No look back on 2020 can avoid Covid-19. The most overused words of the year must have been ‘’unprecedented’’ and ‘’the new normal’’, but justifiably so.
In the business world, the disruption to private and public sector organisations alike has been nothing short of revolutionary. Forrester reported a “digital transformation surge” as the pandemic struck, as companies sought to “lower operating costs and build greater business resilience, to weather pandemic-driven disruption.” Significantly, Forrester sees this digital disruption surge driven by investment in Intelligent Automation.
There are at least three enablers behind this increased investment. Firstly, as consumers and workers have accepted social distancing, contactless payments and the like as a safety measure, they now more readily accept interaction via technology (for example now preferring self-service supermarket checkouts where they might a year ago have preferred a human checkout assistant).
Secondly, people have become much more familiar with technologies such as Zoom, on both a personal and business level, thereby increasing their trust in them.
And thirdly, robot use has increased during Covid-19, as they are more efficient and don’t catch a virus. For example, Walmart is using robots to clean floors; “anti-epidemic” robots in Rwanda can check patients’ temperatures and deliver medicine and food; and in Japan one university developed “telepresence” robots for receiving university degrees, with a computer tablet for a head, draped in an academic gown, enabling a student on a Zoom call to “receive” their degree from a university official.