Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Who hasn’t panicked at the realization that a significant other’s birthday is tomorrow, or worse yet, today? The solution lies in automating the ordering and delivery of beautiful bouquets of flowers so no date is ever forgotten. Obviously is the platform from which that is now possible. Available across most of the UK, and in bespoke agreements internationally, Obviously makes it easy to personalize bouquets and the accompanying messages.

Users set up an account and then load up their calendar with as many different dates and people as necessary, making recurring events even easier to remember. Likes and dislikes regarding flowers and colors can be recorded for each recipient, and users are alerted to forthcoming dates in order to craft the perfect message. Users then receive a text on the day the flowers are sent, and orders can be amended up to two days prior to delivery. Costs start at GBP 35 per bouquet, and additional gift options are in development for those who want more than just flowers.

From tampons to wine, subscription services are helping make everyday life that little bit easier. With so much now capable of being delivered, how can entrepreneurs make such services even more efficient and sustainable?


N.B. This company has rebranded to UnderWraps. It has expanded to delivering products for occasions such as Christmas, Birthdays, Valentine’s Day and more.

Open-source design is increasingly popular, encouraging decentralised development and collaboration. We have covered a number of interesting open-source innovations such as this all-terrain wheelchair created for developing countries, and this line of desktop electronics made from corrugated cardboard. With open-source pattern cutting library, Atelie Vivo, opening in Sao Paolo earlier on this year, it looks as though fashion is the next frontier for open-source design.

Atelie Vivo, defined by the creators as a “public pattern cutting library” is a public resource full of clothing flat patterns where people can make their own clothes. Supported by government funding, the idea is to promote knowledge on the basics of cutting and sewing and ultimately, to encourage greater reflexion on the clothes we wear. The library is free, and occupies an area in the Casa do Povo, in Bom Retiro – an area that houses the textile hub of the city. In addition to opening the workshop on Saturdays to 12 people and giving classes on the first Saturday of each month, those responsible for the space also deliver weekly workshops which are then released on social networks.

And all for free.

Could the same kind of space be created for furniture and product design?

Recently we wrote about this IBM Watson partnership that allows retail giant, Hermes, to automate pricing, putting items on sale whilst still maintaining a profit margin, and now we bring you PriceOptimizer, a platform that analyses historical sales data from eCommerce shops to identify the best price.

Pricing an item can be difficult for those working in eCommerce. PriceOptimizer works by analyzing historical data from an online shop to suggest the optimal price. The platforms offers the best price at which to optimise sales, profit and revenue, providing users with digestible graphs to help them make decisions. Business owners can increase conversions and maintain good sales quotas without worrying about underselling. The technology allows users to see just how products are selling and to make adjustments according to the data, rather than guesswork. And the startups are offering an additional layer of data that can be implemented into a sales plan in order to boost sales and better plan for the future.

Could this kind of technology, that automatically reacts to market changes using data science, be used to optimize other things?

Designed by SPACE10 as part of the Ikea Lab idea development program, the Growroom is an open source vertical garden. Described by SPACE10 as an urban farm pavilion, Growrooms are 2.8 by 2.5 meters in size, and are designed specifically for effectiveness in small urban spaces. Sphere-shaped, the structure’s design allows light and water to reach every level of the garden while still providing shade and shelter for visitors within.

As part of its goal of increasing local food sustainability, the design for Growrooms is available online from SPACE10 as a set of 17 downloadable steps. Rather than ship the pieces around the world, local makers need only the most basic tools to construct the garden, and the entire structure is made out of plywood, a material that is generally fairly easily accessed worldwide.

Helping communities become more agriculturally self-sustainable is an urgent global challenge. In The Netherlands, a leading supermarket has created an in-store herb garden to allow customers to pick only what they need. And in a converted shipping container, an entire off-grid toolkit is available for groups to set up a community farm. How could such projects be combined to create the ideal scenario of no waste, carbon-neutral sustainable food cycles?

Working with the security arrangements already in place in a store, Genetec Inc’s new Retail Intelligence system provides owners with real-time, actionable data to help improve overall customer experiences. From analyzing the direction of traffic flow to heat mapping and alerting staff to long lines, the system provides insights from data that is already easily available.

Available on a subscription basis, Genetec is currently offering retailers a free trial of the system in one store. The final version will be publicly available towards the end of 2017. Genetec believes that marketing and merchandising managers will also be able to use the newly available intelligence to make more tailored buys and displays, helping provide an all-around improved, more efficient and responsive in-store experience.

