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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

C-Suite Agenda

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: How To Keep The Momentum Going When Facing A Pandemic

As a CEO deeply passionate about IoT devices and technologies, I am no stranger to rapid change. The industry itself has undergone tremendous transformation and evolution in just the last few years. In addition to the ubiquitous use of smartphones, the number of connected devices had reached 22 billion worldwide by 2018, with 41 billion predicted by 2027. And across the globe, internet users had reached a new milestone at 51% by the end of 2019.

With COVID-19’s global impact, it was clear that technology would play a lead role in helping our team at IoTC adapt and bring new ways to unite our network. One of the advantages of working in the digital world was that the learning curve for utilizing advanced tools and conferencing platforms like Zoom was fairly flat, which was why we were able to quickly pivot and launch a virtual series called IoTC NOW. Uniting industry leaders to discuss the current pandemic and its effect on specific IoT sectors on which we focus, we established a platform allowing these conversations to still take place while enabling partnerships to flourish.

The first virtual panel, Connected Health & Wellness in the Era of COVID-19, was held April 9, 2020, via Zoom and featured experts and executives who shared their insights on what the medical tech industry is doing NOW to fight the pandemic. They shared innovations, from robots equipped with UV light beams that disinfect hospital rooms to telemedicine solutions. During brief introductions, the high caliber, commitment level and dedication to improving connected healthcare came through in every speaker, with a statement from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dr. Connie Lehman reflective of our collective sense of hope and perseverance: “We are all in this together. I am seeing levels of creativity, ingenuity and new ways of thinking and doing things I have never seen in my career.”

As the weeks moved on and another virtual panel on the connected home launched, I began to see more opportunities emerge. For example, many valuable IoTC discussions take place at in-person networking events, during panel discussions and live webinars, but far too often these conversations are cut short and are never continued. To unite those industry leaders and executives who share aspirations and motivations, IoTC relaunched a dedicated Slack channel to provide an always-open platform for continued conversations that foster new and existing relationships and accelerate creativity, innovation and technological advances that are sure to come from these unprecedented times.

I also came to learn and personally understand the significant concerns that were keeping CEOs up at night. All of a sudden, we went from routines to chaos, scrambling to figure out logistics, as well as new policies and procedures for working at home. Even more concerning was and still is the mental health of our teams, clients, family members and neighbors. As the world buckled to its knees, some felt the threat more intensely than others, particularly those who themselves or family members had underlying conditions. But, in all of us, it is clear that there are psychological factors to take into account, some of which are likely to have long-lasting effects on many of us, whether we are still sheltering in place or going back to the office. There has never been a time when our patience, compassion, resolve, grit and mettle has been tested, and we as business leaders must do our part to support our people and ensure a healthy work-life balance. This leads to the next pressing concern: returning and recovering. What does it look like, and how can we best prepare?

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending we avoid close contact with each other and high-touch surfaces at home and in public places (elevator buttons, handrails, touchpads), new behaviors will likely become the new normal supported by new and existing technologies that will help ensure fewer touchpoints as we move forward. I not only believe homes, cities, retail, healthcare and mobility will be smarter, but I also feel we will emerge from this more authentically human than ever before. In business, collaboration and partnerships will be critical, whether it is in driving investments in technology, sourcing new innovation in hardware and software, or sharing best practices.

Many of us, conducting business from home, realize just how critical technology has been in keeping the wheels turning and relationships strong. In many ways, with more virtual conferences taking place, the lines between our professional selves and who we are in the comfort of our homes have vanished. Many employees are seeing their CEOs and executive leaders in a new light, perhaps more casual and approachable given that some of us are still under tight lockdown and unable to get that close shave and a haircut every six weeks. Now, more than seven weeks into this pandemic, the real silver linings are starting to appear, and COVID-19 may very well have done more for us in the last three months than we could have imagined. We are more acutely aware of the deep losses people have suffered—lives and livelihoods—and how we can never go back.

We must forge a new path forward. Whether we accept it or not, life has no safety net and no guarantees other than we will—and must—go on.


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Greg Kahn
Greg Kahn is president and CEO of the Internet of Things Consortium (IoTC) and one of the most connected and engaged members of the Internet of Things (IoT) community. At the helm of IoTC NEXT: The Connected Future Summit, a first-of-its-kind industry event launched in 2019 in New York City, he is uniting foremost brand executives, leading technologists, investors and top media to address the challenges of a connected world. Greg Kahn is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. He can be found on Linkedin.