By Jay Shedd
Face to face
The remote working days may be over, but technological advances that made it possible are here to stay
My team and I have returned to working in the office for quite some time now. While on the surface it may seem the same as before the pandemic, I do notice a difference. Of course, a big change is that we do have more health and safety protocols in place, such as wearing masks at all times, checking our temperature before entering the building, washing hands and more sanitizing and cleaning.
There’s also more mindfulness of leveraging the technology available to us to streamline services and operations and extend those solutions to our clients.
In October last year, I wrote that Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation. It appears that this momentum has slowed but will carry on. The lockdowns forced us to adopt working remotely, online services and other technologies.
Though the pandemic has taught us that technology can keep us connected and keep our businesses running at a distance, as social creatures we desire in-person interactions. We will return to work, school and leisure activities, but with a heightened concern about disease transmission. Here is where technology can swoop in once again and support our endeavors. As more people get vaccinated and businesses and schools return to pre-Covid levels of operation, technology will be a crucial component of keeping us healthy and safe.
Some of what may have started as temporary solutions during the pandemic may remain part of our daily lives, such as the use of digital menus and receipts or coupons sent via email or some virtual meetings and events.
At the same time, new solutions will be created to address health and safety concerns for in-person interactions at schools, workplaces entertainment and other events and while traveling.
First, the availability of online services will continue to increase. During the pandemic, we saw many banks, businesses and government entities upgrade their websites and either upgrade their apps or launch apps for the first time. I predict that these services will become more robust and that hybrid services will become more commonplace.
With hybrid services, customers might book appointments and fill out documents or even pay online, then visit the facility to simply sign documents or pick up items.
The added outcome to online services is improved efficiencies. This is to the advantage of the individual, who will enjoy more conveniences.
To prepare for the shift to online services and technologies that rely on the internet, businesses and individuals would be wise to learn more about cybersecurity and how to protect their data. No doubt cybersecurity will continue to improve, as it must, and as technology users it should always b top of mind.
Next, touchless technology will expand and improve. We could see more self-service checkouts at grocery stores and self-service check-ins at airports where passengers’ identities are verified with their smartphone to decrease the amount of interaction between airport staff and travelers. This is also an opportunity for more appliances that are controlled by voice or smartphone apps – such as smart coffee machines in the break room – to enter everyday life.
The use of mobile money, such as Google Pay or Apple Pay, may increase as both customers and businesses strive to prevent the spread of germs via cash.
In addition, there will be an emphasis on perfecting and implementing technology for health. Health monitoring apps and wearables will help address health concerns before entering public spaces, such as contact-tracing and health apps that work with devices to record temperature, symptoms and more.
They can even be used to screen individuals before entering a facility or clocking into work.
Telehealth will be more widely adopted so individuals can contact a doctor from home instead of going to the clinic. This will protect any patients who must visit the clinic for procedures.
As always, technology will continue to be our link to timely and accurate information. During the pandemic, we all flocked online for the most recent news and announcements from health officials. Such immediate access to information has and will help people make informed decisions about where to go and what to do.
On Guam and other tourism-dependent islands in the region, these technologies— in addition to the Guam safe certification and Safe Travels stamp — will absolutely be a part of welcoming visitors back safely.
Online and digital services, mobile money and other touchless technology and contact tracing apps have already been adopted by many other countries. Implementing them here can alleviate any reservations from travelers.
Most importantly, technology will be used to better handle future crises. Systems could be modernized to better identify and respond to emerging threats. I believe artificial intelligence will be applied to sift through data to find patterns and make accurate predictions.
While the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to blend people and technology to create a new dynamic, we must be mindful of how to make these changes sustainable. Are we going to simply live in a different version of the pre-pandemic world enhanced by technology, or are we going to really use technology to forge ahead to create a truly advanced society and bring about permanent and beneficial change?
The pandemic may have accelerated our digital transformation, but it is up to the innovators and even us average Joes, to keep using technology in our daily lives to keep the community healthy and safe as we return to in-person interactions and as we plan for the future.
Jay R. Shedd is Chief Marketing Officer at IT&E, the largest wireless service and sales provider in Guam and the Marianas. He has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.