The power of data in remote work – anticipation supports success

Blog post
VTT
A woman working on a laptop with a cat by her side

COVID-19 turned everyone's everyday routines upside down this spring. Production lines were in shambles, hand sanitizer and face masks were selling like hot cakes, and ordinary meetings in close quarters became questionable. Everyone who could stay at home started working remotely, which constituted nearly 60% of the employed in Finland. 

Switching to remote work reduced people's daily travel in Finland between March and April by as much as one third. According to Telia's mobility index, however, daily travel has already returned to pre-coronavirus levels. Similar changes can be seen in other Nordic countries.

Internet traffic increased roughly by 20% between March and April in Finland. In March, service provider DNA reported that telephone communications had increased as much as 40% with an increase of 34% in mobile data usage within a short observation period. The increased remote work and studying spread out the growth of data usage throughout the day which is contrary to the usual spikes of data usage in the evenings. According to the National Cyber Security Centre, the number of reports related to cyber threats is significantly higher compared to last year. There has also been an increase in scam calls pretending to be technical support.

Data can be used to anticipate the impacts of these changes and to develop business in this new situation. VTT and Houston Analytics Oy are involved in an extensive European research project called CyberFactory#1 where data and artificial intelligence are utilised to optimise production processes and improve the cyber-resilience of companies.

Market changes can be modelled with data

COVID-19 has caused obvious changes in consumption as well. For example, our established routes have changed, and people are shopping more and more online. However, we cannot guess the nature and impacts of trends with flimsy information; we need high-quality data.

One example of illustrating market changes is the Airomi Free solution developed by Houston Analytics Oy. The service uses a data sample produced by Omnicom Media Group that includes data from queries, location services, industry, and search engines. The higher the number of data sources that are being used, the better the forecasting power.

Analysis needs to be supported by chronological comparison. In the example service, data from previous years is compared with sources of open data starting from the spread of coronavirus and the announcement of limitations due to the pandemic. As a result, we get an industry-level perspective of the impacts of the events. A company-specific perspective could be produced in the same way. Of course, COVID-19 is only one phenomenon: it is also possible to use the market data to identify other phenomena and anticipate the resulting trends.

Agility promotes success

Remote work is here to stay, and the new normal has various impacts. It is likely that home networks will be increasingly exposed to attacks as people are accessing corporate networks from home. Changes in consumption patterns will affect the location of companies, and traditional stores may lose some of their competitive advantage. 
On the other hand, remote work makes it easier to hire people from further away. Also, the prospect of controlling processes and robots from the comfort of your home is now one step closer. This creates motivation to solve new challenges regarding cybersecurity, automation, and the reliability of production chains. 

Everyone was caught off guard by the extent and suddenness of the impacts of COVID-19. Nevertheless, the world does not change at random. When we use data and analytics to support our decisions, we can react to trends faster. Those who can modify their operations flexibly or, for example, reprogram their devices on the fly, will be more successful than their competitors. 
 

Authors:

Jarno Salonen
Senior Scientist
+358 40 7050000
jarno.salonen@vtt.fi

Outi-​Marja Latvala
Research Scientist
+358 40 6893602
outi-​marja.latvala@vtt.fi

Pia Raitio
Research Scientist
+358 40 1645645
pia.raitio@vtt.fi

Seppo Heikura
Senior Advisor, Houston Analytics Oy
+358 40 722 8840
seppo.heikura@houston-​analytics.com

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