COVID-19 is the mother-in-law of invention
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
For business owners, keeping customers and employees safe has always been a priority. If you are lucky enough to live in a place that does not have a lockdown order, you could go to a local business and in some dusty corner near an old water fountain, you will see an OSHA poster hanging on the wall letting everyone know that this business cares about safety. For decades, it was business as usual.
Then there was COVID-19 and the panic that ensued.
Suddenly businesses were scrambling to figure out how to remain open, how to keep their people safe, and maybe even figured out how to stay profitable. Many of these topics were on autopilot, business as usual. Even today as a second wave is hitting our country, some of the businesses that survived the first shutdown are grappling with solutions.
At Luxer One, we were struggling with those same questions. How do we continue to add value to our customers, keep our employees as safe as possible, and still run a business? The answer was sitting right in front of us — use our same smart locker that millions of Americans use every day in the multi-family housing market in a new way.
Like everyone else, we immediately shut down our headquarters and sent our employees home. Having employees work from home solved our first issue of supporting our customers, but that didn’t stop our employee’s laptops from breaking or stop our need for document transfer. There were a hundred face-to-face interactions that took place in our office on any given day where one person handed an item to another person — we needed a solution.
One brilliant employee proposed updating the software on our standard smart locker to pass broken laptops from employees to our IT help desk. Our software engineering team went to work and within a couple of days got a prototype running where employees could pass items back and forth. Suddenly, a contactless delivery machine was born. We became our first customer.
Luxer One might have invented contactless delivery to solve its own problems, but we quickly realized that we were not the only business trying to solve these COVID induced business issues.
The Rochester City School District in New York called Luxer One to see if they had a way to pass Chromebooks to students that were forced to do remote learning. Within two weeks of that phone call, the engineering team was able to tweak the software and deliver a solution that met their needs.
Teachers would start the process by dropping off Chromebooks into the smart locker then our system sent a text message with a QR code to the students for pickup as soon as they were able. The teacher never saw the student face-to-face, but they were able to facilitate a contactless delivery in a safe and reliable way.
Public libraries like Villa Park in Chicago reached out about passing books to patrons. While everyone was stuck at home, getting fresh reading materials from the local library became wildly popular. A few tweaks to the software, and Luxer One was providing a way for local libraries to perform a contactless delivery from the library staff to a library patron.
University libraries also need contactless delivery now to serve their remote student populations. We’ve seen huge growth in higher education installations — Cal State Long Beach, Michigan State and UCLA, for example.
None of the businesses listed above were our traditional customers. There was no library solution on our product manager’s roadmap for 2020. There were no marketing dollars earmarked for library magazines. The team at Luxer One was just adapting to the situation and trying to make the best out of it.
The common idiom is “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and this is a perfect example of how businesses are being forced to adapt new technologies to conduct business while keeping their employees and customers safe.
Change was forced on us by COVID-19, which has been an extremely tough deal for everyone involved. This pandemic came in unannounced, overstayed its welcome, disrupted our daily lives, and has been a general pain. For Luxer One and many other businesses out there, COVID-19 has become the mother-in-law of invention.
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