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As the old adage goes – “when one door closes, another door opens”. The unfolding COVID-19 crisis is restricting many organizations, with top level executive orders halting their R&D plans for what was yesterday’s world. However, as we discussed in our previous article  “Tough times require Innovation”, the pandemic can also be an opportunity to rethink business operations, or shift strategies to address new emerging opportunities.

We’ve been keeping an eye out for people and businesses doing just that and these opportunities for new products are becoming apparent in everything from digital applications, to retail fitouts.  Without further adieu here are 5 awesome innovations that have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis.



Safer Lines gives retailers an easy to implement tool that enables customers to get in line from their home or car and only come up to the entrance once their name is called. There is functionality to address customers without a smartphone (no app is required, just a web browser), so all customers can jump in the queue easily. It’s great to see a homegrown Kiwi idea being trialled all around the world.



Draganfly, an established Drone manufacturing company has announced a new “Pandemic Drone”. Primarily the drone has a very simple function – measuring when people are less than six feet part and alerting them to practice better social distancing. Pandemic Drone also uses specialized sensor and computer vision systems in order to track people with fevers or high temperatures, heart and respiratory rates, people sneezing and coughing in crowds and large groups of people gathering together. This may seem over the top but, if the technical claims are accurate, the remote solution could be an alternative to police officers physically dealing with lockdown lawbreakers.



We also see innovation occurring at the grassroots level, such an example being the Wheely Wash, a mobile contactless hand washing solution for public spaces like supermarkets. The Kiwi DIY solution involves an old wheelie bin, a makeshift sink and foot pedals that dispense soap and water.  Despite the “she’ll be right” aesthetic, the Wheely Wash is now being hired out at $14 per day across the country.

We’ve also seen similar ideas pop up in places like Nigeria using old oil drums, perhaps this inspired the NZ counterpart?



Factorydesign has created a middle-seat ‘Isolation kit’ that takes the form of a personal table offering additional storage and comfort, while also providing a screen between passengers. Compared to an empty seat this simple concept adds to the perception of social distancing, increasing comfort levels and the idea of separation. While it does feature an opaque physical barrier, it also offers some additional key features including a hygienic copper trim, limited crevices or corners for dirt to get trapped in and a holder for personal amenities.



Retail stores are eager to get back into action, but must follow appropriate guidelines to minimise contact and interaction for customer and staff safety. These kitset contactless retail counters provide an interim solution while social interaction is still limited. Easy to assemble, this mobile counter blocks the entry door and allows transactions to occur with the see-through window and transfer tray – essentially mirroring the late-night service windows at gas stations. Although low-fi, this is another great example of a product that never needed to exist prior to the advent of COVID-19.

Haydn Jack

Industrial Designer at Blender Design. DINZ. 5x NZ Best Design Award Winner. Graduated Head of AUT Design School.