Spotted for you this week: no-frills gyms, interactive piggy banks, logos sold off the rack, a wearable gadget for tracking sleep and fitness habits, and more. Our next edition is due on 14 October 2009. In the meantime, check out our daily postings on, send us your tips, and please don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues about us. Much appreciated!



October 7, 2009

In a world wrapped up in complex supply chains, small farmers are in a catch-22: sell to the supermarkets and get less cash for your carrots, or spend a lot more time and effort trying to sell directly to customers. Consumers, meanwhile, are torn between loyalty to local businesses and the convenience of those established supply chains. Now a German farm, Peter-und-Paul-Hof, has found a solution in the form of... vending machines. The result of a collaboration between the farm and vending manufacturer Stuewer, the specially designed Regiomat machines currently sell fresh milk, eggs, butter, cheese, potatoes and sausage in thirteen German towns and communities.

It's not a solution that sprung up overnight. Initially, Peter-und-Paul-Hof were operating a service delivering milk to their customers. Finding this too time-consuming, they began encouraging customers to collect the milk from fridges on their farm, which proved successful and inspired them to use vending machines as a more versatile solution. The Regiomat machines can be placed outdoors 365 days a year as long as they're under a roof (some have even been placed alongside hiking trails in Switzerland), effectively giving locals a 24-hour farmers' market and farmers a lot more free time. By cutting out the middleman, this system also offers potential savings over retail stores. An update to the traditional farm stand that is beneficial to both farmers and local-loving consumers, this is definitely a concept we can see spreading to other parts of the world. (Related: Vending machines for healthy food.)


Spotted by: Franziska Luh




October 7, 2009

Sellaband, which we've written about on several occasions, started off as a way for unknown talent to collect money from 'believers' to record a first album. So far, 34 artists from fourteen countries have used Sellaband to produce an album.

Now, Amsterdam-based Sellaband is expanding its 'fan funded' model to include musicians who have already made a name for themselves. Artists can set their own budgets, asking for more than the former limit of USD 50,000. The first group to take advantage of the new opportunities is Public Enemy, which aims to amass USD 250,000 to record its 13th album. Fans of the iconic rap group can buy into the project—shares are USD 25 each—in return for a signed copy of the release and a share of its proceeds.

Public Enemy hopes to complete fundraising by the end of 2009. Since creating a profile yesterday, they've already raised USD 14,500. According to Sellaband, numerous other well-known artists are planning to create projects in the next few months.





October 7, 2009

Random acts of kindness are almost always met with a warm reception, whether they're motivated by a game, a hotel's philosophy or the premise behind a clothing brand. Now aiming to make such acts more frequent, New York-based KIND Snacks has launched an effort to use cards to remind people to be kind.

KIND is an award-winning brand of Australian-made all-natural fruit and nut bars from PeaceWorks, a “not-only-for-profit” healthy foods company that hand-produces its bars. Kicked off by the KIND team, the KINDED movement aims to encourage people to surprise others with unexpected kind acts. Those interested can start by getting a card via instructions on the KINDED website. Next, they perform some kind act for someone else, whether it's helping them carry heavy bags, sharing an umbrella or paying for their coffee. When they do, they simply pass on their card to the recipient of their generosity; that person, in turn, can pass it along by doing something kind for someone else. Perhaps most interesting of all, however—particularly in light of what our sister site would call the OFF=ON trend—is that each card that gets passed along has a unique code that can be mapped online, enabling participants to track how far their chain of kindness travels and view kind acts happening around the world.

The KINDED website explains: "KINDED cards are meant to help overcome the social awkwardness of doing unexpected kind acts by serving a 'license' to do the act, and explaining why you are doing it. So, when that person at Starbucks hands you a KINDED card along with [a] coffee, you'll feel comfortable accepting since they're just passing on a kind act that was done for them." More than 700 "KINDINGS" have been performed so far; as extra motivation, the card code with the longest chain of such kind acts by Jan. 29 will win those involved a chance to get a real wish fulfilled.

