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Fighting Coronavirus Infection… with Drone Technology!

The coronavirus infection is raising global concerns, and rightfully so. Within a few weeks, tens of thousands of people have contracted it, and nearly 500 people have died, with an estimated mortality rate of 2 percent among those infected. China has taken actions to limit exposure and to minimize the spread, as have other countries as well. But even routine activities—from shopping to deliveries, to an array of other public activities—are now a concern. Thankfully, drone technology might offer some assistance.

China has been one of the most assertive nations in utilizing drone technology. Thus, it only seems fitting that drones offer potential solutions in dealing with the deadly coronavirus. Naturally, drone surveillance and monitoring are considerations, especially when promoting home quarantines to prevent disease spread. But China is being much more creative, using drone technology to spray disinfectant. And a few businesses are helping lead the way.

photo quote of Justin Gong in relation to the use of drone technology in fighting the coronavirus infection
With drone technology, XAG is using its drones to disperse disinfectant spray over large areas in China.

China’s Use of Drone Technology to Combat the Coronavirus Infection

Several social media posts have shown one way China is using drones to reduce the spread of the coronavirus infection. Equipped with loudspeakers, drones have been hovering around Wuhan and other areas to help enforce safety measures. Law enforcement officials most commonly operate these drones. Should a drone come upon someone not wearing a face mask or staying outside without a good reason, they react. Polite yet forceful (and somewhat amusing) reprimands are given to the individual spotted. In essence, these individuals are “publicly shamed” by the drones into putting on their masks or going indoors.

Certainly, this type of “Big Brother is Watching” strategy encourages compliance with safety measures. Still, China has more recently employed other innovative ways to use drone technology to fight the coronavirus infection. In alliance with Guangzhou-based agricultural drone company XAG, drones are dispersing disinfectant spray over large areas. Disinfectant sprays are targeting bus and train stations as well as public spaces to reduce surface contact spread of the coronavirus infection. And this use of drone technology is highly efficient. Drones can routinely cover more than 16,000 square meters quickly, with XAG boasting a coverage area of 300,000 square meters.

China’s use of drone technology in reducing the spread of the coronavirus infection is continuing to explore new approaches. Recently, drones have been seen checking people’s temperature to determine if they have a fever. This development has been reported not only at populated traffic stops but also along outside balconies in high-rise apartment buildings. In addition, China has also been using drone technology to ensure that waste disposal policies are being followed. In areas that are high-risk for a coronavirus infection onset, drones monitor hospitals and clinics to ensure compliance with protocols. Whether or not these measures are helping is less clear. But at the very least, the use of drone technology for these activities reduces further human exposure to the virus.

photo quote of Mark Tanner in relation to the use of drone technology in fighting the coronavirus infection
It’s not surprising that people in China are not that surprised if they see drone technology being used for surveillance.

China – A Different Culture for Drone Technology Use

The use of drone technology in China is certainly different when compared to its use in Western cultures. The use of drones has expanded along with the use of surveillance cameras and facial recognition software. Thus, Chinese citizens are accustomed to seeing drones perform several routine activities. For example, drones are used to supervise traffic congestion and violations. Some even issue fines for infractions like jaywalking. And recently, drone technology has been used to help illuminate dark construction sites. This detail has been noted recently in Wuhan, where construction efforts needed to proceed quickly.

Notably, other uses of drone technology extend well beyond the current applications in deterring the spread of the coronavirus infection. In some instances, drones are used to proctor and monitor student examinations. Likewise, drones routinely patrol border areas to monitor illegal Muslim immigration. Given that these drone activities are not hidden but in fact, made widely known, Chinese citizens have grown used to their presence. And while some don’t agree with these activities, there isn’t a way to prevent drone use for these purposes.

(READ MORE: China Bets Big on Face Detection)

photo quote of Maya Wang in relation to the use of drone technology in fighting the coronavirus infection
Indeed, what represents a “global emergency” and “appropriate surveillance use” can vary in interpretation.

Can Drone Technology Make a Difference?

Naturally, some human rights activists see China’s use of drone technology as violations of privacy. However, there is some debate concerning that when it comes to managing a potential epidemic involving the coronavirus infection. The World Health Organization recognizes these types of measures may be appropriate when a global emergency exists. But specific criteria in defining what represents a global emergency and appropriate surveillance use can vary in interpretation. In any case, China is not likely to reduce its use of drone technology now or in the future. The coronavirus infection simply provides an opportunity to justify drone use to solve social problems.

