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Marching into a contactless world

Nikhil Rajpal / The Economic Times of India Share:
People wait for their turn to buy medicine in the circles marked on the ground outside a pharmacy in Agartala, India's northeast state of Tripura, on March 28, 2020. (Str/Xinhua)

We are facing an unprecedented situation. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in more ways than one. With social distancing becoming the norm, the way we work, live and socially interact has changed. While India is currently in lockdown, things are not going to go back to normal quickly once restrictions are lifted. This essentially means we need to find a contactless way of existing and flourishing in the foreseeable future. So how will it be possible? Technology will be pivotal in helping us cope and adapt.

In fact, it will be the key catalyst in creating a contactless world. In the past few months, the importance of technology solutions has come to the forefront. Businesses are operating remotely from home, bills are being paid digitally, grocery shopping is being done online, banking transactions have moved online, social interactions are being done via video chats and more.

With low probability of a vaccine emerging quickly, this is going to be the way of life going forward. Technology is going to touch every aspect of our being. Not only will we see faster adoption

of disruptive solutions already available, but this pandemic is also going to fast-track innovations that will enable a contactless world. We envision work and our personal space is going to radically transform. Here’s how. Remote technologies, contactless pathways and

new workplace design. The work ecosystem will witness a sea change. While most offices have already moved temporarily to a “work from home” model, it will soon become commonplace – not only for startups and small and medium enterprises but also for large organisations that have earlier shied from it. We are already seeing traction in this direction. TCS, for example, is looking at getting 75 percent of its employees to work from home over the next few years. This will mean a fundamental rethink of how work is done and how teams collaborate. This will, in turn, create a push towards technology solutions that enable remote collaboration. For employees who are required to be physically present in the office, new compliance regulations will be put in place to ensure they maintain distance. Workplace design will change to adapt to social distancing norms. There will be initiatives, such as markings in elevators to stand apart, far-spaced benches in cafeterias, pedal-operated water and sanitiser dispensers, etc. Mobile technologies will come into play to track employee movements, raise an alert if social distancing norms are violated and gain access to doors and elevators, among other things.

A few key trends in the workplace will be growth in automation and the emergence of contactless pathways. These would help employees enter the office without touching the building or unintentionally bumping into each other within the premises. We will see businesses achieving this with motion sensors, facial recognition, etc. Days of shrugging off a cold and coming to work are over. Companies will set up touchless self-service health monitoring kiosks which will scan employees before granting entry to ensure their safety and those around them.

Not only will home become the new office, but there will also be wide-spread adoption of home automation technologies. As people get used to more and more contactless interaction outside the home, they will expect the same “in-home”. A study by Statista predicts the Indian smart home market will touch $6 billion by 2022, double the estimation of $3 billion in 2020.This essentially means people will have access to intuitive technologies and virtual voice assistants which can remind them about daily chores, plan their day and operate their appliances.

They will be able to enjoy personalised services – from switching on the geyser, ordering groceries from their shopping cart, to receiving digital payment reminders. Contactless home security will be one of the main developments we will see in Indian homes. Smart cameras, internet-connected doorbells that show who is at the door via a smartphone, keyless doors with face-recognition-based smart locks, voice-controlled alarm systems and smoke sensors will enhance security like never before.

Another interesting development to watch out for is the growing popularity of the Internet of Things (IoT) wearables. We will see more and more consumers depending on wearables such as smart bands to monitor body parameters such as temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels, count their steps and generally build their immunity.

These will also alert people to respect social distancing norms and adhere to health compliance. These technology disruptions would have happened irrespective of our current situation, but their adoption would have been slower.

The writer, Nikhil Rajpal, is CEO of Hero Electronix. This was first published in The Economic Times of India

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