Create the Future. Today

As more and more security measures are being brought in to make internet banking securer than ever before, it was only a matter of time before we saw similar precautions introduced at ATM machines. Now, Moscow-based Sberbank has developed a banking machine that can tell when a patron is lying. Designed to help combat consumer credit fraud, Sberbank’s new ATM features voice-analysis technology developed by the Speech Technology Center, a Russian firm that also serves the Russian Federal Security Service, according to a report in the New York Times. Credit card applications for brand-new customers can reportedly be handled through the device, which will ask — and analyze the veracity of answers to — questions including, “Are you employed?” and “At this moment, do you have any other outstanding loans?” As part of the application process, the ATM will also scan the applicant’s passport, record fingerprints and take a 3D scan for facial recognition. To comply with privacy laws, the bank will reportedly store customers’ voice prints on chips contained in their own credit cards rather than on its servers. Though the new ATM design is still in the prototype stages, Sberbank plans to install such machines in malls and bank branches around the country, the NYT reports. Financial institutions elsewhere in the world: time to think about introducing something similar? Spotted by: Gabriel Vanduinen Helen Andreae is the creator of Auti, a toy designed to help autistic children learn positive play behaviors. Having worked as a Design Intern at Formway, and as a graphic designer for a crowd-funded TV show and an early social network, Helen went on to create Auti for her Industrial Design degree at Victoria University of Wellington. She is now continuing to develop her work on Auti, while also working as a Research Assistant and Tutor at Victoria University.

Designed to teach autistic children how to interact with others, Auti’s sensors will shut down and switch off the toy in response to anti-social behavior such as screaming or hitting. Equally, the toy will respond positively, with small animal-like movements if the child speaks softly or strokes Auti’s fur. Suitable for children aged six months and above, Auti is currently still a prototype, and Andreae would like to broaden its functions for a range of teaching applications before considering producing Auti commercially.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I’ll tell you when I’ve built it. I am too early in the process to answer that one yet.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Auti?
Well, there are lots of ways I relax – spending time with family and friends, blobbing in front of the TV, or just playing with stuff. I think that Play-doh is an under-utilized tool for adults. Playing with something that only requires your time and enjoyment is very important for your mental health, I think. Also, just thinking is good; I don’t think people spend enough time in silence.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
I’m not really there yet; but would love it if you could tell me. My guess is that with a new product or business, the best thing you can have is help from people who have done it before. That way you can make your own mistakes and not just repeat theirs. I think it is very important to be open to working with other people – nobody can do it all on their own.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I’ll tell you when I’ve built it. I am too early in the process to answer that one yet.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical work day in regards to Auti has only just started for me, but at the moment it consists of emails, market research and plenty of pondering over the possible directions to take Auti.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Auti?
Well, there are lots of ways I relax – spending time with family and friends, blobbing in front of the TV, or just playing with stuff. I think that Play-doh is an under-utilized tool for adults. Playing with something that only requires your time and enjoyment is very important for your mental health, I think. Also, just thinking is good; I don’t think people spend enough time in silence.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
I’m not really there yet; but would love it if you could tell me. My guess is that with a new product or business, the best thing you can have is help from people who have done it before. That way you can make your own mistakes and not just repeat theirs. I think it is very important to be open to working with other people – nobody can do it all on their own.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I’ll tell you when I’ve built it. I am too early in the process to answer that one yet.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
2. Have you drawn upon evidence that suggests that this kind of conditioning produces the desired behavioral impact?
There is plenty of evidence that conditioning, and positive and negative reinforcement works. We all have experienced it in our lives. Most of us crave praise, respect, and rewards. We hate being reprimanded or disciplined. There is a lot of research around conditioning. With Auti, what I would like to test further is whether the particular positive and negative feedback Auti provides is the right feedback to help encourage the correct behavior. The discussions that I have had with experts have seemed positive, as have the few times I have observed children playing with it. But this is certainly an area that we will be looking at a lot more carefully in the near future, I hope.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical work day in regards to Auti has only just started for me, but at the moment it consists of emails, market research and plenty of pondering over the possible directions to take Auti.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Auti?
Well, there are lots of ways I relax – spending time with family and friends, blobbing in front of the TV, or just playing with stuff. I think that Play-doh is an under-utilized tool for adults. Playing with something that only requires your time and enjoyment is very important for your mental health, I think. Also, just thinking is good; I don’t think people spend enough time in silence.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
I’m not really there yet; but would love it if you could tell me. My guess is that with a new product or business, the best thing you can have is help from people who have done it before. That way you can make your own mistakes and not just repeat theirs. I think it is very important to be open to working with other people – nobody can do it all on their own.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I’ll tell you when I’ve built it. I am too early in the process to answer that one yet.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here.
