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Challenges and Opportunities for Mobile Apps Post COVID-19

By Nick Epson on September 3, 2020

Mobile app development is seeing some changes because of the calamity that is COVID-19. We’re currently observing some major shifts in how people use their devices – we’re now relying on our mobile apps more than ever to prevent contact, whether it’s a virtual meeting or paying for a coffee with Apple Pay. And through these lessons, we see that certain shifts in our work as mobile app developers will be a staple moving forward.

Developers need to be conscious of this transition, even though the pandemic is temporary, changes to mobile app development will remain. Let’s take a look at some of the changes we’re seeing then discuss the various challenges and opportunities that are surfacing for businesses developing applications.

The rise of mobile apps during the pandemic

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise but during the lockdown, the time we spent using our mobile apps increased to new heights. Collectively, we spend a remarkable amount of time on our devices, checking them close to every 10 minutes, and using them close to 27% of our waking hours.

Between boredom and necessity, our smartphones began playing more of a pivotal role in our lives. Realizing this, developers who have had their noses to the grindstone the entire time have been developing around these new usage patterns in creating apps that allow us to communicate better as well as handle certain processes in a hands-free fashion.

Companies with the foresight to see that this pandemic would have lasting effects jumped at the opportunity COVID-19 presented. A few key industries increased their development efforts including education, healthcare, and foodservice, to name a few of several that are thriving despite global setbacks.

For example, the healthcare industry has recognized and confronted the challenges in safely seeing and servicing patients. The increased demand for mobile apps that can capably provide online medicine delivery has been met thanks to the efforts of technology providers like Capsule. It’s projected that the CAGR for the IoT healthcare market is expected to maintain at 19.99% for 2020 through 2025, thanks in large part to providers that are developing highly effective healthcare apps.

Mobile app development: challenges and lessons from COVID-19

Hopefully, everyone takes a lesson from the pandemic and continues to develop digital products that align with pandemic-friendly ideals. To do so, this means that companies will need to recognize the challenges that surfaced during this time and understand the opportunities these present. We feel the following are some of the most crucial challenges to understand and the opportunities they present.

Challenge: touching increases the possibility of transmitting a disease

Physical distancing can be accomplished better by using apps that reduced the amount of contact needed between people, for example, using Google or Apple Pay for contactless payment. Though eCommerce – which is thriving – can solve this issue, it’s simply not feasible for every retailer to replace their brick-and-mortar establishments with such solutions. Apps that prevent the exchange of cash or “touching” that’s inherent to using debit cards could be replaced with contactless payment options via mobile apps thus making visits to retail locations or restaurants much safer.

Challenge: in-person learning puts people at risk during a pandemic

Sometimes online classes are chosen over in-person classes but many feel that they don’t get the same quality of instruction in a virtual classroom. Though school software isn’t the best, increased efforts in making eLearning a good experience will eventually improve platforms. Companies are putting a lot into eLearning to make it better which is useful for both children and older students.

Some schools, like Notre Dame, planned on hosting in-person classes despite COVID-19 still running rampant in St. Joseph County, Indiana where the school is located. The school was forced to shut down because of an outbreak that occurred soon after classes resumed. Now that students are forced into eLearning, it should be a lesson for the school and others to make sure these platforms are as sound and functional as possible to ensure student learning is minimally impacted.

Challenge: too many people in an area means greater risks

Some stores today are already using heat mapping to find physical “hotspots” where people tend to stop to view items or interact with some object at a location. This technology can be applied to other venues and places that people congregate like public parks, beaches, and beyond – by using sophisticated camera systems or geolocation, it’s possible to understand how many people are occupying an area at any given time.

Non-PII geolocation data could theoretically be used to notify users about the number of individuals occupying a space in real-time, allowing people to make decisions as to whether or not to visit a location during busy hours. By allowing people to make these decisions, it should result in more spaced out traffic in public places, hence reducing the possibility of transmitting infectious diseases.

Challenge: patient care is difficult when providers can’t physically examine a patient

While virtual doctor sessions can’t completely replace the kind of care provided during in-person visits, telemedicine opens doors for certain routines to be performed without contact. This is especially true in mental healthcare where therapy sessions can be conducted with video or voice chats. It’s also helpful for PCP providers that don’t need to physically interact with a patient during a checkup.

With more healthcare tech becoming available to the general public, devices like heart monitors, blood sugar sensors, other wearable tech, and more, can replace the need for in-person routines. Combined with a mobile app that can securely transmit health data to physicians, doctors can operate more efficiently by engaging with information and patients through secure platforms. 

Challenge: knowing when you’re near someone with an infectious disease

Contact tracing technology will evolve and should help mitigate issues with future outbreaks, so long as people comply with the technology. Knowing when you’re in the vicinity of an infected individual can be a cue to get out, get tested, and possibly quarantine to reduce the possibility of transmitting a disease before symptoms manifest.

Though this technology is still in its infancy, contact tracing could prove incredibly useful for future outbreaks. By allowing users to add themselves to a registry of infected individuals, this information can be securely shared with others – in some sense, it works like a scare tactic but it could be enough to keep people in compliance with lockdowns should they receive messages about nearby infected individuals while attempting to visit public spaces.

The biggest glaring problem is that people are concerned about potential privacy violations that could occur with such technology. This means that developers need to take the job of developing such apps seriously and businesses need to be completely transparent about what information is collected. This is one area where selling off even non-PII data is probably not the best idea as the whole premise of such apps is to improve public safety, not to make money.

Blue Label Labs builds progressive software for the pandemic era and beyond

Our mission is to comply with the best development practices that serve users in trying times and beyond. Solving big problems starts with seeking out big ideas where design thinking informed by hard data and punctuated by contextual awareness plays pivot roles in our forward-thinking process. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our development processes and how we can make your app pandemic friendly.

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