Discovering innovations that matter since 2002

US company Spire creates sensors for measuring breathing to empower people to take control of their mental and physical health. Users can attach it to the clothes they wear the most and it will monitor both breath and heart rate inflection points. Spire claims the Health Tag is the world’s smallest consumer tag. It’s also discrete and does not require charging as its batteries last up to a year and a half.

After collecting data from the wearer, the Spire Health Tag uses advanced algorithms to classify the breathing patterns. These classifications are created based on data from laboratory studies relating to respiration and cognitive and emotional states. Having classified the breathing pattern, the Spire Health Tag can determine the wearer’s cognitive and emotional state. It relays this information to the wearer via an accompanying Spire app to help improve sleep, reduce stress and encourage an active lifestyle. In addition, the app allows users to view their progress metrics over time.

Jonathan Palley, co-founder and CEO of Spire, said: “We created Spire Health Tag with the belief that the health wearable should be completely invisible unless it has something important to tell you in-the-moment. Only by making the wearable disappear can the industry drive better outcomes.”

Here at Springwise we have published many innovations in wearables including a wearable patch that analyses athletes’ sweat to measure their fitness levels. Another example is a wearable motion sensor that protects workers from injury by alerting them of any dangerous motions.

Companies spend a lot of time and resources to hire the best employees. For fast-growing companies in particular, the on-boarding process is crucial to getting the most out of new employees. It refers to the time spent making sure new employees have all the necessary skills to integrate efficiently. Studies show that around a third of new employees know within their first week if they want to stay long-term at a company. Now, one startup is creating a product that helps companies provide an effective and positive on-boarding process.

Personably uses software to streamline and automate aspects of the on-boarding process. The company focuses on serving fast-growing companies, for whom the on-boarding process can be time-consuming. According to Personably co-founder Katerina Pascoulis, “Onboarding people well sets the tone for their whole experience at the company. So much time and money is spent getting the right person into the role and then companies drop the ball. Personably solves this by giving managers and HR teams a tool to set up the onboarding before someone starts in a more seamless way. It means the new hire is receiving emails throughout their notice period and has things scheduled over their first few months. They feel like they’re already part of the team which is a much better experience.”

Personably’s platform can handle tasks like scheduling training, sending welcome emails, and organising paperwork. All of this might seem like something that can be handled by an HR team, and it can – if the company is hiring a few new people a month. But when adding hundreds of people a month, a system like Personably can make the difference between a happy employee and an employee that spends their first weeks not knowing what to do.

Companies pay a monthly subscription to use Personably’s product. Pricing varies based on the number of hires a company makes. While there are other HR systems available with on-boarding features, Personably claims their platform offers an ability to scale up that other platforms do not offer.

At Springwise, we have seen an upsurge in the number of SaaS products relating to HR. These include an app that trains sales teams and pre-employment morality tests. What other SaaS products might also be helpful in the hiring process?

Artificial intelligence is boosting the way in which technology works. The addition of AI improves the functionality of day-to-day items and methods and is applicable to almost every industry. Springwise has covered a breadth of AI implementations, demonstrating its various potential uses. An AI-powered app created by a Singapore startup rewards shoppers for Instagram posts. Elsewhere, new AI music software allows anyone to compose, customise and produce original music content.

China’s Shenyang Institute of Automation is also currently developing a fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) that utilise artificial intelligence (AI). The diesel-electric machines are ideal for working with little or no human interaction. Despite this, their main purpose is not to replace the need for humans operating submarine services. The project is part of the Chinese government’s plan to expand the country’s naval power using AI technology. When first deployed, the machines will complete simple tasks to ensure a complete success rate.

The current UUVs models are small. This means they will need to deploy from a larger vessel. However small the model may be, it still has the capacity to carry for large sized freight meaning missiles or torpedoes. AI is integrated into the vehicles to help them navigate the ocean. The intelligence technology is also used to help the UUVs operate for months at a time, changing route and depth of travel to avoid detection. Importantly, it can even distinguish between military and civilian vessels. Some are saying that the creation is a reaction to similar weapons development in the US. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are both working on prototypes.

