Episode 48 – The Effects of the Coronavirus on Technology

Connection
Connection

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the material discussed in this episode is of a timely nature and the situation around COVID-19 is fluid and fast moving. In the short time that elapsed since our recording (March 10th), the World Health Organization has officially declared the disease a pandemic.

In this special edition of “What the Tech Just Happened”, Learn how AI and Data Science are playing a crucial role in the Covid-19 outbreak.  Learn what BlueDot understood about activity around Wuhan, China 9 days before the World Health Organization issued a public statement.  Also learn how Tech companies are responding to the demands of Business to move their work-force to a remote model. Schools and universities are facing similar challenges as they turn to their on-line models during the pandemic.  

Listen to more TechSperience podcasts

This is the Transcript of the TechSperience Podcast – Episode 48

Announcer:

Some of the material discussed in this episode is of a timely nature, and the situation around COVID-19 is fluid and fast moving. In the short time that elapsed since our recording, the World Health Organization has officially declared the disease a pandemic.

Penny Conway:

Welcome to an all new episode of What The Tech Just Happened? I’m your host, Penny Conway, and today we have robust panel, to talk about the effects of Coronavirus on technology. We are going to be digging into how AI is influencing the detection, prevention, and vaccination process, along with this remote, work from home, global, proof of concept, we’re seeing. And then, what tech giants are doing to help keep people connected, during the pandemic. All this and more, on, What The Tech Just Happened?

Penny Conway:

Welcome. I have a very esteemed panel of guests today. So I’m going to go around and have each of you, introduce yourselves, started with Jamal?

Jamal Khan:

Sure. It’s good to be back. Jamal Khan. And just one thing, is it officially a pandemic? Or is it not? I don’t think it’s-

Penny Conway:

I thought I read pandemic last night. No?

Jamal Khan:

I don’t-

Lane Shelton:

I don’t think it’s been officially designated pandemic yet.

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

So regardless, I think there’s just one characteristic, or two, that is-that are missing for it to officially be designated a pandemic.

But Jamal Khan, President of GlobalServe, responsible for marketing data and ecommerce.

Andre Stoykovich:

Hello again, it’s Andre Stoykovich, Program Manager for Cisco, a strong focus on marketing, and also sales enablement for the entire Connection team.

Penny Conway:

Excellent. Welcome.

Lane Shelton:

And Lane Shelton, Vice-President and Principal Consultant for our Microsoft Center of Excellence at Connection.

Penny Conway:

Excellent. Well, welcome all three of you. And actually, welcome back, because all three of you have been guests on the podcast before.

We’re going to step out and really talk about artificial intelligence first, which is why we really wanted to have Jamal, present with us. It’s been really interesting, Jamal, and I’m sure you’ve been covering this. But one thing that I found interesting in looking at what the reaction has been, is how AI was part of the detection process.

I was researching that a company, an AI start-up called BlueDot, you know, has been a player in detecting diseases like Zika virus, and SARS, when those were global issues as well. And their analytics, predictive analytics, actually started seeing some data aggregated back in December that was alluding to what we’re now knowing as COVID-19.

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Penny Conway:

So, what have you seen across the AI landscape, in terms of this detection? And how is this even possible? We say AI is aggregating all of this data, but how on earth are they pulling all of this together to make those assumptions?

Jamal Khan:

Yeah, so it’s still a little early in this process, and a lot is happening and a lot is changing, so it’s somewhat difficult at this point to sort of separate hype from actual reality in terms of AI application. But certainly, data science, you can absolutely make that argument that data science is playing a central part in this overall process. And BlueDot is a perfect example of a company that was founded around the SARS outbreak-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And essentially does NLP, natural language processing, in multiple languages. I believe they say over 60 languages, which is quite interesting because that might include what we classify as Semitic and non-Semitic languages, which makes their capabilities quite significant. And what they do is they scour opensource, whether it’s newspapers, digital sources, and they are looking for those cues, and those sort of early indications around perhaps discussions in foreign chat rooms, or newspaper articles; something that gives that early cue. And according to them … And again, I haven’t peer reviewed any of this, so I’m just speaking to what’s out there, that they were nine days ahead of WHO’s official announcement, around COVID.

Penny Conway:

Oh wow.

