Create the Future. Today

We’ve already seen battery-powered attachments that provide electric power to regular pushbikes thanks to innovations such as the UK’s Rubbee. Now researchers at MIT have created the Copenhagen Wheel, which fits onto any bike and captures energy from the rider’s cycling, offering a power boost when they need it for harder inclines later on.

The wheel features a red hub, which contains the technology that converts the energy expelled when riders pedal and stores it in a removable lithium battery. The hub also includes sensors that detect when the bike is traveling uphill and automatically offers some help in the form of powered assist. However, the wheel can also be connected to users’ smartphones using the companion app, where they can manually choose to receive an extra boost from the wheel. The app offers more features such as locking and unlocking the device, ride tracking and using preset activation for particular rides. The Copenhagen wheel is easy to install and weighs 5.9 kg, adding only a small amount of weight to the bike. The video below explains more about the device:

The Copenhagen Wheel makes long and difficult rides easier for commuters without having to be charged like a typical electric bike, meaning it’s as good for the environment as a regular pushbike. However, those who want to get their hands on the device early will be set back USD 799 for a pre-order. Are there other ways to make cycling easier and more enjoyable for those who are still more comfortable in their car?

Spotted by Tony Penna, written by Springwise

This is part of a new series of articles that looks at entrepreneurs hoping to get their ideas off the ground through crowdfunding. At the time of writing, each of these innovations is currently seeking funding.

Many new devices are now coming with smartphone connectivity as standard, but what about households who can’t afford to replace their existing appliances? While we’ve previously seen one option in the form of the engineer-installed digitalSTROM system, now Beijing-based Plugaway enables consumers to simply plug an adapter into each power socket to turn whatever’s connected into a smart device.

Seeking funding through Kickstarter for the next five days, the system is a highly affordable way to make any electronic element of the home connected to owners’ smartphones, regardless of when it was made. Each AUD 30 adapter is simply plugged into a socket and the desired device is plugged into the adapter. The Plugaway modules automatically sync with home wifi networks and can automatically be controlled or monitored through the companion app. Consumers can see how much energy they’re using, turn devices on or off on demand, schedule or time them to come on at particular points of the day, dim lights and receive notifications about whatever data they please. The app is open source, meaning businesses and homeowners can customize it to their own uses and aesthetic preferences. It works with If This Then That — the platform that lets users create ‘recipes’ by combining different social and web-based services with simple rules. The video below explains more about the project:

Plugaway is part of a growing trend of devices that help transform unconnected houses into web-enabled smart homes through retrofitting, bringing new technologies into use before they’re universally accessible or affordable. What other recent tech developments can be made available to consumers now, rather than having them wait?

Kickstarter: www.kck.st/1gex26A

There are many items that are produced, but don’t make it onto the shelves of supermarkets due to superficial damage, not meeting aesthetic standards or falling past their sell by dates. We’ve already seen The Daily Table restaurant create cheap meals from expired, but still edible food, and now the UK has introduced its first Community Shop, a supermarket that sells discounted branded products that don’t meet high street chain standards to families receiving government welfare.

Created by Company Shop, the project is supported by brands such as Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Asda and Tetley, which provide the stock for the store. The products are fit for sale, but fall short of the high standards expected by customers paying full price. Typically they would end up in landfill, or processed and turned into animal food and fuel, but instead, the items are being sent to the Community Shop in South Yorkshire. Receiving a discount of up to 70 percent, the items are only available to the 500 members of the store, who must prove they are receiving government benefits in order to shop there. The scheme aims to reduce the waste produced by high street supermarkets while also tackling food poverty. The video below from the BBC explains more about the concept:

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Company Shop aims to test the sustainability of the idea with its first store before opening up to 20 branches across the country over the next 12 months. Are there other ways to put supermarket excess to good use?

Japan’s emotion-detecting Mico headphones can already select the best music to suit individual users’ moods, but that task becomes trickier at social events, where crowds with varying music tastes can be difficult to please. Chüne is a smart speaker that curates playlists taking into account those differences, as well as the vibe of the occasion.