1. Where did the idea for Auti come from?
Where an idea comes from is always a difficult question to answer, as it happens when all the little thoughts that have been floating around in your mind, possibly for years, make a connection. The connections for Auti came together at about 4am one morning, early in my final year project for my honors degree at Victoria University of Wellington. I can identify some of the thoughts and motivations that came together:
• One motivation was that I wanted to make something that moved – when things move, it immediately adds life and an emotional connection to an object. I just find it fun to animate objects and make them real.
• Another motivation was that I wanted to make something that mattered. I have always really enjoyed design; but also felt that it can often be superficial, creating more products when we already have plenty. I wanted to put my time into designs that had a positive effect on the world and made a difference to people’s lives.
• I also love designing toys because toys are among the few things that are free from pressure and expectations. It’s also through play that children learn best (something that I think as adults we could benefit from too). Some of my projects in previous years focused on play, as well as designing for disabilities.
• Ideas for Auti were also sparked by discussion with family and friends. Because of my family’s involvement in education and research in learning, we were constantly talking about things to do with learning and behavior. Because of these discussions, I was aware of many of the issues around autism before I started my research.
When these ideas connected into a toy that would help autistic children, I got truly excited about it, and so I stuck to that idea, until it developed into Auti.
2. Have you drawn upon evidence that suggests that this kind of conditioning produces the desired behavioral impact?
There is plenty of evidence that conditioning, and positive and negative reinforcement works. We all have experienced it in our lives. Most of us crave praise, respect, and rewards. We hate being reprimanded or disciplined. There is a lot of research around conditioning. With Auti, what I would like to test further is whether the particular positive and negative feedback Auti provides is the right feedback to help encourage the correct behavior. The discussions that I have had with experts have seemed positive, as have the few times I have observed children playing with it. But this is certainly an area that we will be looking at a lot more carefully in the near future, I hope.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical work day in regards to Auti has only just started for me, but at the moment it consists of emails, market research and plenty of pondering over the possible directions to take Auti.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Auti?
Well, there are lots of ways I relax – spending time with family and friends, blobbing in front of the TV, or just playing with stuff. I think that Play-doh is an under-utilized tool for adults. Playing with something that only requires your time and enjoyment is very important for your mental health, I think. Also, just thinking is good; I don’t think people spend enough time in silence.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
I’m not really there yet; but would love it if you could tell me. My guess is that with a new product or business, the best thing you can have is help from people who have done it before. That way you can make your own mistakes and not just repeat theirs. I think it is very important to be open to working with other people – nobody can do it all on their own.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
I’ll tell you when I’ve built it. I am too early in the process to answer that one yet.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
I haven’t yet gotten to a point where I have been really tempted to give up. But when there have been challenges. I would say that biggest encouragement has been how positive peoples’ responses to the idea has been. I have also been amazed at how encouraging and supportive the autism community is. I also have a strong drive to avoid failing at anything; so I work hard to avoid it.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Again, I’m too near the start to answer that.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
Currently, I’m working with the development arm of Victoria University. We aren’t sure quite where we will take it as it develops. Starting my own company might be the way to go, but it may also be better to partner with another company which already has the experience and expertise. But in five years, I would love to see Auti being available, and being used. I would also like to be involved, either in my own company or in partnership with another company, in starting to develop other learning toys using the same behavioural feedback principles.
10. If you weren’t working on Auti, what would you be doing?
At the moment I am also working at the university doing research and teaching. I would probably working at a design company, preferably working on physical design that in some way addresses psychological, or social needs, as well as form or function.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Well that’s me, so my words to myself are: work hard, look for and accept good advice and help, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Thanks Helen!
