Editor's comment: Will COVID-19 accelerate tech adoption curves?...

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 June 2020

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It's a small thing, but like many of you, I’ve had to resort to a lockdown haircut. Life, meanwhile, has changed enormously in a short space of time – and even when we finally begin to get back to ‘normal’, things will probably never be quite the same again. While worries about the economy persist, hopefully some things will also change for the better – and as ever, technology, usually created by engineers, will be a crucial enabler...

A version of this editorial was originally featured in the June 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Indeed, there are signs that technology might even emerge stronger from this unprecedented crisis. While new technologies typically follow traditional adoption curves, illustrated by the classical “bell curve”, life under lockdown is accelerating some of these curves. And while spending in some sectors is clearly impacted by shops, cafés, restaurants, pubs, gyms, theatres, cinemas, live music venues and other businesses being closed, naturally others are benefiting – some of these in the tech space. Apple’s latest results, for instance, showed strong growth and record quarters for its wearables and services divisions, helping offset slowing iPhone sales (in the face of disrupted manufacturing, shutdown retail operations and depressed consumer demand).

As society adjusts to this new normal, the largest ever ‘work from home’ study is underway, overriding many employers’ previous objections – and providing a boon to providers of collaborative working and online meeting tools (such as Zoom, Teams and Slack), not to mention broadband, cloud services and telecoms providers. And as more of us work from home, security is increasingly critical. Even with consumer spending curtailed in response to the current crisis, there could be a knock-on uplift in sales for tech including laptops and tablets, printers and scanners, headsets, wireless routers and the like – with corresponding benefits for device manufacturers and distributors of electronic components. Moreover, exhibition, conference and training providers are having to experiment with alternative online delivery options.

Outside of work, as we all seek alternative diversions at home to replace trips and meetings in public places, there are uplifts for streaming services like Netflix, as well as online meeting platforms like Zoom or Houseparty. Theatres and musicians are increasingly exploring online options for delivering and sharing content. Obviously, online grocery delivery services are seeing take-up accelerate, but other retailers are also having to figure out alternative channels – as are more restaurants, pubs and breweries. And that wearables uplift for Apple might be explained by more people exercising under lockdown restrictions, using smartwatches to measure and track their ‘quantified self’.

Meanwhile, remote healthcare provision is another emerging technology that is understandably seeing growing demand, as well as supply-side pressure. Virtual consultations and even diagnoses, as well as remote monitoring and tracking of patients, via wearable and connected health devices, are helping both facilitate access and take the pressure off healthcare facilities. And as the country’s schools, colleges and universities are closed, remote learning – and EdTech – is another adoption curve that is experiencing exponential growth (see this month’s STEM Matters column on p34 for more on this topic). 

Other emergent tech trends that could be kick-started are drones and autonomous vehicles. The UK has begun trials using drones to deliver medical supplies to frontline health workers battling the pandemic, while some police forces are increasingly deploying them as tools for monitoring and enforcement of lockdown rules. Demand for nascent autonomous ride services may grow as an alternative to traditional taxis or services like Uber, as people look to avoid public transport and reduce contact with unknown people – or as an option for autonomous home delivery, especially of food.

Too soon to say for sure, perhaps – but in a very challenging economic climate, there are some indications that the technology sector could benefit from a range of opportunities as we emerge from the current crisis...

EPDT June’s issue also contains features on Electromechanical technologies & Communications applications, plus EPDT’s regular Electronics Distribution supplement. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

Mark Gradwell
EPDT Editor


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