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Letter from the Editor - Coming Together

By: Scott St. John

Your customers are depending on you, now more than ever. IT and telecom technology, which Pipeline has been covering for over 15 years, has become and will now remain the backbone of our global, connected society.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus hit and quickly spread throughout the world, the world turned to this technology as way to stay connected. To work from home, see loved ones, network, communicate, and fill online shopping carts with essential supplies.  But, I have to ask, is it all that different than before? Maybe, but maybe not.

This technology on which we now rely—Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Nextdoor, RingCentral, Slack, Skype, Webex, Zoom, and so on—has been around for years.  The difference is, it has now become mission critical. Which means the underlying technology has to work, work well, and work securely. When it doesn't, it can have drastic and immediate consequences.  

Zoom for example, became a go-to technology for video conferencing as companies sent home workers and communities, states and entire countries started locking down. In the weeks that followed, Zoom's stock price steadily increased 75 percent. Recently, the media began reporting the Zoom video security flaw ("Zoom Bombing") that allowed delinquents to hack into active calls. Zoom responded by advising its customers to be sure to change their presenter privileges. Nobody was amused. The company's stock price fell more than 10 percent the next day on the anticipation that its customers would turn to more secure alternatives such as Cisco's Webex.

As the war rages on against this global pandemic the future is unclear, but there is some certainty. It is certain that people will persevere.  Families are staying at home, and making masks for health care workers. Large manufacturers like Ford, GE, GM, Johnson & Johnson, Resmed and Tesla are augmenting factories and production to supply respirators and masks. Scientists at Celgene, CureVac, Moderna, Regeneron, and SanoFi are working to develop a vaccine and viable treatments, some of which are in clinical trials. Diagnostic companies like Abbot Labs, Danaher, and Thermo Fisher are producing millions of COVID-19 test kits, and Quest and LabCorp are analyzing them nearly around the clock. Even software companies, such as Microsoft and Schrodinger, are leveraging AI and advanced data modeling technology for precision medicine, and Facebook is providing 100 million dollars in grants to help small businesses. Governments around the world are providing trillions of dollars in support to businesses and individuals, and companies are providing employees with additional benefits and pledging to keep workers employed. Ultimately, we will defeat this sinister scourge, and be better prepared to contend with threats like these in the future.

In dense urban areas, such as New York, this threat is having a profound and severe impact. Hospitals are becoming overrun, the number of tested positive cases are increasing, death tolls are rising, and supplies are running out. It even created a standoff between President Trump and New York state Governor Cuomo last weekend around a potential forced federal quarantine. All of which is making headlines around the world. There is no doubt this is a tenuous time, and all of the aforementioned efforts will eventually thwart these serious issues. But, there is news that hasn’t started dominating the mainstream headlines yet. There are rays of hope.

China appears to be starting its recovery and coming back online. The rates of death and infection seems to be slowing in Italy. Going state by state in the US (see Interactive Map), the death rate of those confirmed, tested cases is 1 to 3 percent. Which is much lower than what has been reported in China (4 percent) and Italy (12 percent). Even in New York, who has over 90,000 confirmed cases – less than 3,000 have died from this virus giving it a 2 percent mortality rate. California is also the same (2 percent), with over 11,000 cases, and nearly 250 deaths. Testing is currently limited to those with serious symptoms, often requiring hospitalization, which means the mortality rate should decrease as more tests become available and those with less severe and asymptomatic individuals are added to the denominator—with some, such as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimating the mortality rate may fall as low as .01 or .001 percent (based on the assumption that every individual who has the virus is tested).

According to public health officials, an estimated 70 percent who get the virus will have no symptoms at all. But even at the current mortality rate, within those 30 percent that have symptoms and are able to get tested, 97 percent or more will survive, recover, and may have some level of natural immunity to the virus going forward. And this is being shown now in the increase in hospital exit numbers, in states like New York. The rate of infection is also slowing in some states, as the social distancing and stay-at-home order seem to be having a meaningful and positive impact. The rate of infection, which used to double every day or two, is now doubling every five days (noting that the rate of testing has also increased at the same time).

None of the above detracts from the severity of the issue. Around the world, there are literally millions of human lives on the line. But it does underscore the importance of the efforts that are being made and, understanding that, illuminates our path forward. Our future and ultimate victory over this crisis is vitally linked to our productivity. It is imperative that the vast majority of people who will either not have symptoms or have symptoms and recover are able to stay connected and remain productive. Every one of us has a role to play in this battle, our inevitable triumph, and the speed of our recovery.

Many of you who are reading this article now, provide the very infrastructure on which this depends, and the technology, products and services that can and are being used to prevail. We will be featuring some of these companies in future issues of Pipeline, and encourage you to stay tuned each month.

In this issue of Pipeline, we explore the customer experience (CX). We hear from Great Plains Communications on how to enrich the customer experience in urban and rural areas. We shine the spotlight on Telia Carrier, who is getting CX right.  Sigma Systems tells us how CSPs could lose the 5G battle. Altran shows us how 5G can be used to improve the quality of services and protect the customer experience, and Ribbon Communications discusses how CSPs can create new revenue streams in the 5G era. CROSS NI explores the challenges and impact poor data quality has on CX, and Nectar Services looks at ways to smooth the digital transformation journey. Radisys shows us how digital video assistants can help personalize the customer experience; Cloudonix tells us how to simplify click-to-call; and CounterPath gives us three keys to CX success. All this plus a look at the month’s breaking news stories and more.

So sit back and try to relax. Zoom into work, have a Skype call with your family, watch a movie on Netflix, and read the latest issue of Pipeline.

Stay safe,

Scott St. John
Managing Editor
Pipeline
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