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Is COVID-19 The 4th Industrial Revolution Catalyst?


Even though many believe 2015 or 2016 started the 4th Industrial Revolution, I believe history will look at 2020 as one of the most transformative years in our history. COVID-19 didn’t just impact virtual meeting adoption but has pushed technologies that previously had struggled to gain traction to the forefront like telehealth and within IoT.

It’s easy to overlook the advances being made while our very own jobs have dynamically changed. For most, teleconferencing was a stopgap measure, allowing teams to continue meetings when traveling. The pandemic re-classified this technology as a necessity, Zoom happy hours became a thing, kids are virtually returing to school, and even the US Supreme Court is hearing virtual cases, but the gains in other industries like telehealth, manufacturing and service are dramatic. 

IoT In Connected Telehealth

Telehealth has been around for several years, but COVID-19 has advanced the practice years into the future, leading the 4th Industrial Revolution. Recent studies have shown virtual urgent care visits have grown by 683% and nonurgent virtual visits grew by 4,345% between March 2nd and April 14th

MedStar Health stated they went from 2 daily telehealth visits to 4,150 in a period of just two months. (That’s not a typo.) Dr. Paul Testa of NYU Langone stated, “We will never go back to 50 [telehealth] visits a day…That genie’s out of the bottle.”  As patients become comfortable with telehealth’s effectiveness, the industry will see greater adoption of not only virtual appointments, but the utilization of connected devices to deliver better data to providers. This change will allow more accurate diagnosis, and closer monitoring of their patients even at a distance.

Popular consumer tech such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, and other wearables are already scratching the surface here, but most are unaware of the full spectrum of capabilities already available.  As consumers count their steps and view basic workout data, many don’t realize some devices can monitor vitals including heart rate and blood oxygen (SpO2)—but that’s only the beginning.

In addition to wearables, smart blood pressure machines, weight scales, glucose meters, etc. can be synced to apps on your smartphone and connected securely back to your doctor.  

This incredible growth will spur innovation in the 4th Industrial Revolution going beyond health.

IoT in Manufacturing and Production

This pandemic will also be the catalyst that drives from incredible IoT solutions for the manufacturing and production industries. Business leaders understood the value of remote monitoring and sensors pre-pandemic, especially to improve worker safety, but were hesitant in use cases solved by a quick hire. As COVID-19 revealed hiring and employee logistical concerns however, refreshed interest turned to IoT and its ability to improve in all aspects of production. Oil and gas is a great example.  

For years, oil and gas companies have sent employees to travel thousands of miles across the country to manually spot-check pipelines. Further complicating this logistical challenge, employees are often required to travel to remote locations by themselves—at times in dangerous regions. But as concerns rise about staff shortages or deployment concerns, leadership will look to IoT to do the job remotely or even improve in-house processes previously overlooked.

As we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution, manufacturing and production companies are now implementing network-connected IoT sensors that capture thousands of data points 24 hours a day, removing the need to take dozens of manual readings a year. But if you think this technology has the potential to remove jobs or replace workers, I’d argue the opposite. A great example of this is in retail and entertainment. 

IoT In Service Industries

COVID has stretched the already diminishing resources of retail, entertainment industries, and dining establishments. Think back to your most recent errand. To keep shoppers and employees safe, many employees previously tasked with helping customers, now have to disinfect, take temperatures, monitor mask-wearing, and ensure social distancing. IoT and Covid-19 tracking systems can be easily tasked to take the burden off employees.

The 4th Industrial Revolution Is Here

This 4th industrial revolution will not only reduce costs but unlock new business opportunities, new safer careers, and quite possibly new industries.

Chris Moeller of 3 Tree Tech
Chris Moeller

Chris Moeller is a 5G and IoT researcher at 3 Tree Tech. If you want to integrate IoT technology into your tech or need mobility infrastructure help, he’s willing to lend you his big brain. Reach out!

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