Create the Future. Today

Around 68 percent of people in Amsterdam commute to work or school by bicycle, accounting for around 1.25 million miles of cycling a day. All of these cyclists generate an estimated 19.5 million watt-hours of energy each day. This would be enough energy to power thousands of homes – if it could be captured. Now, two Dutch designers think they may have found a way.

Designers Guillaume Roukhomovsky and Blaž Verhnjak have created S-Park, a bike rack system that can use kinetic energy from cycling to charge batteries. The system was proposed as part of Amsterdam’s Clean Energy Challenge. As the rider bikes around the city, their front wheel produces kinetic energy, which is stored in batteries on the bicycle. When done riding, cyclists park the bike in a communal bike rack that’s connected to the electricity grid. The energy that the batteries stored during the ride is then discharged into the electrical grid. The system includes a front wheel that can be popped into any bike frame. The designers estimate that each bike rack could generate about one kilowatt-hour of energy per day.

While Roukhomovsky and Verhnjak don’t yet have a prototype, interested companies have already reached out to help them bring their idea to life. Amsterdam is planning to invest about 100 million USD in biking infrastructure by 2020, and the team hopes S-Park can be part of it. If so, it will join other innovative clean energy projects recently covered by Springwise. These have included energy-generating mushrooms and a restaurant powered with grease.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders are known for their love of fashion. So much so that many chose to wear beanie hats instead of helmets. However, it is also well-known that helmets can save lives in a skiing accident. Now, biomedical engineer Rob Joseph and product engineer Brodie Robinson, of the Queensland University of Technology, have developed winter headgear that is both stylish and functional. The pair have created the ANTI Ordinary A1, a soft, beanie-style helmet.

The helmet has an inner layer made of 70 to 90 percent Merino wool, and an outer layer of 100 percent acrylic. The wools inner layer is moisture-wicking and non-allergenic, while the outer layer allows for strength, washability and durability. Sandwiched between the two layers is a blend of non-Newtonian fluids. The fluids are made up of particles that flow easily when moving slowly, but rapidly jam tight against each other when under stress or pressure. As a result, the material is normally flexible and liquid-like, but instantly hardens under impact.

Although a bit heavier than conventional ski helmets, at about 750 grams (1.7 pounds), the weight is distributed evenly around the head. The creators of the ANTI A1 plan to fund development of the helmet through a Kickstarter campaign launching on January 14th, 2019. Anyone interested can pre-register to be a backer via their website. The headpiece A1 joins a number of innovations aimed at winter sports enthusiasts. Some recently covered by Springwise include snow gear designed to aid in an avalanche and a water bottle that uses friction to melt snow for drinking.

The wine market is steeped in tradition, both in terms of how it is sold and how it is drunk. However, at Springwise we have seen this industry become disrupted by innovation such as the AR wine tasting lab in Canada and a scanner that measures the drinkability of wine. Now, with a focus on the soil in vineyards, Biome Makers is taking disruption one step further by offering technologies to help winemakers understand the importance of their microbiome.

The company emphasises the importance of soil in wine production. The value of wine is arguably dependent on it regional identity, with the soil playing a key role in this. Additionally, the soil is home to a microbiome, a dynamic, living community of bacteria, fungi and other small creatures. Each organism can influence the health of that particular soil, and, therefore, the plants and insects within it. This is a crucial factor in maintaining the health of the agricultural industry.

Biome Makers have developed a range of DNA sequencing tests for analysing soil and plant quality specifically for the wine industry, called WineSeq. It has also developed proprietary algorithms that can produce a diagnosis of soil health in a single test for 99 USD. These smart algorithms are being fed by soil data from across the globe. WineSeq users and members can then share and access this information on the ‘WikiBiome’ platform. The WineSeq data was recently used to produce a list of the top ten terroirs in the US.

Biome Makers hope the sequencing analysis will help lower the use of pesticides within the wine industry. With a greater understanding of their soil health, producers won’t have to necessarily apply environmentally damaging chemicals. They can instead use the sequencing analysis to manage their soil in a proactive and sustainable way.

