspect of life. COVID-19 and the corresponding restrictions on many industries have spurred both new innovations and more widespread adoption of existing technologies. The pandemic has also identified areas where more innovation is necessary to meet the needs of patients, shoppers, commuters, and workers in almost every industry. Many of these new and necessary technologies are centered around the need to connect and transport people—without physical proximity.
Three industries in particular are accelerating innovation in order to respond to shortcomings exposed by COVID-19’s impact.
The healthcare industry is perhaps the most directly impacted by COVID-19. Providers are reexamining patient flow using predictive technology, as well as dedicated teams with the authority to make adjustments in real time. Databases and data analysis are important in other aspects of coronavirus care as well. One of the most publicized innovations is the partnership between Apple and Google focused on contract tracing via Bluetooth technology.
Not only is the healthcare industry reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, it also must continue to care for other patients while limiting the spread of COVID-19. Telemedicine has been a viable substitute for in-person visits for close to a decade. This is one technology that has been both more widely adopted and accelerated due to COVID-19. Not only are more patients opting to see a healthcare provider virtually, but other innovations are enhancing this type of care. Sensor-based, contact-free diagnosis and monitoring for physical and mental health problems are likely to become more common post-coronavirus.
In many parts of the world, nonessential retailers’ storefronts have been closed for months. These businesses were forced to innovate in order to continue selling their products. One common solution is ecommerce platforms, which modern shoppers are already familiar with, as well as virtual consultations and showrooms.
Reserving in-store items for contact-free pickup was, until recently, used primarily by grocery store chains. Now, the “click-and-collect model” can be found across a wide variety of retail stores. Amazon opened its first cashier-less store in 2018. Two years later, the ability to shop without coming face-to-face with a human attendant is more appealing. Walmart also offers a technology-based solution to shopping thanks to a partnership with autonomous vehicle company Nuro.
It’s not just one-time purchases that are subject to innovation. In a potentially damaging economic downturn, relationship management is crucial. Retailers are using technology, including digital resources (American Museum of Natural History’s videos and games) and virtual experiences (Verizon’s Pay It Forward Live), to engage with existing customers.
Working and learning from home has exposed a dire need for communication technologies both within and beyond cities. The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the adoption of community-based Wi-Fi connectivity. Once a city’s residents and tools can reliably connect to the internet, other elements of a smart city become viable, including temperature scanners, optimized traffic patterns, enhanced sanitation, coordinated public notices, and improved electrical grids.