The 'new normal' is a term used to describe the world we will live in until a vaccine for Covid-19 can be administered.
With the coronavirus pandemic expected to have a significant impact on the UK public sector finances (the arm of the Treasury that borrows on international money markets on behalf of the Government - The Debt Management Office announced the Government intended to borrow £225bn in just four months and Boris Johnson was quoted by the BBC as saying the economy was unlikely to recover quickly afterwards and tax rises and a growing deficit were the likely outcome) the ‘new normal’ raises some interesting questions.
Prior to the 23rd of March 2020 no one could conceive the UK adhering to a lockdown. At present, it seems unconceivable to reopen up the entire UK economy safely, to everybody. But what if the Government invested heavily in cutting edge technology. Could the Government avoid the disruption caused by another Coronavirus in the future?
The Government are certainly pinning their hopes on creative economic solutions and have released innovation grants to encourage businesses to follow this course of research and development.
For example, physical devices connected to ICT are already used to allow real time responses to reduce costs and resource consumption in urban areas and to increase contact between citizens and the Government. The New York Times recently reported refugees are often guinea pigs on which to test new surveillance tools before bringing them to the wider population.
Will the coronavirus usher in a society where everyone is watched?
Existing technologies are moving from collection and surveillance to mass automated real-time monitoring. AI allows computers to learn on their own, which has already led to improved voice recognition. Coronavirus may be an enabler to the mass adoption of video analytics for Covid-19 track and trace purposes.
The video analytics market is highly fragmented and highly competitive. The pandemic has seen a partnership between Apple and Google for the first time and the Governments is keen to encourage research bypassing the UKs traditional tendering processes and offering access to innovation Grants.
Video analytics when combined with identification using biometrics, tracking cell phone Bluetooth or WIFI addresses, RFID readers and identity cards provides increased capabilities and usefulness. Cloud technology already places facial recognition in the hands of just about anyone with a smart phone.
A more technology enabled world may provide a viable solution to social distancing and as a result be fast tracked by the pandemic. In times of crisis Governments often receive emergency powers that they often retain. Will the data collected be used to judge us? Will data be passed to the Authorities? What will the impact on our mental health be from constantly being watched?
Investing in new, smarter technology could be the solution to keeping the R under control. But when people are scared through fear of the unknown this can impact their ability to think logically.
Maybe the question should be - at what cost will we ‘get back to normal’ life, if at all?