Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

No one likes junk mail, and the average US household receives some 850 pieces of it over the course of a year. Whereas French Pubeco aims to shift such communications to the online sphere, Readabl’s PaperKarma mobile app lets users submit a photograph of each piece of junk mail they’d like to stop receiving, and then works to make that happen. Roughly 44 percent of unsolicited mail in the US ends up in landfills each year without ever being opened, according to Seattle-based Readabl. Aiming to help address that problem, the company’s PaperKarma app enables users to simply snap a picture of an unwanted piece of junk mail and press “send” to become unsubscribed from the mailing list that generated it. The company explains: “We work closely with the source companies to help you unsubscribe from catalogs, magazines, credit card offers, etc. and optionally – i.e., if you explicitly choose to – convert you to the corresponding online (email) versions.” Launched earlier this year, the free PaperKarma app is now available for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone. Of course, unwanted mass mailings aren’t just a problem for consumers — such fruitless effort also represents a significant waste for the companies that send them. How can your brand help to reduce the many resources wasted this way? We’ve already seen solutions such as DOGTV looking to keep pets entertained while owners are away from home, but what about feeding them? Using RFID sensor technology, Gatefeeder is now looking to provide a solution to this problem. The cuboid device can hold around one weekend’s worth of food for one cat and comes with a smart ID tag that is placed on the animal’s collar. When the cat pushes the door, the machine instantly reads the RFID tag, opens the door and provides a serving of food. When more than one pet is at home, Gatefeeder offers the right amount of nourishment to each cat based on their ID tags. To eliminate competitive eating, the device fits only one cat’s head and body through the door at once and all food is contained within the device to avoid mess. Medication can also be included in each serving and Gatefeeder’s creators claim that owners of small dogs could benefit from the machine as well. Gatefeeder is currently on sale for USD 249. The device is shown in more detail in the video below: With many owners leading increasingly busy lifestyles, this could prove to be a useful device to ensure pets do not suffer if there is no-one home to feed them. One to replicate to cater for other animals? Contact: info@gatefeeder.com Spotted by: Cecilia Biemann Achieving smooth relations between consumers and real-estate agents is something we’ve seen addressed on a few occasions already — Sundaybell would be one such example — but recently we came across an even more direct attempt. Specifically, Finnish Hakema is a company that facilitates the booking of appointments between real-estate agents or sellers and potential buyers. Hakema’s appointment booking button can be integrated into the online classified ads posted by real estate agents or property owners, who can set their availability once and then let the service schedule their appointments. Potential buyers who click on the Hakema button can then schedule an appointment to view a property at their own convenience, whether or not it’s currently during business hours. Confirmations and reminders are sent to all parties involved via email and SMS, and buyers also get alerted if a property is sold before their visit, for example, or if the price changes. Both buyers and sellers receive a daily email summary of their bookings, and sellers can see an array of analytics as well. Although other similar services already exist, Hakema has set out to go the extra mile with built in alerts, analytics and summaries. Time to do your part to further ease buyer-seller connections in the real estate world? Connecting those with skills and those who need them is a perennial challenge in the labor marketplace, and there seem to be virtually infinite ways to make that happen. Just a few days ago we featured Beyond the School Run, which focuses on career opportunities during school hours, and since then we’ve come across KnowHowMart, an online tool now in beta that’s focused on helping skilled professionals sell their expertise to companies that need one-off advice. Experts can create a profile on the site manually or import one from LinkedIn; either way, they also specify an hourly fee they’d like to be paid, including the option to donate a percentage of it to charity. Businesses, meanwhile, can post details on what kind of expertise they’re looking for along with any deadline and maximum hourly rate they’re willing to pay. Experts can then bid on specific opportunities; when an expert and a business connect, fees are held in escrow until the work is completed, and a confidential conferencing service ensures that no personal contact details are disclosed. KnowHowMart keeps a service fee of 20 percent of the total sum paid. Experts can make GBP 50 or more per hour using KnowHowMart, the site says, while companies get risk-free, pay-as-you-go advice. A new model to try out for your own needs on either side of the hiring equation? Spotted by: Murray Orange If Twitter can be used to broadcast recipes, school lunch menus and fresh bread alerts — to name just a few of the many examples we’ve covered — then why not environmental data as well? That, indeed, is just what’s possible with the Tsubuyaku Sensor, a new wireless device from Japanese Ubiquitous Computing Technology that monitors conditions such as temperature, humidity and radiation levels and automatically tweets the resulting data via Twitter. Targeted primarily at applications including food warehouses and wine cellars, the Tsubuyaku Sensor measures data including temperature, humidity or radiation levels and can then automatically broadcast it to Twitter, according to a recent TechCrunch report. Boasting a battery life of about a year when posts are made every minute, the device features a range of about 40 meters, though a repeater option is available to extend that further. Twitter broadcasts can be set for public or private viewing. Pricing is USD 560 for the base unit and USD 286 for each sensor. Is there any end to the remote monitoring possibilities? We’re thinking not. One for inspiration! Big brands such as Nike and Best Buy have already been involved in initiatives such as GreenXchange, a tool to help them share and research environmentally-friendly product design and patents. Harnessing the power of the crowds, CrowdIPR aims