UC&C in the Post-COVID-19 World and Implications for Vendors and CSPs

Oru Mohiuddin (Research Manager)
Melissa Fremeijer (Senior Research Analyst)

The exceptionally rapid uptake of UC&C solutions in the past few weeks is expected to have a game-changing and lasting effect on the adoption of UC&C going forward.

After being forced to speedily deploy UC&C, businesses from all sizes and industry sectors will start to discover the cost efficiencies and improved business productivity UC&C brings to the table.

New Norms in the Post-COVID-19 World

The current health crisis created by COVID-19 undoubtedly is one of the strangest, if not the strangest, periods of our lifetime. Never before did our generation witness the world coming to a standstill with one billion people being confined to their homes, while mighty institutions collaborate to fight a threat of unprecedented magnitude posed by a microcosm called coronavirus.

While we can be optimistic that the current health crisis will eventually come under control, life as we have known prior to the virus will have changed forever. The restrictions on movement and physical engagements is compelling us to take our daily/usual activities to the virtual space which could eventually become the new norm.

In addition to people having to work from home, academic lessons are moving to the virtual space, doctors are consulting patients remotely, and people are shopping online more than ever. Even social interactions such as meeting friends for drinks, partying, dancing, and singing are now done online through video conferencing.

The popularity and use of video to connect socially will further lower the inhibition for people to use video in their work environments as well.

Although remote working, distance learning, telemedicine and so on are not new, the next step to UC&C as the default enterprise communications platform is its entrenchment in business applications to further optimize flows. It is not surprising that collaboration technology ranks as number 1 on our survey for IT spending during the COVID-19 period:

Expected Impact on Spending for Major Technology Areas
Source: IDC Buyer Poll — Impact of COVID-19 on European IT Investments

UC&C Players Come Forward to Help

UC&C players are allowing enterprises to scale up at no additional cost and offering specific vertical solutions particularly in the health and education sector. Some vendors have helped academic institutions to move their classes to the online space within a short time. Some others have donated their solutions to hospitals in some of the worst hit areas such as China to enable remote patient and consultant meetings.

Communication service providers (CSPs) are also stepping up (also jointly with UC&C vendors) in rolling out extra (network) capacity (WAN/LAN), and VPN access on the fly, for example. They are also helping with extra training of IT and workers to get everything up and running fast, in a secure way and to the best use.

User Experience Is Key in Establishing Goodwill and Credibility

UC&C vendors are offering enterprises the option to scale up at no extra cost. This will help develop goodwill which can be beneficial in the long run in terms of new business opportunities. That said, it needs to be associated with good user experience, which is a combination of features and functionality and the quality of overall service including backend support.

The massive uptake of collaboration tools, including video, leads to a spike in bandwidth demand and an equally large strain on deployed servers and networks. Therefore, it makes sense for UC&C vendors to, for example, lower quality (resolution) of the video sessions. This way it will alleviate bandwidth demand. However, it’s clear that this is not the quality users can normally expect.

In addition to bolstering back-end support for customers (together with CSPs and system integrators), easy to use (self-service) portals and advanced analytics will help IT to take proactive measures to keep latency and quality within the required parameters.

UC&C players will also need to overcome the challenge of onboarding a large bulk of new users in a relatively short time. This requires the necessary training and guidance to accelerate adoption and amplify the user experience.

A Crisis That Makes for a Compelling Use Case

The current situation is a true litmus test for the UC&C players challenging their actual capacity and capabilities in dealing with a sudden surge in demand. The current crisis presents these vendors and CSPs with a powerful source to develop a compelling use case in which they can demonstrate how well they responded to an urgent situation.

The timing, however, needs to be right, given that this could be misconstrued as being opportunistic. Hence, it is better to reserve it for when the situation has come under control.

 

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Oru Mohiuddin or Melissa Fremeijer, or drop your details in the form on the top right.

If you want to know more about how COVID-19 will affect the technology landscape, see more resources here


Young engineer working on a 3D printer

3D Printing is Taking the Fight to COVID-19

Galina Spasova (Senior Research Analyst)

3D printing businesses all over the globe are pledging their support to fight the COVID-19 pandemic every day. In this post we will look at some of the most recent examples.

We discussed how COVID-19 is impacting the manufacturing industry: both demand and supply are being heavily affected. However, when it comes to medical equipment, crucial patient support and protection against the spread of the virus, supplies are of critical importance.

With an increasing number of patients daily, there is a strain on hospitals to provide protective and care equipment to all those in need.

3D Printed Wards, Thermometers, Lung Models, Ventilators

At the end of last month, China’s government announced that key high-tech sectors such as 3D printing, 5G, and IoT need to be boosted to cope with the fallout caused by COVID-19. Thousands of 3D printed face masks and protective goggles were sent to frontline medics to mitigate the shortage of supplies.

3D printed wards allowed for more patients to be admitted. Also, 3D printed non-contact infrared temperature scanners aided in patient diagnostics, and 3D printed life-size lung models helped educate medics on the effects of the virus.

