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Our virtually connected, touch-free world arrived several years early because of COVID-19.
The pandemic made businesses more reliant on applications installed on mobile phones in order to transact with customers in a contactless manner. When the world reopens, people will continue to embrace the technology that enabled a contactless world, said Vic Merjanian, CEO of Titan HST. Post-pandemic, companies and customers will continue to use apps to conduct business, and this will continue to spread to other everyday transactions, Merjanian said.
Titan HST, a provider of two-way emergency mass communication based out of Newport Beach, Calif., has patented technology that allows for phone-to-phone communication even with limited or no cell tower connectivity, along with augmented reality for locating people under low-visibility conditions. Its software is designed to work on standard Android and iPhone devices, and it has customers in the education, enterprise, hospitality and entertainment sectors, including the Utah Jazz/Vivint Arena and some universities.
Although it competes with other mass notification software vendors such as Everbridge and AlertMedia, two-thirds of Titan HST's customers switched over from competitors because they found one-way emergency communication to be insufficient, according to Merjanian.
In this interview, Merjanian spoke about how customers' Titan HST usage shifted to new use cases during the pandemic, how the pandemic has affected security and protocol at sites where a large number of people gather and what new challenges companies will face as those sites reopen.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted customers?
Vic Merjanian: Not specific to any one sector, there has been a shift in customer usage of Titan. With fewer people in the office, there has been a reduction in emergency medical requests. However, with the pandemic, and offices being more sparsely populated, there has been a very sharp increase in the use of our platform to protect against violence against staff from people outside of buildings.
The other data point we have, though I don't know is necessarily related to the pandemic, is this year, there has been significantly more weather-related emergency communication use than last year. Between fires, hurricanes and that freeze in Texas, there's been a significant uptick in natural-disaster-related use of the system.
How has the pandemic affected Titan HST adoption?
Merjanian: More and more sites have realized how diverse threats can be against a business and have adopted and enhanced business continuity plans, which we fall into.
The other thing that's happened at an increased rate this year is sites have come under cyber attack or ransomware attack. If you get locked out of your system or infrastructure, our system has been utilized to mobilize IT teams.
Because once you get knocked offline, you can't email the IT department and say, 'Hey, we're under attack.' You need a plan that's separate from that system.
Is there increased adoption across the board?
Merjanian: There is concentration in certain areas we're seeing significant adoption. One of them is hospitality.
Another one with a very big uptick we've seen is healthcare. Healthcare has always faced ransomware, but this past year, it also faced increased attacks against healthcare staff.
Vic MerjanianCEO, Titan HST
Our chief medical officer and others we've talked with in the healthcare sector reported the number of attacks on staff have increased notably, and we've actually had a lot of deployments to help provide safety and security for that sector.
What do you think the post-COVID world will look like?
Merjanian: The world has changed. We have been pushed maybe three to five years into the future with digital commerce and digital interaction. That actually opens up some interesting opportunities, whether you're at the grocery store and using mobile payments, going to a venue and using a digital ticket, or going to a hotel and using an electronic check-in process.
The world was kind of already on track to get there.
The best analogy that I heard is if you want to see what tech is going to be like in the U.S., look at what Japan did ten years ago. That's when we saw a lot of the contactless payment systems and wireless internet being used, and it was mind-boggling then.
If you take a look at the 'app-ification' of e-commerce in the U.S. today, whether you're going to the grocery store, the stadium or the hotel, you're going to be downloading all sorts of apps to your mobile device.
The opportunity for us and other companies here lies in the ability to embed APIs and SDKs. Our own app provides mesh networking, emergency comms, and all this other stuff, but if you embed our API and SDK into other company apps, now you've got mesh networking at the stadium, you've got panic buttons in the hotel, and so on.
I think in the next five to 10 years, you're going to see immense changes in the way we interact with things daily, based on what COVID did to push things into a contactless world.
What challenges does reopening after the pandemic present to customers?
Merjanian: So how are you going to navigate all these regulations and liability exposure with a smaller operational staff? The answer to that is you need digitalization and automation.
One really good example: Places are expected to be cleaned more often now. And when you're cleaning more often, people don't remember where they cleaned, was it marked in the log, was the log faked or whatever. So by having Bluetooth-based beacons and an app that is able to read them, then you're automatically able to track this.
When you're looking at these large buildings in New York, LA or Texas, no one's going to go through page by page every hour and check if every bathroom was cleaned. It's going to be digitized, because someone's wearing a tag that the beacons pick up. And if something isn't done, then a supervisor gets notified. That's how you use technology and automation to make a real-world change.