While bidding adieu to 2019, who would have thought that the reel life situation shown in the movie ‘Contagion’ would become real life and we would be fighting a pandemic of this scale. Masks, gloves, sanitizers, and social distancing have become the new normal. Lockdowns across regions, countries, cities have led to disruption in the regular working models leading to wide-scale adoption of digital technologies for business continuity. Digital will become an even greater force that will drive the future workforce and businesses across all industry segments.

Now imagine a 3D holographic model of you is working and interacting in real-time with your colleagues sitting many continents away. Yes, this is not a scene from a Sci-Fi flick but going to be a reality in the not too distant future. The COVID-19 pandemic has validated the importance of digital readiness, which allows business and life to continue as usual. Here are some of the tech trends that are emerging and will see a massive demand and adoption as we look at the future post the crisis. Some of the tech trends did exist before the pandemic; however, the degree of their implementation low due to the lack of a strong business case.

Remote Virtual working

Do you have a digitally mature workforce to offer customized products and services that adapt to the continually changing realities? If not, you must because the future of work is going to change with virtual working becoming the new normal. It is going to go a long way in business continuity of many enterprises when social distancing and working remotely is going to be a necessity. The findings of a Microsoft report suggest that the overall minutes spent on in meetings by all Teams users hit 2.7 billion minutes on March 31, triple the 900 million minutes on March 19. This is the future we are talking about when such tools will accelerate remote working and collaboration.

The technologies enabling remote working such as VPNs, VoIPs, virtual meetings, cloud technology, AR/MR, collaboration tools will grow to the benefit. The new facial recognition technologies that enable a person to appear before a virtual background is helping preserve the privacy of the home and enhancing remote working experiences. Enterprises are exploring more strategic advantages of the work from a home model, chief of them being cost containment of office space.

The future in virtual working would be a paradigm shift through powerful, cutting-edge technology like Holoportation. This next big tech can enhance the idea and experience of remote working. Something that is right out of a Sci-Fi movie and very interesting. Holoportation is a type of 3D capture technology that allows high-quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted anywhere in the world in real-time. When combined with mixed reality displays such as HoloLens, this technology allows users to see, hear, and interact with remote participants in 3D as if they are present in the same physical space. Communicating and interacting with remote users becomes as natural as face-to-face communication. Holoportation is a clever hybrid between the worlds of VR and AR. The technology promises to change “the way work gets done” by creating interactive holograms. Holoportation is aimed at the workplace market to bring remote teams together.

Digital Smart Manufacturing

As we pass the pandemic, the entire digital manufacturing will see a new accelerated focus because of the limitations in manufacturing supply chains that are faced today. Manufacturers are exploring digital threads that may be part of their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) implementation. Digital Thread provides a single reference point for design, engineering, and manufacturing, ensuring they act in concert. Many companies have invested quite a bit in it, but they have not realized the full business potential. However, with disruptions caused by the pandemic leading to the complete shutdown of factories, OEMs will accelerate that for the future to reduce dependencies as well as to have better control of their supply chains.

Another critical shift in manufacturing would in large companies that will be driving the supply chains themselves. Today their operations are hampered because their supply chain is not in their control. Suppliers are moving the supply chains, and this has put them in jeopardy now because they are not able to control the outcomes. Industrial IoT will play a big part and will develop as an investment trend. Most companies that have attempted enterprise-wide digital transformation have more-or-less failed to capture the full business opportunities available from new technologies. When the pandemic resolves, production facilities will need to move quickly to respond to new sources of supply, as well as shifting customer demand. As a result, digital capabilities/enabling technologies are going to be critical to providing flexibility and resilience for manufacturers to operate in unfamiliar environments.

The automotive sector, too, is expected to see a paradigm shift with firms accelerating the adoption of digital technologies in manufacturing following concerns over health and safety management on the shop-floor. A recent EY report suggests that automobile companies will now have to rebuild and reinvent a new ecosystem to accommodate the new normal that is likely to emerge. The report also states that due to growing apprehensions during the lockdown, workmen are refraining from attending work. Some shop floors have been left deserted. Further, due to large scale migration of labour across India, availability and redeployment of contract labour post lockdown is a major concern.

The convergence of enabling technologies like additive manufacturing, Collaborative robotics, IIOT, AI in manufacturing, Machine condition monitoring, Industrial machine vision, Industrial cyber security, Digital twin will transform every link in the manufacturing value chain. The impact of being able to collaborate between Design, Digital Manufacturing, and Operations will prove to be very beneficial in the near future. It is indicated that post-COVID-19, the global smart manufacturing market size is estimated to grow from USD 181.3 billion in 2020 and projected to reach USD 220.4 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of 4.0%.

AI-based tools for Cost Optimization

The SARS outbreak of 2003 is often credited to give rise to e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and JD.com. Companies such as American Express and Starbucks pivoted during the global financial crisis of 2008−2009 to digital operating models that enabled them to thrive and dramatically increase shareholder value.

Covid-19 pandemic forced lockdowns, and remote working environment is challenging the conventions in some of the organization functions. One such example is the on boarding of new hires in the organization. Today, candidates are being on boarded virtually using digital technologies like video conferencing, digitally signed documentation, and enabling company access virtually. This will make organizations re-think about human personnel needs for on boarding support in HR departments.

The other example would be recruitment. Already organizations have been using AI-based tools for searching and shortlisting of candidate profiles matching their demand requirements. Usage of these tools will be accelerated going forward. The entire pre-screening process of candidate profiles, background checks, scheduling of panellists time, and post-interview closure could be accomplished using AI-based hiring tools. This will help in saving cost on recruitment personnel requirements for the HR departments in the organization.

Similar trends would be seen in other departments like finance, legal, operations, etc., wherein more RPA and AI-based tools will help automate functions, thus, optimizing the cost requirements of these departments going forward.

Digital Learning/e-Learning

The concept of distance/ e-learning has been in prevalence for many years, but the surge in demand for online classes has happened post the pandemic has hit leading to shutting down of schools and colleges around the world. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom; this has led to the rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. We are still to learn whether the adoption of online learning will continue post-COVID, and how such a shift would impact the worldwide education market. However, in the present times, there is a massive surge in the usage of – language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software.

Few edtech companies like Singapore based Lark, an internal tool, have attempted to be a one-stop-shop for teachers and students with unlimited video conferencing time, auto-translation capabilities, real-time co-editing of project work, and smart calendar scheduling, amongst other features. Digital learning comes with specific challenges, primarily the availability of the Internet and the effectiveness of the learning method.

E-learning/Digital learning too is pushing boundaries with technologies like AR (Example visual content delivery in 3D for simplifying complex theories), AI (Example: personalized learning), cloud computing, and more.

What do you think will become the new normal resulting in new tech trends driving the future of businesses across the globe? Share those innovative, thought-provoking ideas and views.

Written by Piyush Jain

on 20 May 2020

Delivery Head - Software and Digital Services.