February 12 will mark the first day of 2021 on the Chinese Calendar, as we usher in the Year of the Ox. In the Chinese context, an Ox symbolized an animal of strength and is associated with harvests and fertility, and the Ox is regarded as an auspicious animal in Feng Shui. As we head into 2021, we’ve had a chance to reflect on the saying that the only thing that is constant is change, lessons reinforced by the global pandemic and natural disasters in some parts of world. But we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, with the early stages of vaccine rollouts happening as I write.
Looking back to 2020, there was another common theme that kept coming up with colleagues, friends and family. Staying connected really matters. Face to face meetings with customers, visiting relatives and enjoying afternoon tea with good friends were all activities I’d taken for granted. Fortunately, some of us are lucky enough to have a luxury our ancestors who faced other types of pandemics didn’t – mobile phones and the Internet.
In the spirit of reflection, here are some positive ways connectivity has impacted our lives and what might be possible in the future.
Big Data and AI
Countries are embracing Big Data and AI in an accelerated manner during the pandemic. For instance, South Korea has leveraged Big Data and AI to develop test kits for the virus. Also, contact tracing using these technologies have widely helped curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
Lunar New Year is the most important celebration in China; and the country is using new technologies like AI so that people can continue to travel during the Lunar New Year celebrations. Thermal scanners are installed at airports and train stations in the cities to facilitate temperature monitoring. With these technologies, China targets to safely deliver 407 million passenger trips during the Chun Yun. Visitors at public venues such as shopping malls, schools, museums and stadiums are also expected to produce a ‘health code’ via their smartphones before entering the premises. The health code which tracks individuals’ locations and movement, underscores China’s development in adopting big data analytics technologies.
The technology has also been tapped into by the healthcare industry. A study by researchers in the U.S. and China found AI correctly diagnosed COVID-19 in 68 percent of a sample of patients who had normal chest scans and had been classified as negative for COVID-19 by radiologists.
We expect these technologies to continue to evolve in other areas as countries globally tackle the challenges brought by the pandemic.
Rise of Connected Homes
Globally, service providers see a rise in bandwidth demand, mainly due to telecommuting. Amidst the world’s greatest remote working experiment, we are seeing more devices been connected to the home network. Initially, the trend was brought by online streaming via home-based learning or an increased cloud-based collaboration via meeting tools and document sharing. It then shifted to TV streaming to gaming, which increased the average number of connected devices per household. According to a survey by Nielsen investigation there was an increased consumption around home entertainment during the lockdowns.
In addition to this, according to a Google report, COVID-19 has led to the rise of smart home lifestyle such as health and wellness solutions to keep fit during and post lockdowns. The report also states that the pandemic has led to accelerated infrastructure developments to accelerate connected homes. For instance, we expect significant FTTH investments.
The value of connectivity extends beyond the home. Research firm Gartner, for instance, predicts that, 75 per cent of organizations will have deployed a multi-cloud or hybrid cloud model by this time. And this trend is only further accelerated during the pandemic. Today, an Australian with a Medicare card can now access cloud-based telehealth services where patients can receive the necessary consultation without physically visiting a medical facility. This service helps reduce the risk for healthcare providers due to a virtual interaction, should the patient test positive for COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Care Assistant aims to help patients identify if they are at risk, connect with an expert clinician or a member of their team and monitor health. All of this can be done from a patient’s phone.
Connectivity is a necessity
The good news is that the reliance on connectivity has encouraged organisations and businesses to accelerate technology review processes, ensuring they have robust - yet agile - tools and systems in place to respond to volatile environments. While we still face many uncertainties, one thing we could be sure of is that the Year of the Metal Ox will cast a spotlight on greater reliance on network connectivity as we march forth into a new year.
I hope the strength and luck of the Ox will see 2021 build a prosperous foundation for economic recovery and growth. Wishing all our readers good health and good luck!