Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Food waste is a major global problem, with some 40 percent of all edible goods in the US finding itself in landfill, rather than eaten. Part of this is down to the shelf-life given to fruit and vegetables — supermarkets won’t sell food unless it reaches certain aesthetic standards or is within its sell by date. While enterprises such as Culinary Misfits have begun trying to tackle the first of those issues, The Daily Table is a new grocery store and restaurant which puts all of its food to use — whether it’s past its sell by date or not.

Spearheaded by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, the inner-city venues will offer grocery shopping as well as dining. Rather than focusing on branded fruit and vegetables that often come with manufacturer-imposed use by dates, The Daily Table will keep its goods on the shelf until they’re starting to wane. Once this has happened — typically a few days after the expiry date — the goods will be reused in the restaurant. “Most of what we offer will be fruits and vegetables that have a use-by date on it that’ll be several days out,” Rauch told NPR. By keeping food until it’s possible to do so, the franchise will be able to offer healthy, safe meals that can be priced to compete with fast food chains.

Rauch aims to raise awareness of the problem of food waste with the new company, change consumers’ attitudes to expiring food, and also provide cheap wholesome restaurant food in urban areas. Are there other ways to ensure perfectly edible perishables get used up rather than thrown away?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

Hyperlocalized businesses are becoming able to deliver goods at lightning-quick speeds thanks to the web, and we’ve already seen startups such as France’s L’appero offer aperitif bundles at any location in 45 minutes. Now BloomThat is hoping to do the same for flowers — picking, preparing and delivering fresh bouquets in under 90 minutes.

Choosing from a range of bundles including tulips, dahlias, succulents and autumn and summer mixes, customers simply make a selection, say when and where they want it to be delivered, and pay. Rather than offer a large number of options, BloomThat chooses its flowers from local growers according to what’s in season, to ensure they’re always fresh. Bouquets are then delivered by bike messenger in order to reach their destination in under an hour-and-a-half. Bouquets cost around USD 35.

BloomThat is an example of a startup focusing on a local audience and sustainable values in order to deliver high quality service. What other industries could try a hyperlocal approach?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

When an electricity cut happens, homeowners can find themselves fumbling around in the dark trying to remember where they left the flashlight, never mind the batteries needed to operate it. The Bulb Flashlight charges itself while in use to provide four hours of emergency light, and can even be disconnected and used as a torch.

Designed by Lin Guohui for the Museum of Modern Art Store in New York, the 6W bulb produces the same illumination as a standard 40W incandescent alternative and can be screwed into existing sockets. The lightbulb features its own backup supply of energy, which is charged when it’s connected to a socket. In the case of a blackout, the bulb uses its stored energy to offer light for up to four hours without mains electricity. The low-heat device can also be unscrewed, extended, and carried as a flashlight.

Available for USD 45 exclusively at the MoMA store, the bulb is an expensive, but more practical alternative to the unreliable dollar store flashlight. As the cost of LED lighting continues to fall, could we see this kind of device become a standard in the home?

Since the devastating earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, the country has been hard at work developing ideas to help its citizens in case a similar catastrophe happens — whether it’s emergency food by subscription or a radiation-detecting smartphone. Now the Yamamoto Corporation has created an underwear and swimsuit set that is made of fabric that can block out the harmful effects of radiation.

Made of a special synthetic rubber material, the range is designed both for workers who may be exposed to beta and gamma rays as part of their job and citizens still concerned about the radiation released in the region of the power plant. The underwear consists of an unusual shape that is designed to protect the lower abdomen and parts of the spine that are susceptible to gamma rays. The wetsuit fabric meanwhile is fortified with carbon to block beta rays that are especially present in radiation-contaminated water, and is doubly protected around the feet and ankles. Despite their heavy duty capabilities, the items are flexible and lightweight, enabling workers to carry out their duties easily and safely.

According to Kotaku, the clothes will be available to buy in November, with the wetsuit priced at JPY 105,000 and the underwear at JPY 80,850. Could clothing be adapted to help citizens survive in the wake of other types of natural disaster?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

Getting a bike stolen is always a dispiriting affair, but what can be most frustrating is to return to a locked bike to find that the saddle, back wheel or expensive derailleur has been pinched. Germany’s Sphyke C3N system offers a way to lock the individual components of a bike for extra security.

With the rise of prosumers — consumers who take their hobbies seriously enough to require professional-grade equipment — cycling can turn into an expensive pursuit, with custom modifications and a slew of accessories on offer. However, these parts can be just as valuable to thieves as the entire bike and are easier to disconnect and steal. The C3N kit consists of a range of connector replacements which come with combination locks attached. For example, users can swap their quick-release wheel nut for the C3N replacement, which can only be unscrewed when the correct code is lined up. The full kit enables riders to secure their saddle, saddle pole, handlebars and front and back wheels in the same way.

While the Helmmate has offered a way to lock cyclists’ helmets to their bikes, the Sphyke C3N system goes further to protect the more expensive components of the devices. As more and more commuters turn to cycling as a mode of transport, are there other security features that could be added to bikes to enable those with expensive machines to feel safe locking them up outside?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

Couples having trouble conceiving will know that the App Store is full of peak fertility monitors that may work, or may not. Backed by big data and the business nous of PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, Glow is an app that could truly increase the chances of pregnancy, and its creators are confident enough that they will pay for infertility treatment if it doesn’t.