So many brands over the years have been associated with self-indulgence, with ego gratification and—yes—with downright greed. In this era of widespread consumer disgust with the corporate world, there's never been a better time to focus on the kind!


Spotted by: Petz Scholtus




October 7, 2009

Should marriage really be celebrated with pots, pans and food processors? Aiming to offer a less dreary alternative, New York's nAscent Art has launched a registry service. The service, dubbed ArtWish, gives couples the chance to create a registry from art works showcased by the company. nAscent Art will then email the couple's friends and relatives explaining how they can purchase works from the list outright, or make a partial contribution as a gift. Customers have work from over fifty emerging New York artists to choose from, with pieces ranging from silk paintings to steel sculptures. Says nAscent co-founder, James Wallace: "We really bring art back from the stratosphere to prices within the reach of ordinary people. ArtWish is just one more way to reach that goal."

Recently married themselves, co-founders James and Jennifer Wallace wondered why art wasn't available on their own wedding registry. This formed the inspiration for the service. However, it's not necessarily limited to couples. With the holiday season on its way, some families might be spared the high-street frenzy by an invitation to chip in for a piece of art online.


Spotter: Cecilia Biemann




October 6, 2009

Proving that the internet’s information doesn’t always have to appear on-screen, Question Box brings the web’s intelligence to offline communities. At the heart of the venture is a solar-powered intercom box that features a large green button. By pressing the button, a user is connected to an operator sitting in front of a computer. The caller asks a question and the operator does a web search to find the answer.

Two Question Boxes are currently operational in the Indian state of Maharastra, where the first box was installed by California-based non-profit Open Mind in September 2007. In March 2009, the Applab Question Box service was launched in Uganda—tweaking the model by enabling callers to contact call centre operators from their own mobile phones. Both services log previously answered questions in local databases, speeding up responses to future enquiries and providing information offline in case of lack of connectivity. Queried topics range from crop prices and cricket scores to exam results.

The free service brings almost limitless information to poor and rural areas, in a format that transcends literacy. As the scheme expands, it will be interesting to see whether the boxes begin to focus on specific niches: health advice or political updates, for instance, or be adopted by corporate sponsors offering a similar service in exchange for airing commercial messages. (Related: Internet-in-a-box for areas without electricity.)


Spotted by: Susannah Haynie




October 6, 2009

There's been plenty of lip service paid to electric vehicles in recent years, but the fact remains that in many communities, they're still more frequently discussed than actually seen. Not so in several U.S. neighbourhoods, however, where golf carts and other diminutive electric vehicles are part of the very fabric of community life.

With many of the same gas-free benefits offered by larger electric vehicles—but considerably lower price tags—neighbourhood electric vehicles, or NEVs, are the transportation of choice for residents of several large retirement communities, an article on recently reported. Golf carts are a common sight on the streets and specially designed paths of The Villages community in Florida, for example—and not just the ordinary, plain-vanilla variety. In fact, many of the community's 77,000 retired residents "pimp their rides" to look like fire trucks, 1930s roadsters and stretch limos, Wired reported, spending as much as USD 20,000 in the process of swapping in bigger tires or hacking engines to surpass the traditional golf cart's maximum speed of about 20 mph. Similar sights are apparently seen in other communities around the country, including the retirement mecca of Sun City, Arizona, and the all-ages suburb of Peachtree City, Georgia. Accessories are sold by companies like GoNEV.

Driver's licenses are not typically required for most golf carts, but full-fledged NEVs—which are street-legal in most states—require insurance and registration, Wired reported. Either way, such vehicles offer not only eco-benefits and credentials, but apparently also those of the more neighbourly kind: "If your neighbour is in his yard, you can't drive by in your golf cart without waving and saying hello," Gary Lester, VP of community relations for The Villages, told Wired. Chrysler's Global Electric Motorcars is one major maker of NEVs, selling its vehicles for as low as USD 3,644 with tax credits.

