Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

There’s been no shortage of media coverage of Google’s driverless car, but meanwhile a French firm has developed something similar. Rather than a personal vehicle, however, Induct’s Navia is a driverless electric shuttle designed for use in pedestrian-heavy areas such as airport parking lots, shopping malls, business parks and universities. Capable of carrying up to eight passengers at a maximum speed of 12.5 mph, Navia features laser range finders, cameras and GPS technology as well as accelerometers and gyroscopes that allow it to instantly calculate its position, route and distance traveled. Combined with a software package developed by Induct, that combination of technologies enable the vehicle to move autonomously and safely in any environment, Induct says. Navia’s propulsion system uses Lithium-Polymer batteries, with instant induction recharging at each stop. The video below demonstrates the vehicle in action: In early December Induct announced its first delivery of Navia under a partnership with Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); similar partnerships are already in the works with the University of West Florida and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, Induct says. Transportation entrepreneurs around the globe: time to get involved? Spotted by: Murtaza Patel We recently wrote about QThru, a system using QR codes to speed up the check-out process. Aimed at men who don’t like shopping, Hointer also uses the technology to break down the traditional retail model and help make clothes shopping pain-free. Located in Seattle, customers walking into the store are greeted by a floor that contains only one pair of each model of jeans available. The jeans are tagged with a QR code that – when scanned using the store’s bespoke app – delivers a pair in the chosen size to a fitting room in the store and alerts the customer which room to go to. Once the jeans have been tried, customers can either send the jeans back into the system or swipe their card using a machine in each fitting room to make a purchase. The GeekWire video below shows the system in action: Rather than forcing shoppers to contend with piles of clothes hoping to find the right size, Hointer simplifies the process using technology and makes buying a pair of jeans less stressful. How else can the retail experience be tailored to those who would otherwise avoid it? Spotted by: Murray Orange The social web has broadened the possibilities for informing and educating, and we’ve already seen sites such as Kroupys, a Q&A platform for higher education students to share knowledge. Now, Learnist is a Pinterest-style site which enables users to collate online resources by theme. The brainchild of social learning company Grockit, Learnist allows its users to create Learnboards, to which they can add images, videos and links to web content that fits their subject. Topics on the site range from collections of vegetarian recipes and information on writers block, to more in depth collections of resources for learning about web design or the arguments behind current political issues. Learnboards are sorted by theme and users can like and comment on collections. While the site is open for anyone to use, it could have particular value in the classroom, as teachers could easily give students access to a reading list for their course. Learnist aims to make learning easier for both the casual researcher and those engaged in more formal education. Are there other ways to simplify the process of knowledge-sharing? Spotted by: Murray Orange It’s one thing to have a good product idea, but at least half the entrepreneur’s battle is bringing it to life. That’s where Maker’s Row aims to help, by aiming to simplify the manufacturing process in the United States. “From large corporations to first time designers, we are providing unparalleled access to industry-specific factories and suppliers across the United States,” the New York-based company explains. Toward that end, it offers in-depth profiles of US factories along with an easy way to search through them. Video tours help users zero-in on the factory that’s best for them, while a six-step outline provides an overview of the whole process. Users of Maker’s Row can save factory profiles, contact factories directly, read and write reviews, and get updates on new industries and categories. The site is free for users; factories pay to be included. The video below explains the concept in more detail: Since its launch in October, Maker’s Row’s initial focus is the apparel and accessories industry, but it plans to expand into other industries as well. Product designers and entrepreneurs: one to test out on your next manufacturing venture? Spotted by: Hemanth Chandrasekar Netherlands-based VideoDeals has already leveraged time-linked video tagging technology to offer viewers deals on the products featured. Now Linklib uses QR codes to give smartphone owners synced information about video playing on a different screen. Currently in beta, Linklib already has its own library of relevant content attached to existing Youtube links, such as clips from films and viral videos. Users first find a video through the site on their computer, which loads along with a QR code. By scanning the code with their smartphones, viewers are automatically directed to a feed of links containing information relevant to what’s on screen at the time – from Wikipedia pages to Facebook groups on the subject. Founder Simon Klose explains the idea in the video below: The premise of Linklib is to make researching a subject while watching a video easier, considering that many people may already use a second device to look up extra content. How else can the deliverance of information be made more simple in these times of data overload? And how could such a method potentially be adapted for marketing purposes? Spotted by: Murray Orange Hard on the heels of our recent story about search result notification service Resultly comes word of another like-minded innovation. Focusing squarely this time on upcoming new products, LaunchGram sends subscribers alerts with prerelease