The impact of the coronavirus is far reaching: From millions losing jobs everyday, to the stock market crashing, to automobile OEMs closing plants, self-driving cars stopping tests and smartphone sales deteriorating. Even the semiconductor market is expected to take a major hit this year as well.
Yet, some technology is thriving during the outbreak and either helping to fight the pandemic or helping to get people through sheltering in place.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already extremely important in all aspects of the electronics value chain. However, during the outbreak of COVID-19, AI tools are being used to help detect the virus, diagnose its evolution, track its geographical footprint, project its future and even predict its potential protein structure to help find a vaccine, according to new analysis from ABI Research.
While there is no single drug developed to combat the virus yet, new drug discovery, development and testing will be necessary. AI tools from companies such as Google DeepMind, Graphen and AI chipsets from vendors like Intel and Nvidia will help to accelerate this discovery and testing in order to help combat the pandemic, ABI said.
In the long term, the healthcare industry will need to learn from the current pandemic situation and anticipate universal programs and frameworks to better manage future pandemics using AI as a core technology for these initiatives.
AI spending in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is expected to increase from $463 million in 2019 to more than $2 billion by 2025, according to ABI. However, given the significant impact of COVID-19, it is highly likely that AI spending could increase even more as the healthcare industry looks to get ahead of future viruses or pandemics.
Big data, big tracking
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy, simultaneously causing panic and resulting in misinformation and lack of tangible data to determine actual risks. However, big data can help mitigate disinformation as shown by South Korea, which conducted an information campaign, revealing the average mortality rates to ease public sentiment. Additionally, AI can help current IT systems improve detection, tracking and analysis in times of outbreaks.
In the short term, big data can be useful for helping those already affected by COVID-19. South Korea has been encouraging developers to create smart inventory systems using big data to assess the supply/shortage of masks, medication and other medical supplies.
Longer term, big data could be used for remote monitoring such as what Taiwan demonstrated using technology to mitigate the community spread as the country uses temperature monitors in airports and train stations as well as other public spaces. These temperature monitors were previously installed in 2003 after the SARS outbreak, ABI said. After the 2020 outbreak, big data is expected to power remote monitoring systems and expand stateless processing technology as well as expand IoT toward wider sectors.
ABI forecasts that revenue for IoT data and analytics services grew to $23.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow to $118.4 billion by 2026. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 could drive the data-as-a-service toward higher financial indictors increasing adoption.
Smart home in place
The public has widely been told to “shelter in place” during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing people to spend more time in their homes, limit travel and avoid public gatherings. Because of this, the home has become the primary source of entertainment and news, which lines up perfectly for the uses of smart home devices.
ABI Research said the value placed on comfort, ease and simplicity in the home will drive increased smart home interest and engagement. While voice-enabled devices such as the Amazon Alexa and Google Home have made significant strides in the home, the push to avoid commonly touched surfaces around the home may lead to greater adoption of smart locks and smart doorbells for deliveries to monitor when someone drops off packages, food or groceries.
Longer term, as new routines in the home become the new normal, smart home devices will help improve these day-to-day routines and minimize contact with shared surfaces. There could also be a role for smart home monitoring and remote health monitoring with features such as collecting personal health data points, environmental data and engagement for smart city health management.
Additionally, a greater emphasis on online shopping and delivery will also drive smart home device adoption to have goods delivered securely, the company said.
Working at home boosts wireless activity
With the coronavirus forcing millions of employees to work remotely, companies have taken proactive steps to protect the workforce by promoting video conferencing as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. Schools and universities are also moving to online classes and shifting to remote learning. Additionally, with people spending more time at home using digital subscription entertainment services and online deliveries, the internet is being used for almost everything.
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and wireless connectivity are being increasingly strained with many users finding existing infrastructure inadequate or incapable of supporting this uptick in usage due to insufficient bandwidth or outdated equipment. In the short term, companies will look to help employees upgrade networks as well as connect to company VPNs at the same time in order to maintain productivity.
In the long run, ABI Research believes the coronavirus outbreak could be a testbed for more flexible and remote working, allowing companies to shift resources away from conference-centric approaches toward online and virtual marketing tools, particularly as concerns grow over the impact of climate change. The pandemic could lead to a reassessment of how many modern workplaces and working relationships are structured, reducing the impact of long commutes and travel. A more flexible working and remote collaboration could lead to improved employee satisfaction and improved work-life balance.
As a result, further investment is likely to support home broadband infrastructure and high-speed Wi-Fi. As such, organizations will need to open additional spectrums such as 6 gigahertz to ensure that the capacity of Wi-Fi networks can meet this increase in demand for video, collaborative tools and other data heavy traffic.