Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Digital printing on the spot from mobile phones and PDAs

Camera cell phones, which are red hot in Asia (sales topped 16 million in Japan and South Korea last year), are only now being introduced in Europe and the US (with Vodafone taking the lead in Europe, signing up 380,000 members for its Vodafone Live service, and hoping to reach the one million mark end of next month, March 2003). Want more numbers? According to research from Strategy Analytics, camera phones are expected to make up 11 percent of phone sales by 2004, while 50 million MMS handsets will be in the European market by 2004. It is also estimated that there will be 147 million camera phones in existence world-wide by 2007. That’s a LOT of snap-shots! However, while taking pictures whenever and wherever is good fun, and instantly sending them on to others will no doubt rival the ‘SMS’ explosion, what if you want instant prints? Springwise hasn’t spotted a camera phone with a Polaroid-style printing option yet, but Japanese Omron’s Sassoku Print service comes close. A Tokyo based trial lets camera phone owners instantly develop pictures taken with their camera onto a sheet of stickers, at 200 yen a sheet (less than 2 dollars/euros). Omron aims to expand the service to 55 stores soon. Rivaling service Melutte Pri, owned by Mitsubishi Electric Corp, started a similar service at ten locations around Shibuya in Tokyo in December 2002. Users email the pictures to a specific email address, then receive an ID and password to operate the Melutte Pri printer kiosk. (more…)

Kiosks for recharging mobile phones and PDAs

What to do when your mobile, your camera phone or digi cam runs out of juice? UK-based Charge Me recently launched a new breed of kiosks that allow busy people to recharge mobile phone and PDA batteries when they are low on power. Kiosks also allow users to talk while they are charging their devices. The Charge Me kiosk includes 12 charging bays to accommodate different mobile phones (including all major brands) and PDAs. Starting in the UK, the company has already set up a ‘PowerClub’, which sounds like the beginning of a franchise program for the rest of the world. However, Springwise has already spotted a similar charger machine in Shanghai, not affiliated to Charge Me. Continental Europe or US, anyone?!

Linking mainstream goods to a good cause

Mecca-Cola is not the first cola aimed directly at Muslim cola enthusiasts, but it is certainly making the biggest waves right now. Already selling millions of bottles of the stuff after launching only a few months ago, French Mecca-Cola has clearly found more than a niche in catering to a thirsty and concerned audience of more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide. Big selling point to its customers is that 10% of profits fund Palestinian relief. And they’re not the only ones: Iranian ZamZam colas and British start-up Qibla Cola Company are after the same market. The idea of linking mainstream, even generic goods to a concise goal (which in the case of Mecca-Cola is considered somewhat controversial because of its perceived anti-Americanism), could certainly benefit a plethora of less controversial organizations, from Greenpeace to Oxfam. How often do you get to generate awareness AND cold hard cash?

Multi-functional backpacks for modern (wo)men

Someone had to come up with this sooner or later: a very cool, multi-functional backpack for modern (wo)man, who nowadays possesses phones, cameras, batteries, laptops, PDA’s, MP3 players, disks, headphones, cords… RoadWired‘s ‘Pod’ has more than twenty compartments, a ‘secret pocket’, it opens up from all angles, and looks good too. As it is only sold in the US right now, Springwise is tempted to apply for ‘Rest of the World’ dealership. But we’re too busy scanning the world for more new business ideas, so be our guest! Be quick though, the copy-maestros of mainland China may soon bring out their ‘own’ versions, especially now that some Pod models are already temporarily sold out, according to the official website!

Opportunities

This fast growing, high-margin service is currently only available in the US, but would work well anywhere else in the world: you can’t go wrong with candy. An inspirational idea for rivaling candy manufacturers (customized Mentos or Bassets wine gums?) or for anyone interested in selling more of what they already have, by letting their customers do the mixing and matching! M&Ms, in the mean time, is already experimenting with customized texts ON their candy. Gravanity here we come!

