The Return to Work

December 14, 2020 Brad Erickson

return to work

With the recent news of multiple COVID-19 vaccines quickly moving towards Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) with the FDA, there is finally reason for cautious optimism in the effort to eradicate what Dr. Fauci called the worst pandemic in over a century.  For millions of non-essential workers whose employment has been affected by the pandemicany thought of a return to normalcy includes return to work. Though there are still many obstacles to clear before a return to work becomes a realityorganizations around the world are carefully considering the weighty responsibility of when, and how, to bring that to pass.   

With this in mind, XPRIZE has announced the Pandemic Response Challenge, a $500k public competition where teams will harness the power of data and AI to responsibly reopen local economies while minimizing potential virus outbreaks.  The primary goal of this competition is to find a reusable model that can help other organizations around the world safely and effectively return to work.  This contest is already underway with over 100 participant teams and will conclude in February 2021.   

XPRIZE has been funding public competitions since its formation in 1994 to find solutions to some of the world’s most daunting challenges. During this time, they have awarded many millions of dollars to innovators who have found solutions to global issues related to space travel, education, and the environment.  Over the past year, they have shifted their efforts towards the pandemic, announcing the Rapid COVID Testing challenge earlier in 2020. Currently in progress, that competition seeks to find a scalable method for rapid COVID-19 testing. 

XPRIZE has partnered with Cognizant for its data and AI models. As a leading professional service company with a robust AI presence, Cognizant will provide the technical backbone for the competition and will play a vital role in its success. This is particularly exciting for New Signature as we recently joined Cognizant to become their Microsoft Business Group.   

History has shown us that the spirit of human ingenuity often brings forth momentous change in times of crisis. Innovations such as Penicillin, the study of DNA, and even the first programmable, electronic computer all have roots in crises like world wars and previous pandemics. Although our current reality will certainly be remembered as a grim period for many generations to come, the hope is that humankind will rise to the challenge and learn methods of using technology to confront this (and any future) pandemic. Hopefully, this competition will be fruitful in finding ways to combat this crisis and take steps towards taking down he “Temporarily Closed” signs in front of offices that the past year has made all too familiar.


About the Author
Brad Erickson is an Intelligent Workplace Collaboration Consultant in New Signature’s Northeast region, helping organizations get the most out of SharePoint, Teams, and the Power Platform. Brad’s hobbies include guitar, home music recording, and following pro and college football and basketball.

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