news about the products they follow. “We will never let you be the last to know breaking news on a product you are following, but we will also never blow up your inbox with alerts,” promises LaunchGram, a 10-xelerator participant that’s now in beta. Users of the service can not only sign up for a weekly “LaunchGram” featuring the latest news on the products, games, movies and TV shows of their choice, but they can opt to receive breaking news updates as well. Updates are also searchable on the company’s site. In the video below, LaunchGram’s founders explain the concept in more detail: “Why search when LaunchGram can do all the hard work for you?” the Ohio-based startup asks. Therein lies a nice business proposition in many niches and industries. It may be feasible for a large hospital to build and operate its own organic greenhouse, but that’s simply not an option for countless other organizations and communities, however much they might want similar produce. Enter Farmigo, a site that connects local farms with groups such as workplaces, schools and community centers for custom delivery subscriptions direct to a convenient community location. Farmigo actually launched back in 2009 as an online software provider to help farms manage their community supported agriculture (CSA) subscriptions, and it now works with more than 300 farms in 25 states across the US. Earlier this month, however, it kicked off what it calls “the first online farmer’s market” connecting local groups and organizations directly to local farms for a personalized online marketplace for local, fresh-from-harvest food. Members of each food community shop their dedicated Farmigo farmer’s market online (Farmigo’s site offers an example here), pick and choose their preferred items, and then have their orders delivered weekly to their food community site within 48 hours of harvest. Farms reap 80 percent of the sale of the food, compared with only nine to 20 percent when they sell to traditional grocers; Farmigo gets 10 percent for each transaction. The video below explains the premise in more detail: “The Internet has been collapsing supply chains and rewriting conventional business models for nearly two decades, but until now it has had limited impact on the food industry, which is ripe for change,” explains Benzi Ronen, Farmigo’s founder and CEO. “There has never been a better time to disrupt the status quo, and Farmigo is poised to fundamentally change the way food is purchased and distributed.” The first food communities are now rolling out in San Francisco and New York, with Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago and Philadelphia soon to follow. Meanwhile, New York-based Farmigo seeks out individuals who want to help bring Farmigo to their own workplace, school or community center. Sustainability-minded entrepreneurs: one to partner with or emulate in your part of the world? The recent demise of The Daily may have cast some doubt on the feasibility of the iPad-only model of publishing, but Symbolia is now attempting a novel twist. Specifically, Symbolia is a new iPad magazine that uses classic comics illustration to help bring the news to life. Now available via a free iPad app or PDF subscription, Symbolia bills itself as “the tablet magazine of illustrated journalism.” Based on the Mag+ platform, the publication plans to produce six issues a year, each pairing “incendiary reporting with thoughtful illustration and comics,” it says. A free preview issue is now available through its iPad app or via a PDF download. After that, purchase options include single issues for USD 2.99 or annual subscriptions for USD 11.99. The video below demonstrates the concept in action: Symbolia’s future plans include offering e-book versions as well as app versions for Android tablets and the Kindle Fire. Journalism-minded entrepreneurs: one to partner with or emulate in a like-minded offering of your own? Spotfav has already harnessed the power of webcams to help surfers check the weather at their favorite spots. Now, Koozoo hopes to create a network of live video feeds to help anyone check the atmosphere of locations before they go there. Rather than customers arriving at restaurants to find they are closed, heading to the beach to find it’s crowded or heading to the farmers’ market to find it has been cancelled, Koozoo will enable anyone to simply view a live feed of the location to easily make a decision about whether it is worth the trip. In order to do this, the startup wants to crowdsource video by getting those with old smartphones to set them up as webcams. The network would then act as a source for local information, allowing users to see what’s going on around them without leaving the house. Koozoo is currently in private beta and will be launching in San Francisco early next year. Although there may be privacy concerns in having neighborhood residents set up monitoring cameras in public spaces, the company believes the result would provide worthy benefits to everybody. How else can the power of the public’s smartphones be aggregated? Spotted by: Murray Orange Various supermarkets in the US have already monitored shoppers’ in-store habits in order to offer personalized prices. Now, Bync is encouraging credit card owners to sync their bills so that the company can gain a better picture of how users spend their money and can offer deals at the places they like to shop. Users signing up to Bync first give permission for the service to access basic information about their bank and credit card accounts. The startup then takes note of which brands the user likes, where they like to shop and which products they normally buy. Using this data, any available deals that match the user’s profile are delivered. The idea behind the site is that – while many daily deal services send offers in the hope that they are relevant – Bync knows which ones their users will actually be interested in. Although some may have reservations about handing their shopping histories over to the company, Bync collects information in the same way as standard supermarket loyalty cards. How else can consumers be targeted more accurately? Spotted by: Murray Orange