to make a similar service available to everyone. Businesses or entrepreneurs who have come up with a new idea or product can sign up to CrowdIPR and post the details of their projects on the site. Other users can then provide information about similar products that already exist, in the form of patent documents or academic research. Each reply can be commented on and rated, with the researchers providing the most relevant references and users giving the most valuable feedback being rewarded with ‘karma’ points or cash. Those looking to use the site for intellectual property research – also called ‘prior art’ research – can sign up to the Basic package for free, which offers up to 30 references, or the Professional option for USD 200 per project, which includes unlimited references, ratings data and web and phone support. In the future, CrowdIPR aims to introduce its Expert package, which will enable users to get help carrying out investigations while keeping their idea confidential to only the most skilled site researchers. Crowdsourcing has proved itself to be a versatile model and fits well as a method to help with the dissemination of information. Could researchers in your field benefit from a similar tool? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel Regular readers of Springwise will already be familiar with the numerous alternative payment models we’ve written about over the years, but this most recent example is perhaps the most heart-warming. Chocolatier Anthon Berg recently enabled customers to pay with a good deed, rather than cash, at a pop-up location called The Generous Store. Conceived by ad agency Robert/Boison & Like-minded, the project featured a temporary outlet in Denmark – open for one day only – which labeled each of its products with a task the consumer must perform in order to ‘buy’ the chocolate. Designed to spread generosity, the tasks typically included a good deed to someone else, such as ‘Serve breakfast in bed to your loved one’ or ‘Help clean a friend’s house’. Cashiers were replaced by staff carrying iPads, where chocolate-buyers could log into their Facebook accounts and pledge to carry out the favor via a branded post on their wall. Anthon Berg was able to view the results of the promises when visitors to the store then posted pictures and comments on the company Facebook Page. The video below features footage from the pop-up shop: The Generous Store’s innovative payment system, while only employed for one day, helped to portray Anthon Berg as a generous and socially-minded brand. An idea to adapt for your own projects, possibly over a longer period of time or in conjunction with a pay-what-you-want pricing system? Miniature sensors have already been used in inhalers to inform physicians of usage patterns in the Spiroscout by Asthmapolis. Now Cambridge Consultants has developed the T-Haler, which uses wireless technology to gamify the procedure and help those with asthma get the optimum dose of the drug. According to figures collected by the group, three in four asthma sufferers do not use their inhaler effectively, showing a need for training outside of the GP’s office. When patients inhale, information about their technique is sent in real time to a computer loaded with a game. If the user inhales too softly, too hard, too early or too late, a ball rolls away from a hole in the center. ‘Players’ who use their device correctly will make the ball land in the hole. The visual aspect of the project allows asthma sufferers to see what is wrong with their technique and monitor their progress as they improve. The interface offers visual instructions on how to correctly use the inhaler, such as shaking the device before use. Cambridge Consultants hopes that through the initiative patients will learn how to better administer the correct amount of medication, reducing the likelihood of attacks and hospital visits. The video below demonstrates the device in action:
The gamification trend is revitalising a large number of potentially laborious tasks by making them more enjoyable to carry out. Those in the medical field – are there any other health routines that could be made more engaging? Website: www.cambridgeconsultants.com Spotted by: Dietfried Globocnik Springwise recently reported on Austria-based Nectar & Pulse, which creates personalized city guides based on suggestions from locals with similar personalities and preferences. Now putting a gamification slant on travel advice, Rambler aims to take travelers on a ‘scavenger hunt’ to find the best things to do at their destination, rewarding successful hunters with points. The idea for Rambler came about when founder John Roa met a fellow traveler on an uninspiring trip to Iceland who was completing a to-do list set by a friend — including tasks such as “Find a street sign with more than 25 letters” and “Find puffin being served on a menu”. Inspired by the experience he created Rambler, where visitors to the site can view the existing challenges posted by other users and gain points for completing them. Those with the most points can get their name onto the Rambler Leaderboard, introducing a competitive element to traveling. Users can also suggest challenges based on things they have done abroad, setting the amount of points received for carrying them out. Adventurers looking for a fun way to experience a country without sticking to the beaten path could be inspired by Rambler. Those involved in travel and tourism industries, one to partner with? It’s no real surprise to see emergency-oriented innovations coming out of Japan following the 2011 disaster there, and recently we came across yet another example. Ripe for pairing with Cosmo Power’s escape pods in fact, Yamory just last month launched a subscription service for regular delivery of prepackaged emergency provisions. It’s not uncommon for consumers to buy a store of provisions in anticipation of the next emergency of course, but limited shelf lives mean that goods may be expired by the time the need arises. That’s where Yamory’s concept kicks in, with a plan that ensures nothing is ever more than six months old. Each package contains three days’ worth of supplies for one person, including items such as water, vitamins and toothpaste. Pricing ranges from JPY 5,000 for a half-year plan to JPY 26,000 for three years. The video below (in Japanese) outlines the concept in more detail:
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The subscription model has already been applied to countless other product categories, but expiration-prone emergency provisions seem to be a natural fit. An idea to bring to consumers in your part of the world?