May 29th, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 02

As designers, we’re intensely curious about innovations of all kinds, and even more so when human ingenuity is borne out of sudden change. We decided to lend our expertise in highlighting and evaluating promising innovations borne out of the COVID-19 crisis. In this series, we’ll be using 3 different categories to rate these exciting ideas. First will be innovation, or how new or disruptive the idea is. Next, we’ll look at feasibility to check how realistic the idea actually is in practice. Finally, will be scalability, to see how capable an idea is to reach a wide audience.

In this episode of Innovations That Matter, we review:
1. Helping Small Farms Stay Afloat [Link]
2. Couple Team Up To Disinfect N95 Masks [Link]
3. Folding@Home Hunting For New Therapeutic Opportunities [Link]

Watch Episode 01 here.

Find more COVID-19 insights here.


Hi folks, this is David Bulfin, Senior Designer at BOLTGROUP, and welcome back for our next episode of Innovations That Matter, where we explore, analyze, and rank exciting ideas that are responding creatively to COVID-19. Let’s dive in!

Farms that cater to supplying food for restaurants are getting hit hard. Steward, an online investment platform centered on supporting sustainable farming practices, has just unveiled a tool to help small farms transition their business models to stay afloat. The goal of their new system is provide a turnkey package of digital tools that empower small farms to re-engage with a direct to consumer model. The new e-services offered by Steward include a fundraising tool for farmers to raise capital, an e-commerce system to reach individual consumers, and an accounting tool to help keep track of inventory. For innovation, this concept gets a 3 out of 5. While specialized e-commerce tools are not new, we like that Steward’s approach is intelligently packaged and designed to cater to the needs of a struggling farm. For feasibility, our team gives this solution a 5 out of 5 because the digital platform is easy to deploy and has actually already been adopted by 50 farms across the US. Finally this platform gets a 3 out of 5 score for scalability. While the system today requires a certain level of customization to cater to the individual business, we can see this service as one that will continue to streamline and potentially even automate as development continues.

A doctor and engineer couple have devised a reliable way to disinfect and reuse N95 masks for those working in healthcare. Husband and wife duo, Kevin and Laurie Hommema received fast tracked approval from the FDA for a system that uses hydrogen peroxide vapor to clean masks in large quantities. Their method, relies on shipping containers to create a large, sealed space that is filled with the sterilizing peroxide fog. Once a batch of masks is cleaned, they can be re-cleaned over and over, up to twenty times before needing to be thrown away. Each system can prep up to eighty thousand masks per day for re-use, believe it or not. For innovation, this novel system gets a score of 4 out of 5. While peroxide vapor has been a proven sterilizing method in labs for years, this specific approach is definitely new and exciting. Our team was similarly impressed with how this system cleverly uses materials and resources that are widely available, which is why we’re also ranking feasibility at a 4 out of 5 as well. Regarding scalability, this concept excels with a 5 out of 5 ranking. By partnering with their employers, Laurie and Kevin have already been able to see their design put into use in Ohio, Washington, and New York. Beyond that, the department of defense has already promised to fund another sixty units to deploy around the country.

Our last notable innovation to share today is one that you can help be involved in right now believe it or not. Folding at Home, an incredible distributed computing project has recently turned its attention towards COVID-19. The project brings together citizen volunteers who donate their unused computing power at home toward simulating and solving complex biological calculations. All anyone has to do is download the free Folding at Home application on their computer and the program uses your machine while you’re away or asleep. With a large number of volunteers involved, myself included actually, this network of home devices across the world forms a powerful supercomputer that’s dedicated to helping scientists develop a new vaccine. I think this is pretty exciting. In regards to innovation, Folding at Home gets a 5 out of 5 from our team. We recognize the fact that this system is incredibly complex to accomplish its job, but to the end user, it couldn’t be any simpler. Definitely a hallmark of good design at work. For feasibility, we similarly give this platform a 5 out of 5. Folding at Home has proven itself as a useful tool in other areas of scientific study like astronomy and genetics already. We’re glad to see that COVID-19 has become a new area of focus for this tool. Lastly, by nature of how the tool works it also gets a 5 out of 5 for scalability. We love how the system gives anyone with a computer the ability to get involved and help with next to no effort at all.

That’s all for today. Be sure to check out our next episode where we’ll rate 3 more innovations that you need to know about. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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