Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

Cycling innovations from around the world seek to improve the performance and safety of bike riders. For example, in Japan, an air-free bike tire uses spokes for support. Another example is a smart bike light from France that sends alerts if a cyclist is turning or if an accident occurs. A new innovation from the US, the Speedcraft AIR glasses, offers cyclists a better breathing performance.

The Speedcraft AIR glasses are from company 100% who create gear and clothing to improve the performance of racers. The glasses work by helping to hold the wearers nose open with integrated nose magnets. This breathing technology comes from a partnership with AC Systems. Connecting magnetic nose pads to glasses creates a more comfortable experience for cyclists as it offers an alternative to nasal dilation devices. Additionally, the magnetic nasal dilator technology is built into award-winning Speedcraft sunglasses. These are lightweight, shatterproof, and offer the wearer 100 percent UV protection and 360 degree visibility. Also, the design is oil and water repellent due to a scratch-resistant Hydroilo coating.

Speedcraft AIR glasses also offers wearers more control as there is a small dial in the center of the glasses. By adjusting this dial, the wearer can control the magnetic arms and choose how much nasal dilation they need. Therefore, cyclists can choose the correct amount of nasal dilation on demand. 100% explains that this adjustable feature balances the “correct ratio of gases entering your lungs in the proper sequence”. In order to assess the product performance, Peter Sagan, a three-time UCI Road World Champion, race-tested the Speedcraft AIR glasses. In what other ways can enhancements to cycling gear improve performances?

Rather than compete with food crops for water, space and other resources, a new biofuel called mushroom biobutanol is created from a naturally occurring waste product. National University of Singapore researchers found that the process of harvesting mushrooms naturally created a bacteria that is capable of turning cellulose into biobutanol. Of particular importance in the new biofuel is its high energy density and overall similarity to petrol when in use. That means that owners of gas-powered cars may be able to directly swap the products they use to power their vehicles without requiring expensive structural and mechanical modifications.

Some are hailing the discovery as a game-changer. It may well be, in several ways. The bacteria used in the fermentation process of the new biofuel is strong enough to be used on its own. This is also without adding any additional treatments to the organic matter. The bacteria is likely to be capable of use with a number of different waste products. This can be from a variety of horticultural and agricultural processes. Furthermore, the mushroom biobutanol is a much more sustainable option than most of the currently available alternative fuel sources.

Other waste products that are being tested for their potential as biofuels include clothing and olive mill wastewater. A partnership of several companies is combining resources in order to help a wide variety of retailers recycle unsold and used goods, including clothing, paper and other fibers, into a commercial bioethanol for airplanes. Similarly, another team of researchers has found a solution to improve the environmental footprint of olive oil production. By combining olive mill wastewater with another regional waste product – cypress sawdust, the scientists produced water safe for irrigation use, a condensed gas bio-oil for use as a heat source and biofertilizer pellets. How else could other production processes put waste to new, eco-friendly, creative uses?

As car ride services become increasingly widespread, we have seen numerous innovations within this sphere. An example is the development of a method of data encryption. Encryption is specifically designed to protect the privacy of people using ride-sharing companies. Thanks to this cryptography the company is unable to access data regarding the locations of their riders. We have also seen the expansion of Uber to the point where it introduced fortnightly and monthly subscription options back in 2016. These subscriptions offered users unlimited rides with Uber during this time period. Gett has gone a step further, offering a unique service to its customers. With the ride service app users can specifically request a Porsche to take them to their destination.

The company has partnered up with Porsche to provide this bespoke service. Fares can be less than 28 USD, and the service is currently available for pick up in central London only. Users can be picked up at anytime from Wednesdays through to Sundays. All the drivers employed attend a training course at the Porsche Experience Centre, assuring customers of top quality. Customers also benefit from other luxuries. Users can choose the music they want to listen to and select the temperature levels in the car. In addition to this the cars are equipped with charging cables and water. Gett’s CEO, Matteo de Renzi, has said: “At Gett, we pride ourselves on offering our customers the very best experience, and we are delighted to be presenting them with this unique and exclusive opportunity to travel in style with Porsche”.

As ride services become more specialized and luxurious, perhaps this will one day negate the necessity of owning a car. With scope for much more personalisation and quality improvement, can on demand ride services play an increasingly bigger role in the future of transport?

The Skyrider 2.0, a new idea by Italian aerospace interior design company Aviointeriors, positions passengers almost completely upright, using a polyester saddle and back support. This allows airlines to squeeze an additional 20 percent more passengers in per flight. The Skyrider also weighs half as much as a standard economy class seat, lowering fuel costs.

Aviointeriors calls Skyrider 2.0, “the new frontier of low cost tickets and passenger experience”. The seat is an updated version of one introduced by the company in 2010, which failed to get FAA approval. The design for the previous seat was supposedly based on a saddle, with Aviointeriors director general explaining at the time, “Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle.” The new version boasts extra padding and poles between the cabin ceiling and floor anchoring each row. The updated version is also more attractive than the old version, but still offers just 23 inches of pitch (the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it). The Skyrider is intended as seating for a new budget class.

