Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Folding or unfolding a traditional baby stroller is often a cumbersome task, but a new innovation debuted at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this year is now looking to change that. Billed as “the world’s first power-folding stroller,” Origami demands nothing more from the user than the simple touch of a button to collapse or unfold it. The creation of Pittsburgh-based 4moms, the new Origami stroller’s main selling point is its ability to fold and unfold automatically, but it boasts a wealth of other features as well. The device houses a built-in generator in its rear wheels that charges the stroller as it’s pushed, as well as enabling parents to charge their cell phones. Daytime running lights and pathway lights are on board for safety, as are four-wheel suspension and child safety sensors in the seat, which ensure the stroller won’t fold by accident. An LCD in the handle bar, meanwhile, displays a thermometer, speedometer, and odometer. The video below offers a quick demo of the device in action:
Priced at USD 850, the Origami stroller is available online and at select stores. Retailers around the globe: one to add to your own high-end line of kid-focused offerings? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann A few months ago we spotted adventure travel company OneSeed Expeditions, who support local female entrepreneurs in South East Asia by giving 10 percent of revenue to microfinance partners. On a similar mission, Florida-based t-shirt brand Naked Hippie invest all their profit in microloans to help grow small businesses in developing countries. Naked Hippie has a focus on fair trade, organic and sustainable production processes. Their range of eco tees sport simple designs with positive messages and cost USD 19 to USD 38. They hope that by investing in microloans they can help entrepreneurs in developing countries to grow their businesses, support their families and encourage economic development in the community. Naked Hippie use repaid loans to reinvest in other small businesses as well as campaign for fair trade initiatives and pesticide-free farming. They launched their eco-wristbands in September last year and currently ship throughout the US and Canada. Naked Hippy believe they’re the only brand in the world whose success relies 100 percent on the people they help. In the shift towards more ethically-minded consumerism, could a similar model support your business? Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann A few months ago we spotted an entrepreneurial baker in France who had installed an automated baguette dispenser outside his shop, enabling him to continue trading after shop opening hours. Now near Bilbao, Spain, a pair of fishmongers with a similar idea have installed a vending machine that sells fresh fish 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Brother and sister pair Ruben and Marga Rios opened their fish shop, Arrandegia Martin, 11 years ago in Mungia, approximately 20 kilometers from Bilbao. The vending machine — installed outside the shop late last year — sells a selection of fresh seafood including sardines, anchovies, hake and shrimp. Goods are bought daily from Mercabilbao market, before being cleaned and packed into individual trays which state the expiration date. Cooked seafood is also available from the machine and all goods cost the same as they do in-store. The vending machine has proved popular with locals and the brother and sister are reportedly planning to stock live bait for “early bird” fishermen soon. For small retailers, an outside-of-store vending machine can provide additional income and better serve customers. An idea to consider for your own retail efforts? Spotted by: R Steinberg Professional networking can be just as important for small companies as it is for individuals, but opportunities to do so in a focused way can be few and far between. That’s where German exploreB2B comes in, with a content-based platform that lets companies contribute and view content as a way to find potential collaborators. Similar in many ways to Bitsy, which we covered last year, Berlin-based exploreB2B is a social platform for businesses. Users simply register for free with the site and upload articles demonstrating their expertise or viewpoint on a subject. Other users, in turn, can search, view and comment upon that content, generating dialogue and discussion. Ultimately, exploreB2B hopes such connections can lead to business collaborations. exploreB2B has just launched an English version of its site designed to serve users around the world. While basic use of the site will always be free, the company will ultimately offer additional premium functions for a small fee, it says. One to try out for collaborators on your own next big thing? We’ve seen a number of mobile phones launched in recent months with emergency use in mind, including the Russian Space phone with SOS button. SpareOne, however, is a new contender that focuses on a different aspect of emergency needs — power supply — and can run on just a single AA battery. Due to begin shipping in March, the SpareOne phone from California-based XPAL Power is a dual-band GSM cell phone that offers up to 10 hours of talk time on just a single Alkaline, NiMH or Lithium AA battery. With a built in emergency flashlight and the ability to automatically transmit its location via the cell ID, the phone can keep its charge for up to 15 years when not used, meaning it will always be ready when needed. Users can also preprogram the phone with important phone numbers for easy access to family members or travel and emergency services. Pricing will reportedly be USD 50. The video below demonstrates the SpareOne phone in use:
Debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, the SpareOne phone will offer travel agents, hotels and companies opportunities to customize the device with preloaded phone numbers and bundle packages, XPAL says. For special events, branding possibilities will also be available. One to factor into your own 2012 marketing plans? 3D printing has appeared on our virtual pages on numerous occasions before, but recently we came across an interesting twist. A new app from French 3D printing company Sculpteo now lets consumers upload a photo of themselves or a friend for incorporation into a designer vase, mug or other object. Users begin by downloading the Sculpteo app for free from the iTunes store; it’s available for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad with iOS 5.0 or later. Next, they browse through Sculpteo’s selection of customizable objects, which includes the personal Pixel Cup, Profile Vase, Ego-Datamug and customized iPhone case. The basic designs of those objects were created by top designers, but users of the new app can customize numerous aspects of them. The Profile Vase, for example, lets users submit a profile photo of themselves or a friend and see it reflected in the shape of the ceramic vase; couples can even submit two photos to create a “Me & You” vase. In addition to customizing such objects with photos, users can also adjust all aspects of the object’s design, including size, dimensions, color and material. Designs can be saved and shared on Facebook or Twitter; they can also be ordered from Sculpteo for delivery within a few days. Along with the recent launch of its new smartphone app, Sculpteo has also opened up its 3D printing service for integration into online retailers’ own offerings and websites. Stores can use their own customizable designs, it says, and Sculpteo will handle production and delivery. Retailers around the world: an innovative service to add to your bespoke line? Last year we saw both people and dogs loaned out by libraries, but it would seem there’s still plenty that can still be done with books as well. Aiming to introduce more fun into library loaning, Ljubljana City Library (LCL) recently ran a program offering mystery packs of books to their customers. Those visiting the library had the option to check out one of an assortment of mystery packages containing three books wrapped in brown paper. A sticker on the front of each package signified which literary genre the books inside belonged to, and librarians were on hand to advise customers on which genre they might prefer. The parcels all contained one novel from a contemporary writer, one classic, and one “easy to read” novel. As libraries around the world begin to feel the strain caused by e-book popularity, this initiative offers a personal, curated touch, with a dose of mystery and fun thrown in to help attract customers. Libraries and educational institutions around the world, one to try out in your area? Spotted by: Matej Golob We’ve already seen augmented reality used to superimpose text on top of chocolate-bar wrappers and newspaper ads, but now we’ve come across an example of the technology being used in the publishing industry. Between Page And Screen is a printed book of poems that relies entirely on augmented reality to convey its words. The Between Page and Screen poetry book has no text printed on its physical pages. Rather, each page is covered with a stark black and white geometric shape and a web address leading to the book’s website. To read the book, readers must visit that site and hold each page up in front of their webcam, one at a time. Using the reader’s webcam, the site then detects the black and white markers and displays corresponding textual animations mapped to the surface of the page. The animations move with the book, creating the digital equivalent of a pop-up book. The video below demonstrates Between Page and Screen in action:
Written by Amaranth Borsuk and programmed by Brad Bouse, the poems in Between Page and Screen comprise a series of letters between two lovers, P and S, as well as animations based on keywords from their letters. Produced initially as a limited-edition, the book is now available for USD 24.95 from Siglio Press. Authors, publishers, and content producers around the globe: be inspired! Spotted by: Florent Lesauvage The UK’s Autofarm Porsche dealership may drive customers to the mall so that they can pass the time shopping while their car is being worked on, but Bahrain’s National Motor Company takes this concept a step further. Not only does the company’s brand-new Sehla-based service center offer free wifi and shuttles to local destinations, but it also houses a state-of-the-art gymnasium. Founded in 1988, National Motor Company (NMC) is one of the leading automotive distributors in Bahrain, representing Honda, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, and Hummer. Early this year the company opened a new BHD 4 million, 9,000 square-meter facility in Sehla complete with clear-glass viewing areas so that customers can watch their cars being worked upon, according to a report in the Gulf Daily News. An array of games are available to help customers pass the time, in addition to the four-floor facility’s gym, which can be enjoyed by fitness-minded customers until their car is ready to go. Car owners may come from all walks of life, but one thing they tend to share is an impatience when it comes to repairs and maintenance. Give them myriad ways to multitask while they wait for your service, and you’ll surely set yourself apart. Service providers around the globe: take note! Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann There are few aspects of life that can’t be enlivened by a little friendly competition, and home energy metering is no exception. Enter German GreenPocket’s namesake smartphone app, which “helps consumers share their carbon footprint in a competitive and entertaining way on Facebook”. Based in Cologne, GreenPocket is a software provider focusing on the visualization and interpretation of smart metering energy consumption data. As a complement to its smart metering and smart home solutions, the company recently launched a social metering app to sustain consumers’ interest in monitoring their energy use over time. Push notifications inform consumers as to how well they are doing compared with their friends in weekly energy efficiency contests, for example, as well as about other positive developments related to their energy consumption behavior. Users are also able to share their data on Facebook for others to view. GreenPocket CEO Thomas Goette explains: “This combination initiates an innovative dialogue between the utility and the customer and opens up an entirely new channel for utility marketing campaigns.” Gamification is a trend we’ve been tracking for some time already, but we hadn’t yet seen it applied in this arena. Utilities and monitoring companies around the globe: be inspired! Spotted by: Raymond Neo