Living in a busy city, webecome accustomed to continuous background noise: the sound of cars drivingaround at all hours of the day and night, planes coming in for their landing,school bells ringing to start the day, groups of people chatting and of coursekids shrieking and laughing as they play games in the street below. We now find ourselves sitting in deafeningsilence. Our usual school run andlengthy drive to the office won’t be happening today. We won’t be allowed to pop in for a quick CaféLatte between meetings and we won’t be allowed to go to the gym on the wayhome. Life as we know it has changed….Radically! Like many others, we find ourselves in total lockdown.
A pandemic was somethingthat happened years before we were born, in the olden days before modernmedicine and the invention of technology. Never in our wildest imagination did we ever think a global pandemicwould hit the world in 2020 and change life as we knew it. As we make our instant coffee, which is in noway a credible substitute for the Starbucks Latte, we ponder over the situationand spare a moment to think about how things have changed and will continue tochange for the foreseeable future. Unlike all the silly hype around Y2K, werealised that Covid-19 is real. Doctorsand nurses fight an invisible enemy in the front line, while the rest of us areasked to stay at home with no contact to the outside world, while the globaleconomy nose-dives to record lows.
For a brief moment, we takecomfort in the fact that we are living in the age of technology. Surely, if wecan invent electric cars, use mobile telephony and artificial intelligence toautomate most of our daily activities, we could get through a littlelockdown? Unfortunately, this is notentirely correct. Whilst many companiesand individuals are geared towards digitalisation and have a clear businesscontinuity plan in place, many have been caught off guard which is nowseriously affecting their very existence. The unexpected and untimely spread of Covid-19has exposed many shortfalls in business strategies for companies who hadpreviously thought they were technology driven.
On a positive note it hasalso awakened a curiosity in groups of people who were averse to technology andresistant to change. Distance basedlearning, online shopping, video conferencing and other technologies are hereto stay. Companies who are not ready forthis new way of life have to quickly adapt and adjust before succumbing andbeing rendered obsolete.
Homeis where everything is
The age old proverb “home is where the heart is” now hasnew meaning “home is where everything is”. Home has now become an office, a classroom, anentertainment facility, a gym, a restaurant and even a clinic. Life carries on, from the comfort of your veryown super-home.
Now is the time for businesses to take a good, long lookat their strategies and to quickly make the necessary changes to digitalise andto survive and succeed in the new era.
1. Home based office:
Whilst many of us claim to be able to workfrom home, we wonder if this is entirely true. Yes, we have a laptop and in most cases Wi-Fi, but what about access toERP systems, shared documents and other critical resources? Are ourfancy Business Continuity Plans meant to impress the reader or to functionallyaddress critical operational requirements in the case of a disaster? Covid-19 is a global disaster that manycompanies are ill prepared for.
Total lockdown may be for a defined periodof time, but we doubt that it will be business as usual for months tocome. Working from home is going tobecome more customary and it is imperative that companies adapt their processesfor this likelihood. Failure to do sowill result in unnecessary down time and an unproductive staff.
need to seriously and pro-activelyaddress critical areas such as VPN
access, cloud storage and other securechannels of authentication across
all business units. Total business continuity has never been
moreimportant to ensure the longevity of companies both big and small.
These technologies have been around for along time but have been
inadequately utilised due to many senior executiveshaving the ancient
mind-set that employees are only productive if they warm aseat in the
office. A result-oriented appraisalsystem will continue to become more
and more dominant.
2. Remote manufacturing
Business Continuity Plansassumed that the primary site would encounter a
disaster of some kind beforeswitching operation to a secondary
site. This worked well in the case of electricity supply shortages,
fire,water damage, machine breakdowns etc, but in the case of Covid-19
these plansare rendered useless as staff are no longer allowed to work
in close proximityto each other. Applying social-distancingmeasures
means that factories are no longer allowed a full staff compliment onthe
premises at a given time. We’ve comeacross IoT Technologies before,
but never found a more fitting use case. IoT automation enables
machines to beconnected to the network allowing operators to monitor and
operate the machinesremotely, requiring only minimum essential staff on
premises for machinemaintenance.
