Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Stark honesty is never in short supply where the crowds are involved, delivering a hefty dose of transparency to operators of hotels, ski resorts, and playgrounds, to name just a few. The latest to join the list? Spain’s bars and pubs, which are the focus of GuiaGarrafon, a site that aims to let consumers call out the ones serving drinks made from adulterated or unauthentic ingredients. Now in beta, Madrid-based GuiaGarrafon focuses on giving users a way to report Spanish bars and pubs that serve poor-quality drinks made from adulterated ingredients. This is a growing problem in Spain, according to GuiaGarrafon founder José Ignacio Diez, who told the Yorokobu blog that part of his aim in exposing such establishments is to motivate them to change. Users of the site can also add positive reviews for bars serving authentic products, and IP controls are in place to keep voting fair. Thanks to the power of the crowds, unethical practices are being stamped out across a variety of industries and markets. How could you embrace the trend for a transparency triumph of your own? Spotted by: Leticia Pérez Prieto It was only last week that we wrote about UnserAller, a platform which asked for input from the crowds to help improve product ideas. Now we’ve come across a similar initiative, with a twist. SellAnApp — which is currently still in Beta — has been set up to facilitate the creation of mobile apps, using the power of the crowds to first improve, and then fund the apps. To begin using the service, anyone with an idea for a new app can upload design sketches, doodles, descriptions and stories to convey their idea to others. App lovers and experts can then submit suggestions to this creator, who can choose which comments or advice they want to take on board and implement in the design. They can also select any of these contributors to form part of the app production team. Once a design has been finalized, an app profile page is set up, where friends of the app creator and members of the public can help fund the creation of the app. In return, they receive a share of the app’s eventual revenue. Once the funding target is reached, SellAnApp proceed to create and market the app. Those who have long harboured an idea for an app in their heads may well want to register for SellAnApp’s early bird referral program. But for anyone else, SellAnApp’s model still offers plenty of inspiration, going beyond a crowdfunding platform to make full use of the crowd’s collective input. Spotted by: Milan van den Bovenkamp Electric wheelchairs have brought new mobility to disabled individuals around the world, but with prices typically starting at around USD 1,000, they’re not within reach for everyone. That’s where WHILL comes in, with an attachment that converts traditional wheelchairs into electric ones. A creation of the Japanese company by the same name, WHILL includes two circular hubs that attach to the wheels of any wheelchair. Powered by lithium ion batteries, those hubs each contain a 24-volt electric motor that brings electric drive to manual wheelchairs, with speeds of up to 20 km per hour, according to a report on Gizmag. For users, steering the chair is reportedly just a matter of leaning in the direction they want to go. The video below demonstrates WHILL in action: WHILL is now just in its prototype stage, and no pricing information is yet available. However, its maker is looking for help testing out the new device. One to get involved in early? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Now that virtually all the bricks-and-mortar retail world has established at least some sort of presence online, it’s become increasingly common to see the flip side of that phenomenon occurring. Case in point: Openspace, an online marketplace for mobile apps, recently launched what may well be the world’s first physical app store. Colorado-based Openspace aims to help consumers avoid having to search for apps randomly by focusing instead on curated collections. Users can browse through app collections created by friends, celebrities and other shoppers around a particular purpose or interest; they can also follow collections they like for new additions. More than a million apps are available on the site, and users can create and share their own collections as well. Now, with Openspace’s bricks-and-mortar Boulder store, shoppers can browse apps in person while a staff of “app gurus” is on hand to offer suggestions and advice. Developers can make personal appearances as well through planned events, which are also announced on Openspace’s Facebook page. The distinctions between online and off are forever blurring. How can your brand help build some bridges from one side to the other? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Nintendo’s Wii platform has already sparked applications well beyond the world of gaming, so it’s not entirely surprising to see Microsoft’s Kinect do much the same thing. Enter Shopperception, a Kinect-based tracking system that gathers data on shoppers’ interactions with the products on retail shelves. The brainchild of Argentinian development company Agile Route, Shopperception uses Kinect sensors to bring 3D spatial recognition capabilities to market research applications that have traditionally relied on costly and error-prone human observers. Brands, researchers and retailers can then continuously monitor the way shoppers interact with the products on the shelves, including metrics such as how long they spend, which products they touch, which are put back and which are ultimately purchased. They can also use the technology to compare the success of competing shelf layouts or point-of-sale promotions, for example. “Heat map” reports, meanwhile, are available to depict consumers’ interest in different products or shelves. The video below demonstrates Shopperception in action: One would be hard-pressed to think of a better way to study consumer behavior than by unobtrusively tracking real-world shoppers in a natural retail setting. Brands, retailers and researchers: one to get involved in! In recent months we’ve featured not just one but two technology-based tools focused on relationship management, and recently we came across one more. Hailing this time from South Korea, Between is a mobile