Jamal Khan:

Which is pretty significant.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

So that’s clearly one aspect of it, but there are other areas as well, around prevention, and around, detection even, in terms of patient, detection for COVID. And then robots that are coming into play for infection. But-

Penny Conway:

Yeah. I saw-

Jamal Khan:

There’s a lot of ideas-

Penny Conway:

Yeah. I saw that a lot of the ro- … I think the side that I was seeing was how they were using robots for, in hospitals to do disinfection.

Jamal Khan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Penny Conway:

To do … Provide treatment, if it was something that a robot could do. And basically, be a walkie-talkie.

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Penny Conway:

There’s a term you haven’t heard. But like actually to reduce the amount of exposure that humans are having, they’re using robots to have that exposure instead.

Jamal Khan:

Right. So, it was funny, I was at the CES this year before this thing went crazy-

Penny Conway:

And what’s the CES?

Jamal Khan:

It’s the Consumer Electronic Symposium, or it’s the central conference for all consumer electronics.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And there was a huge representation from Chinese companies. I think three-quarters was literally Chinese companies.

Lane Shelton:

Wow.

Penny Conway:

Wow.

Jamal Khan:

And it was incredible seeing all these robots. And I was scratching my head. And the robots are just walking around, in the booths, with their marketing materials.

Penny Conway:

(Laughs).

Jamal Khan:

And sort of, you could just pick one off the tray. And I was always like, “Okay, this is neat. Where is the application?” But to your point-

Penny Conway:

Here’s the application-

Jamal Khan:

Here’s the application, where … And this was not a Chinese company. The one I think you might be referring to is called UVD-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Jamal Khan:

It’s a Danish company. And they’re being deployed, their robots are being deployed in hospitals where they’re driving around in an autonomous way, through the hospitals exhibiting-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Jamal Khan:

Ultraviolet light, in order to disinfect.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

And then there are other robots, like XAG which is a company based out of China, that actually sprays disinfectant. So clearly, these robots are becoming more and more applicable-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Jamal Khan:

In practical applications, rather than just driving around-

Penny Conway:

Yeah-

Jamal Khan:

Passing marketing literature. (Laughs).

Penny Conway:

(Laughs). Right. And on a past episode about AI, we kind of had that conversation, are robots going to take over the world? The second you see a robot walking around a trade show, you’re going, “Oh, that’s going to be one day telling me to get in line, or go here, or driving my car.” And that we don’t think about the practical applications for them, like we’re seeing now, in a healthcare environment?

Jamal Khan:

No, absolutely. And so clearly, we are seeing … And for example, even autonomous drones and their ability, potentially, to provide medication in certain hot zones. Autonomous drones with sensors, IR sensors, that are looking in at temperatures.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

There’s some article out there about a hundred drones being deployed in China, in different cities, actually doing this sort of work.

Jamal Khan:

So clearly, it seems pretty interesting in terms of how, practically, these products are being deployed out there to provide some level of mitigation and management.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

But then there are sort of … The more sort of, what I would say, palpable and believable sort of scenarios of AI application, and you know I’m going to look at some of my notes. Like, there’s Wuhan University’s Renmin Hospital, along with the Endo Angel Medical Technical, as well as China’s University of Geosciences, are working on deep learning models that they’ve trained, confirmed cases of COVID. And looking at CT scans of those COVID patients, and then look … And further training, that, with about 45,000 anonymized CT scans, to provide early detection-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Jamal Khan:

Of COVID.

Jamal Khan:

So, I mean one of the challenges that we potentially have, or we have globally, are test kits-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

The availability of test kits in time. So imagine having an AI, deep learning neural network, that has the ability to process and provide you with detection based upon CT scans as opposed to-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Jamal Khan:

And they have a pretty positive sort of active, or positive result in terms of what they’re able to provide.

Penny Conway:

Yeah. They were saying … I think I’ve- I had read something on that very same thing, where they were saying the normal comparison of CT scans would be something that would take weeks.

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Penny Conway:

And dozens of people, and you’d have all of this delay time. But by implementing the deep learning piece of it, it’s figuring out what those differences are for that detection, and then to actually see if treatment is working-

Jamal Khan:

Right-

Penny Conway:

Along the way. Which is just fascinating-

Jamal Khan:

Right-

Penny Conway:

How quickly-

Jamal Khan:

I mean, their argument is, their performance was comparable to expert radiologists.

