Mar 18, 2020

The global epidemic: how coronavirus has affected the IT world

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Now it’s impossible to find a person who doesn’t know about the COVID-19 virus or, as it is also called, “Coronavirus”. Many countries are now in quarantine, an emergency situation has been introduced in cities, and this has affected many areas of our lives: from leisure to work. The IT sphere has always been rapidly growing and worldwide quarantine has also affected the development of technology and many large companies. Let’s look at what has changed in the IT world with the advent of the virus.

A bit about the problem

In late December, in the Chinese city of Wuhan doctors began to fix cases of infection with an unknown disease. Later it turned out that it was pneumonia caused by a new type of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the disease was officially named COVID-19. Like SARS, it can be transmitted through the respiratory tract. In China, they warned that the virus mutates, and there is a risk of its rapid spread, in connection with which the country’s authorities began to quarantine some cities.

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Cases have been reported in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the USA, France, Italy, Nepal, Iran, Canada, the Philippines, and other countries. Now all countries have introduced a state of emergency and quarantine, as well as all necessary measures have been taken to ensure the safety of residents.

Online work

The first and most effective action against the disease is to limit yourself from contact with the infected people. Therefore, quarantine has been introduced around the world. So, companies that care about the health of employees began to organize work from home. 

Microsoft and Expedia sent more than 80% of employees to work from home. A little less — from 34% to 76% of workers work remotely with giants such as Amazon, Uber, Facebook, and Google. The Pentagon and NASA switched to the same mode of operation, and representatives of the US Congress will soon follow this approach. Twitter has also closed offices, and Apple has sent 12,000 employees from California to work remotely.

Of course, employees need special software for established communication. This provoked an increase in the popularity of instant messengers and video chats. Coronavirus raised Zoom stocks by 10-12%. The company provides video conferencing software. And the traffic of The Webex web conferencing service has already grown by a record 22 times. IT giants Google and Microsoft have already announced the provision of free versions of collaboration services G Suite and Microsoft Teams. So, users of any tariff packages can organize conferences for up to 250 people for free.

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What about efficiency? Most heads of companies worry about this. Workers from Stanford University tried to find the answer. They measured the performance of the employees of the Chinese call center Ctrip. The productivity of remote work increased by 13%. Employees took fewer breaks and worked in the most comfortable atmosphere. The same conclusions were reached at Microsoft, where 80% of workers work remotely.

Coronavirus will help test this theory on a larger scale. Of course, the effectiveness of remote work depends on the corporate culture. If the company promotes the independence of employees and competent time management, then they will work effectively both in bed with a laptop and in the office.

Losses of large companies

Closing of stores

Back in February of this year, large technology companies announced the temporary closure of all corporate offices, manufacturing enterprises and retail stores throughout China. These companies include Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Tesla, and Google.

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Supply stop

Since many products are manufactured in China or use parts from Chinese suppliers, companies warn customers about the stop of supplying various smartphones, virtual reality headsets, cars, and other technical accessories.

Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, Vivo, ZTE and Lenovo have postponed shipments of their devices due to a coronavirus outbreak. Facebook also stopped taking orders of the new Oculus Quest VR headset, because of an epidemic.

Problems of Apple corporation

It would seem that Apple is the most stable company that has received worldwide success, but the pandemic has also affected it. So for the company, this virus was a blow to income. It is worth noting that many of the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch models are assembled at Foxconn factories and Pegatron Corp production sites, which are located several hundred kilometers from the quarantined city of Wuhan.

Apple shares in February fell by 0.3% to $308.66. The company said, that its revenue forecast for the second quarter of the fiscal year 2020 is not feasible due to an outbreak of coronavirus. Experts also note that Apple stores in China significantly affect total sales. Although only 8% of physical retail outlets are concentrated in the country, revenue is 17% of the total sales of products.

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Events and Exhibitions

The coronavirus epidemic and panic triggered by it are a serious challenge for the presentation of new products. Major conferences and exhibitions have been canceled one after another.

What was canceled

When the problem only appeared and meetings had not yet begun to be canceled, many companies were cautious and refused to participate. So at the large-scale RSA security conference in San Francisco, IBM, AT&T, and Verizon refused to participate.

After many companies, including Sony, Amazon, Nvidia, LG Electronics, ZTE, and Ericsson, refused to attend the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the GSM association canceled the show. EmTech in Singapore, Shopify in Toronto, and the Google I/O Developer Conference will not be held either.

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Facebook canceled one of its promotions and the annual F8 conference — one of the most anticipated events for the company. At this event, it presents products and plans for software developers. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, makes a regular presentation at this conference.

Due to the spread of the epidemic, Chinese companies were the first to cancel or delay indefinitely the presentation of new products or important conferences. So the Chinese corporation Huawei said it was forced to postpone the annual conference of developers of HDC.Cloud and Xiaomi canceled the presentation of smartphones in Beijing.