At Springwise, we have highlighted a number of ways in which drones could function in construction and maintenance. These have included construction drones controlled by AI and drones that can navigate in the dark. One advantage of using drones in construction is that, unlike cranes and scaffolding, drones have far more access capability. This includes points that are inaccessible to people. For example, drones could build structures in areas inaccessible for heavy machinery. Engineers are also working on ways for drones to carry heavier loads by flying in synchronised fleets that can share the load.

A new system from the Institute for Computational Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart explores how drones could adapt architecture to changing weather conditions. Dubbed the Cyber Physical Macro Materials project, a team of masters students developed the system. It consists of a self-supporting shade canopy made up of lightweight carbon fibre panels. The panels contain sensors, communications modules and magnets to help them latch on to adjoining panels.

The smart panels connect with drones equipped with grippers. The drones then move the panels around to change the shape and size of the canopy as needed. Algorithms allow the drones to work autonomously to rearrange the panels to keep the crowds below shaded and to add additional panels as crowds grow.

The Stuttgart team writes that the project is about challenging pre-conceived ideas of architectural design and construction. They envision an agile canopy moving through public space, constantly rebuilding itself. At the moment, the project is just a proof-of-concept, as autonomous drones are not allowed in areas that are filled with people. In the future, however, it may be possible to use this technology to re-engineer, repair or maintain city structures to suit changing needs.

A high-tech wristband aims to protect the wearer from mosquito bites. The device, named Nopixgo, simulates signals similar to that of a storm. As soon as mosquitoes perceive signs of an approaching thunderstorm, they fall into a protection mode. Their drive for self-protection overrides their need to bite. As a result, the majority of mosquitoes show passive behaviour or flee. The signal technology reduces the risk of mosquito bites within a radius of around two metres. It is also harmless to humans and animals. The radiation value is 180 times weaker than that omitted by smartphones.

Swiss inventor Kurt Stoll wanted to create protection from mosquito bites, carrying vector-based diseases such as malaria and zika that are life threatening. As the use of chemicals has been ineffective in preventing the spread of such diseases, Stoll created the wristband in a hope that smart technology would build an invisible barrier to the pests. However, Nopixgo isn’t 100% effective and the signals may not impact some mosquitoes. Stoll is mindful that mosquitoes are an important part of the ecosystem, so the signal omitted from Nopixgo simply deters them from biting and doesn’t cause the bugs any harm. The device is available in five colours and the battery lasts up to one week. Nopixgo fits anyone aged six years old and above and is available to buy now for £77.

Technology is helping reduce the spread of diseases in ways that could never have been imagined a decade ago. In addition to helping to better understand diseases, technology is also a reliable detection means both in medical environments and at home. A home-use device created by an Israeli startup is helping the early detection of breast cancer. Another impressive innovation is the smart mirror than monitors malignant moles. How do you use technology to keep track of your health?

At Springwise, we have been eagerly following the increase in the uses of blockchain and cryptocurrency. These have included innovations such as a TV that mines cryptocurrency and a cryptocurrency baseball game. Now, there is a new use for cryptocurrency: promoting high-quality journalism. Civil Media Company is hoping to use blockchain-based technology to track the flow of content and enforce licensing rights. The company has recently announced a deal with the Associated Press.

The deal includes an agreement to license APs content to the newsrooms in the Civil network. This is similar to agreements that AP has with hundreds of news outlets around the world. However, the deal also gives Civil access to the AP’s experience in licensing, business practices and product design. In exchange, the AP can utilise Civil’s blockchain marketplace. Under Civil’s plan, readers will be able to buy stories directly from journalists. Either fiat or cryptocurrency are available for use via web wallets. To establish a high bar for quality content, all participants in the marketplace also agree to abide by Civil’s Constitution, which promotes high-quality journalism.

