How Technology Solutions Are Changing Education, Shopping And The Workplace
by Matt Maher
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin famously (or perhaps infamously) is credited with saying, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” New York University professor Scott Galloway recently resurfaced this quote in the context of Covid-19 and its indelible impact on businesses and the way we work.
Let’s get one thing straight: The human impact is, of course, a terrible tragedy and cannot and should not be understated. However, on the precipice of creating a vaccine, we should be prepared for the day when we are able to eliminate temporary quarantines and social distancing, but the long-term impact on businesses and the way we work will be far more permanent.
My goal here is to focus on the positive, tech-driven silver linings — and future implications — that have arisen. My company consults other companies on innovative technologies, so this is an area I’ve been closely watching. We are resilient creatures who have had to quickly adapt and learn new ways of operating, but we have had a lot of help from technology. As we’ve changed, so has how we use technology.We should be prepared for the day when we are able to eliminate temporary quarantines and social distancing, but the long-term impact on businesses and the way we work will be far more permanent. Click To Tweet
A Crisis Can Accelerate Behavior And Tech Adoption
Businesses, governments, brands and consumers are all about finding efficient and expedient ways to go about our daily lives, and some more nascent/growing technologies — voice assistants, the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, virtual reality — have replaced (or at least heavily supplement or offset) our usual in-person interactions. And when those experiences are framed up through our senses, we’re seeing an obvious trend: a propensity to use voice and rely on sound versus the need for physical touch.
So, instead of asking a sales associate a question, you can use a digital kiosk to find what you’re looking for. Instead of heading to a classroom, you can take your classes online. Instead of walking into a crowded office cafeteria, you can get an alert when it’s less busy. And instead of touching a menu, you can scan a QR code to see it on your phone.The internet and the digital age have forced an evolution in how human beings learn and absorb information, and Covid-19 has accelerated that evolution. Click To Tweet
Education And Learning
As schools open back up and put out feelers for what in-person classes look like, virtual learning will still be needed, and while it’s not ideal, we wouldn’t have been able to leverage it as a viable option even just a few years ago. It has pushed us to accept the fact that we need to invest more in our broadband infrastructure and ensure it’s reliable as well as affordable. Another silver lining is that traditional higher education has been shaken up by other, more affordable options like Google’s new Career Certificates program.
The internet and the digital age have forced an evolution in how human beings learn and absorb information, and Covid-19 has accelerated that evolution. For businesses that focus on education or employee training, now is the time to lean into the digital tools available to usher in a new age of learning and interactive curriculums.
Too many companies attempt to port the in-person experience of lectures and one-sided training into a virtual environment. A professor shouldn’t ask an open-ended question to a room full of 100 virtual students, nor should you expect an employee to passively watch eight hours of training videos on Zoom when they have the immensity of the internet on a side-by-side browser.
Engage thoughtfully, specifically and with a desired purpose or outcome. It requires more work upfront, as well as the ability to identify and implement the tech stack you need to reach that desired outcome, but it will undoubtedly lead to a better experience and yield stronger results in the long run.For businesses that focus on education or employee training, now is the time to lean into the digital tools available to usher in a new age of learning and interactive curriculums. Click To Tweet
Retail And Restaurants
Our current environment has acted as both a deterrent and an accelerant of specific consumer behaviors. I recently shared that, “On the downward trend is the sense of touch, travel and congregating in restaurants. On the accelerant side, we’re seeing increased smartphone usage and content consumption, higher propensity to order delivery and a craving of variety.”
So, as we’re headed into the holiday shopping season, pivoting to a voice-activated retail wayfinding experience via the growing “hearables” market (i.e., wireless headphones), for instance, will allow shoppers to ask Siri where to find the item they’re looking for quickly, minimizing their time in the store and the need to interact with shared surfaces.
Augmented reality is another area brands can embrace to engage with customers and provide unique, fun experiences — from realistic 3D images of our food to trying on makeup without actually trying it on to smart packaging that triggers an interactive experience.
For restaurants and dining, we’re seeing QR codes, which can be set up so that your diners can view your menu on their phones, make a resurgence. Digital payments titan Square is capitalizing on this trend, offering a solution for consumers that allows them to scan, order and pay all within the same experience. By taking these steps, you can reduce the need for contact during the dining experience.Augmented reality is another area brands can embrace to engage with customers and provide unique, fun experiences — from realistic 3D images of our food to trying on makeup Click To Tweet
Offices And Communal Workspaces
Many people are hesitant to go back to a crammed office building; however, those spaces can first be redesigned and retrofitted with technology to become smart, responsive workplaces. With IoT devices and sensors, your employees and guests can anonymously track the flow of people in real time, get alerts when the restroom is empty or even access a hands-free check-in experience.
Office buildings and communal work (and event) spaces aren’t going away forever, but they will certainly look and feel much different when we return to normalcy.
While the pandemic itself has brought pain, it has also ushered in progress. The way it’s shaped how we live and work is still being defined, adjusted and then adjusted some more. From shopping and education to workspaces and restaurants, we’re getting the chance to learn how these technologies benefit us, how to incorporate them into daily life and how they’ll continue to impact us in meaningful ways.
Matt Maher is Founder of M7 Innovations. A version of this post originally appeared in Forbes, contributed here with permission from the Author.