Customized candy — perfect gift, promotional material or office-treat

Here’s a winner, truly delivering on Joseph Pine’s vision of ‘Mass Customization’: customized candy! Popular candy brand M&Ms, part of Masterfoods, has used the power of the Net to take customization to the next level: consumers, businesses, universities and any organization crazy about its own corporate colors can now mix and match to get the perfect gift, promotional material or office-treat. The online ‘Colorworks‘ candy mixer, which offers M&Ms in 21 colors, lets customers choose from four categories: ‘pick your colors’, ‘school colors’, ‘corporate colors’ and ‘special occasion colors’. The latter includes baby showers, weddings, birthday parties, and national holidays. Customers are happy to pay up to three times the price of ‘standard’ M&Ms.

Opportunities

This fast growing, high-margin service is currently only available in the US, but would work well anywhere else in the world: you can’t go wrong with candy. An inspirational idea for rivaling candy manufacturers (customized Mentos or Bassets wine gums?) or for anyone interested in selling more of what they already have, by letting their customers do the mixing and matching! M&Ms, in the mean time, is already experimenting with customized texts ON their candy. Gravanity here we come!

Opportunities

The Beast and Beverage Metrics are still in start-up phase, meaning most of the US and all of the rest of the world are wide-open for business. That is a lot of bars, restaurants, lounges and clubs. Hospitality players, distributors and breweries could well benefit from acquiring, partnering with or copying these new ventures. On a larger scale, it should also inspire anyone interested in turning barcodes and supporting databases into viable B2C and B2B business models, like setting up real-time information benchmarks. Check out Priceminister’s business idea, in our December 2002 issue, for another excellent use of barcodes.

Sophisticated online monitoring systems for the beverage industry

Using sophisticated online monitoring systems to increase efficiency and diminish waste always sounds promising, especially in cost-conscious times like these. Two innovative new businesses, The Beast Beverage Management System and Beverage Metrics, are doing just that for the beverage industry, bringing technological innovation to very down-to-earth businesses. Three Deep’s Beast Beverage Management System or ‘Beast’ provides bars with the numbers needed to compare how much they go through versus how much they sell. It uses a handheld scanner to scan barcodes already found on bottles. All inventory and consumption information is uploaded via a normal phone line to a website where bars can access their current inventory, consumption trends and numerous other tools and reports. Basically benchmarking bar-code style! And while accessing their inventory from anywhere with an Internet connection, Beast users can manage their orders, pricing and adjustments, too. This information helps cut down on shrinkage resulting from over-pours, consumptions not rung up, over-drinking by staff, etc. It also allows bars to easily view their theoretical liquor cost. Last but not least, the Beast’s consumption reports let a bar accurately decide what to order by the case and what not to order at all. When it comes to increasing efficiency while drinks are actually BEING poured, Beverage Metrics (a division of Hospitality Metrics) tops the category by providing an extensive set of measuring tools with embedded chips, and wireless technology for invisible inventory monitoring of actual bottles. This includes everything from the ‘Cap Puls’ (an electronic bottle cap opener system that records when a bottle is opened), to One Click Video (which saves video stills for the duration of a pour), to the The Puls Pager (which can be set to page a manager or bartender regarding drinks that have not been rung up). It may freak out sloppy or dishonest bartenders, but the savings can be considerable.

Opportunities

The Beast and Beverage Metrics are still in start-up phase, meaning most of the US and all of the rest of the world are wide-open for business. That is a lot of bars, restaurants, lounges and clubs. Hospitality players, distributors and breweries could well benefit from acquiring, partnering with or copying these new ventures. On a larger scale, it should also inspire anyone interested in turning barcodes and supporting databases into viable B2C and B2B business models, like setting up real-time information benchmarks. Check out Priceminister’s business idea, in our December 2002 issue, for another excellent use of barcodes.