Lower prices, fewer emissions and social benefits on top of an eco-iconic appearance and government tax incentives? Legal and insurance issues notwithstanding, sounds like a potential winner to us. Who will put golf carts at the forefront of *your* community's next planning venture...?


Spotted by: Katherine Noyes




October 6, 2009

Aiming to set itself apart from all of the other gyms and health clubs in Australia, Jetts Gym offers cheaper memberships by cutting costs and shirking little-used or unnecessary services. Out went the exercise classes, since typically only 10% typically participate (according to Jetts), and the pool, sauna and fancy spa. Jetts Gyms are located in residential areas, close to members’ homes, encouraging people to change and shower at home and taking pressure off limited facilities at the gym. Personnel costs have also been cut by using full-time remote surveillance technology, meaning staff is only needed on site for the six busiest hours of the day.

Jetts does offer a service that most gyms don't, though: it's open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It's designed so that members can work out around busy schedules and night shifts, or can hit the gym when there won't be a crowd. By eliminating the fluffier gym facilities, Jetts is able to offer cheaper membership rates than most gyms. Annual memberships run at AUD 468, plus a card fee of AUD 19 and a registration fee of AUD 99.00. Members are able to use any of the club’s 35 gyms across Australia.

Following in the footsteps of airlines and hotels, Jetts serves as a reminder that practically any service can be distilled to its essential qualities and offered at a discounted rate. And if you’re not busy developing your own model from scratch, franchise opportunities at Jetts are currently up for grabs.


Spotted by: Edward Baral




October 6, 2009

Too much choice, too little time—it's a constant theme of the information age. There are 60,000 apps available for the iPhone, but the benefits of using personally relevant apps can almost be negated by the amount of time it takes to discover them. 16apps is a new web service designed to streamline the process. The service scours users' Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed or LastFM accounts for information about their hobbies, interests, lifestyle, character and location. It then uses the data to make personalised app recommendations. For instance, if it detects messages or links on a user's profile related to politics, it may recommend an app like "Political Tweets"; if it finds swear words, it has been known to recommend "Rude Ringtones".

Although the functionality of the app has had a mixed reception among the social media crowd, the value in the concept is clear. As consumers experience an explosion of choice in more and more areas of life, recommendation engines are becoming indispensable tools. What makes 16apps particularly interesting is that it doesn't require previous interaction with users in order to discover what they (are) like, since it makes use of openly available data that they've already shared, painting a full picture of their 'digital personality'. It creates an interesting challenge for brands: how to mine the data in a relevant way, without being intrusive or spammy.





October 6, 2009

It's been almost three years since we wrote about Denim Therapy's jeans-doctoring service, and now the company has added a new offering to its line: a special service that adjusts favourite jeans for pregnant bellies—and then, post-baby, back again.

Pregnant mothers simply send New York-based Denim Therapy their favourite jeans. Denim Therapy then inserts expandable side inseams in the pants that will move and grow as the woman's belly expands. Perhaps even better, however, is that once the baby is born and the mother has brought herself back to her pre-baby figure, Denim Therapy will restore those jeans back to their original form. As the company puts it, "Why spend money on a new pair of maternity jeans when you can feel sexy and comfortable in your own favourite jeans. And voila, you're also doing your part of being environmentally conscious." Pricing on the service is USD 60 per pair.

More than 4 million babies are born in the United States alone each year, and that translates into a whole lot of jeans in need of modification along the way. Crafty minipreneurs: time to stock up on expandable fabric for a similar service of your own...?


Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann




October 5, 2009

Aiming to grab a share of the growing car-sharing market, Daimler created car2go, which enables customers to order and pick up a Smart car within minutes. The service was rolled out in the German city of Ulm last October, and is expected to launch in Austin, Texas sometime in early 2010.

