Greater Reliance on Connectivity for a Connected Future

By Jordan Zhu, Director, Service Provider, Southeast Asia, CommScope

As the economy gradually picks up in 2021, we have learnt from the extraordinary circumstances of the past year that the only constant is change. Thankfully, with the early stages of vaccine rollouts taking place across various countries, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

A key lesson that 2020 taught us was, staying connected really matters, more so to enable economic or business recovery. Already, Singapore has taken a first mover approach to bounce back from COVID-19 by launching Connect@Changi, which is the world’s first bubble facility. With this facility accompanied by strict measures in place, people can travel to Singapore for business without having to quarantine. We can expect to see more of such ways to work around the pandemic in the short term.

Let’s look at how other countries are also embracing technologies enabled by greater connectivity during the pandemic.

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. Additionally, contact tracing using these technologies have widely helped Korea curb the spread of the virus.

Over in China, the country used AI to enable people to continue traveling during Lunar New Year. Connected smart thermal scanners had been installed at airports and train stations in most Chinese cities to facilitate temperature monitoring for hundreds of millions travelling during the festivities. During this period, visitors to public venues such as shopping malls, museums and stadiums were also expected to produce a ‘health code’ via smartphones before entering the premises.

Big Data and AI have also been pivotal technologies for the healthcare industry to address the still-ongoing pandemic. A study by researchers (Mei, X., Lee, HC., Diao, Ky. et al.) 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, telecommunication companies see a rise in bandwidth demand, mainly due to telecommuting. Amidst the world’s greatest remote working experiment, we are seeing more devices being 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.

Google has also reported that the pandemic has driven increased adoption of smart home wellness technology, such as health and wellness wearables and smartphone apps to keep fit during and after 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.

Cloud-based Healthcare

The value of connectivity also extends beyond the home. Gartner Research, for instance, has predicted previously that 75 percent of organizations will have deployed multi-cloud or hybrid cloud models for the business by 2020. We expect that the trend has only been further accelerated by the pandemic. For example, an Australian citizen issued with a Medicare card today can now access cloud-based telehealth services seamlessly, where the necessary consultation services can be provided in real-time without physically visiting a medical facility. Such services have helped to reduce the infection risk from in-person contact for healthcare providers.

Similarly, in other parts of the world, cloud-empowered solutions like the COVID-19 Care Assistant developed by telehealth disrupter Babylon Health, are helping patients identify if they are at risk of infection and quickly connect with an expert clinician, all enabled from the person’s personal mobile device.

Connectivity is a necessity

On a positive note, the reliance on connectivity has encouraged organizations and businesses to accelerate technology review processes, ensuring they have robust – yet agile – tools and systems in place to respond to volatile environments. Governments are also looking to accelerate adoption of emerging technologies such as 5G connectivity to help their economies adapt, innovate and scale.

As countries continue to roll out digital transformation initiatives, we are seeing how connectivity has shaped the way people live and work. From facial recognition technologies to public health monitoring systems that enable early detection of possible viral outbreaks, connectivity lays the groundwork for what might be possible in a better-connected future.