On December 30th 2019, a cluster of pneumonia cases was spotted in Wuhan, China on the radar of a Canadian start-up, BlueDot, an artificial intelligence platform. This was 9 days before the World Health Organisation announced to the world, the first case of COVID-19.
After establishing the presence of COVID-19, BlueDot went onto identify the cities where the virus would spread by cross-examining the global airline ticketing data, in particular the travels in and out of Wuhan. Out of this analysis, BlueDot identified the following cities: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Phuket and Singapore. These were all cities that had the first cases of COVID-19 outside of China.
The success of BlueDot shows that not only is the current pandemic causing significant disruption in our lives but also is accelerating a huge amount of trends that were present in society. In this article, we will be identifying three of these trends.
In response to public health advice, many households and customers in their desire to maintain “social distancing” (which will be the expression of the year in the Oxford Dictionary) have opted to pay using contactless cards rather than cash.
A recent report by Links, the owner of UK’s largest network of ATMs, showed that cash use in the UK economy has reduced by 50% during the pandemic. Likewise, UK Finance announced that on the 1st April, the spending limit on UK contactless payments will increase from £30 to £45.
Mastercard has said that 75% of its European transactions are now contactless. In Europe, 29 countries including UK, Ireland, Estonia and Poland have all raised the limits on contactless payments. Meanwhile, countries such as Netherlands and Greece have temporarily raised the limit on contactless payments in order to help people shop easily during this time.
With many households and employees working from home, there has been concern from government officials about a rise in cyberattacks. Fears that came to fore when on March 23rd, the World Health Organisation suffered an unsuccessful cyber hack. Hackers set up a malicious site, replicating the WHO’s internal email system in an attempt to gain passwords from staffers. Despite their unsuccessful attempt there is a big concern about hackers exploiting this current situation.
The pandemic has changed the nature of work as all companies are now working remotely, following the trend set by technology companies. In the short-term, apps such as Zoom are seeing a huge surge in demand and enjoying a rise in the stock market but there are more fundamental questions in the longer term. For example, will companies employ hot-desking, whereby employees only come into the office when needed? Likewise, the nature of employee-to employer training may change as well, with many employers looking to use technology to improve productivity. For example, a recent survey showed that 49% of employers are considering using Virtual Reality (VR) for employee training and 20% of employers are considering VR for office meetings too.
While the fallout from the pandemic continues, there will be many more shifts and turns in the continuing drama. One thing is for sure, our way of working and living will not be the same again.