In the UK, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock encouraged manufacturers to work together to urgently provide more ventilators to the NHS. In response, Ricoh 3D announced it would assist in their production. HP Inc also pledged to mobilise its production to deliver critical medical equipment to combat the pandemic and has already supplied hospitals near its R&D centres with over 1,000 3D printed parts.

Rapid Production of Low-Cost Respirator Valves, Filters and Face Shields

In Italy, the local 3D printing research institute Isinnova helped a hospital in Brescia to resolve a shortage in respirator valves — a component in high demand that needs to be replaced every 8 hours. A 3D printer was brought on site, the part was redesigned, and 100 items were printed within a few hours.

After testing the 3D printed valve, more were produced by a local 3D printing company at a cost below €1. Isinnova later developed another solution by adapting a decathlon snorkelling mask, adding a link connecting it to a ventilator. This solution was received very well by the global 3D printing community and the design is open for reproduction.

While such 3D printed items have proven helpful in emergency situations, the safety of these designs is under examination. At this stage, there is little visibility on the outcomes of the use of these components. They remain uncertified medical devices and should be used with caution and as last resort.

There is increased interest among healthcare providers in the quickly available and cheaper-to-produce medical necessities. This led to the emergence of online spaces such as the Emergency AM Platform, connecting those in need of assistance with 3D Printing companies.

After the European Commission issued an urgent request for 3D printing expertise, the MGA Medical group, which provides a similar service, received offers from over 250 companies from different industries, including automotive and sportswear, offering capacity, materials and support. In fact, the number of 3D printing central hubs and support networks worldwide to fight COVID-19 keeps growing daily.

Following a 3D printed face shield developed by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Prague-based Prusa Research adapted an existing face shield design for 3D printing. The shield has been approved by the Czech Ministry of Health and its design and assembly instructions are freely accessible online. Prusa is printing approximately 500 face shields a day on 100 printers.

Last week, experts from the Czech Technical University (CVUT) developed a 3D printed respirator with a special filter which lasts up to a week. According to the Czech Health Minister, it provides greater protection compared to FFF3 respirators, with up to 10,000 units planned to be manufactured daily.

3D printing and COVID19 Twitter
Source: Adam Vojtěch (Twitter)

“CTU experts have developed a respirator on a 3D printer. The special filter lasts about a week. It provides even higher protection than FFP3. We agreed to start supplying them to university hospitals. Now we’re just fine-tuning the details. Starting next week, they could start producing up to 10,000 units a day.”

 

Since the Czech government made it mandatory to wear masks outside, people have started sewing them at home. To make this easier, 3D printing enthusiasts have developed plastic fittings to help sewing the hems of the mask.

3D printing and COVID19
Source: Martin Holain (Facebook)

We also saw the development of more pragmatic solutions to use in daily life, such as this hands-free door opener, designed by Materialise and demonstrated by Sintratec

3D Printing Copper Materials to Combat COVID-19

Five years ago, the University of Southampton published findings that copper inactivates coronaviruses within a few minutes and can prevent transmission. A recent US government funded study confirms that COVID-19 (referred to as HCov-19) persists for approximately three hours in the air, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic or stainless steel.

The Chilean/US-based company Copper 3D developed a range of antibacterial 3D printing materials that have been proven to eliminate 99.99% of fungi, viruses and bacteria, as well as a large number of microorganisms. Developed for prosthetics, surgical equipment and wound dressings, these materials are one example of how 3D printing can be used to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Copper 3D also recently developed a solution to combat the shortage of N95 masks called NanoHack, with an open source design.

3D printing and COVID19
Source: Copper 3D

The Bottom Line

With plummeting stocks and supply chains in disarray, this is both a crisis and an opportunity moment for 3D printing. The 3D printing industry itself may not witness growth, but the technology receives a chance to provide necessary support with emergency spare parts and supplies.

With shortened lead times and lower production cost, 3D printing has come through as a welcomed support to fall back on in this time of global health crisis.

What is really coming to the fore is the effort of the global 3D printing community, brainstorming about new applications, custom made solutions, and new materials. Open source designs and file sharing have become the norm.

Manufacturers are volunteering their production capacity and expertise, while governments and international institutions open platforms and dialogue for innovations that could contribute to the global fight against the pandemic.

 

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Galina Spasova, or drop your details in the form on the top right.

If you want to know more about how COVID-19 will affect the technology landscape, see more resources here


Effects of COVID-19 on European Service Providers

Kamil Gregor (Research Analyst)

IDC has been continuously publishing research related to the COVID-19 pandemic on its new microsite. In this post, we’ll look at how European service providers have reacted to the developing situation.

IDC estimates that approximately 5–10% of European service providers (SPs) have gone beyond issuing statements about their own immediate operations (e.g., providing guidance to employees or cancelling events). Reactions have differed depending on the SP type.