Jim Kennedy, senior VP of strategy and enterprise development at The Associated Press, pointed out to Digiday that, in addition to using material for free, some people reuse articles to promote fake news and misinformation. He added that the deal with Civil, “presents an opportunity to have a real track record of who’s allowed to publish content and how it’s being used.”

Civil points out that the only ad-driven revenue model that has traditionally funded quality journalism has not translated into the digital economy. This has left journalists struggling to produce high-quality work. Civil hopes that blockchain will decentralise the sale of news. Journalists will then be able to rely less on advertising and large publishing conglomerates.

Just a few years ago, fitness trackers were not much more than digital step counters. As fitness trackers have developed, manufacturers have packed more and more sensors into the devices. Today, they do everything from measuring heart rate to advising when you have had enough sun. So, how do they work, and what can we expect from the future of fitness trackers?

Trackers today still use accelerometers to measure orientation and acceleration force. This enables trackers to determine the position of a user and the amount of steps taken. An altimeter measures altitude, which the software can translate into the height of mountains or the number of stairs climbed. Most trackers also contain a GPS receiver. The GPS allows users to map their exercise and analyse the terrain where they were excising.

Many fitness trackers also contain a host of sensors to measure physical responses. One of these is an optical heart rate monitor. This uses an LED light to measure heart rate. The light shines through the skin onto the blood, which allows the sensor to determine how fast the blood is being pumped, and thus the users’ heart rate.

Sensors can also measure the amount of sweat given off by the user. This is measured by galvanic skin response – the electrical connectivity of the skin. When the body sweats the skin becomes a better conductor of electricity. Moreover the level of conductance can help determine the level of exertion. Software within the fitness tracker can then compare what the user is doing (e.g. walking or running) with their heart rate and sweat response to recommend specific exercises that will lead to more or less exertion. Data on sweat is also important in determining how many calories are being expended.

Ambient light sensors, such as the ones used to automatically control the brightness of phone screens, are used in fitness trackers to detect the time of day. These combined with UV sensors can determine how long the user has been in the sun for.

Some more recent trackers use sensors that measure very tiny changes in impedance (electrical resistance) within the body. The sensor uses electrodes that send electrical impulses to each other, and measures how quickly the impulses arrive. Changes in impedance in the blood are analysed by the trackers’ software to determine respiration rate, heart rate, and levels of hydration.

Some trackers can measure sleep patterns using a process called actigraphy. The tracker monitors wrist movements, which are analysed by an algorithm to determine how much time a person spends in deep sleep. This method is not as accurate as polysomnography, which measures brain activity, but it can be a useful guide.

While fitness trackers can provide users with a huge amount of data, they vary greatly in reliability. For some, a bumpy car ride can be enough to throw off the accuracy; optical heart monitors worn on the wrist can have difficulty in compensating for skin tone. In addition, fitness trackers are only ever as good as the algorithms used to analyse the data. These can vary greatly from company to company. The best manufacturers are constantly updating their algorithms. The most recent trackers use algorithms to automatically detect the type of exercise the user is engaged in, such as yoga or boxing, and set fitness goals accordingly.

The business of fitness trackers is also changing. According to analysis by CCS Insight, the wearables market will be worth 29 billion USD by 2022. However, CCS also reports that fitness trackers are losing ground to smartwatches, and estimate that around 140 million smartwatches will be sold in 2022. Many of these watches will be able to track the same data as today’s fitness trackers, as well as features such as pairing with connected gym equipment or streaming music.

At Springwise, we have been following closely this growth in the number of innovations involving smart trackers. These include a fitness tracking ring that can connect to Alexa and a wearable that automatically measures calorie intake based on cell glucose levels. Whether smart watches or trackers, it may be that the future of fitness is all in the wrist.

In many cities, the cost of housing is soaring. As a result, people must live in ever-smaller spaces, where it can be a real struggle to have enough space. Engineer Sankarshan Murthy was one of those who had to contend with less space than he wanted. He developed Bumblebee Spaces after attempting to fit everything into his family’s tiny Bay Area apartment. Bumblebee makes a robotics and AI-based storage system that can triple the amount of usable space. It works by packing possession into ceiling modules that can be raised or lowered as needed.