Penny Conway:

Wow.

Jamal Khan:

So, imagine how important that is-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Jamal Khan:

For something like this.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

So, really interesting application of AI, data science more so, quite a bit. So I think data science is where this is really-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Jamal Khan:

Effectively being deployed. And certainly, even robots in some of these interesting scenarios.

Lane Shelton:

So, one thing though, I wonder, we talk about the applications and kind of the front end of that, but behind, I think one of the things that this has revealed, too, is how the data infrastructure behind all of that AI the amount of cooperation, data cooperation that’s required to really reach the level of effectiveness, especially in the detection-

Penny Conway:

Right-

Lane Shelton:

Area. You know, some of that crosses geopolitical boundaries, right?

Andre Stoykovich:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lane Shelton:

And really highlights the need for, even within our government, the inter-agency cooperation, not just at the vocal level, but at the systemic-systems level to really make this effective. Because wouldn’t you say that this has sort of showed us, that we really need to have these systems connected for this to be effective. Because the AI’s only as good, the outputs are only as good as the inputs, and it seems like this is one of the things we’re learning through this is where we can improve-

Andre Stoykovich:

Right-

Lane Shelton:

You know that data flow, so that the AI can play an even more prominent role.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

So, data sharing, absolutely. That goes without saying. And so, one of the more prominent organizations that are doing the job are those global entities, like the WHO that are … Have more of a global mandate. They have the ability to go to these different sources, and people are more willing to share. So, you’re absolutely right, that level of collaboration is central.

But here is the interesting part, what AI also gives you the ability if you have unstructured data, I mean, segmented data set that has, at face value, lack of connectivity or lack of normalization. It gives you the ability to pair-

Lane Shelton:

Right. Yeah.

Andre Stoykovich:

To pair into that unstructured data as well.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

And extract meaningful insights. So, you’re absolutely right, if you can get that collaboration, that really is important, but even in a world where-

Lane Shelton:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

We don’t have that collaboration; AI certainly gets interesting.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Right. That’s fascinating.

Andre Stoykovich:

Just to reiterate on that fact about when we talk about that centralized data system, I heard one thing that was brought up today by CDC is they didn’t know how many people, have actually taken the test for COVID-19. The reason being is just because there is no centralized data coming from our private providers, and so forth. Versus our centralized healthcare systems.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Andre Stoykovich:

So, very interesting right there, points one key thing that they couldn’t tell you how many people have actually taken the test at this point, because no centralized data.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

You’re right. As the whole process of risk mitigation moves down to local entities, and state health providers, as opposed to the federal unit, then that becomes a challenge, because now your data is propagated, and structured and generated in these localized areas. How do you collect that quick enough, fast enough-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

And then be able to extract insight? That is a challenge. You’re absolutely right.

Penny Conway:

Right. When a-

Andre Stoykovich:

Yeah, because when you’re talking about, you know the different states, where we’re looking at it, it’s here in the US, how is it moving? How is it spreading? If you get down to that granular detail then, you might have some more strong insights on what are you going to do to counteract that?

Jamal Khan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Penny Conway:

There was, uh, one interesting thing that I read that Harvard University was working on as part of their contribution in their data aggregation about this is, looking down, and this is where in the United States, it might be pulling some more public personal information, but something as simple as Facebook, or Instagram, how people are communicating about the virus today.

So, are they saying that they took a test, and tested positive, or are they making some sort of innocuous comment, that’s their personal opinion?

Lane Shelton:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Penny Conway:

So, this actually looks at that data, and says, okay, this is actually someone who is saying they’re diagnosed or experience symptoms, and this is someone who’s just blasting their opinion out. And it’s taking that data to kind of see if there are pockets of population, across the United States, where there might be a potential outbreak that isn’t, you know, being reported on yet, through the World Health Organization, or other factors.

So, I just thought it was really interesting on all of these different, from the highest, government public health, or private health organizations, right down to how we’re talking about it as people, all of that data coming together to give actionable information on how we handle situations moving forward.

Jamal Khan:

Right. And then imagine tying that sort of early set of information, which may be an innocuous social conversation, where you’re saying, “Hey, I’m not feeling too good, I’m going to go to bed.” That’s how innocuous it can be.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

Tying that to some sort of meaningful disease propagation, and then tying that to propagation of populations, what is the potential context spot that this individual might have had with folks around them?

