When the world shut down, technology raced forward. Many technologies waiting in the background suddenly became essential to keeping the world functioning. Coworkers became familiar with each other’s kitchens or home offices. Zoom meetings were interrupted by pets and children. Technology became a replacement for in-person interactions.
Although the public saw technology connect people and deliver goods and services remotely, they didn’t see all the ways technology worked behind the scenes to keep the world and its economy moving. Technology helped industries create safe and secure workspaces and facilitate the delivery of goods despite disruptions in the supply chain. Let’s take a look at how technology made a difference during 2020.
Keeping Factories Working
Factories were never designed for social distancing. How were manufacturing plants going to reopen if they couldn’t comply with CDC guidelines? Social distancing was not the only obstacle manufacturers faced. Managers needed information on how the equipment was performing even when they were working from home. They also had to address material shortages and delivery delays. For organizations with a digital infrastructure, technology was ready to help.
Where available, tracking solutions were deployed to improve worker safety. Data from proximity sensors were used to stagger breaks and alter shift schedules to minimize employee contact. Shift changes were typically a high-contact period where critical information was transmitted from one shift to another. With data collected for IoT devices, managers were able to alter the workflow to maintain critical social distancing.
Knowing where employees were made it easier to perform contact tracing if an individual tested positive for the virus. The data also made it possible for managers to determine if a shift or work area was about to become short-staffed. Management could make adjustments to avoid unnecessary slowdowns. According to McKinsey, tracking solutions not only kept employees safe, but they also improved operations. Depending on the factory, productivity increased between 10% and 30%.
Before the pandemic, many manufacturers were using IoT devices to monitor equipment performance. They would use the data to predict when to perform maintenance. Environmental sensors could alert managers to changes in temperature or humidity that might impact equipment usage. When equipment failed, IoT tools could be used to help identify the possible problem. Sensors could report potential overheating problems or a slowdown in operational speed before equipment failed. The ability to view the information remotely and in real-time made it possible for factories to continue to operate as efficiently as possible.
Keeping People Healthy
Telehealth or telemedicine isn’t new but wasn’t a part of mainstream healthcare in most countries until in-person appointments were discouraged. When the United States Medicare system agreed to cover telehealth appointments, the mainstream acceptance increased, as many private providers followed suit. Patients were able to schedule counseling sessions or a consultation with their physician.
Remote Patient Monitoring
Healthcare monitoring solutions have been deployed to patients with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. These devices interface with a mobile app so that the data is recorded and sent via cellular networks to medical professionals for analysis. If abnormalities are detected, the patient can come in for in-person care.
This remote monitoring is instrumental in countries such as Bangladesh, where healthcare services are limited. IoT-enabled solutions let physicians assess and identify when emergency level care was required. The technology-enabled devices helped the country prevent the healthcare system from being overrun.
As part of the National Institute of Health, the National Center for Biotechnology Information looked at the impact of IoT applications on alleviating the effects of COVID-19. According to their study, data from these devices had the capability of predicting future situations so healthcare providers could be better prepared. The remote patient monitor made it easier to provide personalized care for a distance. The IoT devices provided real-time tracking of medical equipment and devices, so treatment was no delayed. Overall, treatment workflows were improved.
Helping Students Learn
Virtual learning has become the new normal in many parts of the world. A hybrid learning model is used in some places, where some instruction is in-person, and other teaching is done online. The problem with the sudden pivot was the lack of technology and virtual teaching in K-12 schools. Higher education may have had more experience with online learning, but only a small portion of educators had experience teaching in a virtual environment.
Educators are taking advantage of technology to deliver instruction using Zoom meetings and Google docs. They are learning how to use online educational tools to help make lessons more interactive. Some educators create their own science labs, putting together kits for students to take home. They work together virtually to conduct the experiments. Others use programs from other institutions to provide online simulations.
Keeping schools open means making the classroom safe with mask-wearing, good hygiene, and social distancing. Adding monitoring sensors can help with contact tracing and social distancing. According to infectious disease specialists, schools are not the source of most outbreaks, but it will spread within a facility without adequate precautions.
Deploying wireless sensors can automate the process so K-12 schools can enforce social distancing and quarantine rules without increasing the workload on already stressed staff. For most schools, hiring additional staff for nonteaching positions for monitoring is outside their current budgets.
Improving the Supply Chain
Everyone noticed supply chain disruptions when shelves were empty, or items were back-ordered. Many logistics companies or departments were unable to pivot to maintain a reliable supply. As demand increased for food and personal protective equipment (PPE), transportation became more difficult as borders closed. Without the ability to see the entire supply chain, businesses struggled to find alternative routes.
Supply Chain Monitoring
Wireless sensors can track products, vehicles, or cargo ships, so suppliers know exactly where their products are at any time. Sensors can also monitor environmental conditions to ensure that cold supply chain requirements are maintained. IoT tools can be monitored from a central location, making it easier to see the supply chain from end-to-end.
According to GSMA, IoT-enabled drones were deployed in May of 2020 to rural healthcare facilities in Rwanda and Ghana. These drones were able to deliver medical supplies to almost 2,500 hospitals throughout the two countries. This same technology is being used to deliver PPE and medical equipment in the southeastern United States.
Building the Next Normal
Everyone wants life to get back to normal, but the truth is life will never be precisely the same. Workers have discovered the advantages of working remotely. People have found the convenience of online grocery shopping. Travelers will be more cautious when it comes to sanitation in planes, trains, and hotels.
Organizations will embrace more automation and will look to digital solutions that can make them more agile. IoT devices will be deployed to provide data from the edges to help businesses make data-driven decisions. And, data management platforms will be needed to consolidate big data into actionable insights.
At Hypercubd, we are building solutions for the next normal. We have an integrated solution that enables companies to connect, manage, monitor, and view data. Advanced features such as artificial intelligence and machine learning help analyze data to return complete datasets for evaluation. If you’re looking to build for life after COVID, why not talk to a business that is building for the next normal.