Technology & Coronavirus: Changing The Way We Work | ITEK
Technology is coming to the rescue in a major way for workers and school kids whose lives have been disrupted by the Coronavirus. With millions of school-aged children at home various tech applications from Zoom video conferencing to Google Classroom and Google Meet, plus other online Apps, are playing a pivotal role in keeping schools functioning online.
Technology has transformed the workplace in the last 20 years. Similar global mass closures just a decade ago would have led to far more severe shutdowns in economic productivity, but today the world is enjoying an unprecedented level of interconnectivity.
Many of the companies owned by the HAN-GINS tech-themed ETFs are at the forefront of cushioning the economic impact of the Coronavirus, allowing many businesses and enterprises to continue to function. These include a wide variety of technology and healthcare innovations – from cloud computing, social media, future cars and gene therapy to robotics, automation, medical devices and wearables.
These disruptive technologies are already changing the dynamic of how work and services are performed. Increasingly more workers will be able to perform their duties remotely. The Coronavirus may speed up already rapid changes giving many office workers more flexibility and opportunity to work remotely.
As companies upgrade their remote links and improve virtual meetings, it is likely such services will remain in place well after this crisis, with far-reaching consequences for work/life balance.
Zoom, in response to the widespread recent school closures, is providing free basic accounts for schools in 16 countries. A wide variety of education apps and mobile technology is ensuring millions of pupils are able to remain in direct communication with teachers and access new homework or tasks. My daughter is currently completing some demanding virtual lab testing – as part of a Los Angeles high school science class.
Cloud and online-based technology ensure that most workers can easily access their office computers remotely – via apps like LogMeIn, Dropbox and many others. The use of cloud technology, means enterprises now require fewer IT staff to be physically present on their premises, as companies increasingly use remote servers and related third-party-provided IT functions.
Cloud infrastructure has spread globally – via the likes of giants Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud. This is ensuring that cloud-based software services (SaaS) run by the likes of SAP, Salesforce and Oracle are becoming increasingly accessible globally – including for many smaller enterprises.
The explosion in social media ensures friends, families and work colleagues can remain in touch easily. Key discoveries, projects or challenges are now communicated at an instant globally – often free of charge. It also allows for social distancing without the threat of people feeling completely cutoff. Online deliveries of food (Deliveroo, Costco, Uber Eats) – makes life much easier today during such a pandemic.
In the medical space, clearly telemedicine, robots, chatbots, AI diagnostic machines and wearables are playing an ever-increasing role in assisting healthcare professionals - and reducing the need for human contact. This will help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus by ensuring fewer patients need to physically visit hospitals during this pandemic. Meanwhile the advancement in gene sequencing and editing has led to numerous biotech and genomics companies playing leading roles in fast tracking the search and testing for a Coronavirus vaccine.
Within weeks of the discovery of the virus, the genetic sequence was known. This has already led to human trials being approved by the US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and commencing in Seattle, the epicenter of US virus-related deaths. Moderna Inc, a biotech company, is amongst those being fast tracked.
Our Healthcare Innovation ETF’s single largest holding - biotech giant Regeneron (6.5% weighting) – also expects to have a potential drug for COVID-19 ready to start human clinical trials within 2-3 months.
Meanwhile data-mining (AI) firm Palantir Inc., is working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to model the virus outbreak. Companies that analyse public social-media data are also helping the CDC and the US National Institutes of Health.
Big Tech players are on the front lines helping the public. Amazon just hired another 100,000 warehouse workers, while Google has set up a special Coronavirus website allowing the public to access information and services more easily.
Tech groups are able to assist the public sector in tracking which hospitals still have capacity regarding spare beds, ICUs and ventilators. They are also helping small businesses, including restaurants and bars, to gravitate online via the use of various apps.
In the US tech firms are helping the White House track the virus, via surveillance tools, including, geolocation and facial-recognition systems, that can locate vectors of infections. This is giving the US government a significant advantage when it comes to catching up on the status of the virus in the country.
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Anthony Ginsberg is co-creator of The HAN-GINS Global Innovative Technology UCITS ETF (ITEK). ITEK seeks to provide exposure to industry 4.0 -the companies poised to benefit from the fourth indusial revolution -including those involved in cloud computing, social media mad cyber security.