A crisis (a word derived from the Greek κρισις and meaning “to separate” and “to decide”) is a crossroads where dangers and opportunities are intertwined.
After more than a month of being homebound and teleworking we have already been able to learn the best international practices for early pandemic management and remote work organisation. In all of them, technology and digitalization have been key.
As a result of the management of this crisis, many sectors – from health, education to industry – are already identifying how technology could have helped them much more if they had been digitally prepared and had cloud services or others been available. Nor are there few companies and organisations that have had to urgently activate their digitalisation processes to face up to the crisis and the new panorama. The education sector is in this sense the most paradigmatic and the one that is transforming fastest and will do so only after the summer with the exponential growth of online training.
The brutal challenge to our systems and models of social and industrial organization that the Coronavirus crisis is posing will open up new windows of opportunity for a 5.0 industry and society. This is not a fiction but a model already anticipated in Japan by its government and that explains perfectly why this country was prepared for this crisis and has known how to manage it in an excellent way. This model of Society and Industry 5.0 is based on two aspects: on the one hand, the accumulation of massive data in real time from all sectors and, on the other, a “monozukuri” culture of excellence and “lean manufacturing” habits.
The mirror for Europe after COVID-19 is the Japanese model of Society 5.0. The solutions and opportunities that are opening up for digitisation in the post-crisis horizon can be grouped in four areas: health, mobility, infrastructure and FinTech.
At the health level, the application of big data to medical data for detection, screening and treatment has shown that it allows effective treatments as we have seen clearly. Our hospitals should be equipped with autonomous mobile robots for the disinfection of surgical areas and ICUs as well as for the transfer of medication to the rooms avoiding physical contact with the patients and serving as support for the nurses. Finally, remote medical care should be incorporated for communication between professionals and patients.
Mobility and logistics will also be affected after coronavius. We already have the technology to deliver all kinds of products to the doorstep of anyone, quarantined or not. In the case of the post-COVID-19, this will mean the automation of many scale systems, using drones and automatic guidance vehicles. In this sense, the robotization of the logistic processes should be another urgent bet for the digitalization of our manufacturing industry in the agenda of the companies’ managers.
Infrastructure is another area of opportunity. The internet of things together with artificial intelligence and robotics will help us in the inspection, maintenance and control of public spaces and infrastructures. We should learn these lessons in order to have prepared scenarios in which strategies for controlling the movement of people are fully effective.
Finally, physical money has operated as one of the most important routes of transmission of the virus. The use of blockchain for money transfers is another window of opportunity, in addition to its use in other areas such as logistics (if we have blockchain transactions we will not have any more cases of scamming about rapid virus detection tests.
These scenarios are not a dystopia. They are routes that in this crisis we may or may not choose and develop with vision and consistency.
Let’s not forget that the post-coronavirus digital transformation process will only accelerate the importance of the enabling technologies of the 4.0 industry (soon to be a 5.0 model) whose strategic enabler is digital talent. If we do not cultivate both aspects (technology and talent) the next viral crisis will hit us again with the same or greater virulence, increasing our economic and death gap with the best.
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