The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has made us rethink all aspects of society – from how we work to how we shop and even how we communicate. Through lockdown, we had little choice but to use online communications as a way to stay in touch, and even routine, everyday tasks like shopping became a thing of fear for many people.
Our use of technology throughout the virus has skyrocketed with online streaming services seeing a marked increase along with a massive take-up of video conferencing and similar chat systems. COVID-19 even changed the way many people shop with a meteoric rise in internet sales over the last few months.
Fear of being around others
However, as restrictions begin to relax in most countries around the world, many are starting to question if the virus has changed how we view proximity to others. Has coronavirus actually gone so far as changing our ideas on closeness? Certainly, lockdowns made us question being near other people as the virus was reported as being spread mostly through proximity. For many, the growing pandemic even made social interaction a thing of fear.
This fear of proximity and handling items has seen the use of contactless technologies become the norm, with most of us preferring to use a card rather than touch cash. As the virus can exist on surfaces for up to three days, touching paper money was considered a risk, driving many to use credit cards and other contactless tech (e.g. smartphone payment apps).
Pre-COVID-19, it’s fair to say the majority of consumers were aware their payment cards had the option for contactless payments – although most avoided it in preference of the old chip and pin system. However, as the virus took hold around the world, there has been a dramatic spike in the use of contactless payment systems.
Other contactless platforms
Money isn’t the only aspect of life that’s moving towards touch-free systems. Increasingly, automated door entry systems are becoming standard. Request exit buttons with contactless pads are becoming increasingly more common, while hand driers and soap dispensing machines are also making a shift to more hands-free, zero-contact systems.
Even taking a flight throughout the coronavirus pandemic has changed with adapted security measures to maintain distancing. These days, passengers are expected to check-in manually, weighing their luggage at automated stations and presenting e-tickets at scanning stations to board.
The future of contactless tech
Many companies, especially banks, have been trying to promote the move to contactless tech for many years. Physically moving paper around is costly for banks – both from the security point of view but also just the transportation costs inherent in shifting money between ATMs, shops, banks, and so on. Governments and institutions also have a vested interest in promoting contactless tech as a way to monitor the public’s usage of money.
While the immediate risks of COVID-19 may be starting to wane slowly, it’s very likely much of the tech adopted during this period will endure far beyond the lifetime of the virus. It will be interesting to see how – or if – opinions change once the world has been given the all-clear and our lives can return to normal. That said, most experts suggest coronavirus, like other pandemics before it, has caused a shift-change in how our society will operate in the future. It seems the effects of COVID-19 may well be with us for some time yet.