Attempts to reduce our impact on other species have lead to various innovations already spotted by Springwise. From vegan leather to lab-grown fish, there are always more ways to get traditional products with less animal death. Consumers are becoming increasingly motivated to avoid destructive impact on both the environment and animals. This therefore makes it worthwhile to pursue other animals, like this slaughter-free meat from an Israeli clean meat company.

Aleph Farms have dedicated themselves to creating healthier and cruelty-free meat. Their process involves taking a sample of animal cells from a real cow and reproducing them outside of the animal. This means that no actual calves are born to produce the meat, thereby eliminating the need for slaughter. Not only does this reduce animal suffering, it also lessens the environmental impact. At the moment, the cattle industry is highly environmentally-damaging. It increases harmful gas emissions, such as methane and carbon dioxide. In addition, the land used for cattle farming requires large swathes of the planet’s rain forests to be cut down, further exacerbating the greenhouse effect.

In addition, these animal cell meat products do not come into contact with the same antibiotics and bacterial contamination that are rife within conventional meat production. This means that the meat is also healthier for the human consumer.

Aleph Farms uses 3D printing technology to mimic traditional cuts of beef in both structure and texture. They can therefore aim to provide the same level of taste and quality as real meat, but with drastically fewer damaging consequences.

Construction companies are using various forms of technology to make their tasks easier and more efficient. For example, Springwise has spotted such innovations as autonomous robot dogs and pop-up robot arms that act as aids for construction. Now a French architect is utilising drones with spraying hoses to foster more sustainable techniques for housing construction.

Stephanie Chaltiel of Boisbuchet has spent years researching innovative construction methods that have lead to her current use of drones. The drones are equipped with spraying hoses that can apply layers of biomaterials to light structures. Architects or construction workers create these base structures, and the drones finish the job. The process is ideally suited for lightweight or temporary structures. Using this method avoids the need for scaffolding or heavy machinery, cutting down construction time massively.

The technology is also highly portable. Luggage cases can transport the drones and the spraying pumps travel on wheels. Such easy transportation makes the entire process more sustainable, economical, and reduces the manpower required on site. The sprays are capable of ejecting various mixtures of different natural ingredients (so-called ‘bioshotcrete’), ranging from mud and clay to lime sands and oils. Different combinations can layer together on the structures to provide different drying times and textures. These processes eventually come together to form stable exterior facades that hold everything together.

In the future, Chaltiel hopes to use sensors together with the drones so they can control material density in the field. Artificial intelligence onboard the drones could also be an exciting development to help them make repairs independent of a coordinator.

Spotted: Sephora was an early adopter of chatbot technology in 2017. The company hoped to deliver an immersive retail experience that inspired shoppers to interact, learn and play through chat. Sephora’s chatbot technology not only heightened the in-store experience for shoppers by allowing users to find any product, but it also allowed users to share product reviews and ratings on-the-go. 

However, Sephora sought to develop a deeper personalised experience that would give teens a reason to stay engaged. The Kik messaging platform allowed the company to share prom-specific content, including makeup tips, style inspiration, and custom video content.

To boast engagement Sephora broadcast a Facebook Live video of Helen Phillips, the Sephora Collection social influencer, promoting a prom makeup tutorial in real-time on the Kik bot platform. Using sweepstakes, it encouraged subscribers to submit questions they wanted answered through the chatbot ahead of time and also provided push notifications to remind users to tune in. Sephora’s custom prom bot experience helped drive ongoing engagement on Kik as well as viewership of the Facebook Live broadcast.

From a social robot to a wearable device, hardware is increasingly popping up to make people’s lives better. Although the elderly are often not extremely tech-savvy, there are also attempts to use modern innovations to their advantage. Australian startup Conpago has developed hardware to help the older generation with feelings of isolation.

In the UK, up to sixteen percent of the older population reported feelings of loneliness. When looking at Australia, this increases up to forty percent. Mackenzie Jackson and Marley Brown were therefore motivated to create their Brisbane-based startup to reduce loneliness and enable connection among the elderly. They have a particular focus on those living in aged care facilities.