Opportunities

An excellent traffic-and-awareness building concept for lifestyle portals, TV networks, and entertainment mags all over the world. Except in the US, where you will find a competitor in the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which offers a similar service, and, how clever, syndicates the data collected from the Exchange as market research to entertainment, consumer product and financial institutions, and as original programming to radio, television and print media.

Celebrity share-trading game, online and on TV

Add celebrities to the ever growing list of tradable ‘goods’! The BBC has scored massively with its Celebdaq website: a celebrity share-trading game in which subscribers are given ten thousand pounds (that’s Celebdaq pounds, not real cash). This money can then be used to buy and sell shares in listed celebrities. Every week, the shares pay out a dividend, depending on how much press coverage those celebrities received. Just like in the real world, share prices rise and fall as demand for them changes – so as well as receiving dividends, participants can make money by buying low and selling high. Real time celeb news ticker feeds add to the excitement. By keeping one eye on the market and the other on the entertainment press, the best performing participants could win a real, weekly 100 pound prize. The game now also has its own weekly TV show, which combines entertainment, business and news with the real-time sharing trading in some of the world’s best-known celebrities. Since its launch in July 2002, Celebdaq has signed up 70,000 registered users, and it is the fastest growing website within the BBC network (source: BrandRepublic).

Opportunities

An excellent traffic-and-awareness building concept for lifestyle portals, TV networks, and entertainment mags all over the world. Except in the US, where you will find a competitor in the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which offers a similar service, and, how clever, syndicates the data collected from the Exchange as market research to entertainment, consumer product and financial institutions, and as original programming to radio, television and print media. 300 million USD-a-year Container Store, a Dallas chain specializing in selling storage solutions and products, has built a niche into a 20+ outlet storage empire. Container Store helps its customers (consumers and businesses), to streamline and simplify their lives by offering a wide range of storage and organization products. The store layout is divided into lifestyle sections such as Closet, Kitchen, Office and Laundry. All products are received, processed and shipped from a 300,000 square foot distribution center in Dallas. With annual sales growth between 20-25 percent since 1978 (source: Fast Company), Container Store is doing more than well. Long term customer relationships, well-trained personnel and an extensive, full-solution assortment are the keys to success for this company, that has been at the top of FORTUNE magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For In America” three years in a row. So considering the fact that the idea of offering storage solutions and products is not exactly new, that revenues are tasty, and the market quite substantial, (at least big enough to allow competition like ‘Hold Everything’ to co-exist), it is more than surprising to learn that, as far as we can tell, Container Store does not have any serious, large, branded competitors in the rest of the world, nor does it have an international franchisee program itself. As we said in a previous newsletter (about Hold Everything), the storage solution market is many, many times bigger than just the United States: millions of small urban dwellings and SOHOs in Europe and Asia spring to mind! Judging from car-ownership data for North America, Europe and Australasia, you would expect everyone living in those areas to have a car by now, if not two. But in urban agglomerations all over the car-loving world, millions of people do NOT own a car, put off by congested, accident-prone infrastructure, sky high parking fees, vandalism, high maintenance costs, and other nuisances. On top of that, the average urban car sits parked 20 to 23 hours a day; many are idle from weekend to weekend. Which isn’t to say most city dwellers wouldn’t want to own a car now and then, and this is where Zipcar (Boston, New York, Washington DC and Denver) and a whole slew of new commercial car-sharing ventures comes in. How does it work? Zipcar manages a fleet of cars, at the disposal of its members any time for as brief as one hour. Members are both residents and businesses. A reservation for a specific car in a specific location can be made online or by phone. Cars have dedicated parking spaces and can usually be found a short walk from where members live. Members carry a personal Zipcard, and reservations are sent wirelessly to the cars so they will open only to the right person at the right car at the right time. Zipcar’s technology knows when members lock and unlock the doors and how many miles they have travelled — so no paperwork, either. Zipcar pays for gas, but members are responsible for refuelling when the car goes below a 1/4 tank using the supplied gas credit card which bills directly to Zipcar. Zipcar members pay for car use by the hour and by the mile. Fees include everything — gas, maintenance, insurance, and parking. Hourly rates are location and car-specific. A typical New York daily rate would be around 60 USD, including gas and some free miles. Businesses are also catered to: Zipcar reduces the need for private, business, or fleet vehicles at the workplace, and serves as an in-town car when employees travel to Boston, New York, or Washington, DC. Other corporate benefits include: – Efficient use of onsite parking. – Elimination of paperwork and administrative overhead. – Driving charges billed to specific accounts. – Hassle-free program (Zipcar handles customer service and maintenance). – Strong employee benefit. – Zipcar can place a vehicle on-site at a place of business, if a business can demonstrate sufficient demand.