The product is the result of a brief-based design internship at UK-based creative agency Clearleft, where three graduates were charged with creating a new way to interact with digital media. The result is Chüne — a small, Bluetooth and wifi-enabled cuboid speaker that enabled multiple users to interact with it. Those downloading the companion app simply tap their phone onto the top of the device to sync it, then select the type of music they like — as broad as genre, or specific artists and tracks. Their preferences then get added to the mix and Chüne picks a playlist that will keep most attendants happy. In order to maintain a steady vibe, the box also has a knob that controls the mood, from low-key to full-on party, meaning that Beyoncé won’t be followed up with Leonard Cohen or Megadeath. Chüne also features a skip button that anyone can press to move onto the next track.

The Chüne was built using a Raspberry Pi and, although there don’t seem to be any plans to market the device, a similar product could be produced quite cheaply. How else can social elements be introduced into the selection and curation of entertainment?

When pricing models are adjusted depending on individual customers, the results can understandably be controversial for those who believe every customer is equal — take Samoa Air for example, which implemented a risky system that charges passengers according to their weight earlier this year. Now La Petite Syrah Café in France has introduced a tiered payment system that leaves impolite customers paying more for their coffee than those who treat staff with respect.

The café — located somewhat aptly in the city of Nice — has a new menu board which lists three different options for ordering a coffee. Customers can say “Bonjour, un café s’il vous plaît” in order to pay EUR 1.40 for their caffeine fix, but if they forget to greet baristas, they’ll be charged EUR 4.25 instead. If they’re even ruder and demand “un café” without saying please, they’ll end up paying EUR 7. According to reports, manager Fabrice Pepino started the pricing system as a joke, but stressed office workers and those in a rush have begun to check their demeanor before they order. He told The Local: “I know people say that French service can be rude but it’s also true that customers can be rude when they’re busy. People are more relaxed now, and they’re smiling more. That’s the most important thing.”

Although the pricing system is fairly light-hearted at this café, could a similar model perhaps be implemented by other businesses where staff abuse can be a more serious problem, such as public transport operators or call centers?

Spotted by Lily Dixon, written by Springwise

This is part of a new series of articles that looks at entrepreneurs hoping to get their ideas off the ground through crowdfunding. At the time of writing, each of these innovations is currently seeking funding.

Retrieving items from the garage can sometimes be a major task, especially when objects are stacked on top of each other. One option is to use pulleys to lift heavier items off the ground in order to take advantage of overhead storage. Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, myLIFTER is a smart variation of the garage pulley system that is raised and lowered through the user’s mobile device.

The myLIFTER itself is a small, 4-inch cube that is equipped with 25 feet of stainless steel cable and designed to be mounted on the ceiling of the garage. It can then have a number of different hooks and brackets attached to enable it to lift bicycles, cargo boxes, bags and other heavy objects. The myLIFTER features a Bluetooth transmitter that enables users to connect their smartphone or tablet to the device, using the companion app to raise and lower it as needed. The app learns users settings for different objects based on their weight, meaning lifting and lowering can be performed with just one push of a button. If users don’t have a smartphone, the myLIFTER comes with a Bluetooth remote control that can be held in the hand or attached to the wall. The video below shows the system in action:

myLIFTER has already raised its funding goal of USD 50,000 through its Kickstarter campaign, but will continue to seek funding until 15 January. What other home devices can be transformed with smart capabilities?

Kickstarter: www.kck.st/1d7wxJ6

Spotted by Murray Orange, written by Springwise

Social networks are useful for helping users stay up-to-date with what their friends are doing, however they can also be harnessed for greater purposes. Friendshippr is an app that keeps track of contacts’ travel plans to allow users to ‘crowdship’ goods through them.