The founders of Glow believe that many would-be parents fail to get pregnant because they don’t have enough information to track their peak fertility and end up believing they can’t have children. The app lets women track their period, work out their fertile windows and see if they need to be more active in their sex lives. It also helps them to keep on top of the tasks that can help pregnancy, such as stocking up on ovulation kits and sending reminders to partners to avoid warm temperatures that can kill sperm. Through the Glow First scheme, every couple pays USD 50 a month to use the app, and must try to conceive for ten months while using it. If users get pregnant, their money has been well spent. If they’re still struggling after ten months, the money from the community fund is used to pay for treatment at an infertility clinic. Other families can then be happy in the knowledge that their money is being used to help others have a child.

Regular readers of Springwise will have recently seen BleepBleeps — which is also using tech to help couples conceive, as well as raise their child — and Glow is just another option that could bring happiness to childless partners. Could this model be used for other health issues, perhaps?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

This article was amended on 30th October. Max Levchin is a co-founder of PayPal, rather than the sole founder.

Springwise has seen its fair few innovations such as the Revolv and Ubi that are leading the way in using tech to give residents more control over their home. Switzerland’s digitalSTROM is the latest to offer the possibility of smart homes, with small, intelligent blocks that turn any offline appliance into a smartphone-controlled device.

Each digitalSTROM module features an integrated chip and sensors that can be connected to the power source that controls each individual appliance — whether it’s a lamp, television or electric blind. The modules can collectively perform around 60 different functions and are color-coded according to their capabilities. The blocks are installed by an engineer but require no new cables, and communicate with meters fitted to each home’s fuse box. The system is then completely controlled by the homeowner through the digitalSTROM app, which allows them to configure each appliance and keep track of energy use in their property. Since the devices also use one integrated system and control center, users can make their devices talk to each other.

Electronics companies are slowly introducing smart devices into the home, but rather than replacing all of their existing appliances or waiting for manufacturers to catch up with the Internet of Things trend, digitalSTROM enables its customers to retrofit smart tech into their house. Are there other ways to adapt ‘dumb’ devices to work with the power of the web?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

The re-use of unsterile needles can cause a variety of infections such as Hepatitis B and HIV, and is the cause of 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. The LifeSaver hypodermic needle could put an end to those fatalities, by changing color once it’s been used to alert medical professionals.

Developed by David Swann, a design researcher at the University of Huddersfield, UK, the barrel of the syringe features an ‘intelligent ink’ that reacts to air when the needle has been removed from its packaging. When opened, the needle turns bright red within 60 seconds to warn users that it is unsafe to use. Testing the device in India, Swann found that 100 percent of both literate and illiterate people understood that the needle shouldn’t be used. The LifeSaver — also known as ABCs, or A Behavior Changing Syringe — costs around GBP 0.16 more than an ordinary needle, compared to the 200 percent price hike of self-destructing alternatives. The video below explains more about the invention:

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The LifeSaver was a finalist at INDEX:AWARD 2013 and, although currently still in the prototype stage, could eventually make a difference in developing nations where use of unsterile needles is a huge problem, as well as hospitals where accidental reuse is still a possibility. Are there other ways packaging could be made more dynamic to warn users when their contents expire?

Spotted by Tracy Chong, written by Springwise

While the majority of drivers obey road signs, there are some that will dangerously ignore a stop sign if they’re in a rush. Australia’s Laservision has now created the Softstop, a projected sign that gives the illusion of a physical barrier across the road.

Installed at the Sydney Harbour Tunnel in May this year, the Softstop was chosen as an alternative to traditional measures to stop traffic from entering the tunnel when it is unsafe to do so, or to let emergency services gain a more clear route. Instead of being relegated to the side of the road and the peripheral vision of drivers, Laservision’s solution consists of a sheet of water which drops down across the tunnel entrance. A projector then displays a large stop sign onto the water, giving the appearance that it is physically blocking the entrance. The water is collected and pumped back up to the top of the device to be recycled by the sign.

The Softstop tricks drivers into believing the tunnel is physically blocked, stopping them from dangerously entering and giving operators more time to install a real barrier if necessary. The sign was activated eight times over eight weeks during its trial run and had a 100 percent success rate, according to Bob Allen, General Manager at Tunnel Holdings which runs the tunnel. Could this kind of false barrier work in other locations or venues?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

We recently wrote about Croatia’s Teddy the Guardian, a device that reads babies’ vitals in the guise of a cuddly toy. Similarly, BleepBleeps is a kit of friendly characters that can help parents raise their children from conception to teenagehood.

Each member of the BleepBleeps family can be connected to users’ smartphones, delivering useful data to help make parents’ jobs a bit easier. Firstly, couples looking to conceive can make use of Olivia P Sticks — which uses urine testing to check if potential mothers are ovulating — and Master Bates, which tells male partners if their sperm count is healthy. If pregnancy is achieved, Ultra Stan enables parents to see a live ultrasound on their phone. When the child is born, other characters offer motion-sensing and video baby monitoring, health tests and GPS location checking. The video below introduces all of the characters:

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BleepBleeps give parents the tools to help them conceive, as well as keep track of their kids once they’re born, packaged in a fun and engaging way for both parents and children. How else can technology help take some of the load off parents?

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise