November 23rd, 2020

Innovations That Matter – Episode 13

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. New Software Expands Video Conference Experience [Link]
2. Architects Create Drive-Through Clinic Concept [Link]
3. New App Help Assist With Contact Tracing [Link]

Watch Episode 12 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. For this episode, we’re briefly going to look a few concepts that are beginning to shape not only what our new normal looks like now, but also what it may look like in the future.

For many of us, webinars and video conferences have become a staple of our daily work lives. Despite the vast multitude of products and services that allow us to connect, most of the core user experiences remain the same: voice, video, chat and content sharing. A new up and coming software tool call mmhmm is looking to disrupt this baseline experience for presenting material over the web. Rather than the now ubiquitous experience of either sharing your video or sharing your screen, mmhmm combines both video and content together to make sharing and presenting more akin to collaborating in person. This newsroom style layout means that meeting participants can both see and interact with who’s speaking, all while still seeing what it is they’re talking about. The best part, the development team created the tool as a standalone piece of software, making it completely agnostic to whatever online service is being utilized. Regardless of what meeting platform you’re committed to, the tool is designed to plug right in. On innovation, mmhmm get a 4 out of 5 from our team here. Being able to shake up the typical web meeting format is a welcome change and we love that the core mechanics of the idea itself were borne out of a pandemic frustration. We’ve actually been experimenting with the beta release ourselves here at bolt group and we’ve been pretty impressed so far. On feasibility, we’re giving a 3 out of 5 score. The clever way that this product integrates into existing meeting platforms is really noteworthy. Mmhmm acts as either a virtual camera or as a screen share application allowing it to become universal. While this functionally works well and presents a cunning software development trick, we think a little bit of attention on the usability side to better educate new users could out this cool concept over the top. Finally on scalability, our team is giving perfect marks at 5 out of 5. The beta software works as advertised and after a little bit of tinkering to get familiarized, becomes a powerful presentation tool. With independent interoperability across all meeting platforms being a key value add, we see a major barrier to growth being removed. Since customers won’t have to ask or worry about the software’s compatibility, they’re going to be encouraged to engage. We’re looking forward to seeing future releases and a steady growth in functions and features. Great work.

Diversified healthcare channels have already become an important part of the new normal. While tele-health certainly existed before the pandemic, it has blossomed more recently into a vital service as the need to stay socially distant continues. Only months ago, virtual doctor visits were considered an almost luxury offering, with insurance companies not offering coverage for these types of services. Things have certainly changed rapidly. Keeping shifts like these in mind, the NBBJ architecture firm recently unveiled a new concept that leans into this evolving healthcare mindset. While in person and virtual visits won’t be going away anytime soon, their concept proposes a third offering that could become mainstream. Their drive through clinic idea was conceived as a way to create a new option that could bridge the gap between in person and telemedical services. While drive through COVID testing is nothing new, their drive through care unit is a completely new invention. Designed as prefab units, hospitals could deploy a service bay approach within their existing parking deck structures. For non emergency care, all of the typical activities that normally would occur inside the hospital could be shifted to this new approach, allowing doctors to increase their diagnostic fidelity, all while patients remain comfortably isolated in their own vehicles. If and when, more serious medical issues arise, the hospital itself remains at the ready for inpatient care. For innovation, this concept gets a strong rank at 5 out of 5. Our team believes that the folks at NBBJ have identified a new and novel gap that could prove to be trend setting. Repurposing existing parking decks to accommodate this new method feels inspired and could prove to be good for both patents and providers alike. Doctors regain the hands on methods they may have lost through video visits and patients likewise can receive a greater degree of care, all while skipping the waiting room. For feasibility, a score of 3 out of 5 felt right to us in light of this concept being just that, purely conceptual at this point. There are a lot a details in both process and practice that may need to be worked out here. Would there be a new approach needed for handling medical waste? What challenges are doctors going to contend with regarding cleanliness in a semi outdoor environment? What ergonomic details need to be refined for care to be given in or around a vehicle? Lastly on scalability, the drive through clinic receives a strong score of 4 out of 5. If costs permit, we could easily see this type of care arrangement becoming popular and relevant in a variety of areas and scenarios. We’ll be excited to see if this concept begins to expand beyond the theoretical towards a functioning pilot program. It could easily become a valuable new way to receive care.

Contact tracing is a critical strategy in helping to curb the spread of COVID-19. It’s also very difficult to accomplish with fidelity. To help assist in this critical effort, countless apps have cropped up over the course of the pandemic to assist in tracking the spread. However, it’s also safe to say that people typically don’t like being tracked. Most of the contact tracing features available on our mobile devices operate in a similar manner. When users opt in, their devices are tracked by location alongside other voluntary users. When known COVID cases come in proximity to the user, that potential exposure point is logged and communicated. Despite the fact that these services have a positive mission at heart, privacy concerns continue to be a major point of discomfort, leading to fewer participating users sharing their data. It’s this reason that one app in particular caught our attention. How We Feel is a free app that operates completely differently from other COVID tracking tools. Rather that track location, it simply asks some simple questions as a check in that can donate as a data point to researchers and scientists. The app does not require any type of login or account and purposefully does not ask for any identifying information like your name, email or phone number. Instead, it just asks for your zip code and how you’re feeling that day. In addition to gathering information on physical symptoms, the app also checks in on mental health as well. This way, researchers get a more meaningful snapshot on the broader ramifications of the pandemic. For innovation, we’re giving this app a 5 out 5. We love how the team who created the app have created a clean, simple and inviting experience that encourages participation for the greater good. Furthering this mission, their partnership with Feeding America adds another reason for people to feel good about sharing how they feel alongside others across America. For feasibility, we’re giving a score of 4 out of 5. While the concept for the app itself is really strong, it’s only as useful as the volume of data it produces. While the app continues to gain traction, but we’re hoping that more and more people continue to engage and share how they’re feeling so that the data set grows. Here in our hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, almost twenty four thousand people checked in just today, which is pretty cool. Finally on scalability, we’re giving a perfect 5 out of 5 ranking. Being privacy minded as a key goal puts the tool in a good position to gain an ever wider following by appealing directly to those who may be wary of other COVID tracking apps. With a priority on making it easy and comfortable to communicate how you feel, we see no reason that this app should not continue to find itself installed on more and more phones as time wears on. Even beyond this pandemic, the app could easily evolve beyond COVID-19 and remain useful as a way to take a national pulse on critical topics like mental health. Keep up the great work, you can be sure the folks on our team will continue checking in alongside millions of others.

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

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