Disruption as a Force for Innovation: How COVID-19 Will Shape the Evolution of Technology

  • Celestica  |
  • 2020-04-24
COVID-19 Technology Innovation

Technology is enabling our fight against the pandemic today; but the effects of COVID-19 on technology innovation will last well into the years ahead.

As global citizens unite, following self-isolation and social distancing policies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the impact on the world’s data centers and communication networks is profound. Our homes are now our offices, classrooms, shopping centers and entertainment venues.  Through all of this change and uncertainty, one thing has become clear: we cannot deny our humanity.  We are social beings, seeking connection online by the masses, through video calls, social media and connected gaming that is driving unprecedented demand on our networks and datacenters as internet bandwidth usage surges.  This has prompted a recognition that technology - both seen and unseen - is essential to our daily lives. 

Celestica’s customers are racing to stay ahead of demand for the critical infrastructure necessary to continue supporting people as they convert their lives into a digital realm. But as we work to enable our customers with these current technologies, we are keenly aware how critical it now is to focus on what comes next.

For years, technological innovation has caused disruption in datacenter and networking markets. Long before the pandemic struck, technology companies were devoting their R&D budgets and resources towards making advancements in a number of cutting-edge technologies that rocked the status quo, like edge computing, 5G, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

But today we can say unequivocally that disruption is a driving force for innovation, not just its effect. These two forces have long had a symbiotic relationship, but it’s important to recognize the shift that is happening now, if we are to stay ahead of the change that is to come.

It is an abiding truth that adversity is a catalyst for innovation. Existing datacenter and network architectures will be forced to evolve and will emerge stronger, smarter and more efficient than ever before. We know this is true; the difficulty however, is in pulling ourselves away from the familiar - during a time of crisis - to take a risk on something new. This is a daunting prospect, but leading change is never easy, and innovation takes courage.

So it remains to be seen the degree to which COVID-19 will accelerate the digital transformation of industries and companies, and how it will impact the adoption of new technologies:

  • Will the global COVID-19 pandemic accelerate the adoption of edge compute architectures?

  • Does it pull in investment in 5G deployments, or push them out?

  • Will the race for diagnoses, vaccines and cures drive investment in next-generation Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

  • Does this mass transition to the digital realm edge us closer to a future that is recorded and transacted on the blockchain?

And beyond just the technological innovation, there is also the question of how companies can evolve to get more out of their existing R&D budgets. How can they quickly ramp new solutions to stay ahead of a steep technology curve in the future, when their focus must be on meeting their commitments to their customers today? As the Brookings Institute's Blair Levin points out, “companies might be hesitant to make these leaps, because each step requires significant up-front capital expenditures which take years to recoup.” 

These are big questions, and while the Connectivity & Cloud Solutions team at Celestica is working hard with our customers to meet the demands of today, we are also preparing to answer these questions and shape the wave of innovation that sits right ahead of us. It is our honor to support and enable many of the world’s best brands, as they work tirelessly to keep us all together, while staying apart. We will not waver in our commitment to our customers, employees, partners and the communities in which we live and work. We stand with you today, tomorrow, and in the exciting future ahead of us.