Cars can be reserved online or over the phone up to 24 hours in advance, costing a maximum of EUR 9.90 per hour or EUR 49.00 for a day. A text message informs the customer of the car's exact location, which, in the urban area of Ulm, is usually no further than 3 minutes' walk away. Once the driver reaches the car, he or she can unlock it with a PIN code provided during registration. As well as being simple and flexible, car2go's use of diminutive Smart cars makes the system more environmentally friendly than most other car sharing systems. Having enticed almost 10% of Ulm's driving population to use the scheme, we're waiting with interest to see how car2go will fare in the US, where it faces tough competition from ZipCar. An obvious advantage for car2Go is its access to cars without having to pay a mark-up. And besides tapping into a new source of revenue, Daimler could benefit from the brand exposure of having its Smart cars in heavy rotation on city streets. (Related: Half-price parking for half-sized cars.)


Spotted by: Adele Morten




October 5, 2009

iStockphoto is already a familiar name to many in media and design for its low-priced stock photography, illustrations and multimedia files. Now the Canadian company is planning to expand its offerings with a line of user-generated corporate logos as well.

Late last month Alberta-based iStockphoto announced that it will soon begin providing logos that clients can download and use to brand their business or organization. The site's existing contributors can create and upload logos for sale on the site, as can professional designers, many of whom likely already have unused logo designs left over from past jobs. Logos will be sold as fully editable .eps files—a training manual for contributors is coming soon—and they will be exclusive to iStockphoto. They will be sold only once to prevent duplicate use, and so will be priced higher than other items on the site—ranging from 100 to 750 credits each, the company says. iStock is currently seeking feedback on the possibility of its acting as intermediary between artist and client for one round of changes to a purchased logo so as to allow the designer to help insert the client company's name into the logo design. iStock will pay a base royalty rate of 50 percent per logo design for the first 6 months, and designers will be able to upload an unlimited number of logos during that time. As an incentive to upload early, it's also offering a USD 5 bonus for creators of the first 10,000 logo designs to be approved by January 1, 2010, with another USD 5 if it reaches 10,000 approved logos by that time.

Much like IncSpring, which we covered about a year ago, iStockphoto's logo line promises to give creators a way to monetize unused ideas and designs while providing businesses and organizations with an affordable option for their own branding. Yet another win-win for all involved—and another triumph for the crowds! ;-) (Related: Crowdsourced graphic design.)


Spotted by: David Licona




October 5, 2009

Fitness enthusiasts can already use their cell phones and the web to keep track of their progress toward their health goals, but typically such applications track a limited set of data or rely on accurate self-reporting. Fitbit, on the other hand, is a small device the user can wear around the clock for continuous, automatic and comprehensive fitness reporting.

The Fitbit Tracker can be clipped loosely on clothing or undergarments or worn directly on an included wristband. With a 3D motion sensor like that found in the Nintendo Wii, the Fitbit tracks the user's activity in three dimensions and converts that data into useful information. Calories burned, steps taken and distance traveled are all recorded by the Fitbit automatically, for example, as are sleep quality data such as how long it took the user to fall asleep, the number of times they woke up during the night and how long they were actually sleeping. A blue OLED display on the rechargeable device shows data about the user's overall activity level; in addition, any time he or she walks within 15 feet of the included wireless base station, data from the Fitbit is silently uploaded in the background to the Fitbit website. There, users can view detailed data about their fitness-related activities; they can also enter data about what they've eaten and participate in collaborative fitness goals with friends, family and co-workers. The complete Fitbit system, including tracker device, base station and software, is priced at USD 99.

California-based Fitbit is currently filling pre-orders, and will start filling new orders October 31st. Because of the necessary government certifications for wireless and product safety, however, it will initially ship only within the US. Fitbit does hope to enable international orders down the road—one to partner with and help make that happen...? (Related: Mobile apps hit the slopes.)


Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann




October 5, 2009

Canadian enterprise Ekomini believes that teaching kids about money is as important as teaching them reading, writing and arithmetic. As an aid to parents, the company has given the traditional piggy bank a 21st century makeover. The Ekomini Treasure Chest features a patented coin-reader technology and hooks up to a computer via USB, enabling children to keep track of their savings and learn basic financial skills. The Ekomini package gleans pedagogical credentials from resident educational consultant Dr. Daniel Racine, who designed a platform to teach kids how to plan for purchases by setting goals, completing tasks and comparing prices; as they get older, they can also learn the basics of investment. Ekomini also aims to introduce kids to social responsibility by explaining important causes and showcasing charities.

Appealing both to creative consumers and potential licensing partners, Ekomini will also manufacture a separate coin-reader unit (minus the piggy bank), so that the system can be created using any type of coin receptacle. Speaking of partners, Ekomini is casting a wide net, targeting teachers, banks, retailers, charities and other manufacturers interested in licensing their design.

While products that target children are the scourge of cash-strapped parents, one that teaches future generations the value of saving could be worth its weight in gold. The product can be pre-ordered online and will be available in major retail stores in time for Christmas. One to check out if you're involved with financial services or children's products! (Related: Financial literacy for kidsBank run by street kidsFacilitating kidpreneurs.)


Spotted by: Judy McRae




October 2, 2009

With intention-based shipping spreading like wildfire, we're not surprised to see that it's now catching on in the UK, too. Shiply, which set up shop in 2008, is a free online marketplace where transport companies bid for listed shipments.

After creating an online account, consumers list what they need to ship and provide details about pickup, delivery and shipment dates. Anything from a pet carriage to a car can be listed. Transport providers then bid for the shipment, potentially turning unused space in their trucks into profit. Shiply's system means that as companies try to outbid one another, users typically save about 75% on their shipping costs. Users can contribute and read feedback left by other customers, and accept the bid with which they feel happiest.

The company states that 25% of European lorries run completely empty. By filling up this space, Shiply makes sure trucks get extra cash for unused space, and saves consumers money. Of course, it’s hugely beneficial in terms of reducing carbon emissions and congestion, too. Which is why Shiply was awarded a EUR 100,000 runner-up prize in this year's Green Challenge. (RidgeBlade, which we featured last week, won the top prize of EUR 500,000.)

As the success of services like this depends on reaching a critical mass of users, it’s interesting to see Shiply helping itself along with a special eBay widget, which can be integrated in eBay listings, letting potential bidders get cheap courier quotes from Shiply on the spot. In addition, 4,000 shipping companies have already listed their services on Shiply. Saving the planet by intelligently linking wants and needs—there’s plenty of mileage left in that.


Spotted by: Green Challenge




October 2, 2009

More than 90 million tons of construction and demolition waste are generated each year in England and Wales alone, and at least 13 million of those tons are surplus new materials that could have been reused. Hoping to keep such waste out of landfills, BuilderScrap is a free site for the construction trade that aims to connect builders who have extra materials with those who need them.

Similar in many ways to the salvage operations of Buffalo ReUse, UK-based BuilderScrap was established by builders for builders as a way to use up surplus new and high-quality second-hand material in the supply chain. Users begin by registering and then uploading any extra building materials they'd like to sell or give away. Allowable items include timber, doors, floorboards, stair components, joists, tiles, window frames and office furniture, to name just a few. Other users who are interested in an item then contact the relevant user via the BuilderScrap website, which in turn notifies the listing member, who can respond to work out the details. Once the item has exchanged hands, the original listing member then de-lists it from the site. A video on BuilderScrap explains the site's premise in more detail.

Given the increasing interest in green building practices, it won't be long before such exchanges are set up in building markets around the world, and it's not hard to imagine the likes of Home Depot and other large vendors getting involved--not just for the good karma that would result but also for a front-row position as builders make their supply decisions. Who will be first to bring such an exchange—maybe with ad support?—to *your* neck of the woods...? (Related: Library of green building materialsFree plans for eco homes.)


