Innovations in the time of COVID-19

In the 20th century, wars and other catastrophic global events wreaked havoc and at the same time, were the triggering factor for technological, medical and scientific innovations that, most of the time, have benefitted society.

Smart face mask with built-in microphone and lighting (Photo: Razer)
Smart face mask with built-in microphone and lighting (Photo: Razer)

From tanks to penicillin

World War I hastened the development of tanks aircraft carriers mobile X-ray machines; reconstructive surgery, which led to plastic surgery, helped thousands of soldiers that suffered severe facial injuries and burns.

World War II saw the advent of radars, computers such as ENIAC, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the atomic bomb and nuclear energy, helicopters, pressurized air cabins, the jet engine, V2 missiles and guided weapons; on the medical front, improvements in blood transfusions, skin grafts and antibacterial treatment, including the commercial production of penicillin, discovered at the end of the 1920s.

Home telephones became more popular during the flu pandemic of 1918, they were sometimes used for ordering food instead of going to shops, and even for distance learning when schools were closed in the Los Angeles area!

Record time for a vaccine

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, technological and scientific advances are flourishing, with varying degrees of success. In February 2020, who would have bet on a vaccine being approved in less than a year? Twelve months later, not one, but several vaccines have been approved and vaccination campaigns have started throughout the world. Quite an achievement. 

Also, artificial intelligence (AI) is used in the development of new drugs, still in the research phase. A team of international doctors developed a software, essentially an AI-based database of X-ray scans capable of detecting differences in chest congestions between patients with pneumonia, tuberculosis and COVID-19.

Technological innovations in the medical field have helped diagnose and treat infected patients, track and sequence the virus.

From regular to smart masks

There’s one item though that nobody could have foreseen undergoing technological development: the face mask. Widely used in Asia, almost inexistant in other parts of the world, except for those working in healthcare, it looks like the mask we’ve been wearing this past year is very similar to the one worn by people in 1918. And suddenly, at the CES 2021 show, smart masks were part of the gadgets on display.

One mask features a sensor that allegedly measures the user’s breathing data and the air quality of their surroundings. A smartphone app gathers the data. Another is said to double as a hand-free headset with built-in earbuds and microphone. Controls on the mask can adjust the volume and play music. A third is transparent so that the face of the wearer is no longer hidden, and it even has lights to illuminate it when it’s dark; it also has a voice amplifier.

Whether these smart masks meet commercial success when put on the market remains to be seen.

The common denominator

Sensors and sensor systems are a key underpinning technology for a wide range of applications. They can be used to improve quality control and productivity in manufacturing processes by monitoring variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and composition.

They help ensure the environment is clean and healthy by monitoring the levels of toxic chemicals and gases emitted in the air, both locally and – via satellites – globally. They monitor area and regional compliance with environmental standards. They enhance health, safety and security in the home and workplace through their use in air-conditioning systems, fire and smoke detection and surveillance equipment. They play a major role in medical devices, transportation, entertainment equipment and everyday consumer products.

Safety first

Electronic components may come in many shapes and sizes but they have commonalities. They need to be accurate, reliable and of high quality. Defective components can have serious consequences for humans and their environment. They also have to meet the requirements of national or regional regulations concerning hazardous substances.

IECQ certification promotes safety

Manufacturers and suppliers of all types of electronic components throughout the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.

As the worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ tests and certifies components using quality assessment specifications based on IEC International Standards.

In addition, there are a multitude of related materials and processes that are covered by the IECQ schemes. IECQ certificates are used worldwide as a tool to monitor and control the manufacturing supply chain, thus helping to reduce costs and time to market, and eliminating the need for multiple re-assessments of suppliers.

IECQ provides manufacturers with independent verification that IEC International Standards and other specifications have been met by suppliers who hold an IECQ certification.

The conformity assessment system provides the following core certification schemes and programmes which serve as an effective supply chain management tool for industry in verifying compliance with component specifications and standards. Some areas covered include counterfeit avoidance, information security management systems and LED components, assemblies and systems. See all systems here.

It is essential for manufacturers – of electronic components, electronic devices and equipment – to rely on IECQ for the certification of their products. Only then can they be assured that their products are safe and of the highest quality and reliability.