Bumblebee uses hoists to lift possessions like beds out of the way when out of use, and lower them again when required. The hoists work on an app that allows users to call for their belongings at any time. Murthy describes the system as a way to think of real estate in terms of volume instead of square footage, saying, “You are already paying for all this air and ceiling space you are not using. We unlock that for you.” The system uses AI to identify and tag each item during storage.

Bumblebee has raised seed money from venture capital firms and has begun to sell small numbers of units. They hope to expand to mass-production within a year. The price for the modules and furniture is around $6,000 to $10,000 USD per room, depending on size. Customers also pay Bumblebee a monthly fee for maintenance and software updates.

Bumblebee joins a number of innovations aimed at helping people live well in limited space. These include a miniature bookstore and tiny, affordable vacation homes. The company hopes that, eventually, it will allow people to live better in urban centres that are rapidly becoming too expensive for the average person.

Many cities are beginning to experience shortages of water for at least part of the year. At the same time, most rainwater that falls in built-up areas just runs off the streets and down the sewer drains – rather than percolating into the ground to recharge groundwater aquifers. Herbicides, pesticides, toxic metals and car oil often also contaminate this storm water, making it difficult to reclaim. Now, researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a way to remove contaminants from storm water.

The researchers developed a mineral-coated sand that destroys organic pollutants. To create the sand, engineers mixed plain sand with manganese oxide. The manganese oxide binds to organic chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and bisphenol-A. These bonded chemicals then break them down into smaller molecules that are less toxic and more biodegradable. The manganese oxide-coated sand is safe and environmentally friendly.

Although the coated sand loses its effectiveness over time, researchers have found a way to ‘recharge’ it in place by bathing the sand in a solution containing a low concentration of chlorine. Joseph Charbonnet, a graduate engineering student working on the project, suggests that the decontaminated storm water pass through the sand and into underground aquifers. The aquifers would act as storage units for the water until there is need for it. In the next phase of the experiment, the team is performing field tests in Sonoma County using storm water from a local creek.

Finding new ways to save and recycle water is becoming more important. We have already seen other innovations in water recycling. These include toilets that can recycle water and low cost grey water recycling. According to Charbonnet, “The way we treat storm water, especially in California, is broken. We think of it as a pollutant, but we should be thinking about it as a solution”.

Automotive racing is not just for adrenaline junkies. It has also led to a large number of innovations in automotive technology. Direct-shift gearboxes, independent suspensions, disc brakes and safety cages all began as race car innovations and made their way into mainstream production vehicles. Now, an Israeli company has manufactured a race car it says will revolutionise motorsports for fans as well as drivers.

Griiip manufactures an entry-level Formula 1000 race car. According to the company, this is the first smart race car. The company’s G1 race cars are powered by an Aprilia V4 1000cc engine, and use a simple frame to keep costs low. For drivers, the car is one of the cheapest available. It costs around 60,000 USD and a small team can operate it. The cars are equipped with Autotalks’ vehicle-to-vehicle technology, which sends an alert when drivers are approaching a dangerous area, such as when another driver has lost control. Griiip is also planning to introduce an electric version of the G1.

For fans, Griiip’s G1 features a livestreaming platform. It allows them to select individual driver feeds streaming on the companies’ G1 Series website. Griiip also plans to use drones and Facebook Live to provide live race coverage. According to Griiip CTO Gilad Agam, “The ability to affordably and reliably stream from each car during a race is ground-breaking. We believe that this, along with live car data and insights, will really help audience engagement. It is also something that will attract the attention of other motorsport series.”

At Springwise, we have seen innovations in automotive technology that range from autonomous tech, like self-delivering cars, to advances in materials science, such as spherical smart tyres. With the G1, Griips is introducing advances in technology and connectivity. This could improve driver safer and race viewership at the same time.