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5 Tech Execs On How COVID-19 Has Impacted The IoT Market

CRN talks to executives at Intel, Microsoft, GE Digital, PTC and FogHorn Systems about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the IoT market.

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Rodney Clark, Vice President Of IoT And Mixed Reality Sales, Microsoft

The last three and a half months have been us — as a company and my team and division from an IoT perspective — really focused on helping companies apply the right technologies to solve some real immediate needs that have emerged [due to] COVID. And so where I'd like to say, it's been business as usual from an IoT front, It's been anything but.

The time that I spend right now is in implementations for COVID-initiated things like monitoring and detection, things like business automation, social and workplace engagement interaction projects that probably would have taken 18 months to do formal [proof of concepts], test and deploy — we've deployed in a matter of two or three weeks. That's new for us.

And then at the same time, there are solutions that we have been working on in industries like manufacturing and retail and automotive as well that have been put on hold because of the current situation. You don't have the ability to sit and architect and build a solution with the partner or customer. It's been an interesting ebb and flow of our business and what's happened and transpired over the last several months.

[For the solutions that became more relevant because of the pandemic,] we started a conversation internally around the solutions that we've built with partners, most of them that were either built or architected already, or were in the process, to solve solutions to solve customer problems. A great example of that is the [U.K. National Health Service's] ventilator challenge, where we got together with the likes of PTC, Avnet, Arrow and a number of other large technology companies along with the U.K. Government and accelerated the production of ventilator to help out with the initial COVID response.

We've had solutions from companies like PCL and Insight, which is a citizen care pod or a portable care unit [that is a] mobile building — think of a shipping container that's pre-configured with thermal sensors. They're places for people to come in, to get screened and checked, and these sensors are managing and monitoring temperature of people in line and there are also some AI algorithms that are detecting spatial considerations. That's a solution that that literally popped up overnight, and, in essence, what it is is a pop-up testing center. So think of businesses going back into work today and wanting to have a way to test employees before they come into a facility. Think of in the future when you go to a sporting event, this portable unit could be something that sits outside of a traditional stadium entrance to test people to minimize concern of people participating or not.

There's another solution for Microshare, which is occupancy and asset monitoring using LoRa sensors and gateways in hospitals to monitor beds and occupancy and other assets, different medicines and location of certain devices and machines. That is something that was developed in a short amount of time to address a specific need.

We have over 170 of these solutions. I won't go into detail on all 170, but the point is that based on the need, we even saw [the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] ease some requirements in things like ventilator production. When I say ease in requirement, it's more [about the] timeline and application than requirements. And we saw that in GE: they put out a software solution allows them to monitor patient data across ventilators so that doctors can check on them remotely. And that was an approval process that was accelerated as a result.

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