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How Covid-19 has sown the seeds of change for a post-pandemic world

Image credit: Utlanov/Dreamstime.com

The adaptability and resilience demonstrated by business and the public alike during the coronavirus pandemic is grounds for optimism about how adoption of emerging technologies can create a future few could have believed possible.

The Covid-19 pandemic rooted itself as a tripartite of economic, societal and - fundamentally - human challenges. Its lasting effects are still unknown, but amongst all the grief and despair beams of optimism have emerged. Governments have played their part, stepping up to protect economies and businesses, with digital innovation supporting businesses and keeping vital services running. Most notably, people have looked after each other - and the planet - in many different ways.

The past 18 months have been challenging, but there’s cause for optimism as we continue to navigate the post-Covid world. There are three positive trends that I believe are already taking shape.

Working from home will be a catalyst for community spirit and technological innovation

It’s no secret that Covid-19 rapidly accelerated digital transformation across businesses and society. The number of people working away from their offices, and the need to transfer data far and wide, triggered unprecedented growth in cloud adoption. Gartner predicts investment in public cloud will grow by 19 per cent even while IT spending declines. With the genie now out of the bottle, the pace of technological innovation will increase five-fold.

This revolution in connectivity will have significant local consequences. We’ve discovered we can be productive and get work done from home without travelling. In some form or other, remote working is here to stay, driven by enhanced connectivity. This will allow people to become more invested and active in their local communities. We will produce and consume more locally, creating new jobs and supply chain opportunities along the way. As prosperity and opportunities were being concentrated around urbanisation in recent years, this shift can only be positive.

No matter what business you are in, its new foundation will be trust. Business resilience will be anchored in technology and mutual trust. People will trust the power of technology as face-to-face interactions give way to screen-to-screen exchanges. Technology will make lives better and help us reduce our impact on the planet, while new innovations will emerge from a new generation of local tech partnerships, all founded on trust.

5G implementation will revolutionise everything

5G is hardly a new technology, and it’s going to hit critical mass and transform how we access and use IP networks. One of the key aspects of this technology is how it enables large volumes of data to be generated, processed and analysed at the edge of the network. This will allow data-intensive applications to be rolled out and used at the local level, further away from corporate networks or data centres. 5G private networks will enable more reliable and resilient systems, opening doors to more local execution and bringing supply chains closer to the customer, for example.

In the same way that 3G gave us instant messaging apps, and 4G enabled on-demand HD streaming, 5G will enable future services that we can’t yet imagine. The question is, what will be the new Netflix? Only time will tell.

Sustainability is about to get serious

Early lockdowns – when regular life was put on pause – provided an important point of self-reflection. For the first time in many years, communities experienced the benefits of cleaner air and were delighted at the return of animals and the recovery of their natural ecosystems. During the most stringent period of shutdown, carbon dioxide emissions even fell by 17 per cent. The last few months provided a lesson in what could be achieved when we forced ourselves to live and work more sustainably and healthily.

Contrary to the pessimism surrounding climate change, it was shown that a real difference can be made on a local level. Going forward, people will seek to double down on these efforts as the threats of climate change continue to loom.

As remote working and self-isolation persist, the epicentre of these efforts will be the home and the process heavily supported by technology. Our homes will become more connected and smarter than ever. 5G, the internet of things (IoT) and fast, stable broadband will be in high demand and one of the positives will be their potential to boost energy efficiency in the home. More and more houses are also being built with solar generation and electric vehicle charging as standard. Homes are becoming more resilient as well as energy self-sufficient.

Software will play a crucial role in making our homes smarter and improving our energy habits. We won’t always remember to charge our car each night or to do it during the lowest tariff, but software will do that for us. Furthermore, there’s currently a six-to-seven-year payback period for solar panels – with smart technology that could be optimised further. Coupled with the rise of prosumerism – where households generate their own energy – we face the very real prospect of our homes achieving net zero within our lifetime.

There’s no denying the pandemic has taken its toll on humanity. However, our adaptability and resilience in the face of adversity, coupled with technology, has seeded shoots of green optimism in the plethora of positive outcomes that we could have never believed possible. This is a living example of our determination, and not the shifting circumstances around us, becoming the deciding factor for how our future unfolds.

Jai Thampi is SVP strategy & innovation with the Home and Distribution Division at Schneider Electric.

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