Available for both iOS and Android devices, the app first enables users to enter the item they want to ship — or alternatively use the app’s barcode scanning capabilities to find it. They then select the pick up and drop off points for the delivery as well as choose a suitable reward, such as dinner on them. After posting their entry, any Facebook friends using Friendshippr can see the request and respond to it, claiming their reward if they can take the parcel. The video below explains a bit more about the service:

Much like PleaseBringMe.com — which lets users enlist traveling locals to bring back goods from abroad — Friendshippr uses existing travel plans to act as delivery routes, cutting the carbon emissions involved in sending items separately. Are there more ways to take advantage of people’s existing activity for other uses?

Spotted by Murtaza Patel, written by Springwise

Vast amounts of time are spent browsing and searching the internet every day, and we’ve already seen initiatives such as Ark help turn that activity into funding for charities and social causes. Hoping to win a slice of the search engine market, Germany-based Ecosia is now offering an alternative to Google and Bing, enabling users to generate income for rainforest programs by directing ad revenue to nonprofits.

Given current news about the US government’s NSA using Google data to collect information on citizens both at home and abroad, it seems perhaps a good time to take advantage of consumers wanting to switch. Ecosia works in much the same way as its major competitors, but rather than keep any income from advertising and sponsored links, the site donates around 80 percent to charities involved in the replanting of trees in Brazilian rainforests, such as the Nature Conservancy. The site currently has nearly 2.5 million active users per month, has helped plant more than 150,000 trees — equivalent to one every 60 seconds. The search engine also offers eco data for company and organization searches, giving each business a green rating out of five, and regularly publishes its donation receipts.

According to the site, its userbase grew by 40 percent since a relaunch in August, and considering Google has policies which disallow this kind of charitable redirecting of advertising funds, Ecosia could stake a veritable claim in the alternative search engine market. Are there other ways to challenge the stronghold of giants like Google and Microsoft?

The massive earthquake which Haiti experienced three years ago hit the country incredibly hard, and that’s to say nothing of the poverty that already pervaded the country’s society. Vital community resources are often low, or missing altogether, especially when it comes to healthcare. Now a new project called iLab Haiti is hoping to use 3D printing to solve some of the country’s immediate needs.

The project has brought the first two MakerBots to the country and is now hoping to teach locals how to model 3D objects and repair and maintain the machines. Working with US-based community design group KIDMob, iLab is currently operating out of Haiti Communitere in Port-au-Prince and its first products are simple, single-use objects such as umbilical cord clamps. In an interview with NPR, the project’s Ashley Dara said that these items often run out in times where hospitals are overworked and surgical gloves are used instead, meaning nurses deliver babies without the necessary protection. With iLab’s 3D printers, these objects can be created quickly and on-demand.

iLab Haiti is looking to strike up partnerships with startups such as Filabot — which recycles everyday plastics into useable 3D printer filament — as well as looking to set up in other countries that could benefit from their training and resources. Are there other ways that 3D printing could be made accessible in emergency situations?

The news industry is in dire need of a new business model in the wake of social media and citizen journalism putting talented writers out of a job, and one solution we’ve seen growing in popularity is crowdfunded pitches. Taking this onboard, Uncoverage is a comprehensive new platform that enables readers to regularly support the journalists they admire, and back investigations into the fields they think need covering.

The problem with longform investigative journalism is that it is costly, risky, takes time to produce and isn’t profitable in a fast-paced world that favors digestible ‘clickbait’ such as listicles and celebrity news. However, it’s vital for keeping the public informed about important issues such as corporate and government corruption, war, and other decisive stories. Through Uncoverage, readers can subscribe to writers they admire, issues they care about, or even a specific pitch. They can choose the amount they’d like to pledge — whether it’s USD 1 or USD 20 a month — and turn their subscriptions on and off at any time. Much like crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, the site gives backers updates about the progress of investigations, but the finished pieces are also published through the site. The video below explains more about the ideas behind the platform:

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Uncoverage is a single resource that enables citizens to back the topics they think need investigating, pays journalists who do hard-hitting reportage and acts as both a platform for publishing those stories and as a resource for newspapers around the world. The site is currently seeking funds through an Indiegogo campaign and has already partnered with investigative group The Center for Public Integrity. Could crowdfunded journalism keep much-needed investigative reporting alive?

Spotted by Jim Stewart, written by Springwise