The pandemic has triggered a wave of innovation that will continue to impact our world. Innovations present themselves in a variety of brand new ideas as well as in the application of existing concepts in alternative ways.
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the digital transformation as individuals and businesses have been forced to adopt modern technologies due to lockdowns and restrictions. The pandemic has sped up the process of digitalisation on many fronts. We have entered a hybrid world with no clear boundaries between the physical presence and the digital one. We will now look into border-crossing examples of transformation involving technology and experiences. They personify some of the most fascinating innovations affecting our lives right now.
Tech-celeration in full swing
The acceleration of technology, i.e., tech-celeration, is a fairly new term used to describe the situation where change is happening at an increasingly fast pace due to technological advancements. As part of this process, boundaries between physical and digital worlds are becoming blurred as we wrote in our previous blog post about the phygital experiences.
A good example of tech-celeration and cross-border thinking is a company called Zipline. They have ventured out to the African countries of Ghana and Rwanda and use their autonomous drones as tools for social distancing. Drones help in getting vital medical supplies, vaccines and blood to faraway health clinics and hospitals that are difficult or even impossible to reach otherwise. On the Asian continent, China has put its expertise on facial-recognition technology (FRT) into good use by introducing a fully automated nasal swab-collecting robot which can give medical professionals a helping hand in this high-risk job – if not during this pandemic, then during the next one.
A travel related tech-celeration example comes from the smart city of Singapore, where electric drone taxis will soon be transporting business people within the city state and all the way to Jakarta in Indonesia. Combining the convenience of autonomous mobility with climate action!
Dining innovations galore!
Culinary experiences are going phygital in earnest. Lines between on-site dining and takeaway are blurring as well. There has been rapid growth in the food and meal delivery industry.
The concept of makeaway has been introduced alongside with takeaway. This refers to meal kits that include pre-measured ingredients delivered directly to a customer’s door. Makeaway kits offer the customer an opportunity to make yummy, restaurant worthy meals, in the safety of their own homes and teach them how to cook with confidence, spending less time in planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning. Anton & Anton grocery bags and Ruokaboksi are Finnish examples of this concept. They have become highly popular during the pandemic.
One of the catchy innovations in the food and beverage industry is also the idea of ghost kitchens. These are delivery-only restaurants, and while there is no space for customers to sit, food preparation, cooking and delivery are done professionally. Ghost kitchens have become popular as they are cheaper to operate compared to traditional restaurants, and the food delivery sector has grown faster than dine-in.
Restaurants were off limits to people during the lockdown, so online cooking classes came to the rescue. Foodies can now eat Michelin-starred food from the comfort of their own couch instead of visiting a fine dining restaurant. For instance, you can get a world-renowed chef come to your kitchen, give you personalised tips and teach you the tricks of making an awe-inspiring dish during an online cooking class. In these virtual sessions, you can connect with a celebrity chef, be an active participant and immerse yourself in the cooking experience while savouring the delights afterwards (of course, after posting your accomplishment on social media!).
The examples above show how the pandemic gave the world incentives to invent new tools to connect and cross boundaries. The pandemic accelerated the advancement of digitalisation and technological development. We will know the full impact of the pandemic once it is over. However, we already know that we are more resilient, and ready to continue working, dining, learning and living our lives borderless if another sudden event were to strike. Black swans, new pandemics or other disruptions – we are better prepared than ever before!
Holmes, L. 2021. Understanding Corporate Trends. Voice of the Industry 2021. Euromonitor International.