20 Examples of 2020 Innovations

October 8, 2020

I’m not going to try and sugar coat it, 2020 has been a hot mess.

And we still have the 4th quarter to go.

But one of history’s greatest lessons is people’s resiliency during a crisis.

John F. Kennedy pointed out that the dual message in the Chinese word for crisis:

“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunities. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”

In Greek, the word means “turning point.”

Humans are amazing problem solvers…but we’re lazy.

People say we want change, but when it’s time to actually change we avoid and resist it. If there’s no ultimate looming pressure to do so, there’s nothing to trigger momentum.

Enter 2020. This year has removed every status quo for every company of every size in every industry. While you’ve no doubt felt frazzled, stressed and unsure of what any length into the future looks like, there are big things that obstacles can deliver for us – opportunities.

2020 deserves a little bit of love for the big thinkings it has forced on us. Here are 20 unique innovations that we no doubt would not have seen had we continued with “business as normal.”

1. Biobot Analytics uses wastewater to detect spread of COVID

With the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus, being able to detect its presence and prominence is an important aspect in controlling its spread. Researchers at this biotech startup are working with a team from MIT, Harvard University, Bingham and Women’s Hospital to measure how prevalent COVID is in a particular community. Could this also be applied to other transmittable diseases? More

2. Airport Cinemas

The Lithuanian movie and travel industries came together by turning the Vilnius Airport into a drive-in cinema. More

3. Backyard office, delivered

As many people now work from home, Phoenix-based Dwellito saw an opportunity to give workers a quiet space to work without a major renovation to your house. In just 6 to 8 weeks, they’ll deliver a pre-built office to your front door. While $9,000 certainly isn’t inexpensive, it may pay for itself in productivity and sanity. More

4. Bike2Box introduces temporary bicycle parking boxes

This Polish company launched a modular bicycle parking box. By transforming a car parking slot into a locker, they give municipalities space for 12 bicycles each. As people look for safer ways to commute and avoid public transportation, it provides options for bike parking that’s quick, safe and doesn’t require mounting. More

5. German town Herrenberg recreates itself digitally to enable tourism

No doubt, one of the hardest hit industries in 2020 has been travel. Thanks to a digital twin developed with the High-Performance Computing Center Stuttgart, Herrenberg is developing the emerging area of virtual tourism for the town. More

6. Multifunctional hospital devices

One of the greatest hinderances of medical technology is the cost. WHAT ABOUT developed multipurpose devices that help both patients and staff with recovery. Features include daylight therapy, video call devices, a live cam to monitor patients and reconnect them with the outside world. More

7. Bamboo bio clinics

Mexican design and construction company Bambuterra minimizes the environmental impact of construction through bamboo and other natural building materials. The bio clinics that they’ve dedicated to COVID patient treatment reinforces their mission to do good and maximize their social impact. More

8. Local business and restaurant support

Seattle-based Big Man and Little Guy launches Pay Forward program makes it easy for customers to buy gifts cards to help support their local proprietors. More

9. Creating human connections

The Australian Red Cross launched COVID CONNECT to help people feel less isolated. By supporting people who don’t have good social networks, they’re able to help them handle feelings of despair, fear, loneliness, and other mental health concerns. More

10. Double do-good

Three Toronto friends teamed up to create ‘Escape from Quarantine.’ This virtual escape experience lets you rescue a doctor while raising money for Food Banks Canada. More

11. Order factory-direct unsold clothes

Another hard-hit industry this year is retail. Many companies have been forced to cancel orders. UK’s Lost Stock took note and they set up a program that allows consumers to order clothes directly from textile factories in “surprise boxes.” The really awesome part is that nearly 40% of the proceeds are then donated to factory workers. More

12. Linking hospitals and donors

A difficult aspect for donors who want to help others with medical needs is transparency. That’s where the Bolivian digital platform CuentasTú comes in. CuentasTú aims to match hospitals and their needs with donors. The site makes visible the needs of hospitals, captures donations, channels deliveries to beneficiaries, records deliveries in images and publishes them in the same space as proof of the process. More

13. Automated hand-washing machine

Taking a taxi during COVID? It feels sketchy. Knowing that, a cab driver in Ghana took precautions to protect passengers and himself by setting up a hand washer on his vehicle. More

14. Contactless delivery

San Francisco’s Starship delivery service uses robots to support neighborhood businesses affected by social distancing. As a cost-effective way to deliver orders, grocery markets and other stores in suburban Washington. Starship and other autonomous delivery services have experienced robust demand as people look to limit contact. More

15. Love via loudspeakers

A bustling, international city, Brussels are often crowded with buses. But these days, with fewer commuters the buses are being used for a different reason – love. The public bus company STIB-MIVB invited people to send in voice messages and an address. Then, the special bus goes out in the early evening in a big loop to spread all the messages and leave a trail of happiness. More

16. X

17. Drive-through medical clinics

Called “The In Car Care Unit”, architecture firm NBBJ envisions drive-through medical clinics that reduce contamination risks for patients. The clinics are designed to be easily deploys in hospital parking garages and be a midway point between telehealth and physical visits. More

18. Small business delivery

Amsterdam-based HERE Technologies found a way to help small businesses…for free. Since local merchants struggle to meet the increased demand for deliveries, the tech company helps them move business from storefront to delivery with a route planning tool. Knowing that times are tight, their customers are able to use it at no cost until the end of 2020. More

19. Social distancing necklaces

As restrictions ease, that doesn’t mean tourist destinations can relax. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo to you and me) is the first museum complex in the world to use social distancing necklaces for visitors. The device will flash, vibrate and softly beep when one visitor accidentally walks within two meters or 6.5 feet of another, signaling they are too close. More

20. Dos Equis seis-foot cooler

The U.S. division of Heineken unveiled its 6-foot coolers to highlight social distancing guidelines. (As a side note, Dos Equis is the same brand that brought you The Most Interesting Man in the World, one of the most successful ad campaigns in the last decade.) As you can imagine, the coolers were gone before most people could try and snag one.

Thank you, Heineken and Dos Equis, for taking “drink responsibly” one step further. More

Photo credit: sakulich on Pixabay

About Carla Johnson

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Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.