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And, and then what are the travel patterns that exist from that particular town, how pervasive is that?

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

And so now you can start modeling disease propagation.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And that’s what all these data science folks in China, and some of the folks in BlueDot have done is identify. And then they can then tell you before the disease actually propagates, what’s the likelihood?

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

There’s another company, um, that’s Metabiota, which works with the US DOD that actually does that.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

It sort of gives you that view of what the likelihood of disease propagation is, and does that based upon some of those parameters.

Lane Shelton:

And then being able to have that data, it’s also contributing to preventing the spread of misinformation as well, right? Which, the more that they can fine tune their reactions, the less the panic has the potential to spread.

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

And so you want to kind of that balance, it seems like that AI has a bit of a role to play on both sides.

Jamal Khan:

Yeah.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, I, and that was a question I had for you Jamal, with the speed of science, and the speed of technology, we talk about … Me personally, I have not seen this kind of reaction. On such a global level, where events are being … Large events are being canceled. South by Southwest was canceled. Other major events-

Andre Stoykovich:

HIMSS for healthcare-

Penny Conway:

HIMSS, yeah, HIMSS-

Andre Stoykovich:

I mean, that’s a huge conference.

Penny Conway:

HIMSS was canceled. I have music on my brain. HIMSS was canceled. And we’re seeing major company mandate … Like company statements going out about this, is the information that we were able to gather so fast about where the disease might be, where they’re starting to see pockets of illness, and is-is the data, the access to data, speed of data, almost creating more, makes it seem like it’s a more, you know, bigger reaction than it has been historically.

Jamal Khan:

You know I, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I am not an expert, and we would never give any guidance of that sort to either, in terms of what are the right decisions to take?

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

And I think our sort of formal responses, this would be, we all follow the CDC guidelines.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And we look for those types of instructions. But I think from a layman’s perspective it just makes common sense, right? That you limit your interaction with large groups of folks.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

Because that’s how such diseases propagate is through contact, is through touch and things of that sort. So, you know, I have a personal view. Certainly not the company view. I think it’s always better to be cautious-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

In some respects. And so, from that perspective we at Connection decided to disengage from the HIMSS Conference, well before the actual conference itself got canceled, because we certainly want to make sure that we are on the side of caution for our employees, and our partners, and our customers.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

I think again, from a personal perspective, this is the right thing to do-

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

That folks are doing, which is canceling some of these events, or limiting travel. But does it get backed up by data? I’m not exactly sure on that to be honest with you.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, because, I wonder, and almost a positive thing, if we didn’t have all of this information before we wouldn’t have made these decisions, which may have accelerated people having exposure to it, people getting sick. So, it seems like it maybe is a very big reaction that we haven’t seen before, but it’s actually putting us in a better position to be proactive.

And I think that’s more of what I meant. It’s allowing us to be more proactive in the decisions we make, rather than reactive when it comes to our town, or comes to our city, or our country, or whatever it might be.

Lane Shelton:

I think it also feels bigger because we’re a much more global society now. And we won’t-

Penny Conway:

Connected, yeah.

Lane Shelton:

I believe Microsoft canceled Ignite in Europe. I’m not a 100% sure on that, but I think that happened. And when it at first I was like, “Wow, they canceled Ignite.” I started thinking about the economic effect of that and then I thought, well, you know what? They get people from like a hundred countries come in-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

In one place, and then they go home. I’m like, “Yeah, of course they canceled Ignite.”

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Lane Shelton:

Wow, that makes perfect sense, but that seemed like such a big drastic thing, but if you like you said you applied the rules of common sense, it’s also this whole experiences revealing how globally connected we all are today.

Penny Conway:

Right. Right.

Lane Shelton:

And so, it’s like, what else can you do in some cases? You know, which is-

Penny Conway:

Right, and when … I think when one or a few start to make those big decisions, it sort of creates that waterfall effect. It’s okay, you know, if HIMSS is going to be canceled, if Microsoft is canceling an event, if HP is canceling an event, then this is for the greater good. I mean, we’ve seen statements from Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, where they’re asking, very simply, employees that have the ability to work from home, work from home.

