How will the Coronavirus pandemic impact the Digital Transformation in Industry?

Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin
edited April 2020 in Business

The pandemic is compelling organizations to take the digital plunge, from flying drones detecting fevers and coughing, to organizations using AR to visualize risks, cities becoming smarter to map pandemic related data, AI-enabled applications to optimize patient influx across multiple medical facilities, etc.

Please share your thoughts about how the current pandemic will compel organizations to innovate and digitally transform their business and operations.

PS: Here is another discussion on this forum about how Edge devices can shape future work environment in the post pandemic era...


  • Stephen MellorStephen Mellor CTO - IIC

    Here is my unordered list:

    • Logistics: Overloaded physical delivery too. Puts a strain on JIT
    • Shorter supply chains: Globalization to be limited; search for new suppliers
    • Darker factories: Less reliance on people, at least in the short term. Need to use machines
    • Greater IT/OT convergence (of a sort) as Shop floor and Office floor become Home floor
    • Transportation: More automation. Perhaps less air travel as videoconferencing (after god knows how many years) becomes accepted—because it is the reality. And more drones using that air space. Greeater push (and opportunity) to push manually operated cars of the road. Changes the whole concept of smart city
    • Health care: Connected devices (need reference to UMass Hospital). More remote devices ( 
    • Retail: Faster push to link ERP with logistics even for small business. Order online, pick it up, ripples through the supply chain
    • Government: Doesn't work. Ask the cat lady to log on and find a service? On her own, excepting 25 cats? Can’t deliver
    • Business models: will we see time-of-day pricing for the network as we do in SIN for cars?

  • ken figueredoken figueredo More-with-Mobile

    Data, data, data.

    Any organization involved in a supply chain, or demand aggregation (e.g. coordinating the delivery of supplies to house-bound individuals in neighborhoods) or to manage supply-side capacity (e.g. making home-delivery slots available to the elderly or to critical care workers) is realizing the value of data. It is also important to make data machine readable and easy to discover (e.g. metadata and quality descriptors).

    There's also an appreciation of the value of sharing with partner organizations to improve decision making. How can this be done with appropriate policy controls?

    The pandemic is also demonstrating that digital transformation can happen quickly, within and across organizational boundaries.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    Agree. I think we are going to see innovative "Network Orchestrators" emerge from this crisis.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    This Forbes article refers to the COVID-19 crisis as a before-and-after moment that will affect (1) telecommuting, (2) on-demand food and services, (3) virtual events. Large brick and mortar facilities (office buildings, food retailers, conference centers) may need to be re-purposed.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    Germany wants to track COVID-19 outbreaks with smartwatches: It is looking to analyze data from smartwatches and fitness devices to track the emergence of outbreaks in the country. Pulse, temperature, and sleep data would be collected anonymously from participating citizens to map the potential spread of new COVID-19 hot zones in the future.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    The Board of Innovation has stated that the Low Touch Economy is here to stay and this will cause shifts on many fronts:

    • Geopolitics: protectionism
    • Human behavior: immune certification
    • Macro-economics: limited access to capital
    • Regulations: new privacy laws
    • Industry dynamics: supply chains disruptions
    • Technology: contactless everything

    Many new aspects of the economy will become mainstream: "delivery of everything" in retail and restaurants (delivery robots, multiple shops bundling deliveries to same households), e-health, less air and land travel (serious impact on smart cities, smart buildings, etc.) This will force organizations to adjust their IoT use cases (business strategy, ROI, technology) to this new reality.

  • Ulrich GrafUlrich Graf Ulrich Graf, Senior Engineer IIoT and I4.0, Huawei Technologies

    Yes, it's still on the discussion level and it would be voluntary. So participants would need to opt-in. The other discussion is the usage of smartphone app utilizing bluetooth to log other devices in the vicinity. There is a big discussion if it would really work and if it would help to trace back potentíal infections.

  • BrentDoncasterBrentDoncaster Marketing - NetFoundry

    Agree and we will see:

    1. more "formal" or purposeful Network Orchestrators (for profit companies) similar to what as we see today
    2. many many "informal" or ad hoc Orchestrations. Perhaps mutually beneficial eco-systems is a better way to think of them. Where groups and organizations collaborate in mutually supportive ecosystems. Ex. Hospitals public and private will create mechanisms for sharing resources (people, equipment, facilities etc.) in times when rapid responses to surge situations are needed
    3. existing collaboration tools will be refined with new capabilities to facilitate the work of orchestration, (see group #2 above) and we will see new build from the ground up network orchestration tools and technologies built and offered to the marketing place and yes - these tools will be first and foremost data driven
  • Marcellus BuchheitMarcellus Buchheit President and CEO, Wibu-Systems USA

    COVID-19 will likely forces the largest disruption in business since second world war: It is not the slow transition due microelectronics as we had in the last 40 years, it will be a quick shock and government wherever in the world can only help a limited time. Similar as COVID-19 affects people, companies and industries which were already weak before will now quickly disappear to be replaced by companies and industries which are newer or more flexible in adaptation. Overall this is a good thing, because innovation will lead this adaption. One winner is already clearly visible: The Internet. I wonder sometimes how our ancestors worked and communicated during Spanish Flu which took likely much longer than COVID-19 and was much higher mortal. And finally with higher future productivity and more agile businesses and industries we will in some years also a better world. Which is then hopefully better prepared for the next virus.