social network that aims to offer a “secret place” in which couples can privately communicate and share. Whereas Facebook and most other social networks aim to help users share with friends and relatives far and wide, VCNC’s Between targets audiences of two people instead. Between apps are available for free for both Android and iPhone in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Using them, couples can share their memories out of sight of the rest of the world. Users can build a one-to-one archive of materials including chat history and photo albums, for example; they can also share a customized message board. A “virtual memory box,” meanwhile, organizes and presents a couple’s treasured memories. All data is encrypted for security, and instant notifications alert partners to the arrival of new material. Is the social networking space saturated at last? We’re betting not. Keep the innovations coming! Spotted by: Katharina Kieck Learning a new language is never easy, but there’s no shortage of fresh approaches aiming to help. In recent years we’ve seen a Twitter-based tool for building vocabulary, for instance, as well as a video app for learning French. Next up? Lingibli, a smartphone app that uses QR codes to help users learn basic words and pronunciation. Based in Slovakia, Lingibli recently launched with an initial offering of 18 languages: German, English, Arabic, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish. The company’s free mobile app is available for both iPhone and Android. Working on the assumption that only 100 basic words make up half of all daily conversations, the company focuses on helping users learn 20 basic words and 35 phrases using multiple senses at once. A downloadable sheet of QR code vocabulary labels is available for users to cut up and affix to basic items around their home or office, for example; to hear the correct pronunciation of a particular item’s name, users simply scan the QR code with their phone. Lingibli’s label pages and basic apps are free; language packs with additional content cost EUR 3.99. Lingibli offers custom branding options for travel agencies and other globally focused firms aiming to offer their clients and customers an extra service. Time to set your company apart with a like-minded brand butler offering of its own? Spotted by: Katharina Kieck It’s about this time of year that those living in the Northern Hemisphere’s wintry regions can begin to feel the toll of the winter weather on their daily lives. One effect of the difficult conditions is that daily commutes to work are often impeded by snow and ice, and that’s where Winter Wake-Up comes in. The new mobile app from Belgian ad agency Boondoggle functions as a standard alarm clock, but it wakes users earlier than usual if there has been unexpected snow or icy conditions during the night. Users begin by downloading Winter Wake-Up, which is available for free for both iOS and Android. Next, after setting their standard wakeup time, they indicate how much earlier they’d like to be woken up in cases of frost and snow. During the night Winter Wake-Up monitors local weather conditions based on the user’s current location and decides whether or not the user will need to be woken up at an earlier time. When conditions are poor, users will then have the time they need to dig out, de-ice and get to work on time. Users can also choose not to be woken at all when extreme conditions make their commute hopeless. The video below explains the premise in more detail: Consumers’ pain has always been entrepreneurs’ gain, but mobile technologies are making solutions ever easier to deliver. How could your brand help consumers and employers deal with the challenges of winter weather? Spotted by: Judy McRae Every year, some USD 52 million is lost by users of New York City’s MetroCard payment system when they replace old cards that still have a small amount of value remaining. Aiming to put that leftover money to better use, MetroChange is a new system designed to capture that last bit of change on old cards and donate it to charity instead. MetroChange has designed a kiosk to be placed at busy subway stations throughout the city — “especially those where tourists and occasional users of the subway transition out of the subway system, transferring to an airport or regional train service”. Commuters and travelers who have a small amount of unused value remaining on a card can swipe that card at one of those kiosks, where the value will be recorded and transmitted to a central fund. The customer’s physical MetroCard, meanwhile, is taken for recycling. Then, MetroChange’s central fund will be converted into real money each month and donated to charity. The video below demonstrates how the kiosk works: MetroChange is now seeking partners to help make its charity platform a reality, according to a recent post on its blog. One to get involved in? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann It’s no secret that employee morale can have a big effect on company performance, but getting an accurate picture of how employees are feeling in a timely way is one of a manager’s biggest challenges. That’s where Canadian Happiily comes in, with a site that lets employees speak honestly and anonymously while giving managers an early heads-up when there are any problems. Employees use Happiily by answering questions designed to assess their current feelings about their workplace and the people they share it with. They can also write “shouts” to express specific feelings. Happiily, meanwhile, records an overall mood score for each individual, and anonymously aggregates the results from everyone at the same company to generate an overall assessment of company mood. Employees can compare their own results by the week, month or year against this company mood, while managers get an overall dashboard view and a sense of any trends. Eventually, they’ll be able to participate in anonymous one-on-one feedback sessions with unhappy employees, the company says. Ultimately, the hope is that employees are empowered to speak up when issues arise and managers can pinpoint and resolve problems earlier than they would be able to otherwise. Still in its early stages, Happiily is currently free to use. One to help roll out in corporations around the world? Spotted by: Magda Dominik