What decision did corporations find

This situation challenged the organizers and provided an opportunity to take a fresh look at the events. Many began to conduct online broadcasts because they allow you to consume content in real-time without leaving your home (or quarantine zone). And also it makes it possible to communicate with experts and see the latest news just on your couch.

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Brands use conferences and exhibitions to showcase products. But what about the stands in the remote format? A smart solution was also found for this problem. Here VR technologies come to the rescue. Car brands that were supposed to participate in the Geneva Motor Show, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 epidemic, held presentations of new car models in VR. So there was a full virtual exhibition.

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Coronavirus and gaming industry

Events

The second week of the major League of Legends tournament was also postponed indefinitely, but the league held the tournament online. Blizzard also announced that Overwatch League matches wouldn’t take place in February and March.

Consoles

Closing of Chinese production due to coronavirus will affect the launch of the PS5 and the new Xbox. This situation will affect both supply constraints and the cost of launch consoles. Most likely, gamers will have to wait for the release of new products from the Playstation and Xbox already next year.

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The popularity of Plague Inc.

Many of you probably remember the strategy called Plague Inc. The essence of the game is to spread the epidemic throughout the Earth and ultimately destroy humanity. The player must infect a null patient in a particular country. From the infection of cities and countries, the virus spreads to the whole world, destroying all living organisms. In 2012, Plague Inc was nominated for the “Best Strategic Game of the Year” according to IGN.

The outbreak has led to an increase in the popularity of this biological simulator. The developers of the game, the British company Ndemic Creations, announced that they have received a lot of messages with questions about the outbreak of the Chinese virus. But the company calls to turn to the World Health Organization and not perceive the game as a scientific model of coronavirus distribution.

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How technologies help overcome the virus

In addition to damages and losses for the industry, coronavirus gave impetus to the development of certain technologies. People began to come up with devices and services to deal with the epidemic.

Drones keep order

Since it is dangerous to go out, the Chinese government has found a brilliant solution — they leave the drones on guard of order. Drones inform people about the threat of infection and wearing masks, help disinfect the streets, light up construction sites where new medical facilities are built, inform the population about the situation in the country, deliver food and much more.

Also, there are thermal imaging drones on the streets that can determine the temperature of a person’s body and transmit data to a medical facility. It sounds fantastic, but it is our reality.

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Mobile patrols

In Jiangsu, patrol robots using 5G technology are on the streets. They move through the streets, recognize faces, remotely measure temperature. At one time they identify 32 people. According to the developers, if the robot identified a person without a mask in the crowd, it makes a verbal comment to him. All information is transmitted to the control center for a further decision regarding the offender.

Nurse robots

Assistant robots have appeared in Chinese hospitals that save time for doctors and nurses. They deliver drugs to patients, collect garbage and bedding. These are full-fledged paramedics who are well oriented in the room, keep data on patients, deliver drugs to the patients from the pharmacy.

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Diagnostic systems

Medical facilities use tomogram analysis systems that, based on artificial intelligence, distinguish between common pneumonia and pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

Health rating

Remember the episode of the popular series Black Mirror, in which people had a society rating? In China, the system is now about the same, because the government is trying at all costs to stop the infection. Alibaba company is committed to develop and launch the people’s color-coding system based on the level of danger: from green to yellow. It will be determined based on the state of human health and the number of trips made to dangerous areas.

Disappointing forecasts for the sphere

ZDNet reports that the IDC consulting company has revised its forecast for IT spending in 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. Analysts believed that hardware and software spending growth would exceed 5%. But due to the epidemic, according to the new forecast, spending will be about 1%.

Now the situation is unusually unstable. Before the coronavirus disrupted supply chains, trade, and business planning, IDC expected to see growth in PC and smartphone sales, as well as high demand for software and services.

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What services and apps received income from the virus

People sit at home, try not to contact outsiders and avoid crowded places. This is the high point of all food delivery services, streaming platforms, and online training.

All restaurants that have successfully invested in delivery apps are now at their peak. This started, of course, from China, where McDonald’s, Starbucks and other companies offered buyers contactless delivery to protect customers and employees. As coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, food delivery platforms such as Door Dash, Postmates, UberEats, and GrubHub have announced that orders can now be picked up without contacting the driver. Therefore, adding new features to applications is a must-have of services.

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Streaming services Netflix, Apple TV, and Disney have stopped shooting all projects against the backdrop of a pandemic. But, thanks to the quarantine announcement, already popular services have become even more popular.

To summarize

The coronavirus pandemic is a problem of every country and all inhabitants of the earth. For many companies, the virus has brought losses. Of course, this could not but affect the technological sphere. Even the leading companies on the worldwide market are losing stocks, customers and the ability to deliver products. However, among such a pessimistic situation, it is worth taking a look at the new technologies that developed during this difficult time. Now is the time for IT companies to invest in the healthcare industry to quickly deal with the problem.