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Big Tech Provides A Shot In The Arm To Vaccine Rollout
by Daniel Newman | February 16, 2021
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The pandemic has challenged most of us on a personal level, however, business wise, it hasn’t been bad for everyone. Big tech leaders Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, for instance, have all seen their market values increase this past year. Furthermore, all of these companies have found themselves poised to play a significant role in helping the world recover from coronavirus, using their technological prowess to do everything from track coronavirus spread, to manage tests and vaccines, and improve overall distribution workflows. The most important right now, obviously, is vaccine distribution.

Indeed, whether we realize it or not, vaccination distribution is a data-driven process. Globally, we will be using everything from AI to machine learning, the Internet of Things, and blockchain to process huge amounts of data about vaccinations happening in real time. And the data isn’t just about “shots in arms.” It’s about cold-chain traceability (proper storage), serial number verification, vehicle routing and geofencing of vaccine delivery, and more. It’s a supply chain problem at a massive scale. Luckily, big tech seems to be stepping up in big ways. Which is good for society, and of course, is good for the market perception of these companies. A win-win, in a situation that has been anything but ideal.

Vaccine Management

Who knew vaccine management would be the “next big thing” in technology? Seeing the challenges facing vaccine distribution, companies like Workday, Salesforce, Microsoft, and ServiceNow are pushing vaccine management service offerings into the market. For instance, on the Workday side, the software can track immunization status of employees, as well as get a big picture view of vaccination rates throughout the company by job profile, location, region, etc. Salesforce, for its part, is aiming to assist local, state, and federal governments with tracking inventory, refrigeration states, and other data on its Work.com site. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s system, developed for government and healthcare workers, aims to help with registration of vaccine providers and patients, phased scheduling, reporting, forecasting, and other types of analytics.

Just like at the beginning of the pandemic when many of these same organizations stepped up and created tracking dashboards, they are stepping again to pivot their services and technologies to serve the greater good.

Vaccine Distribution

Honeywell recently partnered with Atrium Health, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Tepper Sports & Entertainment with a goal of distributing 1 million vaccines by July 4. After being frustrated by the roadblocks and slow rollout in North Carolina, Honeywell CEO stepped up in a major way. He and the team and Honeywell created the necessary infrastructure to improve the efficiency of vaccine distribution in three days.

The public-private partnership will use tech like AI, the Internet of Things, and machine learning to create a virtual “playbook” that can be replicated at other vaccine sites across the nation. The first pilot was a success, using high-volume assembly line concepts, data entry automation, and analytics, to vaccinate almost 16,000 people in one weekend. They were able to vaccinate one person every four and a half seconds. This coming weekend they hope to be able to vaccinate almost 20,000 more. Now that’s some technology (and public-private partnering) that needs to be distributed throughout the country!

Vaccination Credential Initiative

One thing that has been considered by many governments to safely reopen borders for travel would be a vaccine passport or digital proof that you’ve been inoculated or received a negative COVID test within the last few days. The likes of Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Commons Project have partnered to create what amounts to exactly that — a vaccination passport for those who have been vaccinated against coronavirus. The system will allow those who have been vaccinated against COVID to access their vaccination records quickly and easily. This could then be used to prove protected status when traveling or accessing other public spaces. This is important because in general, vaccinations are not kept on public record. They’re stored at your doctor’s office or exist solely on a piece of paper you need to carry with you. An electronic system could be huge for those seeking to prove their vaccine status and the rest of industries who will rely on those vaccines to ensure their services stay safe to the public.

This technology could also have other implications and be used to show other vaccine records for other situations like children entering school. It’s just one more way where big tech is stepping up for the common good of the global community.

Mass Vaccination Sites

Big tech companies are big employers. Amazon alone had almost 800,000 employees in 2019. The company also added more than 400,000 jobs amidst the challenging, but digitally exponential year 2020. Why does this matter? These employees are members of our communities. They don’t just work in Seattle at headquarters. They work in distribution centers across the country, in offices around the world, and as delivery drivers in your own neighborhood. Amazon knows this and is stepping up its commitment to support its employees receiving the vaccination. With pop-up clinics in Seattle and Florida for now, they are working with the Biden administration to administer at least one million vaccines. When supply becomes more readily available, they’ve also pledged to use some of their locations to help vaccinate the public. They’ve also pledged technology services to help too. If there is a company that could help speed up this process, it’s the company that brought us 2-day shipping (then 1-day, then 1-hour) and changed online shopping and supply chain management forever.

Amazon is not alone in this effort. Google has plans to turn four office locations, parking lots and open spaces into mass vaccination sites for the public in California, Washington and New York. They join other companies like Disney and Starbucks who aren’t in the big tech realm, but are stepping up to help out in any way they can.

Big Tech’s Vaccine Efforts: Good for Society and the Brand

All of these efforts make sense on multiple levels. From a society standpoint, it’s great to see companies take responsibility for the major role that they can play for good. From a brand standpoint, it’s just smart business. The conscious consumer has been on the rise for the last few years and brands have had to sit up and take note. Many have made pledges to sustainability and have amazing corporate social responsibility goals — and now this effort is just one more way that they are actively showing that they care about the world at large and not just the profits that they create. And it’s a great thing to see.

Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.

The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.

Daniel Newman