By Wendy Gittleson for Hack Reactor
One of the complaints about software development, especially for those who aren’t in the field, is that it moves too fast and often solves problems that didn’t exist in the first place. As it turns out, the tech industry has nothing on Mother Nature. 2020 will go down in history as a year in which a microscopic virus turned the world upside down with a rapidity that at least temporarily, left everyone, including software developers, scrambling.
For most, the COVID-19 virus was an unforeseen threat to everything we’ve taken for granted and may have helped create an entirely new world. Software developers were quick to recognize the needs and quick to spring into action. They’ve developed software to help fight the virus, but also to help make homebound people more productive, more secure, and sane. While COVID has dominated the world’s news, coders haven’t slowed their efforts to solve other world problems, such as climate change. Here are a few of the most groundbreaking software developments over the last year and an honorable mention to software that’s not exactly new, but it became ubiquitous as a tool for safe face-to-face interaction.
Exposure Notifications System
With all of the mysteries surrounding the COVID virus, scientists have known pretty much all along how we contract it. Most cases come from airborne exposure for 15 minutes or more. Unfortunately, unless all precautions are taken, it’s easy to come into contact with an infected person without even knowing it. Several countries, including Ireland and Taiwan, have implemented cell phone-based contact tracing, but there are privacy concerns.
Apple and Google teamed up to address Americans’ reluctance to share information with their Exposure Notifications System. The app is a voluntary cell phone download that uses Bluetooth technology to identify exposure. If a user spends at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person who’s tested positive, they will receive a notification. The app doesn’t release any identifying information about the person who tested positive, but it does notify the user that they should test and quarantine.
Hand Hygiene Compliance Monitoring System
One of the best tools to prevent the spread of COVID is simple soap and water. Doctors recommend washing hands multiple times a day for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important for hospital workers. Ecolab has developed a Hand Hygiene Compliance Monitoring System to ensure that hospital workers follow hand washing protocol before coming in contact with patients. A wearable badge measures and records hand washing and hand sanitizing events. Administrators can use the software for real-time monitoring as well as its robust reporting feature that can identify hygiene protocol problems within individual employees, departments, and throughout their hospital. The software doesn’t use hospital IT resources, such as hardwiring or WiFi.
As more and more people are working from home, consumers and employers are finding a need to secure at home computer networks. Linux’s WireGuard addressed home office security flaws with a Virtual Privacy Network (VPN) unlike any others on the market. The software is billed as fast, simple, and with only about 4,000 lines of code (as opposed to 100,000 for many other VPNs), it's remarkably lean. It works across multiple platforms and supports most of the up-to-date cryptology technologies. Most importantly, it’s secure.
ClimateView is a Swedish software company that’s working toward helping local and national governments monitor and visualize greenhouse gas emissions. The concept is simple and rather obvious. To address a problem, scientists must first identify it. With ClimateView, scientists and government officials can get an exact picture of how cities and industries are faring in the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s an exciting time for ClimateView as we work to reinvent the way in which society works with the climate challenge,” said founder and chief executive Tomer Shalit, in a statement. “Our solution-focused approach to climate action is already gaining traction in a number of cities across the globe and we hope that...we can continue to lay the groundwork for decision making so that, together, the world’s cities and nations can forge a common path towards global carbon neutrality.
Honorable mention: Zoom
If it weren’t for the fact that the original version launched in 2013, Zoom would be the runaway favorite for 2020’s most influential new software. The video communications app revolutionized pandemic telecommuting, but that’s not all. Zoom is one of the few technologies that helps alleviate social isolation with everything from family Zoom “calls,” to live online dating, to games and book clubs. Employers use Zoom as virtual offices and schools use it as virtual classrooms. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Zoom’s technology, but it’s generally considered to be the best among the competition. It’s also 2020’s most downloaded app.
As I look back on the software trends for 2020, the video meeting sector pops into mind. It was the perfect storm for video conferencing in the year of the pandemic. Kids schooling at home, companies moving to virtual offices and stay-at-home restrictions were all rationale for the popularity. Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Meet and Microsoft team were all beaten out by the little known Zoom! Zoom dominated the market because it was robust, easy to use and most of all free. I'm not sure the world has seen a piece of software rise to popularity so quickly.
(Rhet Behler VP of Technology at Wunderdog)
As these software innovations have shown, it doesn’t take much to make the world a better place. You can start by enrolling in a coding bootcamp or an online coding bootcamp through Hack Reactor. Not only might you be just weeks away from a six-figure salary, but you could learn to play a key role in solving the world’s problems.