Other recent innovations in retail that are helping create more responsive experiences for customers include the Canadian rewards program that uses VR to allow customers to see and hear how they could use their prizes. And in the United States, a yogurt company is now offering mobile coupons accessed via a television ad. In what other ways could shopping be made more enjoyable?

With products including analytics, computing, AI, IoT and development tools, Amazon Web Services’ newest offering, Chime, provides an important aspect of business support. Chime is a mobile application for online meetings. Users can switch between devices, even in the middle of a call, as well as switch formats of communication, such as moving from a call to a chat and inviting additional attendees.

Users of the service can also share files, inside and outside the business, and all communications are encrypted. Chat histories are not stored on a user’s device. A Pro account is available free for a 30 day trial and then costs USD 15 per user per month. A basic account is free and provides one-to-one videos and chats.

Business owners at all stages of development now have a plethora of apps and services to help build their brand. For those at the very beginning, this app tests the availability, strength and meaning of potential company, brand and product names. For more established organizations, this app helps companies manage their expenses by predicting how much business trips will cost and then financially rewarding staff who come in under budget. How else could mobile business communication be improved?

We recently wrote about this company which is simplifying the infrastructure that integrates payment services across Africa. In Nigeria, it’s possible to pay TV, energy and mobile phone bills online. However, only 39% of the population has access to the internet. Now Kudi, a new Y Combinator-backed startup recently launched in Nigeria, is a Facebook Messenger chatbot and as such doesn’t cost any data to use.

To send a payment to someone via Kudi, users simply need the recipient’s phone number making it easier for people to pay bills and pay each other via messaging. Users can transfer money, pay bills and even buy airtime for their phone through Kudi. Unlike other money transfer services in Nigeria, those using Kudi don’t have to pay any fees when transferring money to bank accounts. Instead, the startup charges a convenience fee of NGN 100 (about USD 30 cents) for bill payments. To date, transactions made through the company total at USD 15,000 and revenue is growing 125 percent week on week. Co-founder Pelumi Aboluwarin puts its popularity down to the fact that many find it hard to adapt to new mobile apps, “preferring to stick with those they already use. Messaging on the other hand is a more compelling interface as it works for people across generations.”

Having completed Y Combinator, the plan is to raise money to expand to Kenya and Ghana. Could this technology be used more widely everywhere in the world?

Vacuum forming is a manufacturing technique in which a heated sheet of plastic is suctioned down onto an object, forming a detailed and accurate mould of the original. Vaquform is a Kickstarter project that hopes to add some digital technology to this well established technique, bringing an industrial level of quality and a more consumer-friendly form at a lower price.

The product uses an IR probe to monitor the temperature of the plastic and preset settings for different material thicknesses and types, making it relatively easy to use. The design also uses a two-part vacuum system to achieve a greater level of accuracy and detail. Vaquform seemingly makes high quality thermoforming more accessible.

With hundreds of maker-spaces opening across the world, products that afford users the chance to get stuck in are clearly an emerging trend. Examples such as this 3D printing pen and this DIY, open source, plastics recycling machine abound. Could this technology be used elsewhere?

IBM AI technology has been used to power incredibly wide ranging innovations from this virtual marketing advisor that uses natural language, to this legal research assistant. Now, Ermes Group, has partnered with IBM to automatically calculate the lowest possible prices that still maintain a margin for the company.

Ermes, the largest retailer in Cyprus, had previously calculated this price manually for each item and store. The company is now using Watson to fix the optimal price. The retail giant can now automatically determine whether a specific item in a given showcase needs to be updated to move stagnant sales. IBM also provides recommended prices along with a schedule that recommends the dates on which items should be discounted. Ermes will know both when to act and what price drop will allow the company to keep a margin of profit for each item in stock. As such, the company’s merchandising team can easily and quickly determine which products are behind in sales and what steps to take to move the items.

Where will Watson go next?

The one-person Ehang 184 drones have completed test flights in Las Vegas and Dubai, with Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency planning to introduce a drone taxi service from July 2017. The drones can carry passengers weighing up to 100 kilograms, with one suitcase stored in a separate compartment, and will complete flights with a radius of approximately 40 to 50 kilometers.

Built by China’s intelligent aerial vehicle company Ehang, the drones being used in Dubai are all-electric and will likely travel at a cruising speed of around 100 kilometers an hour. Should anything affect the power supply, each drone has a complete back-up system that allows the flight to be completed. A command center will oversee the flights, with more details on cost and booking arrangements still to come from the transport agency.

As well as passenger transport, drones are delivering medical supplies to remote areas and providing on-demand, personalized streetlights for night journeys. How else could they be incorporated in personal safety products and situations?