3. Home entertainment
Home based entertainment is sanity savingright now. Without video and musicstreaming we think those in lockdown would go crazy and find that each daywould seem like an eternity. We live ina society where entertainment is a big part of our down-time and without itmany become depressed. Video and musicstreaming service providers have seen exponential increases in demand duringthis lockdown period. People are turningto online streaming as cinemas and theatres have been closed temporarily toadhere to social distancing regulations. The planned releases of movie blockbusters are being cancelled orpostponed. This has affected theearnings of film production companies, and fans have been disappointed.
Like many others, we don’t see ourselvesreturning to our old normal any time soon. Taking kids on outings would make us paranoid that our invisible enemywould be lurking around, ready to pounce at any given moment. We wish that movie blockbusters will bereleased online, for the safe enjoyment of global fans who would rather enjoythe feature in the comfort of their own homes.
4. Home Based Learning
As parents, our heartssink to the shoes as we think of home based learning for our children. Home schooling has never appealed to many andwe’ve always held teachers in high regard due to their patience and ability tomotivate and inspire little people.
Now, the thought ofchildren being exposed to this deadly virus at school has us panic stricken,and we are ready to embrace home based learning for the first time. Technology has allowed our teachers to offerlessons and even social interaction for the children with their classmates. Home basedlearning is not limited to educational institutions.
Gyms, as well as dance andyoga academies are offering online interactive sessions to keep their membersactive during the lockdown. Psychologistsare offering online counselling in a bid to care for the mental and emotionalwellbeing of patients. Technology isthus being used to keep us both physically and mentally healthy.
5. Financial Technology
Payment for goods and services isthe cornerstone of our economies, yet the thought of carrying money right nowis frightening. Bank notes are abreeding ground for viruses and long bank queues go against all socialdistancing principles. Easy andconvenient digitalised payment tools are an absolute necessity now more thanever, in both first world and emerging markets. Financial inclusion is imperative for those who live in the most ruralof areas. Long journeys made monthly incrowded public transports to collect social grants or pension pay-outs must beaddressed as it places vulnerable people in direct danger.
These recipients often spend fulldays, enduring harsh conditions to collect their money. A simple and convenient payment tool isessential to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of retail cashiers alike.
Digital payment further addressesthe supply chain ecosystem and ensures that FMCG (Fast moving consumer goods) arestored and delivered at optimal levels. Onlineshopping has accelerated the transformation of the supply chain management withcompanies offering same or next day delivery.
6. Remote medical diagnosis
Social distancing and lockdownsare measures to flatten the contagion curve. This is exceptionally important to prevent asurge in infection that may overwhelm the healthcare systems. Clinics and hospitals are considered high riskareas and healthy people should avoid visiting such places unless absolutelynecessary.
Healthcare technology has evolvedover the years allowing patients to conduct simple tests to monitor bloodpressure, blood glucose, heart rate, pulse etc in the comfort and safety oftheir own homes.
With new inventions in IoT,doctors are enabled to carry out remote diagnosis of patients. This not only reduces the risk of infectionfor both the patient as well as healthcare workers, it also improves theefficiency and medical resource management. These new breakthroughs in medical technology will radically improvehealth care coverage to those in remote rural areas who would previously havebeen excluded from medical treatment.
The New Normal
Life carries on. Whilstmedical teams in the front line fight Covid-19, the rest of us try to keep theeconomy running. For some of us, it’sbusiness as usual whilst for others it’s a complete business standstill. Let us spare a thought for those who cannotwork from home. Employees lose their paycheques. Companies lose revenue whichcould ultimately lead to shutting doors and retrenchment. A medical crisis has turned into a financialcrisis for ill prepared companies. Theworld as we know it has changed forever and will probably not return to the oldnormal again. Digitalisation must gobeyond efficiency improvement; new business models and value creation is even morecritical in the process of digitalisation. Those who adapt and prepare for the unexpectedare likely to thrive.
Companies withsound, future proof Business Continuity Plans will withstand the storm. Parents and individuals who embrace these newtechnologies and adapt to the new normal will appreciate the many opportunitiespresented ahead and enjoy the new lifestyle that it brings.
VP Strategic Marketing and Technology
XH Smart Technology (Singapore)
Sales Director - International Department
XH Smart Technology Africa (Pty) Ltd