Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Merwan Yeditha, Assistant Editor

The limitations that have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing that has been mandated by the government have had an effect on nearly every industry in the world.  Due to the circumstances surrounding this pandemic, many new technologies have emerged to ease the transition of both people and companies into this stage of social distancing and help in preventing its further spread.

During the pandemic, online shopping (specifically grocery delivery) and automated delivery of food has seen a large surge in popularity. Many people are using services such as instacart, Amazon Fresh, and proprietary delivery methods for stores such as BJs and Costco. Furthermore, some restaurants and delivery services have been utilizing drones to allow for truly contactless delivery. This has especially been seen in China, where a company called JD deployed a fleet of autonomous robots to send groceries to customers living in Beijing. Other than minimizing contact, these delivery services also are very efficient and reduce labor costs significantly.

As many people have begun to work from home, technologies that allow for remote work have surged in popularity. E-conference tools such as WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom have become much more popular. Zoom in particular has seen a large surge in downloads, going from just 10 million downloads in December to 200 million in March. Due to its increased popularity and exposure, though, many security issues with the platform have emerged, including “Zoombombing” where users would enter Zoom meetings with malicious intent. Zoom has worked on fixing this issue by implementing an optional password for entry into meetings, but other privacy issues with the platform still exist.

In fighting the virus, one of the most interesting innovations has come about through simulated protein folding. While this process is by no means new, numerous research labs came together to create the folding at home project. This project allows for people to essentially donate their computing power to help run simulations in protein folding. This project allows for scientists to gain a better understanding about the biology of certain viruses, and has provided scientists with opportunities to develop therapies.