COVID-19: As IoT Ramps Up Will COVID-19 Tamp it Down or Will the Ecosystem Find Ways to Help Detect and Combat the Pandemic?

Kathryn Weldon – Research Director, Business Network and IT Services – Americas

Summary Bullets

• As many sectors of the economy are already negatively affected by COVID-19, the big ramp up of IoT that we have been anticipating, alongside the growth of 5G and edge computing, may also be in jeopardy.

• However, IoT may also be used to facilitate capabilities such as remote learning, remote health monitoring, working at home, enhanced public safety, and people tracking, much-needed technology for detecting and even helping to fight the disease.

With the global economy in a tailspin, technology providers within the IoT ecosystem are looking for ways to use their skills, software platforms, infrastructure, and connectivity platforms to help fight both the economic and health problems associated with COVID-19. Some of the areas where IoT is likely to be put to good use include:

Smart Detection: People Tracking/video surveillance and facial recognition with location permissions tracked via phone apps (used in China and Israel). HD cameras for body temperature monitoring.

Smart Healthcare: Remote patient monitoring and telehealth (thermal imaging for contagion monitoring, remote monitoring and diagnosis at home and during patient transfer, smart medical robots to care for quarantined patients)

Smart Home: Sinks to control soap and water flow for proper handwashing

Smart City/Public Safety: Patrol drones to enforce Shelter-in-Place laws, control centers for food and resource supply management

Smart Manufacturing: Remote equipment monitoring/repair, along with machine vision to detect anomalies. Remote command centers/IT and security management. Remote/OTA security and patches for connected equipment in manufacturing, utilities and oil and gas locations.

Wearables: Smart watches and fitness trackers for early detection. Smart rings for healthcare workers to track their own temperature and other parameters. Remote/OTA security and patches for wearable devices.

Some of these initiatives are causing legitimate concerns over privacy, as governments (in China and Israel for example) may use technology to control crowds, identify people who have been exposed to the virus through surveillance, AI, facial recognition, and video analytics, and even block their access to specific locations. Telecom operators are also involved because these controls are often dependent on exposing location and other personal data on users’ phones. 

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