Adaptation is a huge part of the messages surrounding COVID-19. People are being asked to adapt to a new societal structure that is made up of social distancing, staying home and thinking “long term” in our actions. Outside of individuals, businesses and industries are also being forced to adapt to a world where person-to-person interactions aren’t possible. Though all this adaptation, technology has been the key.
Personal and Professional Tech Applications
What’s so interesting about the tech we are using while practicing social distancing is that the same types that we are using during professional connections are being leaned on for personal connections after work hours, too.
Many people transition from Google Hangouts or Zoom work meetings to group chats with family and friends. Online gaming platforms are used not only to reconnect with friends on Friday nights but also during work social hours to help maintain office relationships and keep employees engaged in the workplace culture, even from a distance.
Image borrowed from Twin Cities Pioneer Press.
Technology to Connect Businesses to Communities
Beyond the social aspect, many businesses are leaning on technology to help them connect with community members, to give back or to keep their businesses moving.
Giving Back To The Community
3D printers are perhaps one of the most recognized examples of how technology is being applied in new ways during this pandemic. Both independent owners and businesses that use 3D printing tech for their products have taken to printing PPE for healthcare workers. Facemasks, face shields and ventilator parts are just a few materials being printed to bring to healthcare facilities.
Check out more on 3D printing here.
Drones Deliver Medication
After all the talk and speculation of drones taking over as a method of delivery, it has finally happened – even if only in a small way. UPS and CVS have started using these flying robots to drop off packages and prescriptions in Florida. It’s really helpful for retirement communities where the residents are at higher risks than others. Limiting in-person interaction between these at-risk groups and delivery people by using technology could ultimately save lives.
Image borrowed from the Daily Mail.
Video Calling with Customers
Video calling and messaging has boomed in our physically distant world. As mentioned before, the technology is being used between friends and family as well as with coworkers and in offices to maintain communication. We are seeing another application of video calling and communication in the business setting, too.
Zoom and other video messaging technologies have helped doctors, physiotherapists and councillors connect with clients so they can treat patients remotely when possible. It’s even being used by realtors to offer virtual tours of houses with clients. It’s very telling that, when we are limited to in-person meetings, regular phone calls aren’t enough and video calling becomes so popular.
Another side to video calling is the Live TV application seen on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Live TV Makes a Comeback.
When you think of Live TV, you may think of cable networks and newsbreaks. This version of Live TV, however, is not found on a cable network. Streaming videos live on social media has become even more popular as it allows businesses and individuals another way to reach a large group of people. The main difference between Live TV streams and Zoom or Google Hangouts is that these two platforms require a specific invitation and meeting request. Live TV on Facebook or Instagram or a video stream on youtube or another platform is open to anyone who wants to watch.
This Live TV and streaming technology is being used by many businesses in all industries to connect with current or new customers. The term “customer” is used loosely here since during the pandemic, many businesses have begun to offer their services for free.
Screenshot of a live TV yoga class from @Saana_yoga on Instagram. Image borrowed from CBC.
Free yoga classes and other fitness classes, painting and art classes, cooking classes and more are being hosted by businesses on Facebook Live or Instagram TV. Many local companies post these directly on their social channels for anyone to watch, save, refer to and learn from.
There is no limit to the industries that can make use of this technology, either. The Keukenhof – a large botanical garden in the Netherlands that is known for its annual tulip display – had to shut down for the flower season because of COVID. An in effort to share their flowers with the world, they have been offering free virtual tours, Live TV q-and-a periods and educational lessons about flowers and gardening.
Without this technology, businesses simply couldn’t operate and stay connected with communities as they have in the past few weeks.
Construction’s Reaction to COVID
The construction industry has been dealing with unique challenges during the COVID pandemic. The reaction in the industry has been somewhat patchy; some cities have shut down construction except for essential projects while others have let construction continue with new health and safety rules in place.
Construction could never stop completely – it’s the industry that keeps roads safe, lights on, water running and infrastructure safe and secure. But there have been changes.
While general health and safety updates have been made in terms of access to running water, disinfecting shared spaces and limiting people on-site, tech tools have risen up to help contribute to safety and to encourage social distancing on construction sites.
How Technology is Aiding Construction During COVID-19
From wearable technologies to cloud-based management software, construction tech is booming. Some of it is new – specifically created because of COVID – and others aren’t new but are newly valued.
Cloud-based Organization of Construction Companies
Cloud-based software that helps to manage operations, communication, site plans and more are not new to the industry. These technologies, however, aren’t necessarily a standard in construction. COVID could be the big driver to make this change and to encourage more companies to go digital.
Shifting to this online-communication and information database during COVID will only help to streamline processes once everyone returns to projects and gets back to moving dirt. Smartphones, tablets and other tech devices are usually within an arm’s reach of a contractor at all times. Introducing a digital organizational platform could help contractors work more efficiently in the long run.
As many office workers and non-essential on-site contractors are moved to remote and work from home environments when possible, the ability to access paperwork, site plans and operational documents out of the office is critical. Post-COVID, it will mean that anyone can look up information and access project standards at any time, no matter where they are on a site – or at home.
Remote Access Equipment and Surveillance Technology
“Autonomous” and “remote-controlled” are two buzzwords that have floated around the industry for a while. It’s impossible to speculate about the future of equipment without talking about autonomous and remote-controlled machines.
Autonomous equipment has already been developed to a certain degree and is used in very specific situations and for specific projects. Seeing these technologies on a standard construction site will take time. Not only must the equipment must be designed, built and tested, but new safety standards will need to be introduced to keep both the equipment and anyone on-site safe.
As much as we dream about it, a world where autonomous equipment is seen on the average construction site is going to take time. Remote-controlled equipment could be closer. Both will require dedication and commitment to develop. The pandemic and remote-work ruling that we are currently facing could cause a big push for this technology. The shift is coming and advancements in construction equipment could really push boundaries after COVID.
Wearable Technology to Maintain Social Distance
Proxxi – a safety tech company in Vancouver, Canada – developed a wearable band called Halo that helps workers maintain 6 feet in social distance. The band vibrates when it comes within 6 feet of another band, acting as a physical reminder to the wearer to keep a safe distance from others. This technology was developed specifically because of COVID-19 but could continue to be adapted and used for a variety of purposes when our social distancing regulations relax.
The technology was originally created to warn contractors about electric currents. It was designed to detect the proximity of the wearer to One of the fatal 4, electrocution is a real danger for contractors. If this technology can be adapted to help enforce social distance, who knows what else it could be adapted for. Wearable technologies could take off in the very near future.
Image borrowed from Proxxi.
The Technological Possibilities are Endless
As difficult and challenging as COVID-19 has been on the world, its people and their businesses, technology has helped to ease that burden. Whether it’s connecting people to loved ones, keeping businesses in contact with customers, providing PPE to frontline workers or keeping construction workers safe – technology shines. Although it’s the 21st century and we shouldn’t be so surprised, it’s clear that we are all once again amazed by the power of technology.