Why COVID Is India’s Chance To Use AI, Tech – And Enter The Future

We must recognise the technological opportunity amid crisis to create a ‘newer new’. Let’s not miss this bus.

3 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

Ever since the World Health Organization categorised the spread of COVID-19 as a pandemic in March 2020, our usual lives have been disrupted. In the context of the current public health crisis, digital technologies and Industry 4.0 have an all-the-more significant role in redefining the newer ‘new’ for business operations. Leveraging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Robotics in higher magnitude and pace will significantly differ in the world of business post-COVID.

In the manufacturing sector, 3D printing of spare parts will change the future of production.

Digital twins, mobile technology, and augmented/virtual reality will offer remote support opportunities and improve assets' availability. Online monitoring of machines and the emergence of cyber-physical systems, combined with the need for social distancing, will reduce on-site personnel up to 50 percent, leading to real-time visualisation of supply chains. Further, the introduction of bulk handling systems and robots that use artificial intelligence and deep learning, will help recycle more reliably, and effectively encourage sustainable manufacturing.


How Healthcare & Financial Sectors Are Using AI & Tech Interventions To Boost Services

In the healthcare sector, with high-risk clinical processes that have already embraced digital technologies, tele-ICUs, and robotic surgeries, there is no doubt that general physicians could turn to online consulting models. An example is using nano chips to generate body cells to heal body parts, introduced at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. On the other hand, hospitals may use digital technologies to serve patients who prefer to walk in to their facilities.

Fortis hospitals, for example, launched a robot-receptionist to screen visitors at their Bengaluru facility, using facial and speech recognition and autonomous navigation, which endorses the possibility of redefining healthcare.

The financial services will now open doors for artificial intelligence to enhance their Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capability, restricted only to tactical tasks in the past. The RPA service providers like Automation Anywhere have started positioning themselves as ‘Bot stores’ where employers can purchase robots with cognitive ability to make the right decisions without employment contracts. Enhancing the existing digital banking system, the possible application of cryptocurrency may make ATMs and branch banking redundant, leading to a new digital normality.

The Future Of Food, Hospitality & Education

The future of food and hospitality can witness organic restaurants. The robotic kitchens may take over the physical cooking and service models. The 'no touch' cooking model, to enable hygienic service, may redefine the restaurant experience.

It is noteworthy to learn from Spyce, a contemporary restaurant in Boston, US, that has introduced robotic chefs that serve delicious food with no human involvement, using a technology invented by Nicola Tesla.

The education sector that has considered online teaching as an option will not be an exception to the newer new. Virtual reality in education can redefine delivering pedagogy via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Skype. These virtual reality devices can eventually replace physical science labs and provide activity-based learning opportunities among the students. For example, ETH Zurich uses factory visit apps and affordable cardboard viewers to provide students access to multiple factory sites and their inner workings.


How Farmers Can Benefit From AI

IoT and Big Data Analytics could change the primary sector operations as well. Digital farming prescriptions through RFIDs would serve as a decision support system. Technologies like Blockchain – that can offer more than a virtual currency – could revamp the agriculture industry into a shared ledger model to improve transparency and ensure incorruptible trust.

Alongside providing farmers with instant data on seed quality, soil moisture, and climate, Blockchain can enable payments, demand, and sale on a single platform to establish a direct link between farmers and consumers, enabling real price produce.

With an increasing demand for online shopping, several new and existing retailers may redefine their purposes and ways of working to give some competition to e-commerce giants like Amazon.

The recent partnership between Reliance Jio and Facebook Inc points to a potential e-commerce system that can avoid warehousing via partnering with local grocery stores and online recommendations via social networking apps (like WhatsApp), in combination with online payments and home delivery. The online purchasing experience can undergo a renovation moving away from last-mile delivery to increase customer pick-up points.

With self-driving grocery stores' introduction, using autonomous electric vehicle technology, the future will witness Robo-marts that bring fresh foods and essentials at doorsteps.

It is time to recognise the technological opportunity amidst crisis to create a newer new with a positive outlook. Let’s not miss the bus this time.

(Vijaya Sunder is an Assistant Professor of Practice, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India. She can be reached at This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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