Futurist Predictions are Coming True as COVID Pushes us Into High-Tech Living – Hope 103.2

Futurist Predictions are Coming True as COVID Pushes us Into High-Tech Living

Some of the biggest technological innovations in history occurred during wars and struggles of history, and the same is appearing true of COVID.

By Michael McQueenMonday 7 Sep 2020Trending

War or peacetime, pandemic or no pandemic, there’s one thing that’s always certain: the future is coming.

No matter the success of the standards and systems of the past, disruption is inevitable – and it is in crises that the future often ‘arrives’. Think back to some of the biggest technological innovations of the past and you will find yourself in the greatest wars and struggles of history.

COVID is no different. The past few months have seen the future that we knew was awaiting us, arrive far ahead of schedule – bringing with it the innovations and solutions that we were promised in a decade.

One key way that COVID has brought the future to the present, is in how it is ushering in the online world more dramatically than ever before. Remote work, online schooling and digital gatherings have meant the most in-person parts of our lives have been pushed into the online world, and we have all been forced to see that the online world does actually work as well as promised.

Beyond simple work and social life, however, COVID has also pushed banking and retail online far ahead of schedule. While success rates of the physical retail world have been dwindling steadily for years and digital options for banking and shopping have been made much more prevalent, full immersion in the online world has remained a thing of the future… until now.

Digital Transactions Now the Norm

person holding credit card at computer

COVID has understandably brought about an unprecedented need for online options for groceries and other retail services. With lockdown measures in place and the general fear of infection being widely felt, the incentive to conduct both purchases and transactions online is great. Handling money and interacting with physical stores simply poses too great a risk for many people. causing them to opt for cashless transactions.

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Existing online businesses and e-commerce options have seen extreme leaps in sales, while hybrid services struggled to keep up with the increase in online demand. One online grocery store in New York jumped 60 percent in online activity in March 2020 compared to March 2019[1].

I’m sure many of us would have experienced, at some point this year, the effect of these increases in demand – with the delays in deliveries being almost guaranteed with most online purchases.

The clothing retailer, Zara, is among those accelerating their online strategies and fully embracing the digital age. Despite already owning multiple online clothing giants, Zara’s parent company, Inditex, plans to have 25 percent of its sales occurring online by 2022[2].

Online shopping has already been growing for years with brands like ASOS and The Iconic conducting their business online for a wide market – but in this pandemic, the transition has accelerated.

ATMS Closing, Banking Moving More Online

The banking sector, too, is speeding up its move to the web, with digital payments increasing since the start of COVID. Many businesses and individuals have opted out of cash due to health concerns, online shopping has increased, and as a result, many ATMs and bank branches have closed as banks shift their resources online[4].

ATM with out of use notice on screen due to social distancing

Leaders within the Big 4 Banks knew the change was coming – just not so soon.

“Permanent change… has just been made in 10 weeks. It would have taken us another 5 years,” says Ross McEwan, the CEO of NAB[5].

Some Longing for the Old Days

Many remain sceptical, however, and believe these changes to retail and banking will be undone by a return to ‘normal’ life. Some feel the demand for physical stores for items like furniture and decoration, will continue post-COVID.

In banking, some pose warnings of the potential pitfalls of such a rapid online transition[6]. With projections including the existing number of ATMs in Australia halving because of the impact of the pandemic, there are fears for those customers, such as the elderly or disadvantaged, who will be left behind by the dramatic changes.

For most though, these changes are here to stay, bringing greater convenience, flexibility and security. Consumers and businesses would do well to embrace the opportunities these changes have brought, regardless of how quickly and unexpectedly they’ve arrived.

girl holding robot's hand on a street

The Accelaration of AR and AI

Along with lockdowns, shopping frenzies and social distancing, COVID has brought the technologies that we once reserved for ‘years down the track’, right to our doorstep. While Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have slowly but surely been infiltrating our daily lives in recent years, COVID has accelerated this to an unprecedented extent.