(READ MORE: Impact Of Drones On Society – Business, Connections, Privacy)

Understanding this, we can still appreciate the potential impact drone technology could have on our lives in the future. Indeed, opportunities exist where drones could enhance efficiency and safety in a variety of ways. XAG, as well as other drone companies, are demonstrating some of these opportunities now with more likely to follow. Drones are already providing delivery services, video surveillance and agricultural assistance. But future uses, such as virtual reality entertainment, will soon become common as well. Regardless of one’s opinions of how China is using drone technology today, the country is leading the way in many areas. That is evidently clear based on their use of drones in managing the coronavirus infection today.

(READ MORE: Virtual Travel and Drones: Is Digital Teleportation the New Tourism?)

The Streaming Wars Scorecard – Where to Turn with All the New Streaming Services

Dig your foxhole and prepare for battle. Based on recent surveys, three-quarters of Americans would pay up to $30 a month for streaming services, depending on the type of content, and the number of ads present. Given this and the tremendous success Netflix has enjoyed, many other new streaming services are now surfacing. The “streaming wars” are heating up, and 2020 looks to be a year full of battles between these new players.

For some time now, Netflix has remained the victor when it comes to streaming wars. In fact, it has hardly been much of a competition as of late. Over the last decade, Netflix has seen a 4,000 percent return on its stock value. One hundred fifty million subscribers to their network have accompanied this. But times are changing, with many new streaming services launching their own platforms. And with billions of dollars at stake for all of them, there is little doubt the streaming wars to come will be highly competitive.

New Streaming Services Hit the Market

Netflix hasn’t been the only streaming service from which to choose. Other streaming options have included Hulu, which is owned by Disney, and Amazon Prime Video. But in recent months, more competitive products have hit the market. Apple launched its new streaming service in November called Apple TV +. Likewise, Disney + was released the same month and has done remarkably well since. The success of these new streaming services have had suggests they are just getting started. So, all indications suggest major streaming wars about to begin.

In the coming months, other new streaming services will also launch. Specifically, Warner Media, recently acquired by AT&T for $85 billion, will launch HBO Max in May. Comcast, which owns NBC Universal and Hulu, plans to introduce Peacock around the same time. And Quibi, which is short for “quick bites,” plans to reveal its new short film streaming service sometime in 2020 as well. Each of these ventures has invested billions of dollars, so it only stands to reason streaming wars amongst them will follow.

streaming wars, jaim nail quoted
Consumers need to choose the lesser evil.

Streaming Wars Will Bring New Opportunities

For some time now, Netflix has provided great streaming content without the burden of advertisements. A low monthly subscription allows “streamers” to enjoy a vast amount of content without interruption. But with new streaming services, this will likely change both consumer mentality and payment packages. In fact, surveys support the fact that millions of consumers will tolerate ads if the monthly costs are less or nonexistent. This means consumers will likely enjoy a variety of new options in how to go about accessing these new streaming services.

Prior to now, Netflix has had few competitors, which has enabled it to enjoy tremendous growth. But streaming wars have already started in terms of acquisition of content. Content owners and producers can now demand a higher price and hold out for the highest bidder. This makes it more difficult for Netflix to keep its existing content without raising subscription rates or including ads. In fact, new streaming services are offering a combination of ad content and subscriptions to appease a larger customer base.

new streaming services, brandon riney quoted
Consumers choose ad-supported streaming services because of the lower subscription price.

Who’s Likely to Win the Streaming Wars?

If you’re keeping a scorecard for each of the new streaming services, it’s difficult to predict who might come out ahead. Betting on Netflix is certainly a good option given its major head start. The company, however, fell short of its expected projection to gain 600,000 new subscriptions in the U.S. in the fourth quarter. The array of streaming services is putting Netlix’s new U.S. subscribers at bay with only 420,000 to date. Though Netflix might lose millions of subscribers, this will be a small percentage based on its current clientele. Likewise, Netflix invested over $15 billion last year alone in new content development. In all likelihood, Netflix will remain a major victor when the dust of the streaming wars settles.

Among the new streaming services, there is little doubt that Disney will do extremely well. (We have a story on Netflix vs Disney. Read it here.) In fact, its hit Disney+ show Mandalorian has peaked with over 140 million hits. And since Disney owns 21st Century Fox content and other streaming products like ESPN+, it will undoubtedly do well. Similarly, Comcast and NBC Universal will also likely be a market leader based on Hulu’s existing success and its coming launch of Peacock. Overall, these companies are among the most likely to win the streaming wars in the short term.

streaming wars, jeffrey katzenberg quoted
Quibi is joining the ranks of favorite streaming services.

Moving into New and Unknown Territory

While the previously mentioned new streaming services are likely to excel, the current media and entertainment market is rapidly changing. Because of this, it is difficult to predict how consumers will respond and how they will shape streaming services. For example, Apple TV+ has not done as well as expected when compared to Disney. And new concepts like Quibi, which plans to introduce in-between length entertainment programs, could revolutionize the market. Companies like Quibi represent the industry’s outliers that might end up doing extremely well.

