Digital transformation is a conversation that is and was taking place before COVID-19. Businesses wanted to know how to become more competitive, reactive, and efficient, and how services for users can be improved. McKinsey’s global survey of 889 executives reported that COVID-19 certainly accelerated digital transformation by several years in some sectors. Many of these changes are expected to remain in place long-term.
Here, we take a look at the top COVID-19 tech trends and how they will remain part of our lives in the future, post-pandemic.
Are remote working and virtual reality training the future?
Remote working was clearly one of the biggest COVID-19 tech trends. The number of people remote working took a quantum leap as we were forced to stay in our homes and continue working as normal where possible.
Hybrid office and remote working models are likely to continue following the pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted cultural and technological barriers that prevented working from home in the past, creating a social shift in workplace expectations. McKinsey predicts that over 20 per cent of the global workforce could be working remotely three to five days a week. This would have a significant impact on local economies, transportation, and general spending.
Virtual training took precedence in the education and corporate world, with the widespread adoption of online activity fuelling this. While some may be concerned about effectively emulating an in-person learning experience when training remotely, virtual reality training can deliver exactly that. Virtual reality training helps to create a live, synchronous virtual environment and has been used in healthcare and medicine, engineering and auto manufacturers, and many more industries.
A report from PwC in 2020 forecasted that around 23.5 million jobs across the world will be using augmented and virtual reality by 2030 for training, meetings, and customer service. Virtual reality is cost-effective, practical, and a safe place to learn new skills.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we pay for things. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that we avoid cash and use contactless. Contactless payment has been a popular option for many years and has now become the preferred way to pay for the majority. So much so that research has reported that 54 per cent of shoppers would change to a retailer that provided contactless payment.
From start to finish, this technology has gone more mainstream, with mobile and contactless payments becoming the norm. It is predicted that this will become the standard method to pay, with faster, convenient, and secure checkouts that will dictate consumer behaviours.
Virtual reality tourism
The concept of virtual reality tourism would’ve likely been a futuristic one. Nobody would have ever predicted we would be staying in our own countries all year with airline companies struggling to stay afloat. That’s leaving plenty of us frustrated with a holiday itch to scratch. More and more of us are turning to virtual reality to relieve this demand for travel.
Virtual reality travel experiences are possible through headsets that give users realistic access to places like Antarctica and the pyramids in Egypt. Currently, virtual reality is used to help travellers decide where they want to go. It allows customers to take 360-degree tours of resorts, directly book their flights, and choose seats on planes, and specific hotel rooms at home.
The world needs sustainable tourism, and this is becoming a viable option to cut down emissions. This can also help preserve historic sites that are being damaged through mass tourism. Although virtual reality tourism isn’t intended to replace the experience of real-world travelling, it can help keep interest alive in locations abroad.
3D printing and laser scanning
Logistics and supply chains have been disrupted during COVID-19, resulting in shortages of goods. 3D printing has been adopted rapidly in many instances during the COVID-19 pandemic, with factories manufacturing on-demand resources for essential services like personal protective equipment and ventilators for healthcare.
The market study firm CONTEXT commented: “The demands made of printers in all price ranges increased as they were used to create pandemic-related items ranging from PPE to nasopharyngeal swabs.
“While this could not fully compensate for lost demand from closed markets (such as consumer products, education, and the dental and automotive industries), it clearly demonstrated the flexibility of the technology, showing how it can be leveraged to help overcome supply-chain disruptions and could, in future, be so used across many industries.”
The flexibility of 3D printing shows the value this can hold across industries. It allowed organisations to act quicker than other manufacturing technologies in the production process, removing the need to rely on complex supply chains that were disrupted. It would be a wise investment for the future.
COVID-19 has innovated tech in many different ways. It has changed everything from the way we do mundane things like pay for goods to how essential services are facilitated through specialist 3D printing equipment.
Adam Pomeroy is AR/VR Project Manager at Luminous Group, a UK-based mixed reality software company, specialising in virtual reality training.
De Ponti, R., Marazzato, J., Maresca, A.M., Rovera, F., Carcano, G. and Ferrario, M.M., 2020. Pre-graduation medical training including virtual reality during COVID-19 pandemic: a report on students’ perception. BMC medical education, 20(1), pp.1-7.