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No-Contact Services P1505 June 2020

Author: Sean R. Barulich (Send us feedback.)

The pandemic is creating opportunities for companies that are operating under the current social-distancing conditions.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Delivery companies are already experiencing growth as a result of the coronavirus-disease-19 (covid-19) pandemic, and some such companies are introducing no-contact services. For example, both Postmates (San Francisco, California) and Instacart (Maplebear; San Francisco, California) have introduced no-contact drop-off services in which workers leave deliveries at customers' curb or front door and have no interaction with the customers. And some companies are scaling up logistics operations because of the pandemic. For instance, Alibaba Group Holding (Hangzhou, China), (Beijing, China), and other online retailers in China have ordered hundreds of autonomous delivery vehicles from Neolix Technologies Co. (Beijing, China). The vehicles are seeing use to transport medical supplies while spraying disinfectant onto streets as they travel. Social-distancing and shelter-in-place measures have also influenced consumer-spending habits, leading to an increase in the use of digital payments. According to estimates by McKinsey & Company (New York, New York), e-commerce transactions in Italy have increased by 81% since the end of February 2020, when the country's lockdown began. But Gartner (Stamford, Connecticut) senior research director Dayna Ford highlights that the e-payments market will likely see a decline in overall revenue in 2020 because losses for e-payment companies that handle big-ticket purchases such as airline tickets and hotel bookings will offset gains for online retail.

Notably, the covid-19 pandemic may also facilitate the research and development of multiple technologies that support contactless business operations. For example, in a recent Science Robotics article, an international team comprising researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Shanghai, China), the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich; Zurich, Switzerland), and several other institutions highlights how robotics can play roles in frontline health-care operations—for example, in decontaminating surfaces, transporting contaminated waste, and monitoring people to ensure they follow quarantine guidelines. The team argues that the pandemic will drive new opportunities in robotics that support the application of remote operation in, for example, manufacturing facilities, power plants, and waste-treatment facilities. Although the adoption of such technologies may be prohibitively expensive (especially during an economic downturn), some industry players may see investing in robotics as a way to combat emerging economic challenges.