Opportunities

Zipcar wasn’t the first venture to come up with car-sharing: similar services now exist in Western European nations, most noticeably in Amsterdam (Greenwheels), Berlin (Statt Auto), Switzerland (Mobility), Sweden and the UK. In Asia, experiments are up and running in Japan and Singapore. However, even in Europe total membership numbers don’t exceed 100,000. Furthermore, most cities only have one commercial provider as of yet. That means plenty of opportunity in semi-serviced or completely virgin markets made up of tens of millions of urban, car-less residents throughout the world. Not to mention the tens of millions of urban car owners who may one day make the switch to a more convenient, environmentally friendly form of car ownership!

Opportunities

Springwise sees a major market for DVD player/disc rental ‘on the go’. It will work with any infrastructure that offers drop-off points right after usage. Train stations, airports, bus stations and vast rental car networks are obvious starting points (road trips with children: need we say more? ;-). For customers with DVD-enabled laptops, plain on-the-go rental is a pleasant option, as every mailbox becomes a drop-off point (like the now-famous Netflix model for home-rentals). And with multi-language discs, catering to international crowds on airports and European train stations shouldn’t be a problem. And what about books? Games? Digital cameras? Full service laptops? May we suggest that serial entrepreneurs, Blockbuster, Greyhound, Amazon, Amtrak, Avis, Netflix, British Airways, EasyJet, Southwest Airlines, and Hertz get moving! Useful links www.portabledvdrentals.com

Portable DVD players for rent on trains and planes

Un idée très sympa: take long train journeys, mix with boredom, add the ever-decreasing costs of portable DVD players and discs, and you’re in the business of French ‘Cinétrain‘, who will let you rent a mini-DVD player and a movie of choice on departure, which you then watch during your rail-bound journey, and drop off at the kiosk at your station of arrival (all for EUR 9,95). Cinétrain offers this new service at 7 major train stations in France, from Paris and Lyon to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille. Amazon and the French Railways (SNCF) are partners. Besides Cinétrain in France, there’s InMotion Pictures in the US, doing the same thing for air travel, with 21 airport-based rental/drop-off spots. InMotion charges USD 10 a day for the service in which a traveler rents a laptop-size, battery-powered, portable DVD player, a movie and a headset. InMotion’s plan is to be in 30 airports by the end of the year and 150 North American airports within five years.

Opportunities

Springwise sees a major market for DVD player/disc rental ‘on the go’. It will work with any infrastructure that offers drop-off points right after usage. Train stations, airports, bus stations and vast rental car networks are obvious starting points (road trips with children: need we say more? ;-). For customers with DVD-enabled laptops, plain on-the-go rental is a pleasant option, as every mailbox becomes a drop-off point (like the now-famous Netflix model for home-rentals). And with multi-language discs, catering to international crowds on airports and European train stations shouldn’t be a problem. And what about books? Games? Digital cameras? Full service laptops? May we suggest that serial entrepreneurs, Blockbuster, Greyhound, Amazon, Amtrak, Avis, Netflix, British Airways, EasyJet, Southwest Airlines, and Hertz get moving! Useful links www.portabledvdrentals.com