Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University

The year 2020 was no ordinary one for the enterprise segment. Covid-19 completely altered the way organisations conducted business operations. The pandemic led to a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies across enterprise segments and accelerated the shift towards automation. Going forward, technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data will see higher rates of adoption as enterprises adjust to the new normal. Aman Mittal, Additional Director, Lovely Professional University, discuss the key technology trends and challenges in embracing digitalisation, and the way forward….

What were some of the key information and communications technology (ICT) trends that shaped the enterprise segment during 2020?

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread distress and economic hardships for consumers, businesses and communities across the globe. While a few businesses had a continuity plan, most were caught unawares. For a few, the only way forward was ticking the digital box in operations, functions as well as sales. Many of them, which had digitisation on their minds, suddenly had to push the escalation paddle to the digital-only or digital-first approach. Thus, the dire need to move to the digital world as soon as possible in this new normal has shaped the new ICT trends.

In the education sector also, large universities such as the Lovely Professional University (LPU) adopted a digital-first approach, which proved to be highly successful. From teaching to enrolments, everything was pursued online. While many struggled, LPU has been able to move swiftly because LPU’s senior leadership team had realised much earlier that digital is the new education journey. Thus, a sizeable investment in infrastructure, human resources and training has already been made and students at the university enjoyed the benefits of such prior preparation.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the digitalisation journey of enterprises? Which are the key technologies among cloud, AI, IoT and AR/VR that have seen higher adoption amidst the pandemic?

The Covid-19 era has introduced lockdowns and quarantines in the ever-evolving and developing world, causing even the most dynamic industries to take a halt and make drastic changes to tackle the situation. The education industry has been the most affected due to the spread of the coronavirus. On the brighter side though, this pandemic has surprisingly accelerated a lot of wonderful technology trends that are helping society become more resilient in the face of the crisis.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, technological adoption was escalated. The degree of adoption varied in accordance with the degree of availability. While cloud, IoT and AI had already reached quite a scalable level, AR/VR did not see that kind of push. Needless to say, this trend may not follow the same route in the future. Companies across the globe are betting big on AR/VR and the use cases of these technologies will be manifold in the future.

How did your organisation leverage new-age technologies to respond to challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis?

The need for shifting the entire education framework from offline to online modes led the university to build state-of-the-art and effective applications such as “LPU Live”. From letting students attend live classes as per their timetables and clearing their doubts to submitting assignments and accessing important study materials, the app is a whole package to pursue education at its best, no matter where students are located. Not only that, educators at LPU are many steps ahead as they leveraged the already existing social platforms such as YouTube and Google Meet to provide learners with quality content and personalised education. This way, the university completely transformed its ways of exposing students to the best possible education, both theoretical and practical. The year 2020 saw a commendable and technology-driven enhancement for LPU, as the communication was totally digitised and made even better than normal.

Also, researchers and technophiles at LPU combined their technical know-how with creativity and innovation by leveraging new-age technologies to create life-altering devices to respond to Covid-19 challenges. The following developments testify how LPU has certainly set benchmarks.

  • LPU researchers developed an easy-to-use cloud-based web interface powered by AI that can detect Covid-19 quickly from radiology reports such as CT scans and X-rays.
  • Engineering students of electronics communication at LPU, along with their professors, developed an IoT device called “KAWACH” to promote safe social distancing.
  • Students and faculty at LPU devised a system to monitor the health of food stored in a refrigerator.
  • “20Sec4Life” was another IoT-based device developed at LPU to fight the virus. Promoting good hygiene, the device for soap dispensers glows, beeps and plays a musical tone for more than 20 seconds to help people disinfect their hands properly.

What are some of the key risks and challenges in transitioning to new-age technologies?

The biggest risk is always the intent that shapes the decision to adopt new-age technologies, or in an actual sense, any business decision. If the intent is just to respond rather than to think of it as an opportunity, the result may be short-lived. At LPU, this was considered a long-term plan and an opportunity to adopt new-age technologies that can be used to invest more seriously in IT.

Another risk, especially in organisations where human resource professionals are not accustomed to technology, is that a lot of investment needs to be made in training to ensure that efficiencies are not impacted. At LPU, investments have been made initially on HR development, thus ensuring IT literacy of professors and heads of departments.

Going forward, what will be some of the key digital trends that enterprises would embrace as the new normal unfolds?

In the short term, there would be a many fold increase in the adoption of cloud computing, intelligence network and computing, and IoT. But as 5G is set to grow, we strongly feel that AR/VR is going to be a big game changer. We think it would be pertinent to mention that all industries may face another shake-up with this new technology in play.