The effects of COVID-19 on everyday life have already been commented on enough for several lifetimes. We know how it’s transformed the way we interact with each other and the world around us. But behind the scenes, entire industries are transforming the way they operate— and the way they serve consumers— as a result of the virus.
Major trends have begun to emerge in response to COVID-19, and the lasting changes in public perception that will no doubt result from the virus. Long after a vaccine has been developed and distributed throughout the world, this pandemic will have changed the way people think about germs and hygiene, as well as how they interact with everything in their lives.
Companies everywhere are taking notice. They’re beginning to develop products designed to serve not only the world during this pandemic, but the one that will be left behind in its wake— one where people are more aware of germs, bacteria, and how disease and infection can spread.
Here are some of the most significant product development trends that have emerged due to COVID-19.
Touchless technology has already experienced a slow and steady rise over the last several years. We’ve become accustomed to it in specific contexts, like the public bathroom sink that requires a wave of the hand to activate, or the paper towel dispenser we use on the way out.
But up until now, much of this touchless technology has been centered around the areas we stereotypically think of hotbeds for germ transfer— bathrooms, toilets, etc. With the rise of COVID-19, demand for technology is spreading to every area of consumers’ lives.
Brands are beginning to develop touchless store payment designs, as well as office doors that can be opened without touching a doorknob— like the sliding glass doors associated with grocery stores, but more elegant.
Finger Guards & Other Tools
Once thought to be a niche product only for hygiene-obsessed ‘germaphobes,’ more and more brands are finding success with products that create a barrier between fingers and everyday surfaces. The most basic of these are gloves and plastic or rubber ‘finger guards’ designed to slide over individual fingers. But there are also more unique products emerging as well.
One product that’s enjoyed a bit of viral success is the hygienic ‘key,’ a metal and conductive item that’s attached to keychains and serves as a touchpoint rather than individuals’ hands. Shaped somewhat like an actual house key, users hold the key and use it to press touchpads, screens, and other items that would usually require a conductive human contact to be activated. It not only provides an alternative to direct contact on skin, but also creates a few inches of distance to help avoid the transfer of germs.
Products designed to help disinfect consumer products and public areas have also been on the rise. While some exited before and have simply enjoyed a bump in popularity, others are being developed as a direct response to the virus.
One increasingly popular product is the phone disinfectant pod, which uses ultraviolet light to cleanse phones of germs. These products look like tiny tanning beds, where phones can be locked inside until a notification alerts the user that their phone has been fully disinfected. Some of these even charge the phone at the same time.
On a wider scale, companies are developing misting cannons that hope to disinfect large areas at a time in a more economical and less time-intensive way than manual disinfecting.
Emerging Disinfection Products at Beyond Design
At Beyond Design, we’re working on several products geared towards applying cutting edge technology to helping keep public spaces clean and reducing the spread of COVID-19 and other airborne illnesses.
One of these products is an overhead hood designed for dentists’ office, which will be used to pull aerosol water and saliva particles out of the air— keeping them from hanging around and being used as tiny transfer vehicles for bacteria.
Another exciting product is a smart ceiling fan that uses sensors and advanced filters to pull in germs and remove them from the air. The product will be compatible with smart assistants like Alexa and be controlled without the need for buttons or switches.
COVID-19 has changed the world, likely forever. But smart companies and product designers are using this pandemic as inspiration to create products that improve public health, serve vital needs, and expand the limits of what we think is possible when it comes to contactless, more hygienic technology in the modern era.