As an overall assessment, the best bet is that Netflix, Disney, and Comcast will be the leaders in the upcoming streaming wars. Others like Warner Media, Apple TV+, and Amazon Prime Video will also be new streaming services that will compete well. And companies like Quibi might surprise us all and create an entirely new market among streaming customers. But these reflect the victors in the short term who may or may not be on top years later. Predicting who might win the battle in 2020 is easier than forecasting who will eventually win the overall streaming wars.

Driver-Less Cars and Ride-Sharing Be Damned – Car Ownership Will Survive

When the automobile was first mass-produced, it opened up nearly the entire country to travel, and tapped into mankind’s primal need for freedom, exploration and truck stop fountain sodas bigger than toddlers. Hopping in a car and driving cross country was… American. Then came driver-cars and ride-sharing apps. Nearly every major car manufacturer is developing driverless cars and autonomous transportation, and if you don’t want one of those parked in your driveway, you can call an Uber or Lyft. Because of this, many suggest that car ownership is on its way out. They are wrong, wrong, wrong!

car ownership trends, maurie cohen quoted
It’s quite predictable, really.

Arguments Against the Future of Car Ownership

Given the economic costs, environmental impact, and new transportation technologies, some believe car ownership will disappear. Instead, people will pay subscription services for their sweet rides. For a monthly fee, autonomous cars will be available on-demand to take us wherever we want to go. Alternatively, others will choose a pay-per-use option with robo-taxis accommodating their needs. In turn, car ownership trends will completely disappear except for those few enthusiast collectors.

These arguments are not without merit. By some accounts, the average monthly car payment is roughly $545 per month. Likewise, cars are hardly a good investment, with the average depreciation being 40 percent over five years. And cars certainly take up space, demand tremendous infrastructure, and sit idle much of the time. These issues, as well as the safety and environmental factors, support the views these individuals express. But despite being rational in nature, they neglect some major aspects of car ownership trends.

future of car ownership maurie cohen quoted
There’s more to cars than meets the eye.

Why the Future of Car Ownership Will Continue

The car has been a part of our lives for well over a century at this point in time. At a basic level, it has served as our means to get from one place to another. But by far, this is not the only advantages that owning a car offers. Car ownership trends have not grown out of transportation needs alone. Instead, they have expanded due to an array of additional benefits having your own car offers. For a significant segment of the population, these additional benefits will serve as obstacles to change. And because of this, the future of car ownership will last for many decades to come. Any predictions otherwise are simply failing to recognize the facts of the matter.

Let’s consider some of the most important non-transportation perks that automobiles offer us. For one, cars are our home away from home. The independence and privacy of your own car offers are still features viewed by many as being essential. They offer a sense of privacy while providing us a place to store some of our items. Certainly, Uber and Lyft have shown that not everyone demands these things from car ownership. However, car ownership trends have not changed that dramatically since the introduction of ride-sharing services. (We probed into the beneficial costs of using Uber and here’s what we found.)

In addition to these conveniences of privacy and independence, the future of car ownership will also persist for other reasons. Specifically, for decades now, cars are an extension of ourselves that allow us to express who we are. Like a nice suit or piece of jewelry, automobiles allow us to make a statement about our success and style. For many, a willingness to give this up will be met with significant resistance. Even when owning a car fails to make economic sense, this benefit will continue to drive car ownership trends. As you can appreciate, changes in the future of car ownership involve more than merely better transportation models.

(Read our story on Riding in the Cars of the Future.)

future of car ownership maurie cohen qouted
The only constant thing is change–and yes, even with cars.

How Car Ownership Trends and New Technologies Will Merge

The position is not that the desire to own your own car will last forever. However, car ownership trends will shift over a longer period of time in a gradual manner. In fact, technologies favor this to a great extent. As electric cars are introduced, driverless cars and driver-based models offer benefits in terms of climate change. Likewise, autonomous technology also offers advantages in human safety as its capabilities improve. For many consumers, the lure of ride-sharing and robo-taxis will encourage them to cut the cord on owning a car. But for millions, these services will simply be used adjunctively in addition to having their own car in the driveway.

(Read more on self-driving cars here.)

As the decades pass, car ownership trends will likely change. Infrastructures designed for existing car needs will evolve as the future of car ownership changes as well. But this will take the good part of a century to realize given how entrenched personal care ownership trends are. In some ways, this can be compared to differences between owning your own home and renting an apartment. Despite the economic and lifestyle advantages that renting offers, many still choose to own their own place. This even occurs when such an investment isn’t ideal. Understanding this, the economic arguments alone do not support a dramatic shift in car ownership trends overnight. The shift will occur more slowly as societies slowly warm up to the idea and long-standing infrastructures gradually fade away.

