Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Sports fans face no shortage of opportunities to bet on their favorite teams and players, but that can be an expensive and risky pastime. Mojingo is a new site that lets fans exchange tips and information and participate for free in fantasy contests with real, cash prizes. Now in beta, New York-based Mojingo is not a gambling site, it stresses. Rather, users participate in all contests for free. Sports fans can use the site to share knowledge, research games and compete in fantasy contests for cash and non-cash prizes. Users begin by making picks on games against real-time betting lines. Each real life game has a contest associated to it, and when a user submits a pick, he or she is automatically entered into the contest for which that specific game qualifies. Each of the six major US sports are represented on Mojingo, and easy-to-use dashboards offer insight into each participant’s current standings. Correct picks earn points for the users who made them, leading ultimately to a chance to win real prizes. Registration on Mojingo.com is free, allowing users to participate in any of the site’s contests. Currently, ad-supported Mojingo focuses primarily on American sports and US-based fans, tapping into the massive market of sports fans while steering clear of the murky world of gambling. Who will bring something like this to other parts of the world? Spotted by: David Swerdloff Product life stories are a familiar concept by now to regular Springwise readers. Sometimes those stories derive from a product’s source materials, such as Diana Eng’s fortune cookie purses. Other times, however, those stories are more a matter of the history and acquisition of the product itself. Creating product stories of the latter kind is The Van, a two-woman Belgian enterprise that uses a Volkswagen bus to tour surrounding areas for unique gifts and then serves those treasures up in a curated online store. Home fashions, accessories and children’s goods are the primary focus of The Van, which lists its products by category, price range and brand. Shipping is available primarily to customers in Europe, with free delivery within Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland on orders exceeding EUR 150. Currently, product descriptions list only the features of the items themselves, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see The Van begin adding details of how they came across each product, thereby enriching the site’s story-telling aspects further. In any case, the basic concept — a store curated through the travels of a quirky team — is ripe for emulation around the globe. Time to hit the road and go shopping…? (Related: Objects’ stories, trackable & brought to life onlineLaotian kudzu bags with a mission and a storyCurated marketplace shares one product story each day.) Spotted by: Noortje Berrevoet-Verhoeven We’ve been writing about swap initiatives for years, including efforts for exchanging books and CDs, furniture, clothing, and even homes. Whereas most of these efforts focus on exchanges of like-valued items between two people, we’ve now spotted Finnish Netcycler, which opens up swaps to “trade rings” involving multiple people and unevenly matched goods. Netcycler is a service for giving away and acquiring secondhand goods without exchanging any cash. To participate, users list what they’d like to give away, along with something they’d like to get in return. Those “wishes,” as the site calls them, needn’t match the commercial value of the items being given away. Using a unique matching technology, Netcycler then sets up “trade rings” that can include multiple people whereby each gets a wished-for item and is able to get rid of something too. Each resulting swap is different as a result; one, for example, might include an MP3 player, children’s clothing and a bookshelf — not equivalent in commercial value, perhaps, but evenly matched in satisfying the wishes of the participating users. Swaps on Netcycler are free; the company’s revenue comes from additional services, such as an integrated shipping option. Netcycler currently operates sites in Finland and Germany, with a UK version now in closed beta. One to help bring to your neck of the cash-free woods…? Spotted by: John Greene & Murray Orange The NYC Big Apps competition is now in its second year, offering USD 20,000 of prizes encouraging developers to produce applications that “Help New York City become more transparent, accessible, and accountable.” One recent entry caught our eye for its innovative concept and integration with Foursquare. DontEat.at aims to warn users when they check in to a New York restaurant that is in danger of being closed for health code violations. Max Stoller, a computer science student that developed the service, notes that there are 1660 restaurants in the city that scored 28 points or more on their graded inspections without being closed. These establishments are targeted by the Health Department for extra checks, but Stoller aims to give diners the information they need to avoid them altogether. To do so, users sign in to the website with their Foursquare login — giving the system