Data is centre stage once again. It effectively triggered the lockdowns, it is now easing them and it will be a key aspect of Covid-19 exit and strategies across the world. The UK government, for instance, has consistently said that it is ‘following the science’, while the scientists are trying to follow that data.
That means we are amid a paradigm shift around our perceptions of data and the Internet of Things (IoT). The pay off has always been the more information you give IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) devices, the more useful they become. But questions of freedom, liberty and cyber-crime concerns have persisted.
The novel Coronavirus has now created a morbid thought experiment for tech users, policy makers and businesses – ‘should I give up a lot of my prized-data in order to potentially save my life or the health of others?’.
South Korea had already run the cost-benefit analysis on this after the 2002 to 2004 SARS outbreak and decided that a close embrace of tech was very much worth it, with a test, trace and contain programme that has become the envy of the world.
Western countries, which missed the SARS outbreak, are now playing catch-up and their actions will inevitably change the behaviours of their citizens. IoT had already made inroads into the mainstream, according to a Gartner survey of more than 500 US-based IT managers.
The survey, released in January, said 11% of respondents worked in healthcare enterprises and a vast majority (86%) of those people had reported having an IoT architecture in place for most lines of business.
Interestingly, a recent YouGov poll found that the success of the UK’s NHS tracing app will be judged on its drain on battery life, with a quarter of smartphone owners (27%) report they’re unlikely to use the app if it puts even a small drain on their battery life. Businesses, meanwhile, are responding quickly to the challenges of our Covid-19 world, with Vodafone launching connected heat sensors which can be used to detect if someone is showing symptoms of the virus or not.
In many ways, this is the response VCs, start-ups and growth businesses across the board should adopt – the lockdowns should be seen as an opportunity for health IoT to flourish and its adoption (from B2B to B2C devices) catalysed by our current situation. As an industry, as innovators and as financiers, let’s show the world what we can do.