The Covid-19 pandemic transformed the way the world functions—be it working remotely, shopping digitally, or learning online. While there has been innovation in a multitude of fields to cope with the new normal, here are five areas where innovation could continue to grow far beyond the pandemic.
The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of technology in the healthcare sector. Telehealth technologies helped restrain the spread of virus through testing and treatments.
Researchers and medical professionals have migrated to a virtual setup to perform functions such as remote data collection and online consultations.
Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, nanotechnology, and AR/VR are transforming the way the healthcare industry operates. Virtual reality is helping patients better cope with their pain management.
Telemedicine or online doctor consultations have grown exponentially since the onset of the pandemic. According to Forrester Research, the number of online doctor visits had crossed a billion in 2020.
Internet of Medical Things (IoM) combines Internet of things (IoT) with telehealth technologies to monitor chronic illnesses. Wearables like ECG or EKG monitors or other devices tracking blood glucose level, temperature, pulses etc. are extremely helpful in preventing the patient’s condition from worsening. By 2025, IoT is expected to grow into a $6.2 trillion industry and healthcare services will contribute ~30% of it.
Some other technologies that will help boost the healthcare industry include nanotechnology, blockchain, big data, 5G, and 3D-printing.
With most of the workforce across the globe working from home, the video conferencing market reached almost $8 billion in 2020, reflecting a more than double growth rate compared to the previous year. Some of the biggest players in this market are Zoom, Cisco’s WebEx, Google Hangouts, Microsoft’s Teams, etc.
Ericsson’s Future of Enterprises report that took the opinion of over 5,000 managers and employees across 11 markets states that around 60% of the decision makers expressed their satisfaction with being able to cut down their office spaces and around 43% said that there might not be any physical office for their organizations by 2030. Also, remote workers were found to be 40% more productive than their peers who worked from office.
Some trends that will govern the digital workplace include:
- New work nucleus that refers to a group of SaaS-based productivity, communication, and collaboration tools that are combined into one cloud office product. It could include instant messaging, file sharing, email, conferencing, document editing and other collaborative tools. To put into context the rising importance of cloud services, in 2020, companies spent close to $35 billion on cloud services in just two months; this is equivalent to two years’ worth of budget that they’d have previously spent in digital transformation.
- The IoT wearables and devices will gain more popularity among employees with more personal devices helping remote working. This trend is known as bring your own things (BYOT). Accessories such as smart earbuds, smart lights, air filters, voice assistants, virtual reality headsets are becoming popular within BYOT.
- Smart workspaces with rapid digitalization of physical devices are on the rise. Some of the smart workspace technologies include IoT, motion sensors, digital signage, integrated workplace management systems, and so on.
- Democratized technology services, that is, technology services formulated by people who actually use them, are becoming popular. Some such services are citizen developers, citizen data science, and citizen integrator tools.
During the height of the pandemic, over 1.6 billion children across 195 nations stayed at home as schools remained closed. Video conferencing has grown exponentially with classes being conducted online.
Besides video conferencing, other digital services that grew in the online learning space are language learning apps, virtual tutoring, e-learning software, and so on.
Many educational institutions have even decided to keep a portion of their curriculum online even after things return to normal.
Online learning grew not only among students but also among professionals across various fields. Platforms like LinkedIn Learning and Udemy witnessed a major surge in users during the pandemic.
According to a 2020 report by Udemy, a massive online course provider, online learning enrolments have grown across the globe since the pandemic induced lockdown with a notable surge in countries like Spain (280% growth), India (200% growth), and Italy (320% growth).
Some of the best online learning platforms that helped people across the globe during the pandemic (and are expected to continue doing so) include 17zuoye, Yuanfudao, iTutorGroup, and Hujiang in China, Udacity, Coursera, Age of Learning, and Outschool in the U.S., and Byju’s in India.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is expected to account for 26% of the global GDP by 2030, contributing around $15.7 trillion. AI is found everywhere, from people’s lives to machines, to hardware and software.
It is used in diverse industries including hospitals, military, home appliances, government and so on. AI has led to a wide range of innovation, such as speech and face recognition, data processing, etc.
Even though AI has been of incredible help during the social distancing and remote working era of the pandemic, the concern about robots replacing people in jobs is valid.
According to two landmark studies by the World Economic Forum, in 2025, 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created by AI across 26 nations. This implies that automation will give rise to more jobs than those it eradicates.
Jobs such as developers, testers, tech specialists, etc. will be on the rise with many employees upskilling to fit into these profiles.
Contactless technology has exponentially grown in popularity since the onset of the pandemic. Starting from digital payments to biometric check-in for travel, the face of customer transactions has evolved and how. Digital payment is expected to grow at a CAGR of ~12% between 2021 to 2025 to reach around $10.5 trillion.
Almost 90% of the US shoppers seem to prefer touchless checkout features even when they’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
Businesses that are providing seamless connectivity between warehouse, stores, and online service are expected to gain significant competitive advantage over their peers.
Headless commerce that allows a company’s front-end presentation platform to be decoupled from the back-end commerce functionality is growing popular with companies preferring to gain more flexibility in the backend. Headless commerce is a great solution for brands that are more experience focussed such as lifestyle brands.
Some other technologies gaining popularity within contactless shopping include facial recognition software, smarter AI, Big Data, IoT, more efficient communication networks, and augmented and virtual reality.
Customers increasingly prefer eco-friendly options and hence many companies are going paperless, using biodegradable packaging options, and utilizing recyclable materials for their products.
Since no-contact delivery is being preferred by customers, companies like Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub etc are building on their no-contact options.
China’s delivery apps such as Meitun have been among the firsts to use autonomous vehicles to deliver groceries to customers. Robotic delivery is also being picked up by other geographies with US-based startups like Manna and Nuro using robotics and AI to build such options.