Penny Conway:

If you are … Do not, it’s not essential that you travel, then try to do things remotely, virtually, in place of that in-person interaction. It’s … I think we have so much exposure to what everyone is doing across the globe that we’re all following suit, to just follow those best practices, and guidelines just to be preventive.

Jamal Khan:

And there’s one additional guideline, which is, certainly not get together with five people in a small room doing a podcast.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

That’s a guideline somewhere, right?

Lane Shelton:

Yeah.

Penny Conway:

Yeah. Yeah. (laughs).

Jamal Khan:

I think so.

Penny Conway:

We’re in a very small … I think this room is cleared for three people.

Jamal Khan:

You’re right.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Jamal Khan:

Right.

Andre Stoykovich:

So, it’s interesting today as we’re on conference calls with Cisco in training, and so forth. They’re mandated right now that if it’s not an emergency an essential function to be in the office, everybody is working from remote. And it’s the same thing throughout Meraki. So, they’re being very kind of proactive in that approach.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andre Stoykovich:

And so, just use your common sense out there. You know, in terms of travel, if it’s not an essential emergency type of function, then do remote. You know, they’ve obviously, there are several collaborative tools out there for people to use, and Cisco is primarily a WebEx consumer, so it makes sense.

Penny Conway:

Right, right.

Lane Shelton:

Well, I think it’ll be interesting in the future too to start thinking about asking questions like, okay, if we had to cancel HIMSS. Right? So you know, because that-you know … Again, that’s a place where comes from around the world, and then they go home. So, it made sense to cancel it. Is there an alternative experience that would through technology-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

That wouldn’t require … That would be somewhere between cancellation, and you know, forge ahead. Right? Like how do we … Is there … Obviously it wouldn’t be … Have the same impact as the conference of HIMSS has, but I think companies and people are going to start like looking for those technology alternatives, because if this ever happens again, then maybe we don’t have to choose between a binary choice of cancel versus attend.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

We can kind of, there is always that backup of okay … You know, like a rain … You know, if it rains we’ll have the game a different day, or if we can utilize technology to, okay, all of a sudden we’re going to shift into webcast mode, and everybody is going to be be dialing in. And we can still have some of that, of what we were planning, even though we can’t have all of it. And then-

Andre Stoykovich:

VR is going to be the next wave.

Lane Shelton:

But that’s it.

Penny Conway:

Right, we’ll all just put our headsets on and be at the conference together digitally. (laughs).

Andre Stoykovich:

Yup.

Lane Shelton:

Okay, we can’t have HIMSS this year in Florida, so we’re going to use VR and have it on or you know, an audio. Maybe it’s even going to be cooler. Maybe we’ll discover that, hey, you know what? VR conferences are we cooler than-

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

I think that’s a really interesting point, because I absolutely think, considering at Connection I am responsible for marketing. I think now as we plan our events, we’re going to think about this a little bit harder-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

In terms of what is the alternative strategy? If we do have a meaningful, let’s a text on it. Can we then look at a virtual text when something happens? So, you’re absolutely right.

Jamal Khan:

The other part that I think a lot of folks are scratching their heads around are those legal lease clauses that we never take into account. The force majeure clause.

Lane Shelton:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

That is almost defacto standard, that is at the tail end of most legal contracts. And whether those become applicable in a situation like this, it’s an act of God.

Lane Shelton:

Right.

Penny Conway:

Right. Right.

Jamal Khan:

And what the impact downstream to your vendors, your suppliers are going to be. I think that also is an interesting element that will come into play.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah.

Andre Stoykovich:

It’s also interesting when you talk about the authoritative enforcement of this right now. Like a lot of people don’t understand that your local government, and also federal government, if they say you’re in quarantine, you’re in quarantine.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

Unless you’re someone at Dartmouth who goes to a party.

Andre Stoykovich:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, very true, very true.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Andre Stoykovich:

True.

Penny Conway:

Even, take it down a few notches from the events. Yeah, that impacts a lot of people, a lot of companies. Lane, like you said, economies in the area where that event was going to happen. But, drilling down and looking at the tech giants are mandating that anywhere from 4,500 of their employees, to 55,000 of their employees start working remotely. But, when we look at across the globe, how smaller companies just, that are everywhere, and not so digitally sound, how those companies are able to be resilient, and actually change their strategy from day to day working practices, from I’ve got 2,000 employees in the office.

