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Shipping container with a mind of its own

March 5, 2006 Radio frequency identification (RFID) of goods is currently revolutionising logistics. One practical application of the new technology is the Smart Box, a shipping container that can be located during transit and offers numerous other useful functions. One of the many applications for the new RFID tags is that of locating goods and containers in transit. German scientists have developed the “IFF Smart Box”, a container equipped with a scanning device that can check its contents by means of RFID. The data are forwarded to a small computer unit. A software combines them with the current geographical location determined by a GPS receiver. Various sensors can be integrated in the box, too, in order to measure parameters such as pressure, temperature or vibration. The information is transmitted to a database by mobile radio.  Read More

Innovative use of SMS by public utilities

February 23, 2006 As mobile phone penetration approaches ubiquity, the potential for technology to make our lives more productive grows daily. Two glowing examples of this have just been launched in Australia from organizations intent on changing public perception of them from low-tech utilities to high-tech service organizations. Mobile phone penetration in Australia is expected to reach 94% by mid-2006, enabling personalised information services to be delivered at new levels. Connex Melbourne operates 15 rail lines, 300+ trains, 200+ stations and carries 145 million passengers a year. Transport users can now register for SMS updates via the Connex web site, providing details of their travel patterns. When a train is delayed or cancelled, a personalised SMS message is sent advising of the delay and next scheduled service. Interactive SMS queries are also possible. Similarly, Australia Post’s new 'Mail2Day’ service is a notification service that lets Post Office Box customers know when they have received mail either by SMS or email.  Read More

Aliens closing at UK Science Museum and going on tour to France, Spain, USA

February 18, 2006 The Science of Aliens exhibition at the UK Science Museum is in its last week and will be closing on 26 February before it goes on its international tour. This much-praised exhibition is great brain fodder for anyone who has ever wondered what life may be like on other planets, enabling you to take a close look at famous aliens we all know, dive into the deep seas to find the alien creatures here on Earth and get interactive with a series of unique hands-on exhibits. The Science of Aliens blends our eternal fascination with life on other planets with the work of leading scientists who used the latest discoveries and scientific principles to imagine alien worlds and creatures, exploring the very real possibilities for alien life. Cutting edge hands-on displays will give visitors the chance to actually interact with these scientifically based creatures. The exhibition tour will start with Thinktank in Birmingham, UK, then onto France and Spain. There will also be a duplicate exhibition opening in Miami, USA in October.  Read More

The temporary physical Virtual Store

February 14, 2006 We’ve been hearing about the virtual store for many years now, with the hype growing to a crescendo during the first coming of the internet, and peaking just before the tech wreck. Since then, e-commerce has been growing steadily towards inevitable dominance at some point in the distant future. A spectacular initiative from American department store retailing institution J. C. Penney yesterday might cause everybody to rethink how e-commerce and the future of retailing might unfold though. The company will construct a 15, 000-square-foot physical manifestation of the virtual store at One Times Square on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, New York. In our humble opinion, the opening of this temporary virtual store from March 3-26, in which shoppers can purchase the company's full range of merchandise at interactive kiosks, marks a significant development in the history of retail. We believe that traveling virtual superstores could be a part of retailing’s future.  Read More

Web 2.0 – new tools, amazing functionality, vast opportunities

February 1, 2006 Do yourself a favour and follow this link, click on any of the pushpins on the map, suspend the disbelief for a moment and pretend you’re looking for an apartment to buy – apart from the wonderful organization of complex information, it’s a perfect example of the amazing functionality which could both disrupt and enhance current practices in the real estate industry and a great example of what a lot of people are referring to as “Web 2.0.” The term does not refer to a new version of the internet, but another fundamental development in the way that web sites are working together to provide an experience previously unthinkable. The concept of Web 2.0 is explained well here, and technology behind these wonderful new web applications is called Ajax, which is explained in laymans terms here and given some perspective here. Ajax has become the driving force behind some exciting new free web-based applications such as the Writely word-processor, NumSum spreadsheet and our favourite, Voo2do, a site that "offers advanced task and priority management for busy, ambitious individuals". Ajax threatens the very existence of PC-based software applications, and might even reinvent the entire software and internet industries, not to mention offering myriad new business possibilities. What a wonderful time to be alive!  Read More

3 billion people seek basic financial services – is Microfinance the answer?