The main component of Conpago’s services is Companion. This is a tablet software with simplified functionality to accommodate for older users. It has the core elements of a smartphone, such as allowing users to make calls, send texts, make and receive calendar reminders, and keep up to date with what’s happening in their community. In addition to this hardware, there is also the Conpago Dashboard. This targets aged care providers, integrating with existing systems and allowing staff to check in with their residents. They can use the software to update them about appointments, send medication reminders, and promote events. In this way, the lives of both the elderly patients themselves and the staff are made easier.

Conpago are looking to expand their products further in Australia outside of Brisbane, and eventually even abroad.

Nature is inspiring the design of more efficient solar harnessing technology. We’ve seen designs inspired by insects eyes and butterfly wings. Now, researchers have turned to geckos for inspiration. Geckos’ feet are covered with microscopic hairs or setae which allow them to easily grip walls and structures.

Researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have tried to replicate such microstructures using a liquid crystalline elastomer (LCE) material that can bend towards light. LCEs are chains of molecules with elastic properties. When LCEs are heated, they lose their initial shape and relax to form new shapes. Once the temperature drops back to normal, the LCE returns to its original set shape.

However, LCEs have a limited range of movement. The researchers at Harvard developed a method that overcomes this limitation. They found that by applying magnetic forces during the making of the LCEs, they could set the original LCE shapes based on the orientation of the magnetic fields. Therefore, the team were able to finely control how the LCEs would change in response to temperature and, crucially, light. They used this method to develop 3D structures that autonomously bend towards a moving light source, so that solar panels could act like sunflowers following the sun.

LCEs could also act as an adhesive, sticking in one form and releasing during another. Additionally, LCEs could be used as ‘muscles’ in soft robotics, expanding and contracting for movement.

Springwise has seen various ways that modern technology can be used to improve user security. For example, this SaaS platform can protect online images for both individuals and businesses. Blockchain has also lead to huge steps forward in this sector, enabling greater transparency for consumers in the food industry. This latest innovation could also combine both worlds in using blockchain to take back control of personal data.

Gravity Earth seeks to provide equal access and opportunity to digital IDs, a growing necessity in the modern world. Digital identities allow access to key financial services, mobile communication, and other online benefits. At the moment, Gravity Earth estimates that around 1.5 billion people across the globe do not have an official proof of identity.

The Nairobi-based startup sought to change this by allowing anyone to create a secure, self-sovereign digital ID based on their personal data. The blockchain-based process can be done wherever you are and on any mobile device. Their solution allows currently disadvantaged people to store and share personal data with whoever they want. In so doing, it also allows users to build on existing traditional IDs, but does not depend on them.

The products is currently close to its first deployment at a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya. Gravity Earth will use it to track attendance at three refugee schools. In the future, the startup is also looking to work closely with more refugee-orientated NGOs.

Anyone who has ever tried to pack light knows the inconvenience of carrying numerous, heavy bottles of shampoo and other hair care products. These products are 80 percent water, so imagine how much lighter your luggage would be if the water was removed? Kailey Bradt not only imagined it, she went one step further. Bradt developed a powdered shampoo that can be rehydrated with water to form a ready-to-use product.

Bradt’s company, OWA, has recently secured funding from venture capital fund Precursor Ventures to launch their innovative powder shampoo, called Moondust Hair Wash. The company had earlier secured secured 200,000 USD in pre-seed capital from RIT Venture Fund I. The fund is connected to Rochester Institute of Technology, where Bradt received undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Moondust Hair Wash is not only zero percent water, it is also free of sulphates, parabens, silicones, and artificial colours and fragrances. In addition to saving water, OWA carefully considers the impact of their products throughout the entire product lifecycle, ensuring that fewer chemicals are washed down the drain. Moondust joins a host of new product lines that aim to be more environmentally-friendly. These include a paper toothbrush and packing material made from plants.

In addition to a powdered shampoo and conditioner, OWA is also developed a water-free hair mask and styling lotion. According to Bradt, the products have, “a lower impact on the environment, not just because of what’s in the packaging, but because of how it gets to you and where it comes from. We aren’t using artificial colours, silicones, sulphates or parabens.” Moondust Hair Wash is expected to launch soon in a direct-to-consumer distribution model.