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Why Innovation in Times of a Pandemic Is Inevitable

Innovation

Vikas Mittal 

Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, William Shakespeare once said. True to his saying, we’ve observed that every great Pandemic in history has led to new way of life and innovations. The Great Plague in Europe brought every job at par and paid as per skill, changing everything from society to modern medicine. The more recent SARS led to the acceleration of internet penetration in China, Hong Kong and gave birth to e-commerce as we know it today in Asia-pacific region.

“Necessity is the mother of invention” a famous English proverb is very relevant in today’s environment as Covid-19 or more commonly called Corona virus brought individuals, companies, governments and human race together to find new tools or methods to survive. It brought collective human intelligence to work for common greater good.

A few examples of innovations as a result of Coronavirus are:

Low cost toaster size ventilators or using scuba diving kits with 3D printed valve

Conversion of thousands of Indian railways coaches into isolation wards on wheels making it easier to reach the remotest part of India in hour of need

Full body protection suited developed by DRDO using adhesive used to build submarine

Repurposing sugar mills, distilleries to manufacture hand sanitizers

Robots are being used in countries like Taiwan, Singapore for sample collections, dispensing foods, and medicines in isolation wards

Geo-location mapped selfies is used effectively in South Korea along with electronic fencing based on a user’s cell phone location to ensure social distancing.

Impact it will have on workplaces will be immense as once world gets back to new normal, our teams will be more connected, have more empathy for our fellow workers and will have the attitude for getting things done no matter what the situation is.

This pandemic will bring a culture of innovation to the forefront as business of the future. Several companies are openly sharing their patents with competitors to accelerate our response to this pandemic such companies will be recognized by society and their business will flourish

Coronavirus will enable innovations which will change our way of life, for example

Communication–Humans need to communicate and express their emotions to communicate their message. With everyone working remote, I believe it will accelerate the acceptance and launch of services like hologram imaging-based meetings where people from all part of the globe would connect remotely but it will give an experience of in-person meeting

Online Delivery – Contactless delivery will become the new normal and usage of drones would accelerate for it and technology would advance to allow drones to fly long distance without disturbing traffic, handle more weight and advanced real time traffic management systems.

Robotics – It may appear fancy or out of a sci-fi movie but most businesses where human connect is not mandatory or regulatory would be replaced with robots in next 5 years and this pandemic will accelerate this adoption. So next time you go to a restaurant you would be ordering from a tablet on the table and your food will be delivered by a robot.

Healthcare – Pandemics are something in which every business sector suffers but healthcare is the only sector which benefits from it. This one would trigger innovation to enable rapid development of vaccines or medicine so that in future if such a pandemic occurs, we have systems in place to fight better.

Entertainment – One of the biggest beneficiaries of this pandemic have been content streaming service providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Alt Balaji to name a few. In very near future we will start having live concerts streamed online like a cricket match, new movies being launched on digital platforms which would force innovation on content delivery over internet even to countries with low speed, optimization of data packets transfer over internet.

Education: Pandemic like situations brings out weakness in a society in plain sight. Corona virus has exposed that human race right now to a large extent doesn’t have skills for survival, all of us have become hugely dependent on machines to do our work. Going forward an important element of curriculum can be life and survival skills to teach them not only the course structure would change but also new techniques, tools will have to be developed.

Every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. If a hiker gets lot in mountain, people coordinate a search. If an earthquake hits a city, people from all over the world lend a helping hand and sent essentials. This is an instinct found naturally in humans.

Corona virus will bring in culture of open innovation where new discovery of science will not be locked down by patents and humans will be more forthcoming to share learnings with others to make new innovations available to a larger population. We will survive and come out better than ever.

(The author is Global President Digital Assurance, Xebia and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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