According to legend, King Arthur called on the power of his legendary sword, the Excalibur, said to have magical properties, to help him accomplish his goals and destroy his enemies. When the whole world was brought to its knees by the COVID-19 virus, technology was summoned, like a formidable weapon, to help restore normalcy during ‘the great lockdown.’
As the world endeavors to transition to the post-pandemic new normal, the approach is understandably that of heightened caution. According to studies, the COVID-19 virus is not going away anytime soon, and the new normal will require us to cohabit with the virus before we can eliminate it. In such a scenario, it is fair to say that the pandemic is altering the way we live, preparing us for a future where we need to constantly be on alert, in case danger is lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right opportunity to pounce back on humanity. But humans are tenacious beings. And as we make our way out of the crisis, technological tools will act as a critical lever for humankind’s latest evolution.
The Technology-propelled Future
Owing to the various protective measures taken by governments and advisory bodies across the globe to stop the virus, enterprises have had to completely or partially halt operations. As a result, the last few months have seen supply chain disruptions on an unprecedented scale. This has impacted each one of us. Enterprises are now faced with the question of what the best transition process can be.
To safeguard employee health, remote work, or working from home, has become widespread. It is technology that comes to the rescue while working from home. While most 21st Century enterprises have invested in technological innovations that drive digitization initiatives, the scale of the disruption caused by COVID-19 caught many of them off guard. Today, those enterprises in the early stages of their digital journeys have realized the importance of technological infrastructure for their businesses. Technology used to be left disregarded in the back alleys of a glistering corporate world, but today it is suddenly at center stage. Technological tools and solutions are helping enterprises stand on their feet and actively participate in the new normal of working from home. A normal whose premise is physical distancing and owning the responsibility of not spreading a pathogen. This time, the ‘Excalibur’ that’s providing the brute force is not a mythical sword but digitization. Let’s look at a few ways digitization is being enabled.
Thermal Imaging: As the workforce returns to offices, plants, rigs, etc., from remote work, a major concern for organizations is to identify workers that may be infected with COVID-19 and stop them from entering the workplace to protect others. Failure to spot possible carriers in time may result in the immediate spread of the contagion through pathogens left at multiple touch nodes. It is not practical to use traditional thermometers to monitor the body temperature of everyone entering the work premises. But, with thermal imaging, individual temperature checks can be conducted with a high degree of precision through contactless body temperature screening.
Smart Badges: Social distancing is the new norm to stop the spread of the disease. This is easier said than done in workplaces where hundreds or thousands of employees work in close proximity with each other. How about smart badges that could continuously monitor social distancing norms and sound an alarm whenever the proximity limit is breached? Such a system will ensure immediate compliance to social distancing guidelines.
Contactless Operations: Almost all modern appliances—shared public elevators, industrial equipment, medical equipment, and office and home appliances—require some form of physical touch to start, even if it is a simple push of a button. It is this small aperture of operation that may become the epicenter of pathogen spread in a workplace. What if these devices can be operated by speech, such as that of calling Alexa or Google voice assistant? Contactless operations are all about replacing the physical touch with speech, and have advantages over their contact-dependent counterparts.
Pandemic Management Platform: A prime reason for the global pandemic was the lack of a contingency pandemic management platform. Such a platform could have proactively taken care of citizens by monitoring and containing the spread. Almost every process of tracking and tracing a ‘carrier’ was manual and time-consuming, which resulted in the exponential spread of the infection. A pandemic management platform was able to quickly understand the problem, identify loopholes, and build a holistic solution. The platform cuts through the manual effort by utilizing bots and vision technologies, improving monitoring and compliance through mass surveillance.
Air Quality Management: Technologies that test the quality of ambient air can identify and report hazardous air particles, such as PM 2.5 (fine particles), TVOC, PM 10, and CO2, among others, within both open and closed perimeters. Real-time identification of sudden changes in air quality will be critical to the prevention of mass transmission, explosions, and other such risks.
Occupancy Management: Another key value addition brought to the table by technological innovations is proactive occupancy management. By tracking and monitoring scheduled as well as real-time occupancy rates, enterprises can plan their workplaces more intelligently to make them risk-free and avoid hazardous conditions such as overcrowding. Occupancy management solutions will also help organizations ensure full compliance with the latest safety regulations.
Bills Gates once said, “The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.” Little did he know that this will be so apt for the world emerging out of the rubble of a global pandemic. The new normal is here, and by embracing and optimizing the use of technological innovations, we can rise to the occasion and come out victorious in the fight against the deadly COVID-19 virus.