Jenny Morris
20 July 2020 by Jenny Morris
A Digital World

From supply chain to front of house, businesses are having to implement radical change to meet the demands of the COVID-19 world. In many cases, the innovation of the technology industry is supporting this process. So, what changes might we soon be noticing in our daily lives?

Automated service

One of the most visible changes will be in pubs and restaurants. It’s essential for organisations to embrace technology to enable a fully contactless experience. To help institutions meet public health requirements, such as social distancing, there has been a number of new apps launched this year to allow table bookings, ordering, and payment to happen digitally. One such system, Sticky, makes the process easier than ever; pubs and restaurants place a ‘pay here’ sticker on the table, and all you need to do is tap it with your smartphone. No downloads required.

And it’s not just pubs and restaurants. South Korean cinema chain, CGV, have eliminated virtually all face-to-face interactions between customers and staff. A variety of touchscreen kiosks, smartphone apps, QR code readers, AI-powered customer service assistants and self-service food dispensaries have allowed the chain to re-open.

No-touch facilities

You might have noticed one area that has been slow to re-open after lockdown: public bathrooms. Health professionals have emphasised the risks: handles, taps, hand-dryers, and doors are all ‘high-touch’ areas that could spread germs. Technologically advanced public bathrooms could be the answer. Self-cleaning technology such as germ-killing robots, flush handles that operate by motion sensors, hand sanitiser dispensaries and automatic or open exits would all help to make public bathrooms safe.

Augmented and virtual reality

We are increasingly shopping online, and when we do visit a store, we can’t try on the clothes for hygiene reasons. A number of stores are now fast-tracking augmented reality apps, which allow you to virtually try on an item of clothing. Digital retailer, Yoox, allows you to build a 3-D avatar of yourself, who will try on clothes in your place. Whereas Verterbrae uses the customer’s camera to enable virtual try-ons. Given that online shopping return rates are 20% higher than returns from the store, this is a trend that is both safe and profitable.

As mentioned earlier, coronavirus has made technology as the dinner table essential. Some people would like to take this further. Virtual reality can be used to augment the dining experience by playing with the senses and building a narrative around the menu. In an extreme example, Sublimotion provides a $2000 meal created by a team including a stage director, musical director, fashion designer, illusionist and craftsman. The coronavirus has encouraged new ventures to experiment with the virtual dining trend at a more affordable price.

Biometrics

All kinds of public places are now installing biometric technology systems such as thermal imaging and facial recognition software. Airports, in particular, are relying on biometrics to aid the industry’s recovery. The goal is to identify those with coronavirus symptoms and prevent them from transmitting the disease to others. The facial recognition technology helps to identify the most accurate facial regions for thermal scanning.

Facial recognition is also key for providing contact-free services. For example, Chinese hotel, Leyeju, uses facial recognition to check-in customers and robots to guide them to their room. The Hotel employs just two members of staff. However, facial recognition has been subject to considerable controversy in terms of data-privacy and racial bias. Many are cautious about implementing this kind of technology, but the practical benefits in the time of coronavirus may encourage organisations to address these systemic issues.

Many of these trends were already underway, but the coronavirus has accelerated both development and acceptance of these technologies. We are now seeing mainstream adoption of advanced technology in our everyday lives. Given that many of these systems increase profitability and/or efficiency, it seems likely that they are here to stay.