There’s no doubt technology has helped Australians address the changes that COVID-19 has brought on. From working, learning, socialising, shopping, eating, being informed and entertained, technology has been the foundation as we attempt to continue with our lives as much as possible. COVID-19 has swiftly forced the uptake of digitisation and changed our behaviour forever.
As a nation, we have collectively invested time and resources into learning how technology can help improve our lives in 2020, and we expect it to continue to play a vital role in the years to come.
Looking forward, COVID-19 will change the way we live and work forever. Just like other times of significant change and disruption, we need to learn the lessons, adapt to a new norm, and come out of it stronger. We cannot miss this chance to ensure the pandemic becomes a catalyst for innovation and growth in order of a better future.
In the home this year, we relied heavily on a stable and fast internet connection to support our working-and-learning from home environments during the day, while depending on it for seamless video streaming and gaming in the evenings. Furthermore, Australians have increasingly realised the benefits of shopping for goods and services online. Even when COVID-19 passes, we expect our newly-formed habits to remain, having a better appreciation of a fast, strong, and reliable internet and Wi-Fi connection.
Outside of the home, innovation was also being developed and deployed to keep us safe when we leave the front door.
The Government encouraged Australians to download and use the COVIDSafe app in order to provide an easier way to automate contact tracing to reduce further infections.
Telstra’s Track and Monitor asset-tracking platform was used by a healthcare industry customer as they swiftly deployed COVID-19 triage clinics across the east coast of Australia. This helped ensure there were no misplaced expensive and in-demand equipment, especially during a time of constant change.
We also saw the fragility and our dependency on delivery and supply chain systems, exposing the lack of end-to-end visibility. As an example, we are working with major suppliers to accelerate the development of Telstra’s Connected Supply Chain product and are also negotiating with transport companies to help increase supply chain visibility with domestic deliveries.
Quick, transparent and interactive communication was also very important. Victoria’s Department of Health & Human Services needed technology to help ensure compliance to the mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for close contacts of COVID-19 and chose Whispir’s mass communication platform to perform this function with great success.
It is more imperative than ever to ensure the country does not encounter a second wave of nation-wide infections and the respective lockdown as a result. If it were to happen, the OECD has said the Australian economy could decline by 6.3 per cent this year, which would take us back to where it was in 2016.
The technology pioneered to help manage the pandemic will continue to help us live in the ‘new normal’.
Travellers passing through Canberra Airport may notice new Temperature Screening solutions at the security check-in. This allows the airport to increase its protection against COVID-19 and includes thermal cameras to detect travellers with high temperatures. The key goal is to help reassure passengers transiting through public spaces like airports. We may see more of this type of technology installed at other public spaces like train stations, shopping centres, and maybe even at some workplaces where thousands of people pass through daily.
Traditional offices will also evolve as a result of COVID-19. Employees will demand to be allowed to continue working from home after the forced experiment pressured companies to change their flexible-working mindset and accelerate the required digitisation. This also meant the need to evolve the cyber security, technology processes, and communication and collaboration tools to enable successful remote working. The pandemic has pushed CIOs and IT departments (no matter what size) to finally modernise various procedures and systems.
Telstra’s Smart Building product already measures people’s movement through infrared sensor data to deliver insights on desk usage, meeting room usage and general occupancy levels. The product is now being expanded to measure social distancing and hygiene compliance, and will be highly relevant to all industries, especially retail, transport, health, and commercial offices.
Elsewhere, video analytics will be deployed to assist critical industries with real-time thermal scanning to ensure the ongoing safety of staff and the public. AI will help deliver insights such as people flow and count, movement analysis, alerts, and more.
There is also set to be a widespread acceleration of automation (as robots can’t contract COVID-19) which has several drivers. One of the interesting opportunities I’ve seen is robots that can clean, disinfect, help detect fever symptoms, and monitor mask and social distancing compliance.
In the home, we’ll see faster internet enabling more advanced entertainment and educational technologies. I expect further innovation in television, gaming, smart home, and communication devices will be front and centre in consumer electronics R&D in the next 12-24 months.
I have no doubt these examples of technology and innovation will be scaled even further.
COVID-19 has reinforced how critical technology is for our daily lives, specifically dependable and fast connectivity. The swift need for network reliability and resiliency when we first moved to working from home, was an early indication of how vital connectivity will be in the future.
The world is slowly exploring ultra-reliable low latency use cases like autonomous driving, remote surgery, robotics, smart cities and smart homes. 5G, Edge Computing, IoT and AI are critical technologies for us to enable these advanced scenarios, but we can’t forget security, privacy, customer experience, and operational excellence are equally as important when we embark on this journey. Because it’s people that will give purpose to technology.
COVID-19 has meant new cultural and workforce transformation for the better. We strongly believe technology plays a central role in these shifting and accelerating trends and will be the foundation in what the new normal looks like for Australians – in the home, at the office, and anywhere in between.