Resident columnist ‘Gadget Gavin’ Wheeldon, CEO, Purple

As the world continues to fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve turned to technology for communication, work, productivity… pretty much everything. In doing so, we’ve accelerated the growth of many tech trends that were already in place. 

Remote work and virtual events have become the ‘new normal’. Virus-monitoring Big Data technologies that were perhaps only familiar to a fringe tech community are now being used almost everywhere. 

With COVID cases on the rise again, it looks like these changes are here to stay. 

Data science and analytics 

Data is arguably the most vital component for many businesses, organisations and public services. 

Health monitoring AI platform BlueDot beat both the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the punch, warning about the COVID-19 spread in early January, a whole nine days before the WHO released a statement. 

BlueDot uses an AI-driven algorithm that scours foreign-language news reports, animal and plant disease networks, and official proclamationsIt then gives advanced warning to users to avoid danger zones like Wuhan. It correctly predicted the path of transmission across several cities. 

Similarly Purple, my UK-based data analytics company, collaborated with companies and organisations such as the Greater London Authority and HSBC Markets to track the impact of coronavirus on footfall across all verticals. We used over 22 billion data points to accurately collect smart device data. 

Contactless everything 

COVID-19 has changed the way we think about physical contact with people, objects and certain environments. 

Social distancing is limiting physical contact and changing the way we interact with one another. Many stores now only take contactless card payments while deliveries often don’t require signatures, just photosWith coronavirus numbers back on the rise, there is a high likelihood that these measures will be in place at least until a vaccine is discovered. 

There is already a significant drive towards making everything contactless in almost every possible vertical. It’s likely that peripheral devices will move with a single person in offices to prevent contamination from connecting wires and touching devices. They will be wireless, via Bluetooth, wherever possible. 

NFC technology use will rise in an effort to reduce unnecessary touching of buttons, for example in door operation. Voice controls will also be used to limit proximity. 

Blockchain technology 

Using blockchain technology, we can share any transaction or information, in real-time, between relevant parties and users in the chain, in a secure and unchangeable way. 

In the future blockchain is likely to be used to communicate data in real-time about any new infectious disease. For example the WHO, national health ministries and perhaps even relevant hospitals could be connected, sharing real-time information, about any new infectious disease, allowing the world to react in a more effective and timely manner. 

Travel restrictions could have been implemented sooner, quarantining policies set and social distancing implemented faster. The pandemic could potentially have been contained in some countries. 

It’s important that the world takes a hard look at the reporting infrastructure available for communicable diseases – and takes action to implement more advanced, secure and accessible technologies.