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Innovation born of COVID-19 may see new startups and 5G sooner

Lisa Iscrupe

Apr 9, 2020 — 3 min read

Never before have so many companies had to simultaneously pivot their strategies. Here’s how the switch to staying home could have some positive side effects for you.

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It can be hard to look at the current landscape and think, “Good things are coming.” But historically, times of hardship are some of the best catalysts for change and innovation. Here are a few examples of innovations that were born of necessity, plus a tech forecast for 2020. From free conferences to fast 5G connectivity, there might just be a silver lining in the online influx. 

A look back

It only takes a quick look at the history books to find examples of technological revolutions being born of tough times. For example, did you know that many innovations were generated due to World War II? During this tumultuous time, several developments came about that we still use today, including:

  • Pressurized airplane cabins: Without pressurized cabins, planes are unable to fly at higher altitudes without causing several physical problems, such as altitude sickness. After rigorous testing during WWII, Boeing produced a plane with a pressurized cockpit, which led to the commercial airplanes we use today. 
  • Widespread distribution of penicillin: Penicillin already existed prior to WWII, but the hitch was in the logistics of mass distribution of the antibiotic. In 1943, a successful plan was rolled-out that accelerated production and distribution. The stress of war and need for more healthy soldiers brought on a collaboration of scientists and government officials unseen before that time.

Looking at more recent times, the 2008 crash and housing market collapse saw the birth of new companies. Did you know that Smashburger, WeddingWire, Square, Slack and Dropbox were all founded during this time?

That’s right, “during the toughest months of the financial downturn, start-up activity actually surged. Nationally, more than 550,000 new businesses launched in 2009 and indexes of entrepreneurship rose as well,” according to The Atlantic

Looking forward 

Back to present day, what tech innovations are on the horizon for 2020 and beyond? Here’s a couple of changes that are underway and how they may affect you. Keep in mind that many new developments are web-based, so having a reliable home internet connection will be key to accessing these innovations.  

  • Faster timeline for rolling out 5G: Although 5G has been on the horizon for a few years, the need for greater connectivity has exponentially increased with the worldwide transition to online education and the work-at-home shift. According to CNBC, “coronavirus might just be the catalyst for 5G that the world needs as it forces whole nations to enforce quarantines and social distancing and remote work and schooling.”  
  • Online conferences: Conferences are moving online and opening themselves up to a whole new audience. Many streaming conferences are free and open to anyone, such as CanceledCon, a weekend-long design conference that featured over 30 speakers. (Don’t worry if you missed it — you can still watch all the talks on YouTube.) Or check out the upcoming (and also free) Women Impact Tech conference. Some conferences are requiring registration fees, but without the added cost of travel and accommodation, attending is more accessible. Make sure you have enough streaming speed to take advantage of these free conferences. 
  • Innovative startups: TechCrunch put together this list of “some of the startup efforts we’re seeing to combat the impact of COVID-19,” and “the unique ways that companies are trying to make us feel less lonely.” From that list, here are a few ways companies are focusing on the auxiliary effects of the pandemic, such as:


Sound promising? We’ll keep an eye out for other innovations that could affect you in the future. From t-shirt companies that are now making masks, to free tutoring for students, we’re sure to see more organizational pivots in the following months. 

Find out more about how technology and broadband can improve your everyday life at our Resource Center, and follow our experts on Facebook and Twitter for updates.