Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

We have written about the innovative, social good marketing campaigns from Brazilian biscuits company Zeze Biscuits, including compliments from strangers at traffic lights, and designated bus seats for friendly people. Recently, the company presented their latest campaign, which saw on-demand footballs provided for Brazilian kids in the neighborhood.

Special ‘bola da rua’ (which translates to street ball) lockers are placed around the city. Kids are given keys, which unlock the soccer balls from the boxes, so they can play a game with their friends. Hoping to encourage physical activity for children and strengthen a sense of community, the cookie company further associates their brand with the idea of simple, offline fun.

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What other items can be shared through a system like this?

Kokiri Lab is a California-based think tank focused on pushing the boundaries of wearable tech. Their latest endeavor, Project Nourished, aims to create the most immersive virtual experience of eating. Using a VR headset, a bone conduction transducer and a scent diffuser, the team turns cubes of agar agar, a jelly-like substance made from algae, into almost any food imaginable.

Users first put on the headset, seeing the virtual food before them, and the bone conduction wearable mimics the sounds and feel of chewing. A VR cocktail glass and utensils let them manipulate the eating experience. The diffuser will also spread the matching scent for the chosen food. With further development, the team believes Project Nourished could be used to assist in elder and disability care and as part of a course of therapy for those with eating disorders. Additionally, by creating chemical copies of potentially endangered foods, the Project could be an unusual ally in sustainability by helping to preserve items for future generations. Those who suffer from allergies could also use the system to enjoy the food they would otherwise miss out on.

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What other applications are there for this tech?

We’ve seen how social media can be used to raise awareness of charitable projects, such as a project where users could tweet endangered species emojis to make donations, and now The Body Shop is harnessing the philanthropic power of Tinder.

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In recent weeks, Tinder users will find Reggie the Douc monkey appearing in their app. By swiping right, they’ll receive information on his habitat, the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam — which is being affected by deforestation — and receive discount codes to spend online. This is part of The Body Shop’s #findreggielove campaign that raises awareness of their commitment to funding the Bio-Bridge project in collaboration with the World Land Trust in Reggie’s habitat. Throughout summer, purchases at any Body Shop outlet or online will result in donations that build protected areas that provide crucial ecological links throughout the rainforest. The campaign is further shared on social media with customers posting selfies featuring their purchase and the #findreggielove hashtag.

How else could social media be used to raise awareness for charitable causes?

Teachers and teaching assistants are currently responsible for vast amounts of time-consuming assignment marking, which limits both the extent of feedback they are able to give and the amount of quality time they can spend with pupils. Peer evaluation is a potential alternative, because students can learn a lot from reviewing each other’s work but this process obviously needs to be closely managed and monitored, to ensure everyone is benefiting. Peergrade is a platform that does exactly that — enabling teachers to implement and manage peer reviews, so they can spend more time actually teaching.

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To begin, schools or individual classes sign up for the Peergrade platform. Then, the teacher creates profiles for each student and adds a new task. Next, each student is assigned one of their peers’ work to mark. Pieces can be processed in any format and the student marks the work on the platform. Peergrade has multiple features to ensure it is a fair system, such as plagiarism detection and adjusted evaluations, which can spot which graders are biased or simply not as good at grading. Teachers can also add their own feedback, assign self-grading tasks and give feedback on the feedback itself — all of which the students can learn from.

How else could students be included in the teaching and graded process in a way that benefits their education?

Travel agencies are now capable of curating journeys based on more than weather and school holidays, such as this platform that builds contextual trips based on big data, and now a flight comparison website is offering free trips based on users’ DNA.

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Momondo, a Denmark-based flight comparison platform, has partnered with AncestryDNA to run a marketing competition that sees winners receiving free trips to the countries where their DNA originates. Tests are based on saliva samples sent through the post, which shows that most users have varied, multinational ancestries. Called The DNA Journey, the project aims to improve diversity tolerance not only by demonstrating how varied each person’s own backgrounds are, but also by encouraging users to travel and experience the cultures of their seemingly distant ancestors. The international competition is open until August 16th.

Could commercial airlines also encourage users to travel to their “homeland”, with discounts or extra air miles, based on their DNA history?

