As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re in the midst of what I believe will be a major change in the way business will be conducted in the future. We have more and more people working from home, taxing their residential networks and ISP nodes, and potentially opening liability for the businesses they work for in the process.
Stress on the Home Network
As we’ve quickly learned, the home network is taxed by working remotely and increasing our media consumption. The demand on Europe’s infrastructure was especially strained due to increased streaming via Netflix. Thierry Brenton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market stated that people should switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary. The suggestion was widely criticized: Few would actually switch back-and-forth between SD and HD. Hence a deal was made between Thierry and Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, to throttle down Netflix’s bitrates to reduce data consumption during the crisis.
Speaking of data consumption, what about data caps? The caps vary from region to region: In the state of Florida, for example, this affects not only ISP service but cellular providers as well. There’s some good news here: Service providers like AT&T decided to lift data caps during the outbreak, and Comcast opened their Wi-Fi network
nationally for free. (The company also offered unlimited data at no charge.)
The pandemic created a paradigm shift in society – one that will inevitably demand the talents of integrators.
During the onset of the crisis, connectivity came to be viewed as an essential need so we can be connected to news, information, instruction from local and national authorities, and even mental health as we get lost for a moment or two in a movie, music, or online education. A lack of connectivity on top of everything else would compound a troubling situation. In the U.S., the CISA (Cyber Security and Infrastructure Agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security [DHS]) provided guidelines for the “identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 response”
. (According to this guideline, our industry can fit into many buckets.)
Finally, I had the experience of trying to get five couples on a video conference call recently. I spent twenty minutes assisting others in figuring out how to download the conferencing clients, select speakers, cameras, and microphones. This would seem to be an opportunity for integrators to offer assistance within the community with how to get all of this technology installed and working properly. The best part: A lot of this can be done remotely, which keeps everyone safer during a pandemic.
We must pivot to identify the needs of the users and put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes and assist them in any way we can. These are the empathetic concepts at the heart of design thinking. As we learn the term social distancing, we have lots of tools at our disposal: Can we streamline the instructions for video conferencing or offer remote assistance for those new to the concept? It’s never been a better time to think about how we can help people with their connectivity, communication, and entertainment needs.
NOTE: This Emerging Trends piece is brought to you by CEDIA’s Technology Advisory Council and Technology Application & Innovation department.