Responses From European Service Providers

Most responses so far have come from telecommunications providers. They have:

    • Shared anonymized customer data with the public sector to combat the pandemic (e.g., Deutsche Telekom)
    • Offered free communications services in severely affected regions (e.g., Telecom Italia)
    • Offered subscriptions to online TV and entertainment for free or at discounted rates to encourage consumers to remain indoors (e.g., SFR)
    • Boosted their network capacity and technical support to ensure uninterrupted service during a period of high demand (e.g., Vodafone, Telenet, Ziggo)

Telecommunications providers are also promoting solutions related to working from home (e.g., BT). In some cases, they have created new service packages tailored to relevant use cases:

    • Homeschooling (e.g., Telefonica)
    • Facilitation of online events like townhall meetings (e.g., Swisscom)

Digital SPs that offer IT consulting have published various analyses and business advice (e.g., Accenture, SAP).

In contrast to telecommunications providers, there has so far been little or no reaction from hosting and managed service providers.

Impact on the Service Providers

In the medium to long term, several SP types will likely face severe disruptions of their businesses in addition to the expected recession (e.g., travel services aggregators, online sports betting companies). If the public sector significantly increases healthcare spending, digital SPs that focus on healthcare will be positively impacted.

Large-scale datacenter operators (particularly colocation providers) face the risk of service disruptions if COVID-19 spreads among their datacenter personnel. Securing continuity of service remotely is technically feasible but might prove difficult if multiple sites are affected simultaneously. Datacenter construction is expected to be similarly affected. Facebook has already suspended construction of its datacenter in Ireland in response to coronavirus testing on site.

The situation is very fluid at the moment and IDC continues to monitor it daily and adjust its view on the estimated impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the IT market. All analyses are published on our new dedicated microsite.

Please contact Kamil Gregor for more information or to share your views with us.


The Impact of COVID-19 on Sustainability and Technology

Marta Munoz (Research Director)
Vladimir Kroa (Associate Vice President)

By the time you read this blog, no matter where in the world you are, most of us are likely to have experienced at least a few days confined at home. We are juggling the challenges of remote working, supporting children in their remote schooling, and a very different lifestyle in general as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

As with sustainability and climate change-related challenges, the virus has no respect for political, geographical, or religious boundaries. It has made it obvious what a globalised society and economy we live in, and how interdependent we all are.

Amid all the negative news, it is important to keep track of the silver linings this crisis enables from a sustainability perspective. And particularly, when it comes to the role of technology in this crisis, there are plenty of those right now.

Technology is Part of the Solution

United Nations Sustainability Goals
Source: United Nations

If we take the United Nations 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) into consideration, COVID-19 is likely to impact all of them for better or worse. We see technology providing excellent support to mitigate the negative effects of this crisis across all those 17 Goals, in particular:

#3 Good Health and Well-Being

Now more than ever we face the challenge of providing resilient healthcare services. Some solutions can provide welcome support to those in hospital and at home. From IoT-based remote health monitoring or bedside telemetry, to robots and drones used in quarantined hospitals, which can help alleviate the burden on some medical staff (carrying equipment, sterilisation tasks, etc).

#4 Quality Education

The negative impact of schools closing can be devastating. Not only from an educational perspective, but from a humanitarian one (many schools provide a healthy meal and refuge to children in need). There are many remote schooling platforms, such as Cisco Webex Education, Google Classroom and Zoom.

Many of these vendors have currently upgraded their free versions with extra functionalities. The role of cloud services providers offering extra support and capacity to enable these free versions is also key in this situation.

#12 Responsible Consumption and Production

This crisis is forcing many retailers and manufacturers to rethink their current supply chains. Both upstream and downstream.

Circular economy principles can enable the reuse of discarded items and materials. Equally, they can help enable supply chain traceability and waste management practices.

All these can reduce vulnerabilities and help increase resiliency. In the weeks and months to come they will become high items on the agenda of many board meetings.

Topolytics, for example, enables organisations to trace their waste through data aggregation and analytics. SGS Transparency One is enabling the digitisation of the supply chain to provide product traceability and transparency. Society will demand this increasingly, particularly after a crisis like this.

#17 Partnerships

In recent weeks, the number of private-public partnerships has grown exponentially. This is the effect of a clear need to identify rapid solutions and provide much needed resources.

These have enabled the creation of remote monitoring apps to trace the movement of people. The use of technologies such as 3D, AI and IoT to speed up the deployment of materials is also widespread. From enabling vaccine tests to 3D printed respirators.

The list goes on.

A Brighter Future

Above all, this crisis is providing a training ground for companies to consider the parts of the business that can — and must — be digitised. This will be a key requirement in order to become more resilient for the future. Sustainability is, now more than ever, synonymous with business continuity and resiliency.
The COVID-19 crisis will make it relatively easy to discern which organisations and governments are really committed to their sustainability goals and intentions. The main need in the short term will be the medical and economic support for those most affected by this pandemic.

However, the medium to long term commitment to sustainability should remain in place, especially now that we have experienced both the positive and the negative aspects of this crisis first-hand.

We hope that the new partnerships, altruistic engagements and flexible working policies that we have seen during these weeks will persist long after the crisis. We also hope these will become embedded to enable a more engaged and collaborative global society.

If you wish to hear more about how technology can impact your sustainability goals during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, take a look at the IDC EMEA new Subscription Service: Technology for Sustainability and Social Impact or contact Marta Muñoz or head over to https://uk.idc.com.

If you want to know more about how COVID-19 will affect the technology landscape, see more resources here