Spotted by: Ben Davis




October 2, 2009

With USD 714 billion outstanding student-loan debt hanging over graduates in the US, it's no surprise that more and more people are turning to free educational content on the web. Earlier this year we reported on Academic Earth, a US enterprise that makes lectures from Ivy League colleges free and accessible to all web users. Now, featuring over 1,500 videos the website is broadening its scope by offering courses for high school high-flyers.

The new lecture series is aimed at students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which give them a chance to study college level material and potentially earn credit towards their future degree. This year there are 10 video courses on offer, each featuring up to 50 lectures from MIT, Yale, Berkeley and Stanford. Subjects covered include computer science, calculus and psychology, and along with the videos there is also the option to download the lectures as podcasts. According to Academic Earth's 23-year-old founder, Richard Ludlow, more AP courses can be expected in future years; in the meantime the site will be concentrating on providing supplementary materials such as lecture notes, transcripts and related books.

Academic Earth is one of a flock of 'edupunk' enterprises on the web, ranging from peer-to-peer universities to fully-fledged state-funded institutions that award accredited degrees. Open content is going to play an increasing role in higher education, and with it comes a host of opportunities for social entrepreneurs.





October 1, 2009

Hard on the heels of our story about ArtPrize comes news of another artistic endeavour that's tapping the power of the crowds. It's not contest-judging that the crowds will have a hand in this time, however; rather, through a microfinance model much like the stock market, consumers can invest in—and profit from—public art projects they like.

Unveiled earlier this year at TED Palm Springs by New York media company Fame Theory, Trust Art is a social platform that aims to commission 10 public works of art over the next year. A select group of artists were invited to propose their dream projects and to realistically assess what it would take to bring their projects to life—including material costs, travel and other logistical expenses. The Trust Art website includes descriptions of those projects and costs, along with current updates. Each project is then assigned a certain number of shares—equal to twice its funding target—and half of those shares are automatically assigned to the participating artist. The rest are put up for sale, and consumers are invited to become shareholders in any project with as little as USD 1, giving them access to the artists and network of shareholders as well as special events. Next spring, each public project will be represented by a private piece of art that will be publicly auctioned. Proceeds from those sales will first go toward paying for the auction and paying back shareholders relative to their individual contributions; after that, the rest will be split 50/50 between the artists and the network of shareholders—again, relative to how much they originally invested.

The initiative's website explains: "Trust Art is a radical experiment in raising capital for social art. Its starting point is the assertion that social art can more easily raise social capital (i.e. networks of people interested in and talking about it), and therefore it should be able to more easily raise financial capital (because this is more easily raised as groups grow). So Trust Art exploits social networks of people (some already connected, some newly connected) to add value to social art."

Ultimately, Trust Art hopes to exist as an ongoing open platform whereby any artist can propose a dream project and get funded by the crowds. One to watch--or get involved with?


Spotted by: Dietrich Arndt




October 1, 2009

We've covered a few examples of businesses that allow consumers to buy, sell, rent and trade used clothing, including OURthreads and Closet Infinite. Providing a slightly different twist on the notion, however, is thredUP, which uses a Netflix-like model with prepaid envelopes to help users swap the clothes they don't wear for some they will.

Currently focusing just on shirts, thredUP is free to join. Users begin by setting up a virtual closet to keep track of the clothes they'd like to exchange, using descriptions of the brands, sizes, colours and patterns—no photos are required. Users also tell thredUP what they'd like to get in exchange, including the brands, sizes and styles they prefer. Next, members purchase prepaid envelopes—a special offer currently has a package of three half-priced at USD 12.50. thredUP then looks for good matches in the virtual closets of other members to find items that might be suitable. It sends them one such item for each envelope they've purchased, along with an address to send one of their own items to. The result, as the site puts it: "out with old-to-you, in with new-to-you." If the recipient of an item likes it, they simply keep it; otherwise, they list it as an item they'd like to trade. Members can assign each other "stylie" points as tokens of appreciation for particularly nice items received, and those are redeemable for free stuff on thredUP along with qualifying them for special promotions.

