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As disease outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics will likely become more common across the globe due to globalization, urbanization and climate change, the demand for innovations related to infectious disease control and virus outbreaks will continue to grow.
While the technology itself will not prevent these occurrences, it can however help to prevent the spread as well as educate, warn and reduce the impact on the population. Here are five emerging trends that we believe will transform the technology sector during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, businesses have reorganized supply chains, altered their operations and given more attention to safety and health measures. While the healthcare and medical sectors were among the early adopters of technological innovations to battle infectious diseases, other sectors have since followed suit.
In the case of government agencies and first responders, global positioning technologies play a crucial role to accurately assess the situation, pinpoint the riskiest areas and carry out relief and rehabilitation efforts accordingly. Some hospitals have taken to internet-of-things enabled devices and robots to help them to perform diagnosis and conduct thermal imaging.
We have also seen many other businesses, like hospitality, retail, food and beverage as well as life sciences services, adopting various forms of technologies at their premises to keep employees and customers safe.
Business premises everywhere continue to take the necessary measures to manage potential health risks by upgrading their safety and security procedures. The sight of wireless thermometer guns and other similar infrared body temperature measuring devices have become a common sight at offices, public spaces, hospitality premises, retails and shopping centers.
Automated thermal monitoring along with facial recognition is making the process faster and more effective. Employees are getting used to having their biometrics collected and monitored when going to work. Privacy policies in organizations have changed to accommodate public safety and human resource teams needs to address this shift in processes as well.
Data analytics can help in quickly identifying infected individuals, connecting with them and tracking who they have come into contact with. There is also the emergence of cloud-based artificial intelligence diagnosis tools that claim to be more than 96 percent accurate and takes less than 20 seconds to work.
Increased data collaboration between private and public sectors to help trace and track infections will also become more common as all parties work together to contain the situation and be better prepared for future incidences.
Research shows that the global COVID-19 diagnostic testing industry alone is estimated to exceed USD 44 billion by the end of 2020. To meet the increasing need, governments and businesses continue to invest in diagnostic tests that can be deployed in everyday settings, rather than in specialized laboratories, so that infectious individuals and their contacts can be more quickly identified and isolated.
At present, polymerize chain reaction (PCR) and antibody testing are the dominant ways that global healthcare systems are testing people for the virus. Researchers are now devising tests that go beyond PCR and making the test faster and easier to use.
With the rise of in-house testing facilities, we are witnessing more testing being done in drive-throughs, parking lots, shopping malls and other critical public spaces without being confined to a formal laboratory setting. It was reported that work is now also underway to use smartphones to detect COVID-19.
Smartphone apps are the norm these days to help keep a tab on people’s movements and ascertain whether they have been in contact with an infected person. Cloud-connectivity will also facilitate contact tracing and data collection in terms of public safety during an outbreak.
One example of a virus detection device available in the market is the Ubiquitome Liberty16 mobile real-time PCR system. It serves as a personal quantitative PCR device and is used for measuring the presence of any DNA, whether that be human, animal or wider environmental pathogens. The handheld real-time device can deliver COVID-19 test results in 45 minutes, run sixteen tests simultaneously and relay sample data via a phone app.
Safely managed water, sanitation and hygiene services are an essential part of preventing and protecting human health during infectious disease outbreaks, including the current COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses, homes, communities, healthcare facilities, schools and other public spaces prioritize hygiene measures to mitigate contamination risks, providers of such solutions are highly sought after.
Take the hand sanitizing market as an example. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global hand sanitizer market size alone is projected to reach nearly USD 2 billion by 2026. Alcohol-based sanitizers are the major contributors to the global hand sanitizer market.
The market demand for such sanitizers is driven by their ability to prevent infections and kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. However, the presence of fragrance-based hand sanitizers is one of the faster-growing sectors. There is also an influx of bio-based or organic ingredients in hygiene products.
Unfortunately, epidemics and pandemics – like the current COVID-19 one – will continue to impact and affect our planet. However, with each outbreak, technological innovations have helped us to learn new ways of fighting and managing such incidences.
At DKSH, we strive to anticipate our customers’ needs at all times. Our Center of Excellence located at Mahidol University’s Phayathai campus offers advanced scientific testing facilities and a team of experts in detection, research, vaccine development and disinfection of infectious diseases.
Sumana Kullavanijaya. Business Development Manager, DKSH Business Unit Technology. Sumana has over 15 years of experience working in the field of life sciences with expertise in biotechnology. Sumana holds a Master’s Degree in Biotechnology from King Monkut’s University of Technology Thonburi.