From business to leisure to everything in between, technology can make our lives easier and more enjoyable. Further, tech can also be used to promote the common good and make a positive impact on humanity. When an innovation can do both, it’s something truly special and important that deserves our attention.
As industry leaders, the members of Forbes Technology Council stay on top of current trends and developments, including the most exciting and impactful new technology out there. Below, 15 of them share the coolest products and services they’ve seen that are making a real difference in the world.
1. Data Aggregation For Virus Tracking
It’s amazing how tech is helping people during the pandemic. Thanks to combining data from different sources like phone tracking and bank transactions, we have successfully learned how Covid-19 is spreading among people. One company that stands out is Barabási Lab, which is combining machine learning with network science to find new drug candidates to fight the virus. – Luba Pashkovskaya, Verv
2. Fintech Innovations For Financial Inclusion
Fintech innovations that use nontraditional data sources and diminish reliance on factors like FICO scores can do more to deliver financial inclusion than all the goodwill and wishes of the past 10 years. Humans have many dimensions; tools are emerging to enable us to better measure what we need to know while respecting human dignity. – Gary Shiffman, Giant Oak, Inc.
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The biggest game-changers are unexpected breakthroughs that surprise everyone. Generally speaking, the advances in cryptography we have seen over the past few years have been incredibly helpful, enabling commerce to grow exponentially and protecting communications between individuals. – Kazuhiro Gomi, NTT Research
BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing), famous for projects like Folding@Home, which looks for new therapeutic molecules, and SETI@Home, which looks for evidence of extraterrestrial signals, allows you to donate spare processor cycles from systems you own to help solve distributed computing problems, from environmental research to mathematics to medicine. – Cody Cornell, Swimlane
5. Ubiquitous High-Speed Data Networks
Ubiquitous high-speed data networks will be the real game-changer. They provide true democratization of access to a broader world and are far more important than the actual devices. Access to high-speed networks in rural areas is one of the biggest have/have not divides remaining, and this will be the transformative change—as big as the interstate highway system. – Bill Lowrey, Istation
6. Water-Cleaning Equipment
River- and ocean-cleaning equipment companies are dealing with one of the most significant and damaging problems of the last century. People behind tech and programs like The Ocean Cleanup, for example, are doing everything they can to make Earth a better place, which is the ultimate common good. – Daria Leshchenko, SupportYourApp Inc.
7. AR/VR For Mental Health
Augmented and virtual reality offer tangible treatment options for patients suffering from behavioral disorders or mental health issues. Psychologists and developers have been working together to create safe but challenging AR/VR environments that let people heal themselves through experiential means. For instance, a soldier can deal with PTSD in real time with a trained therapist by their side. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC
8. Artificial Intelligence
AI is going to create so many opportunities because it can magnify innate human talents and creativity. Look at what has happened over the last 20 years in terms of digital transformation in social networking alone: There are now thousands of social networking jobs that simply didn’t exist before. AI is going to allow humans to go after the really complex and challenging problems while achieving a higher level of creativity. – AJ Abdallat, Beyond Limits
9. Online Learning Platforms
Online learning platforms like Coursera definitely promote the greater good. I’m a board member with the Bronx High School of Science Alumni Foundation, and we had to rapidly set up a summer program since the NYC DOE cut funding. I taught about 200 students a variety of college-level tech courses. Coursera was our backbone, supplemented with real-world examples of how the tech skills are applied. – Tim Maliyil, AlertBoot
10. Educational Devices And Institutions
Any technological innovation that improves the quality of education or cuts down barriers to access can profoundly affect future generations. Examples such as solar-powered classrooms in a suitcase, alternative learning devices for the impaired or free universities that offer a blend of physical and digital learning to the masses are already having a positive impact and should be promoted more. – Mayank Mishra, Contentstack
11. Assistive Communication Technologies
Assistive communication technologies that enable a person with disabilities to communicate and work more effectively have an immediate impact and benefit. These technologies—such as AI transcription, dictation, new interfaces and accommodations—find their way into other technologies that help others work better, too. Think text search for a phone call or podcast transcription via AI. – Ryan Peeler, Voxx Analytics
12. Telehealth And Telemedicine
Telehealth and telemedicine technologies are game-changers for the common good. Nearly 4.8 million Canadians do not have a regular doctor, and the medical system is far too stretched to accommodate everyone’s needs. Telehealth providers help individuals connect virtually with doctors, nurse practitioners and specialists from home, making healthcare more easily accessible for everyone. – Maddison Long, CloudOps
13. Solar Energy
Solar Home is an affordable, pay-as-you-go solar energy system for people who are either too remote or too poor to get on the electricity grid in Asia. Access to the internet is becoming a basic necessity, but for some, access to electricity will be the first barrier that needs to be removed. Solar Home does that. – Rajesh Parthasarathy, MENTIS, Inc.
14. Fitness Trackers
I’m an avid cyclist, and fitness trackers and apps have changed the way I compete, especially during the last few months as events have been canceled. I can interact virtually with friends and team members all over the world, which really helps during social isolation and riding solo. It’s a great way to maintain overall health as well! – Jason Carolan, Flexential
15. Crowdfunding Platforms For Disadvantaged Communities
Beam is a fantastic company founded by Alex Stephany in London. The platform crowdfunds training for homeless people and helps them find stable work. Connecting disparate and often overlooked communities of people, the technology they’ve developed does not discriminate or have bias but gives opportunities to those who need them most. – Sam Amrani, Olvin