Businesses, Not Governments, Are the Key to Reforestation Efforts

Did you know that a single tree can generate as much as 200 kilograms of carbon dioxide in its lifetime? That’s enough to absorb the emissions of a car traveling roughly 500 miles. Now imagine if you embraced a tree-planting program that planted over a billion trees. Hold onto that thought while you consider this: between 2014 and 2018, there was a loss of approximately 26 million hectares of forest. With a hectare being about the size of 2.5 soccer fields, this is a substantial amount of precious green gone. A tree-planting program to replace these losses is important, and many government agencies recognize this and are doing their part. However, this alone is not enough. Businesses are the key to successful reforestation efforts.

(Want to know if Climate Change Solutions Can Undo the Damage?)

reforestation efforts, justin adams quoted
The ability to end climate change is not impossible.

Models for a Tree Planting Program

In terms of a tree-planting program, there have been successful global efforts. The United Nations was involved in a Trillion Tree Campaign as part of its reforestation efforts. But in 2011, the U.N. turned over its project to the organization, Plant for the Planet. This organization’s projects have made significant headway through the tree planting programs. Though global in nature, the project Plant for the Planet focuses its efforts where there is a need for a bolder impact. Specifically, this involves tropical areas where trees mature the fastest and where areas are most devastated by deforestation. Over time, they have recognized location, tree type, and level of tree maturity are the most important factors.

Many governments are also getting involved in these programs. In the Philippines, the nation has seen a 50 percent decrease in forests over the last century. Reforestation efforts are now in the works, however, to deter further loss of trees. In addition to a tree-planting program, the government has offered incentives against deforestation. Though strides have been small to date, a positive effect has been demonstrated. Other governments offer tax breaks for companies with a tree-planting program. Similarly, these reforestation efforts have been positive, but they lack the magnitude needed for a tremendous effect.

tree planting program, pieter van midwoud quoted
Planting trees is a gargantuan commitment and organizations may not realize it.

Companies Leading the Way in Reforestation Efforts

While governments and nonprofits are promoting tree planting programs through incentives, other companies are being more proactive.  Biocarbon Engineering actually uses drone technology as part of its tree-planting program. These drones are able to assess topography, biodiversity, and barriers to planting to aid with reforestation efforts. Ecosia is another company that is contributing to reforestation projects. As a major Internet search engine, the company finances and donates significant amounts of its profits to reforestation.

(Read our exclusive story on the Impact of Drones on Society–Including Business Connection and Privacy.)

Several other companies are also pursuing tree planting programs. Another company, Land Life Company, was founded by an ex-Shell engineer. His company’s product enhances tree growth in dry, degraded areas through the use of a “cocoon” planting technology. Tentree is another company that designs and sells apparel. However, its reforestation efforts involve planting 10 trees for every article of clothing sold. Its goal is to plant a billion trees by 2030. Even Elon Musk has embraced tree planting program efforts by donating $1 million toward these types of organizations. Given these advances, it’s clear businesses have the potential to be much more of a change agent than other sources. (Find out how else Elon Musk and His Companies are affecting other Industries.)

tree planting program, justin adams quoted
It’s a long road ahead, but one that sees hope at the end.

Benefits Beyond Climate Change of Tree Planting Programs

When it comes to reforestation efforts, certainly carbon dioxide sequestration is an important outcome. However, a tree-planting program offers many additional benefits that businesses should appreciate. For example, a tree-planting program promotes better air and water quality, which enhances global health efforts. Likewise, these reforestation efforts are a sustainable way to provide timber, fuel, and fiber for the future. And a tree planting program also enhances biodiversity, which is important for a number of industries including medicine. Each of these is a great reason why businesses should pursue reforestation efforts as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Without question, many reasons exist for businesses to engage in reforestation efforts. But in addition to the ones mentioned, reforestation is expected to be a growing industry in the years to come. In fact, it is expected to be quite profitable for many companies. The reforestation economy was cited at $9.5 billion in 2015 and continues to expand. In addition, a tree-planting program and other projects employ thousands of individuals. Annual employment in reforestation efforts totals 126,000 in the U.S., which is nearly 60 percent more than the coal industry. And the sustainability factor drives lower costs over time, meaning reforestation efforts adds to the bottom line. Therefore, moral and economic incentives should be driving businesses to develop their own tree-planting program.

Together, Business Can Make a Global Impact

To date, governments and nonprofits have invested significant efforts toward reforestation. Likewise, they also pursue incentives and policies against deforestation. But these efforts alone will not be enough. While a tree-planting program has notable potential and benefits, efforts will need to be more widespread. That is where businesses come into play. Through their collective effort, there will be a realization of a true global impact on reforestation efforts. Indeed, businesses hold the key to helping this sustainable and natural approach to climate change succeed.