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Travellers with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, who don’t want their diets to get in the way of enjoying international culture and cuisine, are now catered to by Canadian Allergy Translation Cards. The company’s credit card-sized printouts can be customized to suit a person’s dietary needs and travel destination—with information available on more than 175 food allergies and 11 special diets, which can be translated into 22 languages. To get their cards, customers simply log on to Allergy Translation’s website and enter information about their particular food allergies or sensitivities. They can choose from a long list of common allergens, including nuts and seeds, shellfish, soy and berries. There also are options for special diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, halal, low-fat or low-carb. They then select the language of their destination, so the information can be translated for customers to share with restaurant staff, grocers and hosts. For CAD 8 they can print as many copies as they like. It’s an easy way to ensure that dietary restrictions are accurately communicated, without having to fumble through the pages of a foreign language dictionary. And since they can be printed instantly, spur-of-the-moment trips aren’t an issue. A simple and practical way for food allergy sufferers to buy peace of mind, Allergy Translation Cards could be a smart investment for health insurance companies. The concept can also be replicated to other types of information. Cheat sheets for business travellers, for example, with customized translations of the phrases most relevant to their industry or travel purpose. While consumers might not be as likely to pay for information that isn’t potentially life-saving, offering free, relevant information to a narrowly targeted audience can bring in the ad dollars, yens and francs. While budding entrepreneurs can choose from a wide range of standard business plan software, PlanHQ is the first we’ve seen that allows for easy online collaboration. In the start-up phase, this means partners can work on a plan together from anywhere they can get online. Later on, investors and other stakeholders can easily keep track of how the business is developing. The online application takes what is often a static text document or spreadsheet, left for dead once banks have been convinced or investors wooed, and turns it into a tool that can be used well beyond the planning stage. Besides walking a user through the process of creating a business plan, PlanHQ lets entrepreneurs manage key business and financial information online, track finances and monitor timelines, comparing forecasts with actual performance. All in a friendly Web 2.0-style, reminiscent of online applications by 37signals. New Zealand-based PlanHQ offers a free 30-day trial and premium plans are priced from USD 9 – 49 per month. If you’ve found inspiration on Springwise and are itching to go from idea to business yourself, PlanHQ is worth checking out. Contact: Tim Norton, tim@planhq.com Spotted by: Tim de Jardine In a variation on online dating, two new concepts allow people to connect online after first meeting (briefly) in the physical world. Canadian Admit an Attraction prints Attraction Tickets for members (CDN 9.95 for a twelve-pack). Members hand out a ticket to someone they meet in public. A ticket receiver can then go online to check out the member’s profile using a unique access code, and get in touch if the attraction is mutual. Since the tickets don’t contain any personal information, both parties are guaranteed a level of privacy they wouldn’t have if they exchanged phone numbers or email addresses. Hitchoo, which recently launched in Singapore, works on the same principle, sending members cards with a friendly “You made my day” on the front, and access details on the back.The first 8 cards are free; 12 additional cards can be bought for SGD 18. How is the carding system different from regular online dating? Physical chemistry is established up front, not after endless online chats and emails. And since the receiving party doesn’t have to be a member of an online service, members have access to a larger pool of potential mates. Of course, a simpler route would be to ask for someone’s phone number. But for shy consumers or those who don’t want to divulge personal details to total strangers, dating cards could definitely work. One to start up locally, or to add to your offerings if you’re already in the matchmaking business. Spotted by: William Chiang Understanding that citizen journalists are just as happy to be paid for their work as editors on a newspaper’s payroll, the Swedish version of Metro newspaper recently launched get-paid-per-view blogging. Anyone can set up a blog at Metrobloggen.se, which integrates blog creation tools with a system for micro-payments. As soon as an individual blog achieves 5,000 pageviews per month, Metro