Healthcare technologies will be a greater priority among IoT service providers once the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 die down, according to Forrester Research. Based on its latest figures, only 7% of the work that major IoT service providers deliver in APAC is on Smart Healthcare.

Achim Granzen, principal analyst, Forrester Research

“The crisis has triggered a lot of ideas and solutions, however there was simply no time to look at a more strategic approach for both the technologies and the processes. This will be the focus of governments, health care providers, and others, once the acute crisis is behind us,” said Achim Granzen, principal analyst at Forrester, told FutureIoT.

He added: “I expect this number to increase past  Covid-19, as governments, healthcare providers, and others will seek to harden many of the ad-hoc systems and measures they have put into place during the crisis.”

Granzen noted in the past few weeks the speed of reaction, for example the drive-by testing facilities in South Korea. Speeding up the time to reliable data is another aspect – this is crucial for identifying infection clusters and tracing, with Singapore having done a great job in this area.

A boost for digital and remote technologies

In the midst of the current virus outbreak, Granzen also observed a dramatic boost in the use of  digital and remote technologies.

“Videoconferencing is now ubiquitous, which helps with social distancing while keeping businesses running. This has often triggered organisations to adapt new technologies faster than they had planned,” he said. “I see this faster adoption in other areas as well – schools are changing to video-classes, and even religious gatherings are conducted online.”

On the whole, Granzen said that technology is ready and available to help battle this crisis.

“We see the usage of personal remote monitoring devices or apps – Hong Kong has issued wrist bands for arriving passenger with a high-risk profile, while Singapore has a monitoring app for those on Stay Home Notice. In Singapore, we have had temperature measurements at the entrances of almost all public buildings since weeks – we could have easily gone a step further and connected and report their data into a central instance for real time analysis. That’s a classic IoT scenario.”

He also pointed out that the COVID outbreak shows the benefits of smart manufacturing, saying “Industry 4.0  drives capabilities for remote operations, monitoring and maintenance of production lines and manufacturing plants”.

“This can play a vital part in making manufacturers in APAC more resilient to disruptions,” Granzen added.

According to Granzen, most of the measures have been set up rather ad-hoc, like a PoC.

“I expect some of those [will turn] into a fully fleshed out emergency response system. That by itself is an opportunity both to do better in the next crisis, but also to speed up the digital transformation in nearly all sectors impacted by Covid-19.”

He said, however,  that as with all crisis responses, protecting human lives is the utmost priority.

“As governments and private sector organizations are evaluating which measures to implement permanently, they must find the right balance between the desire to use data for insights, and the privacy concern of citizens and employees. Finding that balance is going to be a difficult but necessary task.”

Impact of COVID-19 on IoT initiatives

With the  virus outbreak, Granzen said there is a risk that current IoT initiatives are impacted as movement of specialists is restricted, or operational sites are closed down.

For one, the postponement of the 2020 Olympics Games, is a blow for IoT providers who have developed new IoT solutions that are to be used during the games.

“Sometimes touted as the first ‘Smart City’games, massive investments have been made by Japanese and international technology companies in building state-of-the-art IoT solutions for location and crowd management, public safety, transport management and other areas. The games being postponed denies those companies a showcase on the world’s stage for now, but the investments are already made and I expect some solutions to be commercialised in 2020 still.”

Granzen said: “I believe that IoT will see a boost after the crisis – extraordinary situations like the Covid-19 crisis will expose inefficient processes and technology bottle necks, and organisations putting ad-hoc fixes in place would want to harden those going forward. IoT will play a big role in modernising healthcare and disaster prevention, public safety and security, supply chain, and manufacturing and production.”