Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Anyone who’s part of today’s “always-on” world knows that unplugging once in a while can be critical for one’s mental health. That’s surely a big part of the rationale behind Swedish telecom provider Telia’s “internet-free zones” this summer, not to mention the emphasis on offline board games at Toronto’s Snakes & Lattes café. Now, along similar lines, Marriott’s Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel offers a weekend package to help the “always-on” set unplug and recharge. Through to 25 September, the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel’s “Zen and the Art of Detox” package offers overstressed consumers a “chance to revive yourself from an over stimulated world,” in the hotel’s own words. Toward that end, the package not only offers accommodations in a deluxe king room, but participating guests must surrender any laptop, cell phone or other digital devices upon check-in for safekeeping until departure. To help make up for that temporary loss, the Renaissance stocks the rooms of participating guests with literary classics in place of the television, phone and docking station that would otherwise be there. Rates for the “Detox” weekend vary between USD 199 and USD 399 per night; also included are kayak lessons within a short walk from the hotel. It may well be that in the coming years, helping consumers unplug is as valuable a service as helping them plug in originally was. How can your brand help customers relax and recharge? Spotted by: R Steinberg Many of the bicycle related innovations we’ve seen over recent years have capitalized on the vehicle’s eco-friendly credentials. Now London-based folding bike manufacturers Brompton are also drawing attention to the bike’s superior convenience over other modes of transport, offering commuters an alternative to buses, trains and taxis with the Brompton Dock — a new bike hire concept. Currently being piloted at Guildford station in Surrey in partnership with South West trains, Brompton Dock is an extension of familiar ‘park and ride’ programs. Commuters arrive at Guildford train station where 40 Bromptons are stored in a bank of lockers on the platform. When the membership smartcard is swiped, a screen indicates which bay is unlocked, and the commuter can take the folded bike to use straight away, or carry on the train to within cycling distance of their destination. Members can keep the bike for as long as they like, and return it to the dock when they’re finished. The program is designed to be “simple, convenient and excellent value for money”. Membership costs GBP 50 a year, and includes annual 24/7 access to Brompton Dock. Bike hire is GBP 4 per day for a single day, GBP 2 per day for more than a week’s hire, and GBP 1.60 per day for one month’s hire. The smartcard keeps track of bike usage and members are charged at the end of each month. Though currently only available in Guildford, Brompton are working with South West trains and other organizations to bring the program to other locations. Brompton Dock hopes to save members time and money on tube or bus travel, provide a cheaper alternative to purchasing a Brompton, and, with the smartcard, eliminate the hassle of carrying cash. What’s more, by applying the ‘park and ride’ mechanic to folding bikes, they’ve made the model more versatile than before. An idea with appeal to commuters in the UK and beyond? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck Care for the elderly is a challenge that crosses borders and spans the world, so it’s not surprising we’ve seen such a variety of potential solutions. Where the pop-up MedCottage helps adult children take care of their aging parents at home for instance, the new Mi-Look device from Japanese KDDI helps ensure the safety of elders who live alone. Due to become available next month in Japan, the Kyocera-made Mi-Look is a GPS-enabled mobile device with pedometer capabilities. Designed for elderly family members, the device features a water-resistant body and three large buttons for operation. The Mi-Look can automatically email predesignated family members with information about the elderly user’s distance walked and current location; motion detectors in its charging station, meanwhile, count the number of times the user passes by and sends that data to loved ones as well. A simple pull-tab on the device triggers an emergency buzzer, while its charging cradle doubles as a speakerphone that can automatically answer calls. The Mi-Look will reportedly retail for JPY 20,000. A DigInfo video below demonstrates the device in action: By the year 2050, there will be more than 1.5 billion people worldwide over the age of 65, according to the US Census Bureau. How can your brand use technology to ensure they’re well cared for? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck It seems difficult to overstate the versatility of the humble shipping container. Just recently we’ve seen it used to create a pop-up shopping mall and a touring kitchen; past sightings have included pop-up health clinics, restaurants and hotel rooms. The latest spotting? Citihub Mandaluyong, a dormitory in the Philippines that’s built from shipping containers and designed for low-income workers and students. The brainchild of Manila’s Arcya Commercial Corporation, Citihub Mandaluyong is situated on a stretch of land in Mandaluyong along the Pasig River, according to a report on the Manila Bulletin. Four shipping containers make up the dorm, which includes separate air-conditioned housing and bathrooms for men and women. Pricing is just PHP 1,500 per month including water and electricity. Besides fulfilling what’s clearly a pressing unmet need, Citihub Mandaluyong is also a perfect example of what our sister site would call a functionall offering — one that’s simple, inexpensive and designed primarily with low-income consumers in mind. It also seems ripe with global potential; one to emulate in your neck of the woods? We’ve already seen one pedal-powered school bus supported by advertising, but recently we came across something similar on the other side of the world. Whereas Ghana’s TriKademiK is offered as a brand butler in the hopes of helping African families keep their kids in school, Dutch De Cafe Racer’s BSO vehicle is pedaled by the kids and designed primarily for after-school care. De Cafe Racer actually offers several group-powered bicycles for parties and other social events. On these, seating ranges from eight up to seventeen riders and an on-board bar serves beer; pricing is EUR 195 for a full day’s rental of the 17-seater vehicle. De Cafe Racer’s bus for after-school care, on the other hand, accommodates up to 10 children along with an adult driver. Most seats on the bus include pedals so kids can power the vehicle themselves, but the driver also has access to an auxiliary electric motor. Much the way pedal power is already making the world of urban cargo delivery more environmentally friendly, so it holds similar potential for the transportation of children. A little extra exercise for the kids is icing on the proverbial cake. One for your eco-minded brand to sponsor, partner with or otherwise get involved in? Spotted by: Gabriel Vanduinen The modular offices, hotels and condominiums which we’ve seen popping up around the globe recently, are indicative of the demand for flexible and adaptable construction options. The latest to launch on the modular market is UK company 3rd Space, with their modular garden rooms. 3rd Space is designed and fabricated by Sawhorse, a partnership between award-winning architect Paul Grindley and interior architect and project manager, Ben Jardine. Acknowledging that every garden is different, the modular system allows garden rooms to be configured to suit the surroundings, and can be arranged as an L-shape, C-shape or in bespoke layouts. Built to order, customers can choose from standard room designs or create something unique to better suit their garden with regards to views, privacy and sun paths. Standard rooms use birch ply finishes and Western Red Cedar cladding, with the option to choose from “endless” material possibilities and a range personalized internal finishes. In the words of 3rd Space, rooms have an “elegant, modern design and [are] hand-crafted with the highest quality materials”, designed to allow for true customization. They can be extended by adding on extra bays and quickly dismantled, making them easy to relocate. Rooms take four to six weeks to be designed and delivered, with a standard installation taking between three and four days. A standard 2.4m by 2.4m bay with one door and three infill panels costs from GBP 13,800 including VAT. Offering customizable products means consumers can make purchase decisions according to their personal style and financial situation. As with 3rd Space, this was a large part of the appeal behind WWOO’s outdoor kitchen units as well. Could you offer similar options with your own product or service? For smokers, it’s one thing to be told that cigarettes are damaging to the lungs; it’s quite another, however, to see a visual depiction of that destruction. Enter London marketing firm SapientNitro, which recently created “AR Lungs,” an augmented reality app that displays the harm that can be done by smoking. To see AR Lungs in action, smokers need a computer webcam or smartphone camera. First, they download and print the augmented reality (AR) “tag” from the app’s website. Next, they visit the main site and hold the AR tag in front of their chest while facing the camera to superimpose digital lungs over their own image. Using on-screen sliders, they also input the number of years they have smoked and the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Whereas a nonsmoker will see healthy, pink lungs, someone who has smoked 15 cigarettes a day for 17 years, for example, would