It seems as if every few decades brings a seminal event that changes the course of the world. The first such event of the 2000s is arguably the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last six months, everything has been turned upside down by the virus and the lockdowns it has created. Thank goodness for technology. We are a tech-driven society. If coronavirus were capable of simultaneously infecting human beings and our technology, the world would be in a much worse place than it is. Thankfully, that cannot happen. Moreover, it is technology – and tech start-ups – that have made lockdowns more bearable. Tech start-ups are seizing new opportunities and running with them. They are helping to change the world by helping us do things differently. This post will look at some of the most profound changes we have seen thus far. The Rebirth of Telehealth Telehealth technology was introduced back in the 1990s. It enjoyed limited acceptance due mainly to a global system that was comfortable. Needless to say that COVID-19 has changed all that. Telehealth has been reborn in the wake of lockdowns that have kept people away from hospitals and GP surgeries. A small army of tech start-ups have taken the plunge to develop everything from new video systems to remote monitoring platforms and new wearable devices. In fact, wearables may prove to be a cornerstone of telehealth moving forward. Imagine a wearable that can track your vital signs or keep your doctor informed of how your medication is working. Imagine a wearable device that can produce an electrocardiogram and send the data directly to your cardiologist. Retail Robotics Retail is an area of big concern among health experts right now. Everything from shopping to dining at your favourite restaurant is in play. How are technology start-ups coping in the midst of the pandemic? By fast tracking the development of new retail robotics. There is a company in China that just recently deployed delivery robots and drones. The devices had been in testing since 2019, but COVID-19 led the company to conclude its testing and put the devices into service. These can now make contactless deliveries with relative ease. Then there is the restaurant chain that just opened a brand-new restaurant complex staffed almost entirely by robots. There is almost no interaction between customers and restaurant operators because robots can do everything from delivering orders to washing dishes. Better Online Business Tools If telehealth and retail robotics are the two most important areas of technology in the COVID-19 era, online business tools are a close third. The pandemic has forced companies to go beyond the status quo to improve existing tools and come up with new ones. For example, the World Economic Forum used a recent post to discuss new facial recognition technology that allows people to conduct meetings from home while obscuring their surroundings – all without using old school green screen tools. Meanwhile, a variety of tech start-ups are working on improving cloud environments, virtual meetings, virtual private networks, and VoIP service. Online Education While adults are adapting to working from home, their kids are facing a new world of online education. From primary and secondary school all the way up to university, educational institutions across the world are faced with the reality that opening in autumn may not happen. So what are the tech start-ups doing? They are developing educational platforms utilising augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and even robotic teachers. Meanwhile, others are developing purpose-built learning platforms so that kids don't have to keep using tools like Zoom. 5G Networks It is important to understand that none of this technology would be of any use if fast, robust internet access were not available. Enter a number of technology companies who have made it their mission to improve how we connect. Indeed, we are on the verge of global 5G. Although 5G has been delayed in Europe for the time being, it is already being launched in the US. It is only a matter of time before 5G networks span the entire globe, making for faster internet connections and significantly better data transfer speeds. Making the Best of Things, for Now It is safe to say that right now we are all trying to make the best of things. To the extent that technology can help, lockdowns are made easier. We are not suffering nearly as much as the victims of previous pandemics because so much of our lives already revolve around being online. In the long term, most of the technologies that are now making lockdowns more bearable will define daily life. For example, five years from now, telehealth will not be an alternative to traditional GP visits. It will be the norm where GP visits will be the outlier. That is what seminal events like the COVID-19 pandemic do for societal change.