Billed as "a refresh button for your closet," Massachusetts-based thredUP plans eventually to expand beyond just shirts to include all clothing items, including kids' clothes. It also plans to sell targeted advertising and to begin offering premium services for better matching precision, according to a report on In the meantime, thredUP already ties in nicely with the sellsumer trend, giving recession-weary consumers a way to make the most of what they have. One to try out—or get involved in? (Related: IKEA organizes furniture swapAmazon trades gift cards for used video games.)


Spotted by: Treehugger




October 1, 2009

Eco-stroller-bikes like the Taga, trioBike and Zigo Leader offer green-minded parents an emissions-free way to get their babies—and themselves—from point A to point B. While Orbit Baby's Infant System doesn't offer the pedal-powered functionality, it does feature an innovative rotating stroller plus eco-credentials of another kind.

Priced at USD 900, the Orbit Baby Infant System includes infant car seat, base and rotating stroller that work together in modular fashion. The foldable stroller—priced separately at USD 485—features 360 degree rotation that allows the child to face forward, back or even sideways. An exclusive twist-and-lift mechanism permits one-handed folding, while a patent-pending, removable Cargo Pod makes getting to all of baby's stuff a breeze. The stroller is compatible not just with Orbit Baby's infant car seat, but also with its bassinet, toddler car seat and toddler stroller seat. Perhaps best of all, Orbit Baby uses micro-fiber upholstery fabric certified by the International Oeko-Tex Association, which limits more than 100 potentially harmful substances and chemicals. Its flame retardants, for example, meet all applicable standards without the use of many of the commonly used—and potentially harmful—chemicals. Its rain shields, similarly, are PVC-free, and its Green Edition footmuffs and car seat upholsteries—coming soon, and made of organic cotton and wool—will feature what the company says is the industry’s first fabric to be naturally flame retardant without any harsh chemicals. Orbit Baby is also working on a product recycling program for when families outgrow its products.

California-based Orbit Baby's products are currently sold in the US, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Turkey and UAE. One to bring to green-minded parents in your neck of the woods....?.


Spotted by: Lori Webb




October 1, 2009

In an age that has many of us walking around with the sum of the world's knowledge in our pockets, information about flight delays lags behind. FlightCaster, a new San Francisco-based service, aims to solve this problem. Using a patent-pending algorithm, the company claims that it can predict more than 95 percent of delays to flight arrivals up to six hours in advance. It looks to be an improvement on Delaycast, which we featured last year.

FlightCaster's calculation involves comparing statistics from the past 10 years of flights with the most recent data relevant to a particular flight from the US National Weather Service, the FAA Air Traffic Control and FlightCaster will then display, as a percentage, the relative probabilities that a plane will be on time, delayed by less than an hour or delayed by more than an hour. Only a flight number is needed to use it, and the system—rather than trying to pin down a single estimated time of arrival—helps passengers make a personal decision about whether to travel to the airport, based on their own priorities.

Launched last month, FlightCaster is available for free online, or as an iPhone/Blackberry app (USD 9.99). The service currently only operates in the US, but international expansion is in the works. Also expect to see richer information about alternative travel options in future versions. (Related: Flight tracker notifies contacts of arrival.)


Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann




Just in case you missed it, we've included our previous edition below.

