Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Scientific research is incredibly data-heavy and, no matter the field, progress is inevitably slowed down by the time-consuming process of manually inputting results and findings. Now, an ‘Internet of Instruments’ from startup Tetrascience could help to drastically improve scientists’ productivity, by retro-fitting scientific instruments with remote monitoring capacities, which record data as they go.

Tetrascience provide research labs with the capacity to connect their existing equipment — from laboratory freezers to syringe pumps to oscilloscopes — to the cloud, enabling scientists to monitor and control their experiments remotely via a dashboard on their smartphone or computer, without interrupting their workflow. The system includes sensors, to monitor real-time temperature, humidity or other changes and cameras to provide visual monitoring of experiments, as well as adapters, timers and more. All the equipment is connected to the TetraScience Link, which is a hardware module that connects to the web via wifi or ethernet. Researchers can also opt to receive status alerts, informing them of vital or problematic changes.

All the data collected is automatically uploaded and stored in the cloud — creating a much more efficient workplace — and work can be easily shared with other team members. Are there other workplaces that could be given a smart makeover?

Choosing the right queue in a bustling environment such as an airport currently requires a combination of tactical thinking and pure luck. Unless that queue is in JFK’s Terminal 4, where Blip System’s BlipTrack has recently been installed. The system uses beacon modules and passengers’ phones to determine accurate waiting times, which are then displayed on nearby screens.

bliptrack3

BlipTrack is currently being used at 13 spots around the airport, including TSA security checkpoints, Customs and Border protection and at the taxi rank. The system works using sensors, which monitor the movement of passengers’ mobile phone through the airport: any wifi or bluetooth devices in ‘discoverable’ mode can be tracked. Each device is automatically given a unique ID and encrypted and time-stamped when it passes an initial beacon. Then, when the same device is recognized at later beacons, the system records how long that journey has taken. The collective data then creates very accurate, estimated wait times. This information can then be used to aide staff dispersal, as well as to inform and reassure passengers.

bliotrack1

The BlipTrack Indoor sensor system has also been installed in a number of other airports — from Toronto to Aukland and at Dover passenger port in the UK. A similar system is already used by Google Maps to predict travel time based on traffic. Where else could this technology be used?

The video product review is a massively successful format — there are countless YouTube channels dedicated solely to clips of users demonstrating and assessing various items. Now,Picky is a free app that makes the process even easier — enabling customers to create and share 60-second video reviews on a dedicated platform.

To begin, users download the free app to their smartphone and create a profile. Then, they film a short clip using the smartphone camera — detailing their opinion of a product or place they have visited: they can simply narrate a written review or they can demonstrate any strong or weak features. Picky stipulates that the user must ensure they show the item or place in the video, to prove they are a real customer in possession of the product, otherwise the video may be removed. The user then posts the clip, along with hashtags and a short description. Videos are organized into categories such as sport or food and are ranked, so that the best reviews appear first.

How else could product reviews be presented in a more interactive, appealing manner?

There is great concern that text communication is destroying the brains of young people — it removes the need for understanding and the utilization of correct spelling and grammar. While there is a certain hyperbole to such sentiments, it is true that tools such as predictive text are pretty unhelpful — enabling youngsters and grown ups alike to continue making the same mistakes over and over without ever learning why, or how to correct them. Now, iCorrect is an independently created, educational add-on for Apple’s iMessage, which highlights writing mistakes and forces the composer to correct them before the message can be sent.

cap

Parents can engage the tool via iOS’s parental controls. Once activated, whenever the user composes a message, iCorrect will automatically highlight any spelling or grammar errors with a red dotted underline. The author must then return to the error and correct it before they will be able to send the text. If they are unsure they can summon up an explanatory box, which offers tips about how to fix their mistake. In this way, iCorrect turns every text message into a lesson for the user.

icorrect2

How else could educational tools be integrated seamlessly into young ones’ tech?

The quality assurance and auto-correct functions prevalent in programming or text-based software are a big help to coders and writers. Now a startup is aiming to provide this auto-check tool for lawyers too. Drawing on frustrating experiences proofing 250-page contracts, lawyer Harry Zhuo came up with jEugene, an automated, intelligent software that will catch difficult-to-spot errors in legal documents.

The service was designed with the aim of detecting definitional errors, which are the most common and hardest mistakes to spot. It works by enabling users to upload a document, which the tool will scan and produce an analysis of in a few seconds. The result presents handwritten edits lawyers are used to seeing, and highlighted potential drafting mistakes in different colors. The proof reader can then go through the document and see if any revision is necessary. The web application can be deployed in a private cloud, and will generate better results the more it is used.

jEugene plan to charge a subscription fee per user. What are some other tedious processes prone to human error that could be automated?

Where clothing is concerned, a customer can never really tell if a garment is going to fit properly without trying it on. Many e-commerce sites offer very favorable returns policies for just this reason, but a new platform called Try is taking it a step further — enabling customers to essentially borrow clothes from some of their favorite brands for up to ten days, before paying only for the ones they want to keep.

