At Ayla Networks, we are focused on how key emerging trends in the consumer, foodservice, and internet service provider markets can best help our customers take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in the era of COVID.

Here’s how your company can determine which operations can be improved with IoT technology to survive and—going forward, thrive—through this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and its many challenges.

Center Stage for Connected Wellness Products

Millions of consumers already have embraced IoT-powered interactive speakers, smart thermostats, and video doorbells. Because of COVID, however, the market for smart home products will enter a new phase, with a focus on wellness.

Going forward, there will be an increase in the demand for products that maintain or improve the air quality in a home. Examples include air purifiers, humidifiers, and HVAC systems that can, for example, react intelligently or automatically follow local health guidelines. (See our earlier blog post on the need for smart air purifiers and cleaner homes.)

The pandemic has also increased consumer demand for smart home exercise equipment, such as the Peloton fitness cycle and The Mirror workout system on the high end, and for connected fitness apps and classes, with and without wearable health trackers, for the rest of us.

Telemedicine Gets its Moment

Early in the course of the pandemic, Medicare and Medicaid loosened coverage restrictions on virtual medical visits, and private health insurance companies followed suit. Now, the US Senate—backed by the American Medical Association— is moving toward the passage of the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2020, which would cut many of the regulatory restrictions permanently.

The consulting firm McKinsey predicts that up to $250 billion (or, 20 percent of all office, outpatient, and home health dollars across Medicare, Medicaid, and commercially insured populations) could potentially be virtualized by switching to virtual “routine” office consultations and other telehealth services such as:

  • Urgent care by video to avoid unnecessary trips to hospital emergency rooms
  • Home-healthcare telepresence and digital patient-engagement tools
  • Tech-enabled home medication administration and remote monitoring

Foodservice and Social Distancing

In public-facing service businesses, like restaurants, contactless systems will become more important than ever.

Even before the pandemic, many quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and their customers already enjoyed the speed and convenience of no-contact mobile ordering, pickup, delivery, tipping, and payments. Now, the requirements of social distancing have forced restaurants to expand the idea of what constitutes a “contactless” experience, according to Nadira Kalliecharan, vice president, travel and hospitality at Publicis Sapient. 

Kalliecharan says QSRs now must “think creatively about how to drive contactless into back-of-the-house functions.”

Less Labor, More Automation

One way to improve these back-office functions is with automation and the use of IoT systems that monitor food preparation. An IoT platform can help restaurants flag potential health issues and remediate non-compliance problems. IoT technology could also keep consumers more engaged through tough times, as it can help QSRs automate recipe updates and test new offerings in various markets.

Using connected, smart equipment is another way. “For instance, certain fryer manufacturers have developed automatic oil-management systems that allow staff to avoid touching hot oil,” offers Matt Gentile of Parts Town, a supplier of commercial kitchen equipment parts.

“There also are griddles available that automatically adjust the upper and lower grill plates throughout the grilling process, assuring food reaches proper temperature and cook settings. These types of units offer a hands-free, automated solution in your kitchen, while also reducing downtime and increasing both energy efficiency and even cooking,” Gentile writes in a recent issue of a restaurant trade magazine.

When networked through an IoT platform, such commercial kitchen products now can be monitored for performance and diagnosed for malfunctions, helping to streamline decisions about repair and replacement. Furthermore, an IoT platform can manage equipment warranties and help operators understand how much it costs to own and oversee these assets.

Even when restaurants reopen for “dining in,” more stringent health and accountability standards likely will prevail. To reassure customers that restaurant dining is safe, foodservice operators will need to implement touchless voice- or motion-activated bathroom fixtures, commercial-grade air cleaners, and disinfecting ultraviolet lighting–all of which manufacturers can transform into “smart equipment” with IoT technology.

By making their businesses increasingly contactless, mobile, and flexible, Kalliechara says, restaurants can “deliver the highest standard of service even if they can’t be physically close to their customers.”

Smarter Equipment, Fewer ISP Service Calls

Social distancing norms will also accelerate the trend for service providers, such as those in the Internet services business, to transition to customer premises equipment that can be managed without onsite service calls.

Even before the pandemic, ISPs were faced with fierce competition and struggled with revenue growth.

Service calls ate into ISP margins: The average large ISP incurred operating expenses of ~2% of revenues related to service calls, truck rolls, swaps, and support. Furthermore, about 40% of these ISP service calls were related to issues that could be uncovered and often predicted with data management and algorithms. As quarantined consumers view ISPs as their essential lifeline to virtual school, work, and relationships, these pressures will only increase.

There is an IoT fix, according to ServiceMax research analyst Sumair Dutta.

“By accessing sensor data through IoT networks, machine learning algorithms can analyze and predict in real-time, alerting service teams to potential issues before they become serious problems,” Dutta tells Field Service News. "It’s so important for service teams to get in front of customers, highlighting potential issues and resolving them..."

To move forward and embrace digital transformation, Dutta says, predictive service is essential in the New Normal.

For the ISP, predictive maintenance saves time and money on repairs and truck rolls. For the rep, remote fixes mean fewer hours of field service time and less exposure to health hazards. For the customer, early detection and resolution of service problems without a house call is one less reason to dump one provider for another. And, better “word of mouth” that attracts new subscribers.

The data to make the decisions exist, and the systems and IoT processes to drive business value are mostly in place.

“Advances in embedded intelligence in all devices and structures means that in the near future, any on-site presence of a field technician is either for initial installation or a complex repair,” Salesforce Senior Vice President Michael Maoz tells Field Service News. He predicts that technology will allow customer satisfaction to be cultivated and maintained remotely.

"This sense of a shared business and customer effort at service resolution will leave the customer feeling a deeper connection with the foodservice,” he says.

Time for Digital Transformation

Under the strain of COVID and climate extremes, the long-overdue digital transformation—of the home, food service, and ISP markets—will accelerate. Thankfully, the maturity of IoT technology has reached an optimal point to justify the business case for investment. 

It’s the New Normal. Isn’t it time to talk with Ayla Networks about transforming your business model with IoT?