access to their registered mobile phone number. They will then be sent a warning message if they check in to a poorly-rated restaurant. Max Stoller has already recognized the nationwide appeal of his concept, and is in the process of expanding it to other cities. We have no doubt that a similar service would achieve success in increasingly health-conscious cities around the globe. How can you harness the growing pool of publicly-available data to present the masses with genuinely useful information? Spotted by: Katherine Noyes The virtual ink had barely dried on our story about SwipeGood when we received word of Pennies, a like-minded UK contender. Billed as “the electronic charity box,” Pennies aims to provide an “easy, affordable, private and secure way for people to donate between 1 penny and 99 pence to UK charities, big and small, as they shop and pay by card,” in the site’s own words. Originally launched last November with the support of Domino’s Pizza, Pennies gives shoppers the option to donate a few pennies — whatever it takes to round up their purchase total — when they pay by debit card, credit card or electronically. Using the service involves tapping just a single button on the Chip or PIN machine in-store, or clicking once on the mouse for an online purchase. Shoppers who approve the donation can, however, make a big difference, the site maintains. If just half of the UK’s card holders approved just 8 pence a week in donations, for example — the full amount of which goes to the designated charities — it would generate an additional GBP 89 million every year, Pennies says. Most — roughly 75 percent — of donated funds go to the charities retailers have nominated. The rest goes to supporting children, the elderly, the sick or disabled and generally anyone who needs a helping hand. Shoppers can always view the selections of participating retailers and approve their donations. Travelodge and UK-based Zizzi Pizza are the latest retailers to partner with Pennies. Other retailers and charities around the globe: How about you?
 Spotted by: David Lundholm One of the greatest challenges for cancer patients is determining the best treatment option for their particular instance of the disease. That’s made especially complex by the sheer number of experiments and trials going on at any given time, and the difficulty of zeroing in on the most promising ones for a particular individual. Cancer Commons hopes to make that process easier through a web application that taps the wisdom of the medical crowds to help doctors and patients find the best personalized solution. California-based Cancer Commons was founded by a cancer survivor who believes he would not have found the experimental therapies that saved him if not for personal connections at the US National Cancer Institute, according to a CBC News report. Accordingly, the free “open science” initiative hopes to help others succeed as well by creating new ways of finding individually tailored cancer information online. Beginning with melanoma, Cancer Commons is being developed one cancer at a time in partnership with leading professional and patient advocacy organizations, pharmaceutical companies, medical centers, and health informatics companies. At the core of each resulting “commons” is a curated Molecular Disease Model (MDM) that lists the known molecular subtypes of that cancer and then links to the relevant pathways, diagnostic tests, approved and experimental (targeted) therapies, and clinical trials. Doctors and patients can input key factors and variables about the particular instance they’re fighting, and the MDM will match those factors with the treatments that have been most successful so far. Clinicians and researchers, meanwhile, can post peer-reviewed clinical observations and data that may be too early for formal presentation but may still be useful for late-stage patients, for example, while physicians and patients can report outcomes and side effects. Ultimately, the site hopes to provide patients with “personalized, actionable information that can save lives, while providing the life sciences industry with a game changing infrastructure that will slash the time and cost of developing new drugs and diagnostics and getting them to patients”. Cancer Commons is now working on standardizing the process by which its Molecular Disease Models are collaboratively created, and plans to apply it over the next year to other common cancers. While the site is free for doctors and patients to use, its revenue model focuses on pharmaceutical industry sponsorships. Medical and pharmaceutical entrepreneurs: one to get involved in? (Related: Health care by monthly membershipGlobal directory lets medical tourists find & review clinicsOnline shopping for medical services.) Spotted by: R.P. Wall stickers are nothing new to our virtual pages, but it wasn’t until just recently that we came across wall stickers with a message. UK-based HU2 makes a variety of wall decals that remind users to turn off, shut down and unplug. In addition to its considerable selection of whimsical wall stickers, UK-based HU2 also offers numerous stickers that are designed to remind consumers of