10% of them work remotely as a standalone. And now I’ve got a mandate where 50% of my employees need to have the option to work from home. I think, I mean, we’re seeing that in the federal government right now. Just, uh, last Friday, NASA did a test of all of their employees working remotely, to see if they could actually operate NASA remotely.

Lane Shelton:

I think we’ve created a new category of continuity-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Which is, because we’re always talking about backing up data.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

This is like backing up productivity.

Penny Conway:

Exactly.

Lane Shelton:

Right? Like taking the concept of productivity and having a backup. Right? And it’s usually best to plan for these things when there is not a virus storming across the globe.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

You know, and so hopefully this will be an opportunity for-you know, for everybody to kind of embrace that concept of-of-of, okay, I’ve got-I’ve got my plan for disaster, for my data, but what’s my … And even for people, but the productivity itself-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

How do I back that up?

Jamal Khan:

And-and-and it’s surprising for me. For example, my wife, some of you might know of this, but she works for a bank in New York City. And they have started doing what they call pandemic tests, in the tail ends of December, and in Jan.

Announcer:

Interesting.

Lane Shelton:

Wow.

Jamal Khan:

So they’ve already gone through two, what they call pandemic tests. And what those were, were essentially everyone within the company had to on a Saturday within 30 minutes, the time that was allotted.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

Log into their systems, and try and access the different elements. And so, such a basic thing, that, you know folks don’t even consider.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Right. Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

Because you’re right. It’s primarily around data management.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

It’s around things like that. It’s less so about, can we back up productivity, and can we get people connected?

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

And get everyone connected?

Penny Conway:

Yeah, right.

Jamal Khan:

Not just a small group. But certainly, a good thing from a disaster recovery perspective that company should look at.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Andre Stoykovich:

We also talk about enterprise organizations, commercial, small business and so forth, but also thinking about the need for like, the eLearning type of platforms that are out there, because right before coming into this meeting my product marketing coordinator, her sister, they just decided that the college is taking the month of March off.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Andre Stoykovich:

Like, so that, it’s an example of like, they’re just taking the month off instead of having that kind of full networking, eLearning platform set up.

Penny Conway:

Interesting. Yeah.

Andre Stoykovich:

So, like maybe this will cause, you know, the way that we educate to be approached a little bit differently. Obviously, we’re going through that-a state of transformation.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Andre Stoykovich:

And hopefully, what will come out of the tail end, and what we learn from this is any of our business and schools are really going to take a hard look. How can we do this?

Jamal Khan:

To that point, what we’re seeing on the ecommerce end is this huge uptake of acquisition on the part of our existing customers of products like laptops, surface books, and things of that sort.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. Yeah.

Jamal Khan:

As well as cisco products like WebEx, and others as well. So we’re … And this spike has happened, literally I think it started in Jan. And we’ve seen this … And it’s not ending. So, I think there are lots of companies that are actually thinking of those challenges that we’re talking about, and are actually acquiring, and we’ve seen that in our customers.

And we, towards that end, we’re beginning to build more meaningful bundles for our clients that enable them to do telepresence-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

Or enables them to do telecommuting in a more meaningful way, through our partnerships like with Cisco, and Microsoft, and others. So, you will see us do that more effectively.

Lane Shelton:

I would like to introduce a new acronym for the first time, under the global stage today. We’ve been calling them laptops.

Penny Conway:

Here on the podcast.

Lane Shelton:

Here on the podcast. We’ve been calling them laptops for so long. Like that that word is overused. I think we should call them let’s see, Personal portability backup devices, what’s that? PPBD.

Penny Conway:

PPBD.

Jamal Khan:

PPBD.

Lane Shelton:

PPBDs.

Penny Conway:

PPBDs.

Andre Stoykovich:

PPBD.

Jamal Khan:

That works.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Lane Shelton:

Okay, this is why I’m not in marketing.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Andre Stoykovich:

Well, we’re going to have with him on this. It’s okay.

Penny Conway:

Yeah. We get what you’re saying, we might have to swizzle it a little bit, so it’s not PPBB.

Lane Shelton:

Okay, swizzle it a little bit. (laughs).

Penny Conway:

(laughs). Yeah, exactly. Um, but no, it’s, we say laptop. So maybe we need-

Lane Shelton:

They’re flying off the shelves right now because right now because people are trying to scare them.