You can read more about Auti in our article here, or visit the Auti website here. It’s not uncommon to see beers associated with a particular location or target audience, but Florida’s Cigar City Brewing has what may be the strongest dose of (still) made here appeal we’ve seen in the category so far. Focusing on Tampa’s cigar-making heritage and long history of Cuban influences, Cigar City Brewing produces a wide variety of flavored beers reflecting the culture and traditions of Florida. With a 15-barrel brewhouse occupying 6,600 sq. ft. in Tampa’s Carver City-Lincoln Gardens neighborhood, Cigar City Brewing aims to build “a specific flavor profile reminiscent of the foods and fauna of Florida,” in the company’s own words. “This might mean brewing with guava, aging beer on cigar box cedar or merely incorporating hops into our Jai Alai IPA redolent with the kinds of tropical fruit aromatics that one associates with Florida.” Cigar City Brewing also strives to use local ingredients whenever possible, resulting in a line of offerings that includes a Humidor Series aged on Spanish cedar, Good Gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Guava Grove Farmhouse Ale, to name just a few examples. The company also runs a local tasting room. It appears that Cigar City Brewing has come up with yet another innovative and distinctive twist on an ages-old beverage. Brew-minded entrepreneurs: what local influences could your brand tap to set itself apart? Spotted by: R.P It’s never easy gathering honest feedback from consumers about brands and advertising, particularly in artificial settings such as the market research lab. Where Chicago-based Lab42 has turned to social networks as a more natural place to reach consumers, UK-based Hall & Partners have begun offering a service from within a branded taxi cab. Rather than trying to gauge popular opinions in the artificial lab setting or awkward on-the-street interview, London market research firm Hall & Partners now offers its clients an alternative. Specifically, it has created a dedicated, branded taxi cab — complete with its own Facebook page — that brands can use to collect feedback while providing a valuable service to consumers. First seen fleetingly in 2007, the the Hall & Partners cab was relaunched this August, offering a range of market research services. Retail brands, for instance, can hire the Hall & Partners cab to shuttle shoppers home from the mall in comfort, in exchange for their thoughts about the shopping experience. Others can simply tour the streets for a day and provide rides in exchange for passengers’ views about a particular topic. One of Hall & Partners professional researchers is typically part of the package, which can include product and taste tests as well. Part brand butler, part tryvertising campaign and part market research tool, Hall & Partners’ taxi offers clients a compelling new way to get closer to customers while helping them out — not to mention serving as a highly visible mobile billboard for H&P itself. Researchers around the world: be inspired! Spotted by: Fadila Merizak With so many gadgets and mobile devices in common use today, keeping them all charged has become an ongoing challenge. We’ve already seen numerous efforts to help consumers do just that in taxis and at festivals, for example, but recently we came across a new approach targeting urban cyclists. Specifically, German bicycle maker Silverback has recently launched two bikes with built-in USB ports that can charge devices as the rider pedals. As part of Silverback’s 2012 Starke line for city use, the Starke 1 and 2 models both come equipped with a built-in USB port. As cyclists pedal, energy is generated by the bike’s front-mounted dynamo hub, which can then be used to charge GPS units, smartphones, MP3 players and other low-voltage devices via the bike’s USB port. Also powered by the dynamo is the bicycle’s lighting system, according to a report on Wired. Pricing and availability have yet to be announced. There’s no end in sight to the rise in popularity of either bicycles or gadgets, making Silverback’s innovation a match made in heaven. Other bike makers around the globe: what about you? Spotted by: Alice Revel Sending regular communications to parents and teachers can be a tricky and costly business, even more so in developing countries where email access may be limited. In Kenya, however, a software development start up Tusqee offer a simple solution with SchoolSMS, a system that enables schools to send bulk messages via text. The SchoolSMS software is free to download and install. After installing and registering the software, schools are assigned five free SMS credits in order to test the software, and can buy credits in bulk afterwards. Groups of contacts can be created by manually entering names and phone numbers, or by importing lists from MS Outlook and Excel, and schools are free to create as many groups as they wish. The software allows for customization — for example, schools can populate the “from” field with their name — and once set up, schools can keep parents informed of the latest school news and invite them to meetings via text. A similar product from Tusqee, SchoolSMS Premium, is aimed at parents and enables them to receive exam results for their children, view fee statements from the school and subscribe to the school’s newsletter. The software supports both Swahili and English. Text messaging remains a cheap, simple and reliable communication channel. Inspiration here for other organizations that need to connect with a mass audience without access to the internet? