The New Normal Encourages Technology Adaptation and Creation

By Edson Perin

Solutions developed by companies specializing in product identification and tracking are becoming key tools in the post-COVID-19 world.

During the past three months of social isolation caused by COVID-19, a disease resulting from contamination by the new coronavirus, we've seen the adaptation of several existing solutions and the creation of new ones by specialized technology companies in the areas of product identification and tracking. The common objective of these efforts is to meet new needs that have arisen with the new normal of our post-pandemic world.

The most curious thing is that companies are not developing new solutions to fill a revenue gap due to a drop in revenues from their original businesses. Quite the opposite, in fact. Technology vendors are simply taking advantage of new business opportunities that involve solving critical issues in how companies operate, which did not exist a few months ago, before the pandemic.

First, it must be stated that companies that demand technology and have already understood the need for Internet of Packaging (IoP) systems—based on technologies such as RFID and digital printing, for example—have not stopped making investments. Due to the need for increased online sales via e-commerce, home deliveries, "buy online, pickup in store" (BOPIS) and other aspects of omnichannel retailing, investments in IoP technology have become more mandatory than ever. For this reason, the demand for solutions from companies that supply these technologies is high. After all, everything that had an online alternative now has a mandatory virtual connection thanks to COVID-19.

There are, however, sectors of human activity that cannot survive or function simply online, without the physical presence of people. In these scenarios, with companies thinking about the resumption of their normal routine, albeit slowly, and with the gradual opening of stores, malls, offices and other spaces for human interaction, tools will be needed to guarantee people's health and security without disregarding the needs of the new normal.

Zebra Technologies recently launched its MotionWorks Proximity tool, which employs Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a Wi-Fi connection and the company's cloud-based Savanna software platform to allow proximity detection, alerting and contact tracking in the workplace (see Zebra's BLE Proximity Solution Offers Distancing for Enterprises). For companies that deploy the solution, including in the manufacturing, storage, transportation and healthcare sectors, existing Zebra's devices can help to ensure social distancing and contact tracing. Those who do not have Zebra products can purchase a mobile-computing bridge from the company to perform these tasks.

Another firm, Engineering, has launched a bracelet equipped with a radio frequency identification sensor, which emits audible and luminous warnings via LED if two people approach each other within less than the distance considered safe for avoiding coronavirus contagion. Engineering's Smart Proximity device is designed to enable safe return to work once the quarantine has been lifted (see RFID Facilitates Safe Return to Work Post-COVID-19).

Specialized equipment can measure employee temperatures without the need for physical contact.

Here in Brazil, Acura, a major supplier of RFID equipment that stands out strongly in the country's tolling sector, has also entered the arena of ​​solutions for the new normal. Its three new products, according to the company, can help businesses combat COVID-19 since they feature such technologies as a digital and intelligent thermometer that can measure a person's temperature without the need for physical contact. The device may also have an alcohol dispenser attached. Other solutions from Acura control access by facial recognition, including the activation of locks, also without contact.

There is a growing trend in the market for existing technologies to be adapted, or to serve as the basis for new solutions that will allow for safer coexistence between individuals, especially in public environments. This will undoubtedly generate new business.

Edson Perin is the editor of IoP Journal Brasil and the founder of Netpress Editora.