After installing the Try Button onto their Google Chrome browser, users can continue with their online shopping as normal. Then, anytime they come across an item from a participating brand, the Try button will pop up next to the ‘Add to Cart’ button. Customers can order up to five items to try at once, which will be sent to them directly from the retailer. After up to ten days of test-driving the garments, the customer can visit the ‘Orders’ section on the Try website. Here they can inpute the tracking numbers of unwanted items, before posting them using pre-paid return labels. Only at this point will the user be charged for the garments they are keeping.

try2

Try is already working with e-tailers including Asos, J.Crew, Nike and Zara and they are adding new partnerships all the time. Users can get additional Try points by recommending the service to friends and by completing purchases. The service is currently in invite only Beta, and only operating in North America. We saw a similar try-before-you-buy scheme from a perfumier, but Try is the first tool that can be integrated into existing online stores. What other consumer items will benefit from more lenient returns policies?

The onset of a migraine can often seem entirely arbitrary, but in fact there are numerous internal and external factors that can cause these debilitating headaches. Migraine Buddy, a data-driven healthcare app from Healint can now predict an oncoming migraine — with 90 percent accuracy — by monitoring the patient and their surroundings, using an algorithm to detect problematic conditions.

The app works by analyzing the user’s daily patterns. Anytime they experience symptoms they record them in the app’s migraine diary, specifying where the pain started and the severity of the symptoms, choosing from a selection of potential causes. The app simultaneously monitors external elements such as weather conditions, and automatically tracks the patients’ sleep and movement patterns. Users are encourages to make a note of what medication they take and how effective it is, to help them choose the best treatment in the future. The app then processes all the data in order to predict oncoming attacks, and to enable patients to communicate their situation easily with their doctor at a later date.

Migraine Buddy, which launched last year, is now available on iOS for USD 2.99. Could a similar system be used by patients of other recurring health problems, such as period pains?

Since its launch in 2011, Twitch.tv has become synonymous with the now popular model of live-streamed, educational/entertainment sessions. Coders can already learn programming using a similar platform, while musicians can brush up using Boilerroom.tv. Now there’s something for artists and illustrators too — Sywork, short for “Show Your Work”, is an on-demand streaming platform for showcasing processes behind oil paintings, comic books, and other artworks.

Artists can sign up to create their own channels, which viewers can then subscribe to. Viewers will then be notified whenever that artist has an upcoming live session. During the live-stream, viewers can comment and discuss in the chat room on the sidebar. Some large artworks take hours to complete, so this interaction can keep artists motivated — they could even make use of suggestions made by the viewers. One of the other major benefits of live-streaming sessions is that viewers can learn from the way the artists correct common mistakes. While some draw with paintbrushes, others use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. There is also the option for artists to monetize their work by making custom pieces or digital copies for viewers to purchase.

What other professions could make use of this model?

One of the most powerful ways to remind motorists to drive safely in areas where there are kids, is to let them know who is at risk. That’s the reasoning behind If Insurance’s new Slow Down GPS, which switches to a child’s voice anytime the vehicle is near a school, day care centre or other area that is heavily populated with children.

Despite most cities having signage, motorists are often driving on autopilot and fail to notice that they have entered a particularly hazardous area — this carelessness leads to almost 400 children under 15 being killed by cars in the US each year. The Slow Down GPS navigation system is a free app that works like a regular GPS, providing real-time audio directions for the driver. When the car enters a dangerous area, the voiceover switches to the child’s voice. Since most people inherently care for children, this causes a visceral, physical, cognitive and behavioral reaction in the listener — prompting them to pay closer attention to the road.

Could this simple tool become a standard in all GPS systems?

The benefits of sunlight is widely known, and we have seen a number of devices — such as a fake window and smart LED light — help those who spend a lot of time indoors get their daily dose of vitamin D. Now, Lucy is a smart adaptive mirror that uses robotics to follow the sun throughout the day, in order to redirect sunlight to any chosen area.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/135610801
cap

Lucy is a portable, white globe, which uses an algorithm based on smartly positioned photosensors to continuously redirect sunlight into the home. Users first place Lucy in a spot with a view of the sun. Then, they point its ‘nose’ towards the ceiling of the room they want to illuminate. The mirror inside the device then redirects the sunlight to the ceiling, which cause the light to spread out and illuminate the room. As the sun moves throughout the day, the mirror repositions itself in order to provide a continuous stream of light into the desired spot.

lucy

lucy2

Created by Italian startup Solenica, Lucy is entirely solar powered, it has no wires and never needs to be charged, so it can lead to energy savings for users who are able to switch off some of their electric lighting. It can be even be placed outside on a patio or balcony, since it is rain and snow proof. Lucy is currently available to preorder for USD 199. How else could smart technology be used to maximize people’s exposure to sunlight?