sets up a bank account and sends the author a MasterCard that’s credited with 150 Swedish kronor (USD 20 / EUR 16). Adhering to fiscal regulations, the media company deducts social security fees and withholds income tax. A number of popular metrobloggers previously published their own blogs on other platforms or their own websites. By switching to metrobloggen.se, they not only cash in on their writing efforts, but also have the chance to reach a larger audience, since strong blog content will be cross-published in Metro Sweden’s print edition and on metro.se, dishing up a blogger’s opinions to over a million readers. Metro Sweden, part of the international Metro conglomerate of free daily newspapers, has found a way to reward members of Generation C for the content they create. In doing so, they’re attracting dedicated bloggers and fleshing out the paper’s online content, allowing Metro to serve up more online ads. Their payment model is one to follow if you’re in publishing or media. For more on paying consumers for their creative output, check out trendwatching.com’s Generation C(ash). A new restaurant recently opened on East 63rd Street at Park Avenue. Within three months, it will close. And reopen. And close. And reopen. With each season, what was formerly known as Park Avenue Café will be reborn as a new restaurant. Park Avenue Summer, as it’s currently named, is part of the Smith & Wollensky restaurant group and is supremely in tune with the seasons. While most restaurants adapt their menus to accommodate the available foods and prevailing moods of the time of year, Park Avenue takes seasonality to a new heights and will also completely revamp its décor, staff uniforms and place settings. Currently, waitresses wear sundresses, wall panels are yellow, and guests are served Lemon Sole and Peach Sorbet. The restaurant’s interior was created by design agency AvroKO, which took cues from theatre stage sets to help facilitate the transition to Park Avenue Autumn in September. The concept is an interesting combination of a still made here adherence to nature’s rhythms and of the appeal of anything short-lived (a.k.a. pop-up). Park Avenue Summer reminds us of InterContinental’s Hotel Indigo, which features mood elements that change to reflect the seasons. If you’re in hospitality, take a cue from the pioneers and see if you too can radically transform with the seasons, or with a more arbitrary timeline. Do it well, and customers will keep returning to experience your latest twists and turns. Spotted by: Salli Vates When GE launched “Imagination at Work” as its new slogan to replace “We Bring Good Things To Life”, the most eye-catching part of its online campaign was a virtual whiteboard that visitors could sketch and scribble on. Apparently, someone at GE had the smarts to transfer the ad’s essence to the gleaming white surfaces of GE’s appliances. White goods + whiteboard…? Witness the birth of the sketch-a-fridge. Currently only available in Brazil, where it is sold as Risque Rabisque (roughly: Scrawl & Scribble), the refrigerator is covered in a special coating similar to dry erase whiteboards. Replacing the age-old practice of sticking grocery lists and children’s drawings on the fridge, missives can now be written directly on the appliance and easily wiped off. It’s a simple innovation that cleverly integrates existing human behaviour, and turns a mundane product into something playful and appealing. Opportunities? When rethinking a product or service, don’t just focus on features or haute design. An element of fun can be just as much of a sales magnet, at a fraction of the cost. Adding an interesting twist, GE isn’t the only company to launch fridge-a-doodlers in Brazil this year. One of Whirlpool’s Brazilian appliance brands, Consul, is peddling Aquarela, a line of sketchable refrigerators. Who peeked at whose design boards? If you know the answer, leave a comment 😉 Spotted by: Bruno Altieri While some mobile services work towards such lofty goals as helping people find their soul mates, or making local government more efficient, others focus on more basic needs. Take MizPee, which offers one very simple service: helping users find the nearest, cleanest restroom when they need one. Customers simply go to www.mizpee.com from their web-enabled cellphone, type in their current location (city and street address) and click on find. MizPee comes back with a list of nearby facilities, including details such as distance, user rating and whether a purchase is required, if the toilet is located in a store or restaurant. The service is initially launching in San Francisco, and allows relief-seekers to narrow their search to facilities with handicap access or diaper-changing areas. Desperate but dainty users can even limit results to restrooms that have been awarded a five-star rating for cleanliness. While it may seem frilly, MizPee is actually a smart mobile service, providing information that almost every consumer needs