July 7th, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 05

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. Thai Mall Retrofits Elevators [Link]
2. Carpet Maker Offers Social Distance Flooring [Link]
3. 3D Printed Nasal Swabs [Link]

Watch Episode 04 here.

Find more COVID-19 insights here.


Hello there folks, I’m David Bulfin, Senior Designer at BOLTGROUP returning for another episode of Innovations That Matter, where we explore, analyze, and rank innovative approaches to the next normal brought about by COVID-19. Let’s get started.

A shopping mall in Bangkok Thailand just notably retrofitted their elevators to be operated via foot pedals placed at the intersection of the floor and the wall to effectively eliminate the need to touch buttons. Customers returning to the mall for the first time since it was reopened were surprised and confused to find these pedals both in front of the elevators and inside. Ultimately, however, it seems that most welcomed the new hands-free approach without much fuss. In regards to innovation, our team ranks this interesting solution at 2 out of 5 for a couple of reasons. The first being inclusion. While the pedal operated system is definitely new and clever we’re curious as to whether this system has supplemented or replaced the typical panel of buttons. For individuals using mobility devices such as wheelchairs, these foot switches may pose a challenge. Secondly our team felt that this solution would be best paired with some appropriate process design considerations as well. It’s likely that some well-crafted signage could help instruct and manage the transition to the new system. With those items in mind we still see some excellent possibilities here. For feasibility, this concept ranks high with a 5 out of 5 rating. The fact that the system was able to be easily retrofitted within existing elevators is exciting. We also loved the fact that the pedal arrangement does not overly intrude into the floor space of the elevator car. Finally for scalability we’re giving this concept a 4 out of 5. We can imagine a plug and play version of this setup being sold as an add on for buildings all over the world. If the creators of this device can accommodate for various elevator control schemes, this concept should scale well.

Milliken’s flooring division has been a provider for commercial textiles and carpeting for years. Their new Social Factor line of carpet tiles addresses the need for attractive and informative floor surfaces that convey spatial instructions for social distancing. Many of us have experienced tape lines, signage decals and other temporary floor surface treatments when we visit the grocery store or other retail spaces. Milliken is hoping to be the first to offer a more permanent solution that aims to be a part of the interior design as opposed to being a blemish on it. For innovation this new line of offerings gets a 4 out of 5 from us. The ad hoc methods for floor messaging that we’re becoming accustomed to are a definite eyesore. We’re grateful that companies like Milliken are showing mindfulness of future design needs. Whether we like it or not, this is definitely trend aware. On feasibility, we’re going to give a score of 3 out of 5. We like that these carpet offerings are significantly more attractive than the stickers, decals and tape but those approaches are definitely faster to deploy. That said, we like that this new line will integrate with their existing offerings meaning that those who are customers already, may not need a total re-carpet to include some select signage tiles. For scalability, we see Social Factor carpet tiles as a win with a 5 out of 5 score. By bringing a COVID era solution into the fold, we think Milliken is positioned well as buildings big or small dedicate new thinking to their layout and design.

When we hear about the significant need to expand testing for COVID-19, we remember that this challenge takes many forms. Gaining more testing capability means, manpower, organization, and supply chain support. To help tackle the latter, Form Labs has jumped into the fray by offering unique, 3D printed testing swabs. Known for producing resin based stereolithography printers Form Labs was not previously in the medical device business. Their printers however, have been suitable for years in developing medical products when specific resins are leveraged. Knowing this, their in house machines, typically dedicated to creating customer samples are now being used to mass produce nasopharyngeal swabs. Beyond this, they’re also offering the option to have existing 3D printer owners produce swabs on their own with their direction and assistance. For innovation, this gets a 5 out of 5 score from out team. We applaud Form Labs for taking initiative to re-think how their printers could be used for the general good. The swabs themselves also represent a clever piece of design work all their own by consolidating all the features needed in a swab into a single material. Even after supplies become readily available again, we think this design could potentially replace the typical stick and polyester swab for easy of manufacture. On feasibility, this design also gets a 5 out of 5 score. Our team initially raised our eyebrows about the idea of having a 3D printed object stuck into our nasal passages, but in reality the execution is very sensible. The resins used are totally bio-compatible and strong enough for the task at hand. Finally on scalability, the Form Labs swabs receive a score of 4 out of 5. The fact that they have been able to offer as many units as they have is impressive. We also think there could be future opportunities for their team to continue expanding their operations and offerings as time moves on. The fact that any Form Labs owner could potentially prints swabs using their own printer is a definite bonus as well. We’ll look forward to seeing how this interesting effort continues.

With that, I’ll sign off for today. As always, stay on the lookout for more episodes in the future as we continue to cover the Innovations that Matter. Thanks for listening 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.