see a visual representation of the damage and discoloration their smoking has caused. SapientNitro consulted medical experts to establish and depict the degree of visual lung damage, it says. Augmented reality has appeared numerous times on our virtual pages already, but never for health-related purposes such as this. Further possibilities abound! Spotted by: Katharina Kieck There’s no denying the power of tryvertising, and we’ve recently seen it put to work online, in retail stores and through the mail. Now, much the way Birchbox delivers beauty samples by curated subscription, so California-based Hiskit is gearing up to put a male-oriented spin on the concept with a subscription service for samples targeting men. Once it launches this fall, Hiskit will send out a deluxe box each month filled with hand-selected products tailored especially for men. To participate, consumers need only sign up with the service before the last day of the month; pricing is USD 12 monthly. Then, just after the middle of each month they’ll receive a kit filled with three to five hand-selected, male-oriented samples. “Members should expect to receive products from different categories, varying from shaving needs to underwear, fragrances to phone accessories and moisturizers to socks,” the site explains. Hiskit plans to allow subscribers to customize the types of samples they receive, it says, and it will also offer full-sized versions of all the samples it sends out in its online store. In the meantime, Hiskit will initially serve only US consumers. Male-oriented brands: one to get in on with samples of your own, or replicate with a tryvertising scheme in your own area? Spotted by: Josh Gall It was just last month we saw Maxwell House handing out free coffee and positive messages at their Optimism Cafe in Toronto, and now Maynards Canada — another Kraft Canada brand — are using another novel marketing approach with a human touch by giving customers the chance to have their face immortalized in Maynards candy. Jessica Sheth, Brand Manager for Maynards Candy, explains “Maynards fans are an extremely passionate bunch when it comes to expressing their love for their favourite candy. So we thought hey, why not let a Maynards fan actually be a Maynards?” The ‘Make Your Face a Maynards’ competition, open until 30 September, is being managed via Facebook. Users first have to ‘like’ the Maynards Canada Facebook page in order to then upload a photo. Using the trace tool they cut their face from the picture and can choose to transform it into one of Maynard’s most popular treats: Sour Patch Kids, Fuzzy Peach, Sour Cherry Blasters, or Swedish Berries. Image brightness and contrast can be adjusted before the fan creates a custom pack design and submits a brief statement as to why their face would be the perfect match for Maynards. Officials will then select the top ten faces to be showcased on the Facebook page before a winner is determined by a random draw on 24 October. The prize includes CAD 5,000, a trip for two to Toronto for a photo shoot, a tour of the Maynards factory, and a year’s supply of Maynards candy featuring the winner’s face. With nearly 62,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook the competition is clearly popular, and Maynards will enjoy additional publicity from presence on fan’s profile pages. How could you create something similar to give back to your most loyal fans? Scarcely a week goes by without our spotting some new twist on the “deal a day” theme. The latest to catch our attention? Groundswell Health, a San Francisco company that’s bringing the power of Groupon-style collective buying to healthcare practices and other purchasers of medical supplies and equipment. Now in beta, Groundswell Health aims to help the healthcare industry achieve real savings on the medical goods and services that are bought and sold every day. Toward that end, it’s created a site based on the deal-a-day model that serves up significant discounts on assorted medical supplies and equipment. For example, a spirometer is currently listed on the site for USD 995, and visitors can also see number of sales for that product so far and a countdown of the time remaining to take advantage of the deal. In some cases, there’s also a minimum number of purchases required, and a URL for sharing is provided to help ensure that goal is achieved. Either way, assuming any minimum orders are met, the product is then shipped to all those who ordered it before the deadline passed. Groundswell Health serves as an authorized dealer for each of its partner brands, so all products sold are covered by the manufacturer’s standard warranties and guarantees. Groundswell currently seeks medical brands to partner with on its collective deals. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs, meanwhile, may want to consider setting up a similar B2B offering in another industry niche. Keep the group buying innovations coming!