Data.world, a new public benefit corporation based in Texas, has opened its social networking platform to invited researchers. Seeded with nearly 1,000 datasets, data.world hopes to transform research. Publicly available datasets are made machine-readable, discoverable and available for collaborative work.

Previously, researchers had no real-time way of connecting with others working on the same information. Members first create a profile and attach a photo, then they can upload data and follow projects. Through semantic web technology, the platform provides data recommendations to members.

Initially invitation-only, a public launch is being planned for later in the year. Membership is free, as is access to publicly available sets of data. Anyone wanting to work on private datasets must pay a fee. As more people join the network, the data.world team believes big data will finally begin to fulfill its revolutionizing promises.

We’ve seen a niche version of this idea with this international online collaboration platform for HIV vaccine research. Where else could the power of connectivity help to improve research methods?

Many point to the breakdown of community cohesion as a direct result of social media. Now a French startup based in Lyon has launched an app that promotes exchanges between people who don’t necessarily know each other, but who use the same services in the same area.

Launched in September 2015 a few months before COP21, CityLity aims to connect citizens with each other and their local services, branding itself as a “social network of proximity”. Users can search for local services such as a local plumber or sports facility; they can alert the responsible authority about a problem that needs fixing (a leaking water hydrant for example); they can even ask for help moving house from their neighbors. The system also incentivizes eco-friendly behavior, and has created the country’s first interactive eco-responsible map which lists services such as recycling, charging points for electric cars and rental bike stations.

Encouraging smarter local networks is the driving force behind an app where citizens can input questions in the same way as they would use Siri and receive evidence-based answers regarding their city. As the excitement for virtual networks wear off, will we see technology developed to encourage physical communities?

Personal safety is an important concern, and smart systems are increasingly helping users feel reassured — there are IRL safe internet exchange zones and a one-push panic button for group chats. For remote fire safety, intelligent home video monitoring company CleverLoop has released a free Android app called Smokey.

Smokey turns old phones into smart, remote surveillance devices. Users connect an old phone to a power source in a central home location and turn on the Smokey app. Using only the phone’s audio system, Smokey runs while the device is asleep. Should the house fire alarm go off, an emergency alert will be sent to the registered email account. The CleverLoop team says they are currently developing an iOS version as well.

How else could redundant devices be turned into smart home hacks?

Blockchain uses a global network of computers or ‘nodes’ to store information so it cannot be tampered with. The system allows the history of activity to be logged, and Springwise has covered several innovations that capitalize on this function: an ip that enables artists to create digitally trackable copies of their work; and a system that uses Blockchain to certify luxury items such as diamonds.

Another application for blockchain technology is voting. Everyone can agree on the final count because they can count the votes themselves, and verify that no votes were changed, removed or duplicated. Now Nasdaq, the US stock exchange, is planning to use the technology to power a shareholder voting system in Estonia.

Estonia offers e-Residency, a digital identity available to people who start a business online in the country. However, currently, if those e-residents own stock in an Estonian firm, they need to be physically present to vote in shareholder meetings or nominate someone else to do it for them, an aspect which undermines the remote nature of the concept. This new system of voting, which Estonia’s Nasdaq Tallinn Stock Exchange is planning to launch later on this year, will allow shareholders to cast votes from abroad.

Does this mark the beginning of Blockchain technology used to bypass traditional notions of nationality and corporate governance?

Crowdfunding has made projects big and small possible — the peer-to-peer financial model has broadened access to monetary support and enabled entrepreneurs to realize their aspirations. On the coast of the South Island of New Zealand, Awaroa Inlet is set to become the latest public beach, and it was all made possible through 40,000 public donations.

Previously owned by a private businessman, the half of a mile of beach front had been open to the public. Due to financial reasons, the owner put the beach up on the market, resulting in the public fearing that the next owner will not have the same open-access ethos. Local Duane Major began a campaign to crowdfund the purchase of the beach to ensure that it remains open to the public, and that the land will be protected from development. Raising NZD 1.7 million, the government subsidized NZD 254,000 to purchase the land.

Awaroa beach is now a part of the Abel Tasman National Park. What other local schemes can be crowdfunded in this way, ensuring that contributors benefit from the lasting result?