Jamal Khan:

They are, absolutely, they are.

Penny Conway:

Absolutely they are.

Lane Shelton:

But then you ask, okay, as an employee, do you have a place to work?

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Do you … You know-

Penny Conway:

Do you have the connectivity you need, the speed you need?

Andre Stoykovich:

The network, yeah.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, your own network-

Lane Shelton:

Right. Yeah.

Penny Conway:

To work remotely.

I think, you know, like any … We’ve talked about it around security, and other sort of natural disasters that sometimes you-you … Most of the time, you don’t even think about things until they happen. So it’s sort of that two phase, now right? Where you’ve got companies that are in it, that need to accommodate for it right now.

So, they’re buying lap, or PPBD bundles. Yeah, we’re going to have to work on that. They’re buying, you know, bundles that they need to get by. Just as recently, as two days ago, we were working with a customer to put together a six months lease for devices, just to get them through a period of time.

But I think this is an opportunity for customers, whether they’re in the federal space, the public sectors, and higher education space, or the corporate space, to say, when something like this happens, how do we … What’s our plan? How do we deploy? How are we ready?

Lane Shelton:

Right. Right.

Jamal Khan:

Another really interesting data point, which I’m sure all of you are aware of HPE’s GreenLake platform.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And historically it’s always been a conversation about capex versus opex.

Lane Shelton:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

And, but the folks who actually made the decision, six months prior, or maybe even a year prior, on building out a consumption based scalable HPE GreenLake environment. Those guys are just good. They’re flying high.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

They’re planning for that conversation about the raise, right? (laughs).

Jamal Khan:

Right. They’ve done it.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

That was such a smart one.

Now, whether that was something that they actively thought about, but the benefits of the HPE GreenLake-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

Gives them the ability to just scale up the environment or scale down, and just addresses some of these concerns-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

That we’re talking about, that in situations like this, when it becomes pretty much kind of late in the game.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

You don’t have the flexibility of your core infrastructure to address for some of those contingencies that come-

Andre Stoykovich:

Right.

Jamal Khan:

Which is now your entire workforce is remote.

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jamal Khan:

Well, when you have an environment like an HPE GreenLake environment, you know, you can scale that upward now.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, and we actually recorded a Device as a Service podcast, and saying the same thing of companies that have adopted Device as a Service, which gives them that flexibility to transition move devices in and out more fluidly.

You know, if they are that company that’s falling into 76% of our workers who are on desktops, that they just invested in, you know, six months ago, they can now have the option to return many of those devices, and replace them with the equipment that they need today.

Andre Stoykovich:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lane Shelton:

So, the one thing that I have a real strong question on is, our ISPs, are they freaking out right now with the amount of traffic that they’re going to see potentially on their homework networks? It’s fine that we are in an office environment, where we’ve got that pipe coming into it, but think about it like when I’m at home … And I’ve got a pretty good pipeline coming into the house-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lane Shelton:

But with my two kids, and my wife being on something, and when I actually want to do something, yeah, there is a little bit degradation in terms of the speed and everything. That’s just my house on the network.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Every single street on the house.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah, what happens when B2B scale traffic suddenly shifts to the B2C backbone. What happens there? I guess we’ll find-

Penny Conway:

I think we’ll find out.

Andre Stoykovich:

We’ll find out.

Penny Conway:

Yeah, I was going to say, maybe this is the disruption that moves everything along faster.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah.

Penny Conway:

Like it will move 5G along faster. It will move business continuity planning along faster.

Lane Shelton:

AI.

Penny Conway:

AI along faster. Like, there is always these things in history that are a catalyst to what is next. And we’ve done a ton of different podcast episodes on different technologies, and we always talk about, wow, it’s moving so fast than it used to. But we don’t always point to, this event happened.

And from that point on we saw an acceleration in technology, X, Y and Z. And think we are living that moment right now.

Andre Stoykovich:

Agreed.

Penny Conway:

I want to give the opportunity, because we were talking about the remote working and collaboration. I know Cisco has put out, Cisco and Microsoft have communicated how they can help companies navigate this transition. So, I’ll give you Andrea a moment to plug yourself here.

