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Technology’s Role in this Modern Pandemic – Past, Present & Future

2020-04-28  |  8 min read 

Having worked in technology for 30 years, I’ve experienced first-hand the industry’s movement from the 3rd to 4th industrial revolutions. As I look back at the progress of the last 3 decades, it’s occurred to me that -- for better or for worse -- technology has played a role in the current COVID-19 pandemic. First by driving physical connections worldwide, and then by supporting virtual human connections and remote medical response.

20th Century Technology Drove Physical Connection

Many of the technological innovations of the 20th century helped drive the physical connection and prosperity of people worldwide. For example, the early 1900s brought automotive and aeronautic technologies. Then advancements in electronics, automation, and IT systems helped spur mass production and infrastructure in support of global transport technologies. Through the mid-1900s, the proliferation of automobiles, commercial aviation, the cruise industry and high-speed rail made access to far-off places more viable for the every-day person. In turn, the world became a seemingly smaller place, with the ability to quickly cross countries and continents in mere hours.

In the latter part of the 1900s, the Internet enabled data connections across the planet and the availability of eMail communications. The advent of the World Wide Web and Internet search engines, including the first version of Google which released in 1996, brought global data access to the masses. Instead of physically searching through reams of accessible paper-based encyclopedias to learn about other locations and cultures, we could easily look up information about almost anywhere in the world. It also enabled easier worldwide communications and helped speed global business expansions.

Together, these 20th century technologies propelled globalization and prosperity, and eased the path toward prolific business and personal international travel. Unwittingly, it also aided in developing an environment that enabled the spread of COVID-19 into a global pandemic through international travel  as many people moved about regularly for business and pleasure across continents. But while 20th century technological advancements played a part in the spread of COVID-19, 21st century technologies have helped mitigate the impact of, and ability to manage through, this pandemic.  

21st Century Technology has Driven Virtual Connection

Emergence of 4th industrial revolution technologies have played a monumental role in helping mitigate and manage through this pandemic. Mobile, wireless, high speed networks, virtual reality, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have enabled new ways for humans to connect, to work, and to access basic services, in addition to playing a part in helping efforts to identify treatments.

For example, network and mobile communications have been critical in enabling online medical consultations to mitigate the need for in-office visits, providing first-responders high speed telecommunications to route support where most needed, and disseminating important information around the globe to enable local governments to make informed decisions related to the health of their constituents.

These same technologies support the underlying infrastructure for work-at-home and eLearning models to help as many individuals as possible maintain employment and educational progress. Paired with mobile hardware tools, like mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, quick movement to homes was relatively straightforward. In addition, network and communications technologies serve as the backbone for keeping social connectivity with family and friends in lieu of being able to gather physically together, whether it is through online videos, social media or simply voice connections.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, automation, and data management technologies have also played a critical role in everything from tracking the outbreak and providing scenario planning, to helping quickly build medical devices, and even support for research in finding viable treatments.

For these technologies in the current situation, I am thankful.

Tech Companies Stepping Up in Time of Need

Technology companies, along with many other private sector organizations, have also stepped up to today’s challenges by opening their products and services in ways that support the global community. Some mobile network operators are forgoing data limits, high speed data networks are being made available to all, and software companies are providing access to their tools free of charge for a limited time in support of current needs and continued innovations.

I am thrilled that my company, Keysight, has followed suit. Our customers are leaders in technology, who achieve breakthroughs that virtually connect and secure the world. As such, many are critical in today’s pandemic response. Keysight accelerates their breakthroughs by providing leading-edge design, test, manufacture, and optimization solutions to bring their innovations to market. In response to COVID-19 impacts, we wanted to help provide a sense of normalcy and enable our customers to do what they do best: to innovate, anywhere. As a result, we recently released our Innovate Anywhere program to help customers not only maintain their critical services today, but also help them continue to innovate for the future.

For customers managing collaboration, voice, and video applications while trying to keep up with an influx of remote connections, Keysight is offering a complimentary SSL VPN Availability Assessment and a 30-day trial of our Hawkeye Network Performance Monitoring platform free of charge. In addition, we are providing complimentary 90 days access to our most popular design and validation software, as well as free access to Keysight eLearning modules, is supporting ongoing efforts in development of future innovations.

Technology will Continue to Play a Role in Social Impact and Wellness

While technology of the 20th century played a role in the physical spread of COVID-19, today’s technologies have played a critical role in helping mitigate its impact. And I have no doubt that our experiences today will lead to new technological advancements that will further aid, or maybe even alleviate, the impact of any subsequent pandemics. As always, it’s an exciting time to be the technology industry!