January 29, 2006 Access to financial services can help poor and low-income clients increase and stabilize their incomes, build assets, and invest in their own future. A new book, Access for All: Building Inclusive Financial Systems published by CGAP and the World Bank, offers a fresh vision for the future. Drawing on lessons from 10 years of research, the book describes how microfinance can help poor people to become part of the financial mainstream. Access for All addresses the hotly-debated topics in microfinance today – the role of donors and governments; how to reach poorer clients, and those living in more remote rural regions; and the potential for new technology to reduce costs, allowing commercial businesses to serve poor clients. With only about one sixth of those who could use basic financial services currently having access, the book shows how to bridge that gap and reach the majority of the world’s population – the poor.  Read More

Blancpain Quantieme Perpetuel GMT Havana abounding in complications

January 28, 2006 Good news for devotees of exclusivity and innovation: newly added to the Blancpain Le Brassus collection is a perpetual calendar outfitted both with the patented system of correctors under the lugs and a second time zone indication. Cased in platinum with a richly coloured Havana brown dial, this special limited edition, restricted to 150 pieces, is accompanied by an exclusively created cigar cutter modeled after an antique watchmaking tool. This truly is a piece conceived for the most demanding collector.  Read More

Ingenious magazine on a bottle

UPDATED IMAGES January 21, 2006 The media mix is about to have a new and very viable form of print publishing – on-product magazines will hit the market for the first time in early 2006 and we suspect this innovation is capable of changing the world of print media as we know it. The concept of on-product magazines first came to Joanna Wojtalik while she was studying in the final year of a marketing course just two years ago. The idea was simple – create a small (in the first instance this will be an A7 - 74 x 105 mm) magazine which fits onto a fast moving consumer product and distribute via grocery rather than traditional magazine channels. Joanna’s idea is now patented and will launch in January as the first on-product magazine - a bottled water aimed at the female market with iLove magazine attached and will be joined in Q2 by a magazine for children and a magazine aimed at men on Iced Coffee. Distribution will be focused through convenience stores, supermarkets and gas stations, significantly differentiating the products that carry them and offering advertisers a circulation far in excess of magazines sold through traditional magazine distribution channels. By March, iLove magazine will be the largest circulation magazine in Australia and the company has global aspirations, holding patents for on-product magazines attached to all common food packaging formats.  Read More

Hire anything at Just4hire

January 20, 2006 Now here’s a simple yet powerful idea that just might prevent a young entrepreneur from ever finishing her degree. Irene Vasilas worked as a network administrator in the hire/rental industry for four years while she worked her way through university. While working in the industry, she identified the need for an Internet base for hiring and has now launched her one-stop-rental-resource concept with the backing of some of Australia’s biggest hire companies. Put simply, anything you might possibly wish to hire can be sourced through the site, from rotary hoes, limousines, clowns, aeroplanes … Australia-wide. If the success continues at this rate, Irene, who is due to finish her Bachelor of Technology and Information Systems later this year, might need to defer her studies. It's such a good idea, we figure it will work in any country.  Read More

Babble offers privacy in open plan offices

January 16, 2006 Open plan offices have their strengths and weaknesses. Considered from the employee’s point of view, the biggest weakness is a lack of privacy, so we were particularly keen to take a look at Sonare's new, next generation babble device. Babble was developed by Applied Minds to address the challenging issue of workplace confidentiality for phone conversations in any open workspace. Babble is a desktop device that connects inline between your desk phone and it's handset and sends the user’s voice out in multiplied and “babbled” form through proprietary speakers arranged in the work area. It achieves confidentiality without distracting the user of the device, and those in the user’s immediate area hear what sounds like an indiscernible, low-volume group conversation. The benefits of Babble go beyond the critical requirement of safeguarding information, contributing to increased productivity by allowing the user to have confidential telephone conversations at their workstation, where their computer and files are located.  Read More

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