IoT and Covid-19 impact is a subject I was researching lately, as it seems obvious that the new reality the coronavirus has imposed to all of us, requires to increase our connectivity not only of our computers and mobile devices, but also of our devices of every size and shape – from cars to kitchen appliances to industrial machinery. The new reality also makes us rely more and more on digitally shared information through multiple channels, on a global scale.
The global coronavirus pandemic has therefore undoubtedly affected the way the IoT trend is developing and impacting our lives. In a world where contact between humans is necessarily limited, contact between devices, tools, and toys is expanding to help us remain connected.
So, here are my thoughts on the impact on the three verticals of IoT that are related with the pandemic
- healthcare – how can IoT keep us safe?
- smart homes – how can IoT help us work from home?
- retail – how can IoT help us shop safely
Healthcare is one of the few verticals where IoT is not just a hype. There are many IoT use cases for healthcare, but I believe the two most important are telemedicine, and automated home help for the elderly and disabled. These two use cases require wearables, sensors, and connected devices, thus IoT will change the way healthcare is delivered.
But what about IoT and CoVID-19 impact on healthcare and these two use cases specifically?
The coronavirus requires us to minimize unnecessary contact in situations where the risk of viral contamination is particularly high, for example, care homes and infectious disease wards within hospitals. Thus, telemedicine, or “virtual visits” as it is lately called i.e. online appointments with healthcare providers. is becoming more important than before. Although there are some numbers being reported that show an increase, there is actually no limit to this trend. It will undoubtedly continue upwards during 2021 and further in the future, as the required infrastructure is put in place and the patients awareness of the advantages is increased.
Researching and thinking about the age group that is most affected by the coronavirus (65+), I quickly realized that strong growth is expected in the market for devices that allows the elderly to remain independent in their own homes for longer. So far, many people believed that this pandemic would quickly end so that we can continue our lives as before. As we all realize that this pandemic will last more that we initially anticipated or hoped, the importance of IoT for elders will increase.
With IoT, but also with the help of Artificial Intelligence, elders will utilize tools to detect falls or changes to regular daily routines that could alert relatives or healthcare providers that intervention could be required. But only this; this same technology can be used to determine if there is a rapid deterioration in the health of people who may be shielding or isolating at home, as the disease can often put people in a state where they are unable to seek help by themselves, in a matter of hours.
Concluding, I see these two IoT use cases to play an increasingly important role in Healthcare due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Telemedicine or “Virtual Visits”– to avoid unnecessary visits to doctors or hospitals
- Automated Home help – to monitor health status and react timely to health “threats” for elders shielding or isolating at home
Work-from-home is the new normal for many of us these days due to safety concerns around large numbers of people congregating in offices and city centers.
In this vertical, I believe there is room for growth for IoT with the combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We will see tighter integration of AI-powered personal assistants with applications designed to help us manage our day while working remotely. This is mainly related with automated scheduling and calendar tools, but more importantly with better quality, more interactive video conferencing, and virtual meeting technology.
IoT sensors that enable immersive, AI-powered presentations that will keep us better engaged should be expected to emerge.
In addition, manufacturing, industrial, and logistics operations – that so far required physical presence for operation will be more effectively monitored remotely with the combination of IoT and AI. Operators from home will be able to monitor automated machinery from home, with maintenance personnel being alerted when their intervention is needed.
Concluding, COVID-19 is expected to “boost” these IoT applications for Work-From-Home:
- Scheduling and Calendar Tools – automated by IoT + AI enabled personal assistants
- Video Conferencing – with IoT sensors enabling immersive experiences
- Remote Monitoring – with operators monitoring reliably manufacturing and logistics operations
Retail shops can be split into two main categories when it concerns the pandemic. We have essential and non-essential outlets.
Unlike essential outlets supplying things like food and medicine, which have to remain open to serve the basic needs of local populations, non-essential outlets can be temporarily shuttered with minimal disruption to our lives. This is possible due to the emergence of the online retail.
Nevertheless, there is a strong need to minimize human contact, and that is why I expect to see more fully-automated supermarkets that cut down on the need for non-vital human interaction, just like Amazons’. These will be realized by
- contact-free payment methods that will become increasingly prevalent as we anyway progress further towards a “cashless society”.
- sensors and RFID tags hat will help us track the movement of customers around stores and therefore implement and monitor social distancing and protect against the danger of overcrowding in particularly busy areas of stores, supermarkets, and shopping malls
But there is another use case for automation via IoT-enabled devices, and this is has to do the massive fulfillment centers that dispatch inventory to shops. This will be automated in many ways:
- use of RFID tags in supermarket products and shelves will automate decisions over stock placement and replenishment
- use of RFID tags at the fulfillment centers will automate supply chain monitoring and delivery.
As described above, I believe COVID-19 will accelerate the adoption of IoT in these three key industries. What do you think? Please use the comments below to discuss with me?