their eco-responsibilities. One, for example, portrays a tap pouring out money, and is designed for placement next to a wall’s light switch; another uses imagery of a hamster on a treadmill to convey the necessity of conserving energy. Yet another for use on a computer reminds users that, “there’s no reason to keep a laptop plugged in after it’s been charged.” Then, too, there are recycling reminders and stickers with water-conservation themes. Pricing starts at GBP 12.90 per sticker. Made of PVC-free vinyl and shipped in eco-friendly packaging, HU2 products are available online for shipping worldwide. Sticky-minded minipreneurs: time to craft some green reminders of your own…? (Related: Sticky car art–now for laptops and walls, tooTaking wallpaper outside.) Spotted by: Murtaza Patel & Ana Camargo The drive for sustainable energy has seen solar panels embedded in everything from phones to window panes to insect traps. However, the government of North Holland is now planning to install solar panels on a cycle path near the town of Krommenie, near Amsterdam. The Solaroad project has been developed by the TNO research institute alongside the Province of North Holland, the Ooms Avenhorn Group and Imtech. The design was unveiled at concept stage yesterday and is scheduled to be installed in 2012. The modular system consists of thick concrete blocks covered in a 1cm thick layer of silicon solar cells, which are then protected by toughed glass. It is expected to generate 50 kWh per square meter per year — electricity that can then be used for street lighting, traffic systems, or for household use. The wave of solar innovations shows no sign of slowing down. Meanwhile, governments and businesses around the world are clamoring for a piece of the solar pie. Where does your brand fit in? If variety is the spice of life, then most of us live a fairly bland existence on our desktop computers, whose background wallpaper we tend to leave the same, day after day. Enter Wallcast, a new application that transforms desktop wallpaper into a dynamic photo collage featuring a rotating selection of the user’s favorite pictures. To get started, users of Wallcast — which is now in beta — create an online account, upload at least five pictures and download the free desktop application. Wallcast then turns the user’s static desktop background into an array of photos that’s refreshed every three hours, or however often the user requests. Users can select a background image from among various options offered by Wallcast. Meanwhile, each Wallcast account gets a unique email address, so pictures can be added online, by email or via a separate iPhone app. Even friends and family can be invited to contribute photos to a user’s Wallcast account, and Wallcast will detect and display those new photos automatically. Wallcast is available as a free download for PC and Mac; its iPhone app is available through Apple’s App Store. Created by Canadian LimeFlag, Wallcast may well end up serving ads if its terms of service are any indication. If that’s the case, then an even better approach might be to offer consumers something like this as a brand butler service instead, with no ads to spoil the personalized effect. How could your brand help consumers personalize their computers even more…? (Related: Digital photo booth uses free photos as brand marketing toolCollaborative photo books help groups tell storiesOnline portal gathers wedding photos from guests.) Spotted by: Marie Asselin Back in 2006 we thought the Jitterbug looked like a simple phone. Then we saw John’s Phone, which just launched last year. Billed as “the world’s most simple phone,” John’s Phone may indeed be just that, with features that focus exclusively — really exclusively — on making and receiving calls. Designed by Dutch creative agency John Doe Amsterdam, John’s Phone comes unlocked and it includes no frills. Features such as a camera, text messaging capabilities and numerous ringtones are not to be found on the device, which is designed instead to require no explanation. Rather, John’s Phone features calling capabilities, large keys, volume control, locking capabilities, an earphone for hands-free use and a speed-dial function — which makes it particularly suitable for children, the company says. On the back of the device, meanwhile, is a flap containing an address book and a pen — features John Doe figures might appeal to older users. John’s Phone is available in five colors, and it’s compatible with any type of SIM card around the world. It also supports global roaming, except on the 3G networks in South Korea and Japan. With a standby time of more than three weeks, John’s Phone is priced at EUR 79.95 for all colors except white, which is EUR 69.95. Given the complexity of most technology today, it should be no surprise that simplification should be a potent counter-trend. Whether for senior citizens, kids, or those just tired of feature overkill, how could you simplify things for the niche of your choice? (Related: Remote computer support for senior citizensPersonal ‘cloud phone’ service for rural users without a handsetModular mobile phone can slip into new roles.) Spotted by: Karin Thomas