June 25th, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 04

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. Business Owner Helps Increase Barbershop Safety [Link]
2. Cornell Students Devise New Bio-Feedback Mask [Link]
3. New Vending Machines Dispense PPE On Demand [Link]

Watch Episode 03 here.

Find more COVID-19 insights here.


Hi there, this is David Bulfin, Senior Designer at BOLTGROUP back with our next episode of Innovations That Matter, where we explore, analyze, and rank ideas and inventions that are coming about in response to COVID-19.

Edwin Ramirez, a barbershop owner / carpenter has come up with a neat way to help both customers and stylists stay safe while at the salon. During the time when all three of his New Jersey businesses were shut down, he decided to plan and prepare for the next normal. Edwin calls his creation the shield on wheels and it’s just that. The semicircular acrylic device can be rolled anywhere it’s needed and has a conveniently placed opening that allows the stylist’s hands to reach a customer’s hair. On innovation, our team scores this device at 5 out of 5 for its simplicity and usefulness. With extensive use of PPE becoming the expected norm across the service industry, a device like this could help to reduce disposable waste, while also providing a sense of comfortable confidence to both the customer and the barber. On feasibility, we’re giving a 4 out of 5 ranking due to some thoughts regarding ergonomics. While it’s wonderful to see the device working in practice, we’d be curious to see if the device remains comfortable for people of various heights and in potentially different salon layouts as well. Perhaps a height adjusting feature could maybe help make this device relevant to a wider audience. Lastly on scalability, this device ranks high at 5 out of 5 because of its sensible and cost effective construction. Whether fabricated or mass manufactured, we think this design will have plenty of options available to reach a wide audience.

In a lot of ways, each day feels like it’s bringing a new wave of mask designs. Despite the flood of options we’re seeing, this mask in particular caught our attention. A team of biological science students at Cornell University have come up with a 3D printed mask that incorporates a suite of bio-feedback sensors to help the wearer monitor or share important health information. Their design, called Vital Mask, places sensors near the wearer’s earlobes, nose, and mouth to monitor body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and respiratory rate. By elevating their mask beyond protective wear into an intelligent connected device, the team sees multiple helpful applications. The first being the ability to give an individual wearer valuable information about their own health so that they could have a baseline metric should they fall ill. The other use case would be in a medical facility setting. The device could offer a simple single point of data collection to help doctors manage a large number of patients, especially if and when emergency rooms are in scarce supply. On that alone, this idea could be truly transformative. For innovation, this concept receives a 3 out of 5 mark. We think that a design like this has the chance to create excellent impact, especially from a triage standpoint, but we’re curious to know if the intent is for the design to be discarded or re-used. For either scenario, there would be notable design considerations to be made. For feasibility, the Vital Mask also receives a 3 out of 5 because while we are excited to see existing sensors and technology being used in a really clever manner, we’d like to see some development around the total system and overall process for use. Of particular interest would be how power is supplied day to day. On scalability, this concept shows excellent promise with a 5 out of 5 score. The economy of scale will play a major role here, but we see nothing that would limit this idea from seeing widespread adoption if both the device and the digital infrastructure supporting it gets equal attention.

The reality that we are adjusting to is challenging. Wearing a face mask has become more than just a sensible precaution but rather a vital behavior for public health and a sign of common courtesy. Carrying items like hand sanitizer and disposable gloves has become very much akin to being prepared for the day just like our wallets or our phones. Just like leaving the house without our keys, we will inevitably forget to have these important items with us occasionally. Being mindful of this, the Selecta company has recently unveiled a set of unique vending machines called Safety Stations across Europe to supply important PPE on demand. Rather than vending candy bars or bottles of water, these machines dispense masks and other handy supplies to anyone finding themselves without. A new normal indeed! For innovation, we’re giving the Safety Station a 3 out of 5. We’re excited to see these devices becoming available by leveraging existing vending machine designs, but we’ll be interested to see how the unique needs and challenges in dispensing these goods will shape future iterations. For the same reasons, both feasibility and scalability get great scores at 5 out of 5 for both. By relying both on existing machines and existing supply chain methods this vending solution seems poised to disrupt. Several of us on our team could easily see how this could potentially save a trip all the way back home in the near future.

Our team thought it would be exciting to briefly share an update from our first episode. Quinn Callender, the boy scout who created the Ear Gears device recently transitioned to full manufactured production. Quinn, if you’re watching we celebrate this awesome achievement with you! Well done! Consider this a revision from our previous: 5 out of 5 across the board sir!

That’s it for today. We’ll look forward to sharing even more exciting innovations in our next episode. Until then, stay safe and we’ll see you next time.

Let's Connect

Are you in a position where a pivotal shift is required to hit your goals? We can help.