    BTW: I read an interview with a assistant general manager of the local Seattle Metro bus system ( saying “We anticipate the recovery period will not just be a one-year event, but will take a few years.”; the article mentioned: "It’s not yet clear, for example, whether ridership will ever fully rebound or if telecommuting will take hold for some companies." Likely, many people and employers will see how efficient homework can be, so even after COVID-19 is completely gone, much more telecommuting will stay - and less used cars, Uber/Lyft and public transportation.

  • Marcellus BuchheitMarcellus Buchheit President and CEO, Wibu-Systems USA

    The coronavirus crisis will have an impact on "touchless" similar as September-11 had an impact on security: At begin, a lot of activities are a result of overreacting and did not survive, but useful things - like strictly standardized global security for boarding commercial airplanes - are now widely accepted. "Touchless" in general will not just reduce the risk of coronavirus infection but of many other infections, existing since ever: traditional flu, cold, diarrhea etc. One example of changes to daily touchless will be payment: the disappearing of cash and checks will accelerate, the payment with no-contact credit card or near-field cell phone will be ubiquitous. And it leads to more automation in "dirty jobs" with the possibility that such jobs are becoming "hardly any human here". The New York Times article "Robots Welcome to Take Over, as Pandemic Accelerates Automation" ( shows several examples where a new generation of automation, merged with artificial intelligence, will take over in replacing human work: sorting of recycling garbage, retail checkout and retail floor cleaning. In the past such innovations were difficult to sell due a thinking of "we have already employees who are doing this" but if now, with coronaviruses, these employees are afraid to do such jobs due fear about their health, such investments will be necessary and finally very useful.

  • Marcellus BuchheitMarcellus Buchheit President and CEO, Wibu-Systems USA

    A new US study analyzed the impact of public interventions during the 1918 flu: It shows that the 1918 flu pandemic brought a recession but after that cities which had early non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI as lock-down, closing schools etc.) had a faster economic growing after the recession than cities which waited longer, resulting in higher death rates. Summary: "Our findings thus indicate that NPIs not only lower mortality; they may also mitigate the adverse economic consequences of a pandemic.". See also the comment of the World Economic Forum about this study.

    I believe that we will have a similar re-bounce in the next 12 to 18 months but that we also will also have a transformation in the type of business: Internet-orientated technology in general will grow more while traditional non-internet-orientated technology will re-bounce less. For example we will have more online sales meetings and less physical sales meetings with a negative impact to the transportation and hospitality industry, including face-to-face conferences and exhibitions. In a similar way, IIoT-based technology to reduce at-site maintenance and control will grow faster than traditional industrial technology. I believe that also more companies and organization will prepare for the next pandemic, preventing a similar shock experience they have now with COVID-19.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin
    edited April 2020

    Good read. No doubt white collar jobs will become more and more virtual (with significant negative impact on travel and hospitality). Also no doubt retail will be seriously affected (contactless delivery, social distancing, autonomous delivery, etc.)

    What will be interesting to see is how industry will be transformed post COVID-19: more autonomous systems, darker factories, more predictive maintenance, changes to system design and machine design to facilitate the above. AI and 5G are bound to play increasingly prominent roles in the technology stacks that will power this transformation.

    One example is Airbus. They have engaged a "remote delivery" initiative in order to continue handing over jets to customers despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. See this FlightGlobal article.

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    Another interesting article... Industrial IoT powers distributed workforce during COVID-19 crisis.

    IIoT devices are making remote work a possibility with use of asset tracking, remote monitoring, and support to keep supply chains running smoothly, example:

    • Monitor conditions with UAVs
    • Offer remote support via AR
    • Boost supply chain, logistics efficiencies with connected transport and drones

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    On April 30th, Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) stated that "We saw 2 years of Digital Transformation in 2 months". This statement was made in relation to the impact of COVID-19 on work and life (globally). The crisis has placed severe time constrain on organizations including industrial organizations, to transform their business and field operation to meet the growing needs for social distancing and contactless operation.

    This will lead to the emergence of new classes of IoT-driven workplace readiness solutions and major changes and in many cases a transformation of the ways organizations operate. The IIC sponsored webinar (April 28th) title "Restarting Operations after a Shutdown" described some of these emerging solutions (Airbus, Schneider, Deloitte).

  • Bassam ZarkoutBassam Zarkout IGnPower admin

    This topic was the focus of several IIC sponsored webinars. Please refer to the community forum discussions that followed these webinars:

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