Andre Stoykovich:

Sure, Cisco has a social responsibility, and it’s something that’s a big backbone of the company. So, right now they’re extending 90 day trials, out to businesses throughout the world. Essentially, they’ve seen the WebEx backbone in China grow four to five times its size, ever since the first identification of COVID-19.

As we look to make it an option for businesses to go out and keep their productivity up, as they have to consider possibly having a remote workforce. Cisco has offered that out, so as a way to essentially respond to make a difference with what we’re experiencing.

Penny Conway:

Awesome. And Lane, on the Microsoft Teams side.

Lane Shelton:

So, I think … I’m going to come at this from a bit of a different angle, and say, that-

Penny Conway:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lane Shelton:

I think, you know, this really illustrates the need to have a foundational commitment to excellence in remote working, teleconferencing, et cetera, at all times, and having a good platform that can do that. Because then you can, that platform can then as part of that productivity backup, it just goes right into effect. And I know like for us, being on the Teams platform has been a huge help, because it’s so integrated with everything else.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

Right now, we have one of my colleagues, he’s at home, under 14 days of self-quarantining, because he made the mistake of going to vacation in Milan, Italy, and coming back.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Lane Shelton:

And they said, stay home for 14 days. But we’ve hardly noticed because-

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

So much of what we do is via Teams, and things that you don’t often think about, like for example, the ability for Teams to just … You can record your meeting, and then it automatically goes into stream, with all the right credentials in place and in everything there for you.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

So in a situation where it gets very chaotic, and you still want to be productive, and you’re having these meetings, okay, now I’m recording meetings, and if somebody was on the invite that didn’t get to attend for whatever reason, there’s a recording right there, they can still go consume the content, and we can carry on as much as normal as possible. And so, I think it’s really important to have that really, really tight collaboration platform in production at all times, because that’s going to be the least of your worries.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Lane Shelton:

When something like this happens, then your employees go out to their homes. And it’s been fairly seamless.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Lane Shelton:

We’re still getting our stuff done.

Penny Conway:

And I think Microsoft has, you know, as part of their business value, and what they have communicated. Microsoft has always been a big proponent of working from home, and their tools have fostered collaboration and productivity. And so-

Lane Shelton:

This is where you start to see the power of the ecosystem.

Penny Conway:

This is where you’re going to start seeing it in action.

Lane Shelton:

Yeah, this is where you see the power of the ecosystem-

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Lane Shelton:

And when everything is so nicely tied in together, it creates a very seamless, a seamless experience that can transition very quickly, which is great, because that’s just one less thing you have to worry about.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Andre Stoykovich:

And it’s great, whether it’s Teams, or it’s WebEx, we really look at the power of like, if you have a specified project team. It becomes that main centralized resources. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what time it is. It’s all in one spot for you, whether it’s the files, any of the communication notes, action items and so forth. Both platforms allow everyone to stay properly aligned to be productive.

Penny Conway:

Right. Yeah.

So, I want to thank all of you for joining us today. I think this was a little bit of a different conversation than what a lot of people have been hearing from the hype, and the hysteria. So, really looking at how AI has helped us on the detection, prevention, and really vaccination. I don’t think we covered that too much, but I think that’s really what we’ll see next, process.

And then, what the global response has been from canceling events to work from home mandates. But more importantly, how Connection can really help our customers, get up to speed quickly, with what’s going on. Jamal noted an increase in B2B to get all of those work from home assets in their hands to deploy, from short term leasing programs to get you by. And then, you know, assist you in those larger conversations about business continuity.

So, thank you all for joining us.

Lane Shelton:

And one thing-

Penny Conway:

Oh.

Lane Shelton:

Just be sure to call your Connection rep and tell them-

Penny Conway:

And ask.

Lane Shelton:

And ask about the PPBRs.

Penny Conway:

You’ve already changed the name PPBDs.

Lane Shelton:

I invented my own acronym. Okay?

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

So, like Lane said, reach out to your Connection account manager across all of our subsidiaries to help you put into action what we talked about today. Whatever platform you’re listening on, please, like, share, and follow us. You can also email us at podcast@connection.com. Thank you guys so much.

That’s What The Tech Just Happened? for today, and I’m sure we’ll be back with an update here in the near future.

Lane Shelton:

Thank you.

Andre Stoykovich:

Thank you.

Jamal Khan:

Thank you Penny.

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