Airline companies have been considering similar high-capacity seating for a long time. In 2010 Airbus patented a glorified bicycle seat with a seatbeat, and RyanAir has proposed standing seats before (both ideas have failed to meet with approval from aviation authorities, for safety reasons). We have seen a number of innovations aimed at making flying easier and offering passengers more options for luxury. These include luxury cabins with flat beds and in-flight yoga. Now there is also an option offering passengers less luxury. Will budget airline passengers be willing to trade more misery for lower prices?

Classroom tools are increasingly being enhanced using technology to create improved learning environments and experiences. A German based non-profit makes online courses available to refugees, helping them earn university degrees. An app from the US lets students create digital portfolios of their work. A new learning tool from the US, Empatico, focuses on building empathy in students.

Launched by The KIND Foundation, Empatico is a free online tool that connects classrooms across the globe. Using video conferencing technology, the tool offers a cultural exchange experience to students as they interact with classrooms in different countries. During the video conferences, activities on subjects such as literacy, science and social studies are held. These include topics such as communities, weather and the ways children play, exploring and exchanging the similarities and differences of students around the world. Activities are executed in three stages. Firstly, the students prepare by completing exercises within their own classroom on the topic they will be discussing. They then spend 20-40 minutes in a live interaction with their partner classroom. Lastly, the classroom reflects on the interaction.

Empatico intends to teach empathy to children with global interactions that widen their perspective of the world beyond their own community. It is aimed at students between the ages of 7 and 11 because research shows that this is when children are most strongly influenced by their experiences. To join in, classrooms are required to have an internet connection, webcam and at least one computer. A match between two classrooms is made after teachers select a minimum of two activities that they want to participate in. If two teachers have selected the same activity and are available at the same time, they are matched. Matches between classrooms occur only if the students in each classroom have an age difference of two years or less.

Over 600 classrooms across more than 50 countries are currently registered on Empatico. The company has set a target to have 1 million students participating in Empatico’s activities by 2020. How else can learning tools diversify children’s perspectives?

Reducing food waste is essential. New innovations throughout the life cycle of food products are finding ways to better manage resources. More sustainable processes include supermarket delivery trucks that are fuelled by food waste and a nano-sensor that can detect food-borne illnesses in a matter of hours. The supermarket chain has introduced 10 trucks that run on biomethane, which produces 70 percent less pollution than diesel. The nano-sensor is helping manufacturers and producers speed up detection of pathogens, particularly salmonella and e-coli, in order to prevent widespread infection. Traditional methods of testing for potential outbreaks take up to three days for results. This involves lab fees and investment in expensive microchip technology. Now, a new material developed by a team of researchers from Canada’s McMaster University aims to prevent vast amounts of food being wasted by reducing the volume of contamination.

Named the Sentinel Wrap, the small, transparent patch can be included in traditional food packaging to provide contamination alerts. The patch can be read by a smartphone or other similar devices. It would provide a much more accurate reflection of a product’s freshness than the current system of expiry dates. Based on research completed by the Sentinel Bioactive Paper Network, an interdisciplinary research network that worked on paper-based detection systems, the Sentinel Wrap should be easy to mass produce. The team behind the detector says that large-scale production should also be fairly cost-effective. Manufacturers could include the patch in their current processes.

Regulatory approvals are currently needed to allow for commercial use. However, the researchers say the new material could be used in other industries as well, which may help speed up its availability. It could, for example, be used to indicate infections in wrappings on wounds. What other sensor-based materials could be adapted for use in multiple industries?

Springwise has covered a number of cryptocurrency innovations, including a way to mine cryptocurrency as you heat your home and a retail mall that only accepts cryptocurrency. Just when it seems that we have reached peak crypto comes a new innovation – a cryptocurrency aimed at children. Startup Pigzbe offers a “family-friendly” cryptocurrency that allows children as young as six to start collecting their own tokens. The company pairs a hardware “piggy-wallet” with an app that turns gifting and saving into a game. But perhaps the most important innovation is to reduce transfer fees for family members to as little as 1p, making them up to 1,000 times cheaper and faster than competitors like Go-Henry.

Pigzbe is powered by it’s own cryptocurrency, called Wollo, with transfer fees low enough for parents to transfer small amounts to reward chores or give pocket money. The piggy-wallet is a cold storage device for the currency and also works as a gaming device with the app. It controls an immersive, in-app game that helps teach children the value of money. The product is completely borderless, allowing far-flung families to create their own micro-financing networks. Pigzbe is also launching a payments card connected to the app. The card will enable families to spend their Wollo in multiple currencies.

Pigzbe was founded by Forbes 30-Under-30 entrepreneur Filippo Yacob, and Jon Marshall, designer of the Kano Computer. According to the companies’ own Whitepaper, its goal is “to teach children the principles of 21st century finance while enabling families as micro-financing networks to operate globally.” Pigzbe will launch an ICO for Wollo in June 2018, with a cap of 675 million tokens. In theory, this means that the value of the money in children’s wallets will grow as the tokens become more valuable. It is important to educate children about money – but is six too young to risk their pocket money on the cryptocurrency roller-coaster?