And don't forget—you can access everything we've published in our idea database, which is
conveniently organized by industry.

planeshop Brands to take turns running airport store
Retail / Tourism & travel

Launching at Glasgow Airport later this year, Planeshop is billed
as a permanent shop with a flexible retailing concept. Brands will
take over the store for a limited time.

glovelove Stray single gloves matched & sold to new owners
Eco & sustainability / Fashion & beauty

Environmental group Green Thing has launched Glove Love, a
venture that pairs up single gloves and sells them to new owners.
They're matched by size, not colour.

personalisedclassics Classic novels, personalised for anyone
Media & publishing

GettingPersonal sells classic novels -- mostly as gifts -- that let
recipients and their friends star as the main characters. Think
Steve in Wonderland.

raleighdenim Jeans from North Carolina are 98% local
Fashion & beauty

Raleigh Denim uses nearly all local materials to produce its
premium jeans, with everything from thread to denim produced
within 200 miles of its workshop.

mbdrivingacademy Mercedes launches driving academy for kids & teens
Automotive / Education / Marketing & advertising

This summer saw the launch of its Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy,
which teaches anyone over 10 years and 1.5 metres tall
the basics of manoeuvring a car.

vangoghisbipolar Guests eat themselves happy at Van Gogh is Bipolar
Food & beverage

Based in Quezon City, the Van Gogh is Bipolar cafe only serves all-
natural 'happy-hormone-producing' foods, set to lift customers'

acehotel Minibars at Ace Hotel stocked with local liquor
Food & beverage / Tourism & travel

Ace Hotel in Portland has partnered with local distillers House
Spirits to stock their minibars with limited-edition artisan spirits
distilled less than two miles from the hotel's lobby.

brandsinpublic Portal for brand conversations, led by the brands
Marketing & advertising

Launched by Seth Godin, Brands in Public is a new site that
aggregates online conversations and presents them through a
unified dashboard.

lanima Restaurant uses social media to compile wine list
Food & beverage / Media & publishing

Last month, a London restaurant put social media to work by
crowdsourcing part of their wine list. The restaurant's fans helped
experts finalize the selection.

layar Augmented reality browser Layar wins 75K euro prize
Telecom & mobile

Layar is a free mobile browser that displays digital information over
the real world image that a user views through his or her mobile

artprize Crowds judge world's biggest art prize
Style & design

Judged by a select group of insiders, art awards aren't known for
their democratic approach. Uprooting that tradition is a contest
that's currently being held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

lofresco Vending machines for healthy food
Food & beverage / Retail

Providing Spaniards with an alternative to junk food, Lof's
machines sell nuts, prepared fruit, ready meals and gazpacho

sfapps San Francisco showcases city data apps
Government / Telecom & mobile

A month after the launch of, a public archive of San
Francisco data, the site now showcases applications that make
the information more useful & accessible to the city's residents.

yourpurehoneyShares in New Zealand beehives
Food & beverage

New Zealand start-up Your Pure Honey is offering customers the
chance to own a share of a beehive in and enjoy the Manuka honey
it produces.

oliberte Urban shoes, made in Africa
Fashion & beauty

Instead of providing aid, Canadian shoe company Oliberte is
taking a different approach by sourcing and setting up its
manufacturing operations in Africa instead.

cnnwirestore A la carte service from CNN sells stories for $199
Media & publishing

Aiming to open up its content to a wider audience, CNN has
launched a new a la carte service that sells CNN Wire stories for
single use for USD 199.

ridgeblade Discreet rooftop wind turbines for homes
Eco & sustainability / Homes & housing

RidgeBlade is a wind-power system that can be fitted with minimum
visual impact. The system employs discreetly housed cylindrical
turbines positioned horizontally along the apex of a sloping roof.

houseofwonders Furniture with a story, crafted from salvaged dhows
Style & design

Dhows typically get beached and abandoned when they can no
longer weather the seas. Portuguese House of Wonders salvages
and gives them new life in its line of one-of-a-kind furniture.

yikebikeFolding electric two-wheeler: new take on city cycling

Departing entirely from the norm, YikeBike features a radically novel
riding position, steering mechanism and wheel configuration. It's
the evolutionary offspring of a Segway and a penny farthing.

mootral Garlic extract cuts back on cows' methane gas
Eco & sustainability

Working with Neem Biotech, Mootral has developed a unique feed
additive for livestock that reduces cows' methane emissions by at
least 25 percent.




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