TechLife

Online Life: Is it temporary or forever?

Online, Life, Technology

The pandemic has brought many changes to our lives as we try to stop the spread of COVID. Our homes have become the one-stop shop for all our daily doings. People are working, learning, and socializing from inside their homes more than ever. As a result, the demand for technology increased exponentially in which previous to the pandemic, the world was not ready for. New routines and daily lives have called for new products and innovation that long ago were not as necessary. Therefore, businesses are forced to work at accelerated speeds to innovate, think on their feet to meet new technological demands, and take market lead. 

Many things are at a loss due to COVID-19. The economy is suffering as business activities have slowed, revenues have dropped, and cash flows have plummeted. However, the one thing that seems to be improving as a result of the pandemic is technology. People are now more relying on their technologies to stay connected while isolated by themselves at home. As struggling organizations notice these patterns, they scramble to jump onto the technological trend to keep their companies afloat. The pandemic has forced businesses to push themselves to innovate and improve through the use of technology. Thus the virus has sped up the adoption of digital technologies over several years at both organizational and industry level. New and different products are in demand to fit the ‘new normal’ and technology is here to help. However the question raised is are these digital impacts temporary? Or are they here to stay even once the pandemic is over?

“I’ll see you online!”

Virtual interactions have become the norm as real-life recreational activities such as workout sessions, dance classes and music concerts are cancelled.  So, many have migrated to online alternatives for their  meetings, events, gatherings, and classes which are all powered by video conferencing and digital streaming platforms. This puts pressure onto video platform companies to advance their features, allowing an array of activities to take place and thus, be the preferred platform by users. For example, Zoom has been widely popular due to its multifaceted and innovative features like screen-sharing and the ability to record conferences. Moreover, Zooms breakout room feature has been an asset for mimicking real-life classroom environments where students often ‘break out’ to discuss in small groups and rejoin the big class again shortafter.

This new norm of using online video platforms instead of having real life activities and events have shown us it is possible to get things done without having to move far from the comforts of our home. It shows event and activity planners that online might not be so bad and can become the new preferred method of communicating due to its ease and accessibility. The pandemic has caused many to become accepting of this new format. Therefore, even entertainment shows don’t shy away from filming through conference calls. As people are more understanding of the situation, they are less turned off by the aesthetics and quality of a webcam layout. However, many are eager to go back offline and start physical daily interactions. Online classes can only go so far especially when it comes to hands-on learning courses like yoga, ballet, and the fine art. Equipment heavy activities are still struggling to optimize online, making it hard to say that online video conferencing will be a permanent change for many. 

An Augmented Experience

Augmented Reality (AR) has been used in a variety of ways for a couple of years now and it’s nothing new. However, the use of AR and other similar innovations was never considered a necessity as opposed to a luxury until now. As more brick-and-mortar shops are forced to close, there has been a surge in online shopping, allowing the e-commerce industry to boom. However this proves to be a disadvantage for companies selling items like cosmetics and clothes where trying on the products and seeing them in real life is essential. Therefore companies have incorporated more augmented reality (AR) into their service to battle the barrier. 

For example, retailer Kohl’s created an AR virtual closet where consumers could “step inside” a dressing room to try on a variety of clothes from the company. Companies with other products also benefit from AR such as jewelry, shoppers are able to “try on” what fits them best. This helps consumers better imagine how they’d look with the products rather than it being a guessing game. As a result, the shift to online shopping has accelerated by roughly five years. Thus, a seemingly relevant use of AR that consumers will benefit from for many years forward even once the pandemic is over. 

Cybersecurity 

People’s increased needs for corona-related updates have pushed governmental organizations to find the most effective way to disseminate information. One of the ways they are doing this is through contact tracing apps. Contract tracing is an age-old process of identifying people who may have come into contact with an infected person. The Netherlands has implemented the app CoronaMelderwhich tracts where individuals go and if they come in contact with someone who tests positive. However, as the app relies on the location of the individual, it raises a lot of data and privacy concerns during these times. Therefore organizations have found ways to make contact tracing effective whilst keeping the privacy of individuals safe. 

For example, CoronaMelder does not use GPS location, nor phone number, name, or email address to run the app. Moreover, Singapore’s TraceTogether app promises that they do not use geolocation data as well as login data in an encrypted form. Security and data privacy proves to be more crucial than ever when the success of the app and contract tracing relies on the cooperation of the public network to download the app and inform when they do happen to catch the virus. Thus, this method of location tracing is an advancement that opens a new door for all kinds of businesses to make use of location-based technology without breaching trust. 

The Verdict

COVID has been helpful for technological improvements and innovations. However, things such as interacting through online conference platforms might not be forever. People are restless to go back out and start doing activities offline again. On the other hand, some of these changes may be in for the long haul. Things like AR will continuously improve and become more useful in a variety of domains. Although this past year has been a loss for many, the technological landscape has gained as it has been trialed and tested by the pandemic for the better.

Cover: btaskinkaya

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