Catalytic effect of Covid-19 on digitalisation

cartoon by Virpi/

Covid-19 is transforming the world in which we all live and work, creating new challenges and opportunities.

One of those opportunities is digitalisation. Industry 4.0 has been a hot topic for years however Covid-19 has been the catalyst of change.

In fact, Stya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft stated during an earnings call earlier this year, that they have seen two years worth of digital transformation in two months.

This isn’t surprising to Stuart Sherman, CEO and founder of AI firm Scaled Insights. He said: “[Covid-19] has had a huge impact [on adoption].”

Explaining: “When you have the tools and capabilities plus the drivers of realisation incredible things can happen.”

However, Sherman isn’t alone in this assertation.

“Pre-Covid we were working a lot with the logistics industry”, explains David McKee CEO and CTO of Slingshot Simulations, a tech business that is transforming digital simulations.

“I said to them, you’re being throttled by Amazon, basically because they can automate everything.”

He explains how pre-pandemic parts of the logistics industry were not the most comfortable with computers and many considered automation ridiculous. But as a result of small margins that were impacted by social distancing in warehouses leading to difficulties fulfilling orders he says “more and more businesses are having to think about optimisation [by planning with AI or automating]”.

But how do you open up the opportunities of automation and AI to the masses, surely the cost of entry can be too prohibitive to certain companies?

Well yes to a degree, but according to Liam Wright, founder and managing director of Innotech Insights the trick to making it accessible and therefore transformative, comes from an unlikely source.

In fact, both Wright and McKee highlight Netflix as a perfect example of a company that has achieved mass adoption and revolutionised the market.

Wright highlights: “The only way to get scalability is to do what Netflix did” and be consumer led, which is the approach he’s taken and has resulted in the development of his latest app called Greet.

The original idea was to create a digital concierge for attendees at venues and stadiums enabling them to get a virtual programme, gain access via e-ticket or order food etc from their phone. Ideally giving guests a more tailored and easier experience through the use of smart sensors which can help them know which exit to use to avoid congestion etc.

However, as a result of Covid-19 the demand has changed and now venues see it as an opportunity to be able to better manage guests while at the same time supporting the global move to contactless service. In fact, Wright explains that they are already talking to large scale sports association about using the product – that is yet to actually launch.

McKee, also inspired by the Netflix model of getting the product into consumers hands, plans to follow the streaming giant’s lead. His firm Slingshot Simulations is preparing to make available its full digital twin platform for free for the first one thousand users.

He highlights that this approach is going to cost the company a fortune and that it’s “not been an easy battle to win at board level” but that it’s important as it will completely “change the game”.

Obviously approaches such as McKee’s are tricky and he admits it’s stressful but he believes it’s important for longer term economic and business sustainability to enable firms to access this technology and solution.

It’s clear that Covid-19 will have a long-term impact on every facet of people’s lives and that it has certainly forced an increased rate of technological adoption, but for these three pioneers this is just the beginning.

“Imagine 10 years ago if you’d said you won’t go to the cinema to watch a film or you won’t buy music, you’ll just stream it”, Wright says, “people would say you were mad.”

Well it certainly feels we’re at another pivotal point having both the capabilities and drivers to realise real change to the way we work, socialise and live as a result of technology.


Image courtesy of Virpi/

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