at one point or another while they’re on the go. It’s infolust brought back to the basics. Time to brainstorm and find other essential information needs aren’t yet adequately fulfilled? Collect them, let users fill in the missing blanks, and serve up the info along with relevant marketing messages. MizPee is currently free for users, and sponsorship by a toilet paper brand or bathroom cleaning product seems like a logical next step. Related: Luxe London loos. Spotted by: Bill McMahon Passengers on Contiki tour buses can now relax and enjoy their travels without stressing about their mobile phones, digital cameras, iPods or other portable electronic devices running out of juice. Australian-based Contiki has introduced Charging on the Go as a free service to customers. Starting this summer, the company is outfitting all of its European coaches with electronic charging units, so customers can plug in while en route to their destination and not have to worry about their batteries going flat. This is a smart move considering how much people increasingly rely on digital devices, especially while travelling. It adds an extra layer of convenience for customers—and should be particularly appealing to the Gen X and Gen Y crowd that Contiki primarily caters to. Every business serving consumers in transit can win their approval by helping them stay wired, connected and powered. Related: Charge lockers. Anyone can get in on the music business with GoodStorm’s MixTape, a hot new widget that users can add to their personal websites, blogs or MySpace pages to promote independent music acts—and make a cut of the profit for selling downloads. Music lovers who want to impress their friends by discovering cool new musical acts—and make a little pocket change in the process—can sign up for a free account. They can hand pick songs from GoodStorm’s collection of more than 2.7 million indie tracks to create their MixTapes, or they can upload their own music, provided they hold the appropriate copyright. Each MixTape can contain up to 100 songs and can be posted on any web page, where visitors can listen to clips and purchase downloads via the widget for USD 99 cents, 65 cents of which goes to the artist and 5 cents to the seller—modest amounts that can add up quickly. For instance, a band would make USD 6.50 for an album of 10 songs, and the seller would make 50 cents just for recommending it on his or her blog or site. GoodStorm takes its own cut of 29 cents per download. Essentially an affiliate sales program built around widget technology, MixTape offers a new way for artists to get noticed, and for fans to support independent musicians and become a force in the music industry. It’s an innovative approach that’s already creating quite a buzz—Amnesty International is using it to promote viral sales of their Instant Karma CD, which features re-recorded John Lennon tracks to raise money for aid to Darfur. Of course, the concept will only work if consumers are willing to buy digital music outside stores like iTunes. But we love the practice of giving customers a revenue cut for their marketing efforts. See trendwatching.com’s Generation C(ash) for more examples of how businesses are rewarding consumers. Spotted by: Bill McMahon What do you get when you cross online classified ads with web-based video? Realpeoplerealstuff.com is equal parts Craigslist and YouTube—a whole new way for customers to reach out to one another to sell their used appliances, automobiles, collectibles, concert tickets and countless other goods and services. “Realpeoplerealstuff.com combines the hottest internet trends in one, easy-to-use site: e-commerce, snarky writing, funny videos, everyone’s desire to be a star and video sharing.” With a few clicks of a mouse, customers can upload their own video commercials, recorded on their camcorders, webcams, digital cameras or cameraphones. Ads are organized by category and location, and users can enter text descriptions, prices, thumbnail photos and tags along with their video clips. For best results, users are encouraged to engage their personality, creativity and sense of humour when filming their commercials. And who knows? One may well turn out to be the next average Joe or Jane launched into internet stardom. The service is entirely free—for now at least, though there may come a day when, like Craigslist, modest charges apply to select portions. Realpeoplerealstuff.com improves on two of the top trends on the internet—videos and classified ads—by combining them. And it’s a smart new use of personal video, especially considering the number of people who are growing accustomed to using their cellphones or digicams to create and upload their own videos. With classifieds, videos obviously a useful extra layer of information, especially when it comes to renting apartments or selling cars and other large items. Definitely one to start up locally. (Related: Hotel search? Video completes the picture.) Spotted by: Ozgur Alaz