By now, most people are familiar with food trucks, mobile restaurants bringing tasty treats to different locations each day. But how about a mobile dental truck? Startup Lydian Dental aims to disrupt the dental industry with its mobile dentist’s office that brings dental care directly to the customer. Lydian hopes its hip, user-friendly approach will appeal to younger people and those seeking greater convenience.

Lydian already has four permanent offices in Texas and Arizona, where it offers a subscription service. Customers pay a monthly fee and can then access a variety of services at any time. The staff wears uniforms with quippy phrases and welcomes patients in a friendly atmosphere. Going even further in their mission to elevate the customer’s experience, the company decided to try something new. The partnered with design firm Rapt Studio to build RV-style mobile dental clinics with style. The creative team looked to the tiny house movement for inspiration. They came up with a design that featured wood panelled exteriors, lawn chairs, televisions and reclining patient chairs with a plaid upholstery. The idea was to make a trip to the dentist feel more relaxing and less threatening. Lydian also uses the mobile clinics to bring low-cost dental care to in-need communities.

Lydian currently has around 3,000 patients and 300 subscribers, but is looking to grow that number by partnering with businesses to provide on-site employer-provided coverage. The portable units are already proving popular with Austin tech startups looking to offer their employees the added perk of having dentists come to them. Lydian also hopes to appeal to millennial users with fun extras such as free toothbrushes, custom toothpaste flavors, and free chocolate bars branded ‘Flossify’. Lydian joins an increasing number of retail business that are looking to turn transactions into experiences, such as in-store AR experiences and a restaurant that allows diners to buy the furnishings as well as the food. Will this approach succeed in getting people to look forward to going to the dentist?

Scaffolding is a major and unavoidable cost on most construction projects. In 2015, the on-site logistics market for scaffolding assembly accounted for more than EUR 20 billion worldwide. A large part of this cost is the time it takes to assemble scaffolding. Up to 80 percent of assembly time is spent on on-site logistics – ferrying bits of scaffolding up and down the growing construction. Additionally, the scaffolding industry has a poor safety record, with more than 6,000 accidents per year in Germany alone. Now Munich-based startup Kewazo is set to disrupt the scaffolding industry with a robotic scaffolding assistant that not only decreases risk, but greatly speeds up the time it takes to assemble scaffolding.

Kewazo worked with robotics experts Infineon Technologies to create a robot that can deliver materials to the workers where and when they need them. Kewazo’s robot moves up, down and along the scaffold structure. It uses a special track attached to the horizontal and vertical poles of the scaffold (the standards and ledgers). The robot uses a path-finding algorithm to locate itself along the scaffolding. It plans its journey to the assemblers supplying with materials as and where they need them. The robot uses machine-learning to build up a better picture of how human scaffolders work, and to adjust its delivery.

The Kewazo scaffolding system requires only two workers to operate, which the company claims will reduce labor costs. According to Kewazo, by allowing a constant flow of scaffolding materials to the assemblers, the robot can also decrease assembly time by up to 42 percent. As many scaffolding accidents occur while lifting materials, Kewazo could also cut down on days lost to injuries. At Springwise, we have seen robotics applied to a wide variety of industries, including art and food service. What other areas of construction could benefit from the use of robotics?

An art installation in London recreates the temperature and air quality of destinations around the world, letting visitors compare environments. Based at Somerset House, the Pollution Pods consist of five connected geodesic domes that visitors can walk through. The Pollution Pods are by British artist Michael Pinsky and first on display in Norway last year. It is a part of Climart’s four-year research project that tests to see if people’s attitude towards climate change can be influenced by visual art.

The Pollution Pods use technology developed by Airlabs, a company based in Denmark, which emulates the pollution mixtures in different cities. Levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide in each Pod vary depending on the city being simulated. Replicating the air quality of cities around the world, the installation draws attention to what we are doing to the Earth. Within each geodesic dome is a replica of the air quality in London, Norway, Beijing, São Paulo and New Delhi. As well as air quality, the Pods replicate the fragrance and temperature of each of the cities. Therefore, visitors experience how hot or cold and dry or humid each location is.

Pinsky’s installation raises awareness on air pollution and how contemporary consumerism impacts our environment and also environments around the world. Additionally, the creators of this technology hope that it is useable as an air purifier in heavily occupied public spaces. The current London installation exhibits the ‘cleanest air in the UK’ as the technology is capable of removing all air pollution within a dome.

We have previously published many environmental innovations that seek to tackle air pollution and climate change.  For example, a protest beer in Scotland donates proceeds to a climate change charity. It also sources its ingredients from areas heavily affected by global warming. Another example is a cryptocurrency from Spain for trading carbon credits. It aims to encourage companies that are environmentally-friendly to offset their carbon emissions. What other mediums can help change people’s perspectives on climate change?