Since AR arrived on the scene, most people have thought of it merely as an entertaining novelty, serving no further purpose than enhancing games and giving a fright to unsuspecting individuals who try the goggles out. However, with the travel bans and distancing measures of COVID making many work interactions impossible, AR has provided a COVID-safe and shockingly futuristic way of conducting work.[7]

Global semiconductor manufacturer, Intel, faced just this problem when one of their top engineers could not be flown in to solve a pressing manufacturing issue. Donning his AR goggles, he was able to examine the issue up close and remotely give repair instructions to engineers.[8] Volkswagen did the same in its repair processes when experts were stranded, using AR to bring the expert, technician and issue together.

Schools of the Future

Schools around the world are also having to alter systems that once served them well for a world that nobody anticipated. Artificial Intelligence is helping them do it.

a classroom

One school in Las Vegas, and many throughout China, are using AI to monitor students as they enter, checking their temperature using thermal technology to prevent potentially infected people from entering. Conveniently, this technology uses its facial recognition capabilities to take attendance.[10]

Social distancing is also measured using AI in schools as it monitors areas with high levels of traffic. [11]

In some cases, wearable surveillance technology is on offer, measuring distancing and monitoring contact and encouraging 1.5m or 6 feet for all those involved. One of these wearable technologies is being offered at a university in Michigan, and has been labelled the ‘BioButton’, pinned to the chest and measuring the vital signs of the wearer.[12]

Unsurprisingly, privacy concerns have been raised surrounding this surveillance technology, and both businesses and individuals are having to weigh up two different kinds of security: privacy and health.

AI for Cleanliness of Hotels

The hotel industry, which has taken a huge hit with the collapse of travel, has been using AI too, to enhance safety measures for hotel guests. With some hotel horror stories circulating in the media, and with COVID making germaphobes of us all, perhaps the most strategic move hotels can make is to ease the concerns of customers in terms of hotel cleanliness.[13]

hotel bed and light

Guests in many hotels can now use voice activated technology to make calls or control the lighting and TV – avoiding the need to touch phones and remote controls, which are notorious for spreading germs.[14]

At MGM Resorts International hotels, guests can check in, pay and access their room key all through a mobile app, rather than interact with staff. .[15]

And in the food industry, the chain bakery store, Panera Bread, has introduced a curbside service in an attempt to encourage sales, by taking away the threat of the in-store queues.[16] Customers place an order through an app, register their vehicle, and can use geocaching technology or simply pres ‘I’m Here’, so that an employee can deliver their order to their car. The company is now attributing 65 percent of its revenue to these digital sales. It’s clear that using this technology in everyday processes is a key to survival for the hospitality and food industries.[17]

In the world of customer service across industries like banking, healthcare and retail, Artificial Intelligence is yet again proving necessary for ongoing survival. Online ‘chatbots’ were already becoming part of our new normal – COVID has seen that new normal arrive.[18]

This is an abridged version of an article titled “The Future is Arriving Ahead of Time, Thanks to COVID: Part 1”, published by Michael McQueen. About the Author: Michael is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker. Feature image: Photo by Tom Parkes on Unsplash.

  1. CBInsights, ‘The Post-Covid World,’ CBInsights, 24 August.
  2. Ryan, C 2020, ‘Zara’s Owner Bets Crisis Will Speed Up Fashion’s Big Trend,’ The Wall Street Journal, 24 August.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Yeates, C 2020, ‘COVID speeds up digital banking revolution in ‘10 weeks not 5 years’’, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August.
  5. Ibid.
  6. CBInsights, ‘The Post-Covid World,’ CBInsights, 24 August.
  7. Fitch, A 2020, ‘Coronavirus Makes AR’s Potential a Reality for Chip Makers,’ The Wall Street Journal, 31 August.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Heilweil, R 2020, ‘The dystopian tech that companies are selling to help schools reopen sooner,’ Vox, 31 August.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Castellanos, S 2020, ‘Hospitality Industry Turns to Tech to Lure Guests Back,’ The Wall Street Journal, 31 August.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Lalley, H 2020, ‘Panera Adds Geocaching to Curbside Pickup,’ Restaurant Business, 31 August.
  17. Ibid.
  18. CBInsights, ‘The Post-Covid World,’ CBInsights, 24 August.