Innovation in a COVID-19 World: Ohio Businesses Building the New Normal
The Buckeye State companies getting people back to work and companies back in businesses
As businesses open their doors and people return to work, Ohioans are grappling with what to make of the “new normal” of everyday life. Fortunately, the entrepreneurs who are running companies and developing products in Ohio haven’t taken a break.
From operations and logistics to software and production, Ohio companies have developed a variety of ways to respond to the pandemic. But it’s not just pivots to PPE production or solutions directly related to pandemic treatments that are important.
Across the state, entrepreneurs have projected what comes next in a world forever changed by the pandemic, and innovation can be found across the Buckeye State. Here are just some of the companies who are in the driver’s seat of this new normal and are developing the ways we’ll live in a post-virus world.
While many companies are worried about getting back to work, improving their supply lines or incorporating remote tech, others are worried about their insurance. Especially in the time of COVID-19, some companies are deemed too risky for traditional insurance companies, creating a long and difficult process of finding new coverage. But Columbus’s Bold Penguin is changing that.
Bold Penguin has developed automated software that eliminates the tedious paperwork and reduces the length of the process, providing insurance options faster and more efficiently, reducing costs and time spent. The company has already expanded this year and is expected to double its customers from 2019.
“Because of Covid-19, more and more (traditional) insurance companies are shutting those doors,” CEO Ilya Bodner told Columbus Business First. “(Companies) end up getting insurance, which is all they really want. It helps the small business owner, it helps the agent/broker in the middle, and of course it helps the insurance companies, because the paperwork buries them too.”
Cordata Healthcare Innovations
As companies work to plan their return to “normal,” Cordata Healthcare Innovations has developed a system that will help businesses bring employees back to work. Cordata introduced its Back-to-Work (B2W) product in April as a way to track COVID-19 exposure, status and safety measures.
The app includes on-location contact tracking, facilitation of employee communication about screening and testing, information about company protocols, the ability to integrate with existing systems and the ability to report exposure, symptoms and more.
Since 2014, Cincinnati-based Cordata has been creating software solutions that help healthcare providers coordinate care for a wide range of specialties. By creating a flexible platform, Cordata’s software has been used for a variety of purposes, including intervention and outreach for victims of the opioid crisis and now COVID-19 solutions.
Cincinnati’s Frayt has always been in the business of providing efficient delivery services, but no one could have predicted how important those services would become in 2020. As the pandemic began to affect businesses of all sizes, Frayt saw a need.
The company — which uses an app to match deliveries with drivers like Uber-style Amazon shipping — made the decision to shift to fill its customers growing delivery needs by offering same-hour delivery services. For businesses who need items fast, that speedy delivery might be a game-changer.
“This pandemic is shutting down whole industries, but there are some small businesses that still have demand for their goods — they just need help transporting them,” founder and CEO Lawrence McCord told Cincy Inno. “It would be such a shame if the one thing that sank a family’s shop was as simple as telling customers to use an app.”
An unfortunate reality of the pandemic has been the separation of families. For those with older family members, it’s difficult to get quality time without putting vulnerable populations at risk. So how can you make grandma and grandpa happy while keeping them away from danger? Cincinnati’s HiLois has the answer.
The company created a private social network meant to connect family members with loved ones they want to interact with. It functions like Facebook, but with a family focus and without unnecessary additions, the perfect cure for social distancing woes. For founder Brett Harnett, who named the company after his mother, it’s time to shine.
“Several facilities have called and said, ‘Hey, we have to close our doors to visitors and people are not happy about this.’ These facilities, they’re playing tic-tac-toe with masking tape on the windows, holding up signs, chalkboards, whiteboards. This is their level of communication,” Harnett told Forbes. “They’re also bombarded by calls from families saying, ‘Does someone in there have an iPhone? I want to FaceTime with my mom.’ These organizations don’t have the resources to do that. This is what we’ve been hearing for years: that their resources are really thin.”
As people go back to the office and companies work to ensure the safety of their employees, Linear ASICs is programming the tech that can help keep track of fever.
Based in Tallmadge outside of Akron, Linear ASICs develops semiconductors and application-specific integrated circuits — microchips. Until now, their tech had been used in a variety of ways, but now it’s being used to create a bandage-sized strip that can detect temperature increases and notify an employer.
In a partnership with SkyWater Technologies, Linear ASICs was chosen by investment firm Asymmetric Return Capital (ARC) to create a patch at low costs to help employers.
“SkyWater and Linear ASICs have enabled us to develop a high volume of wireless temperature sensing tags that can remotely monitor temperature and keep those with symptoms at home,” said Bryan Wisk, ARC Founding Partner. “This will be especially important as we head into flu season later this year.”
Social distancing and a disrupted school year has presented obstacles for all learners. But for special education students, parents and educators, the challenge is even greater. Fortunately, Cleveland’s Vizzle is here to help.
Vizzle has developed a web-based visual learning software offering a lesson library, automatic data collection and a personalized learning environment for students. The platform avoids the “one size fits all” approach that can leave some learners behind, and offers better learning for students with special needs who may require an extra level of care in their learning. For educators working with Vizzle, it’s been an important tool in a COVID-19 world.
“Our entire program of students use Vizzle daily (30 plus students with moderate to intensive special needs),” said Christina Smith, a Lakewood City Schools educator featured on Vizzle’s blog. “My co-teacher and I use it for our lessons and IEP goal data for our 11 students. I believe parents enjoy the independence of how easy it is for our students to navigate the lessons.”
As many traditional businesses like restaurants or grocery stores return to operation, occupancy guidelines are an important way to ensure people are properly spread out, making it more difficult to spread the virus around a room. But how can businesses keep that important count? It turns out, SenSource has been doing that for years.
The Youngstown company has been creating occupancy counters for years, but their tech has never been more valuable. With SenSource’s “People Counters,” 3D video and AI keeps track of occupancy so that businesses can worry about the variety of other issues they face rather than manually counting customers.
“A lot of grocers don’t want to maintain that model of manual counting long-term,” Dan Aluise, SenSource’s sales manager, told Progressive Grocer. “A lot of these chains are willing to make that investment knowing that they don’t want a person standing out in front with a pen and a paper for the next 18 months to track people when it can be automated.”
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