We are living in unprecedented times. I am certain I have written those words in an editorial a time or two before. But I think it is fair to say truer words have never spoken or written when talking about COVID-19 and healthcare, and its impact on business today.

In fact, a recent study just came out on the latter with a focus on the IoT (Internet of Things), which only reinforces my point that this pandemic is more than a healthcare crisis; it’s a global economic crisis, unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime. Perhaps since the great depression, I don’t think most of us can say we have experienced such physical, emotional, and financial upheaval.

Up to this point, since the COVID-19 pandemic is so new, we haven’t had enough data about how the pandemic is affecting the IoT in particular. I have tried to use this column to keep everyone up-to-date on what we do have in terms of data, and I find interviewing the actual people involved is often a great way to take an industry’s temperature, despite all the nonsense we hear in the evening news.

We need real data. Not the type of data that scares us. But real facts about how to use information to help us solve this crisis and move forward. This is why data is so valuable. Unless we have data to support the facts, people’s temperature’s (literally) on the pandemic can run hot and cold. Simply, as we have seen up to this point, it can vary considerably from state to state, city to city, and county to county—and that mean’s emotions are running very high and information can disrupt facts like when to open up the economy.

With that being said, just last week, ResearchandMarkets released a report examining the COVID-19 impact on the Internet of Things market. I have to admit, I devoured that report to see how it stacked up with what we’ve been hearing in all the news reports up to this point.

For the purposes of this column, I just want to point out a couple of interesting details that I gleaned out of the report. First, let’s talk about the big changes that have taken place, because I think it’s essential to frame the discussion.

A majority of countries surveyed by the Intl. Trade Union Confederation are on lock down, with non-essential businesses closed. Some 65% of countries at the time of this survey, around the end of March, were promoting work-from-home business models. I would guess the number is higher now. These two factors alone have had significant impacts on just about every business in every industry. All non-essential travel has been cancelled. And, as you know, the transportation industry is definitely in flux right now.

But new challenges are also opening up opportunities to leverage the IoT. So let’s talk about the ResearchandMarkets survey released last week. The research firm says the transportation segment has actually shown the highest growth rate during the forecast period.

Ironically, the research suggests the IoT is opening up new revenue streams in the transportation industry by facilitating the realtime tracking of vehicles and, in airports, automating things like checking passenger travel histories, as well as identifying people who might need to be quarantined.

I, personally, was surprised to see transportation being identified as the industry with the highest IoT growth rate to date. Most of the reports we tend to hear say the opposite.

Less surprising was the second key point from this survey, which indicates that the healthcare space will record higher investment and growth in 2020. Telehealth and telemedicine solutions are becoming so important during this pandemic. Telehealth is allowing doctors to “see” their patients without requiring them to leave their homes.

Some of the IoT applications in particular that are contributing to adoption growth include connected imaging, remote patient monitoring, and connected worker solutions.

Another research study that recently came out delves into the global digital health market. This research from Technavio isn’t taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic, so we need to consider these trends in light of new information. For instance, Technavio forecasts a $207 billion market for digital health by 2024, growing at a 20% CAGR (compound annual growth rate). The major driver, according to this study, is “increasing support for digital health from governments around the world.”

Let’s be clear, no one is going to forget that this happened for a really long time, and after the emergency phase of this pandemic passes in the U.S., we’re going to see a lot of people and entities trying to figure out how we can leverage the IoT to prevent similar situations from occurring again.

For instance, imagine if today we had a system in place that treated aggregated, anonymous data as a public good, and we could use this data to fill in information gaps for the purpose of public health surveillance.

Imagine if folks had access to information about their own health thanks to connected devices like connected thermometers and pulse oximeters, which could ease a lot of the anxiety plaguing people right now as they worry about COVID-19.  Our world is changing, and it’s changing fast. Just imagine if we had all the data we needed to change with it. How cool would that be?

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