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck According to Postmates co-founder Bastian Lehmann, retail stores spend an average of fifteen hours per month fulfilling shipping requests, which distracts from their main objective of selling. When a personal experience also highlighted the lack of easy ways to ship physical goods locally, Lehmann was inspired to create Postmates — a service that connects couriers and bike messengers in between jobs with local businesses looking to make short-range shipments. San Francisco-based Postmates aims to benefit local businesses by facilitating the easy delivery of goods to customers, as well as enabling couriers to earn extra money. Currently only available in the San Francisco area, but with plans to expand, fifty businesses have signed up to the service so far. Retailers begin by accessing Postmates via the website or iPhone app. They then enter the pick-up and delivery locations, add a brief description with the option of including a photo, and schedule a delivery time. The request is submitted and received via iPhone by the thirty couriers already signed up to Postmates. Postmates estimate that at any one time there are fifteen to twenty couriers in between jobs and available to deliver. Once a courier has accepted the job, the retailer can see who and where they are, and each step of the delivery process is visible via the app. Each delivery costs USD 15 — although tiered pricing is planned for larger items — with a two hour maximum delivery time. The couriers using Postmates take on approximately five extra jobs each day, which equates to an additional USD 27,000 a year, and with an average delivery time of 37 minutes, businesses and their customers are likely to be satisfied by the service too. Postmates can also be used by individuals as well as businesses, and the company plans to expand to Android devices in the near future. Postmates have capitalized on the downtime of an existing service, meaning set up and running costs are low as equipment and communication devices are already in place. Plenty here for businesses, couriers, and innovators to be inspired by! Spotted by: Judy McRae It was just last month that the Navigo card, used by many Parisians for entry onto public transportation, made its debut on our virtual pages with plans to integrate the card into NFC-compatible smartphones. Now we’ve learned of yet another new innovation involving the card. French fast food chain Bert’s recently introduced a service enabling their patrons to use Navigo cards as part of their digital loyalty program. Participants in the Bert’s loyalty program can either use their Bert’s card, or QR codes on their smartphone to earn points and rewards. Much more interesting, however, is that they can now use their Navigo card as well, both to instantly create a loyalty account, and to collect points and earn rewards subsequently. The technology behind Bert’s loyalty program is provided by French AIRTAG, using their AIRFID solution. By eliminating the need for consumers to carry yet another loyalty card, it seems a safe bet that Bert’s will entice more patrons into its loyalty program than it would otherwise — and keep them more loyal. How could your brand do something similar to simplify its own loyalty offerings? Spotted by: Jeremie Abric We’ve seen numerous initiatives on the Springwise virtual pages that aim to tackle unemployment in poor communities, and recently Paperflops in Indonesia approached this by employing disabled people to make flipflops from waste newspaper. In a similar vein, TOUCH in South Africa is training unemployed seamstresses to make rugby balls from recycled materials, addressing the problems of waste and unemployment simultaneously. TOUCH is sponsored by EnviroServ, a waste management company which hopes to harness the excitement from the Rugby World Cup 2011 to encourage community involvement in the project. Women who have backgrounds as seamstresses, but have been unemployed for a period of time, receive training and equipment to make the TOUCH rugby balls. The balls themselves are made from recycled billboards and stuffed with 25 to 30 plastics bags collected from the streets by the community. The project hopes to educate people about the possibilities created by re-using waste and the opportunities it presents for employment. Seamstresses are paid for every ball that matches the TOUCH quality standards, and Russel Porteous, Founder of job creation NGO “LIVE” which supplies the industrial sewing machines used in production, says women can earn up to ZAR 200 a day. A TOUCH ball retails for ZAR 50, with ZAR 30 being invested back into the community and covering the LIVE operating costs. Environmental waste and unemployment are concerns that affect cities worldwide. Could a similar initiative clean up streets and create jobs near you? Spotted by: Hosia Modiga Finding a company’s contact details in order to make an enquiry and receive a prompt response is an experience that frequently frustrates consumers. However, a start up in the US — TalkTo — aims to tackle this problem with a service that lets users text local businesses with their question, and ensures they receive a text response back. TalkTo was founded by Stuart Levinson and Riley Crane as a simple way for consumers to contact local businesses without having to trawl through websites, fill out online forms or waste time on hold. Users access the service via the web or mobile web, and enter which local company they’d like to ask a question, make reservations or book appointments with, or give feedback to. TalkTo then deliver that message, automatically selecting the best way to send it — for example through Twitter or email — regardless of whether the company is registered with them. If TalkTo don’t have the contact information for a particular company, their call centre will phone them on the customer’s behalf. In all cases the customer will receive the reply by text. The service is free for users and companies, and no customer data is shared with businesses. Companies are rewarded for quick response times with higher rankings in customer searches. Currently the service is only available in the US, with plans for optimal premium features to be introduced by subscription after the beta period, and launches for iPhone and Android also in the works. With the undeniable popularity of social media, instant or fast responses have come to be expected. Inspiration here for businesses to improve customer relations while saving save time otherwise spent managing various contact channels? Spotted by: Judy McRae