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Good Thinking

June 8, 2007 The engenuity of man knows no bounds – with secure processes and some multimedia, new machines can reduce a costly and inefficient manual process to zeroes and ones and a few minutes. A shining example of this is Mister Money's AFS self-service kiosk for automated payday loan processing. Mister Money operates in the pawn and subprime lending industries, so it is no stranger to assessing and mitigating risk via a verification, scoring and approval methodology. It has now automated that approval methodology and has been granted a patent on this process, incorporating the lot into in an unmanned kiosk application. The kiosks and loan processing software are available for purchase and licensing. Read More
June 6, 2007 Paper has been the predominant advertising medium since advertising began and despite the likelihood that it will lose that mantle in the foreseeable future, there’s life in the old dog yet. Swedish researchers are showing a working prototype of a fourth generation of paper products that can communicate with computers. By combining paper with printed graphic codes and electronically conductive ink that is engineered to be sensitive to pressure. When the paper “buttons” are touched, the sound is played out via the printed speakers. A video of the paper used in large boards and store displays can be seen here. The technology has obvious application in high-impact point-of-purchase promotional displays. Read More
May 31, 2007 Due to the expensive equipment required, anti-counterfeit printing measures have largely been the domain of government money-printing mints. Now, a bit of clever thinking at Xerox has resulted in a new method of using standard colour printer toner to produce flourescent anti-counterfeit watermarking that shows up under UV light, making bogus copies easy to spot. Read More
May 30, 2007 Micrometer-fine patterns in surfaces endow components with amazing properties: Plastic dashboards can be made to look like leather, sharkskin patterned ribs on an aircraft’s fuselage can significantly reduce air resistance and micro-recesses in human implants can dramatically improve connection with the bone. There are many reasons for applying microstructures but actually doing so is by no means easy. While lasers have been used for quite a long time to structure flat surfaces, the problems associated with using lasers on three-dimensional components of complex shape has ensured that etching techniques have had to be deployed, involving the use of large quantities of chemicals and costly processes. Now European researchers have developed a machine that can burn microstructures into free form surfaces. Read More
May 30, 2007 With computerisation now an integral part of most retail store infrastructures and the general tech-savviness of the population underpinned by a new generation raised on computer games and the internet, it will be interesting to see how quickly very sophisticated systems come to market. A glimpse at what’s possible in the very near future came this week when HP showed off its Retail Store Assistant, an experimental system designed to enhance the consumer shopping experience and improve efficiency for retailers by bringing the power of online access to brick-and-mortar stores. The idea is that the customer swipes their loyalty card on entering the store, receiving a printout that includes a personalized shopping list, relevant coupons, notice of associated store discounts or sales, and even a map to where the items can be found in the store. Read More
May 29, 2007 We’d all like to think that we can read the play better than the next person, that we can use our innate intelligence, intuition and gut feel to make well considered business and personal decisions, even though human intuition is seldom sufficient in complex decision-making situations. After several years of research at Mid Sweden University, the decision tool DecideIT has been developed for the purpose of enhancing the ability of decision-makers to reach rational decisions. The advantages include a more structured decision-making process and the capacity to analyze problems that previously were too complex for analysis. Read More
May 28, 2007 Genetically selecting for superior produce has been a staple of farming for hundreds of years. The dairy industry is now looking at how it can selectively breed dairy cows to bring their output closer to the way consumers are choosing to use it. In particular, they're having good results identifying cows that can produce tasty low-fat 'skim' milk - which accounts for 75% of milk sold in some countries. What's more, they've also found a cow whose butter is spreadable right out of the fridge. Her name? Marge. Read More
May 25, 2007 Alcoa Fastening Systems (AFS) has introduced a new insert, called SmartSert, which can be installed in plastic or aluminum-based materials without a pre-tapped hole. The innovative product, which was developed by AFS in Melbourne, Australia, is both cost effective and efficient because steps previously required for thread-forming inserts are eliminated. The SmartSert insert can be installed quicker without a pre-formed hole resulting in both cost and time savings. Read More
May 17, 2007 This simple idea could help overstretched fire departments to make the best use of limited personnel. The Sentinel is a strong, directional fire-hose holding tripod that allows firefighters to set up fixed, unmanned fire suppression points while firefighters get on with the business of saving lives. Read More
May 16, 2007 Vinyl records, for all their wonderous qualities, are such impractical things. You have to store them correctly, take care to ensure your turntable isn't destroying them, and even if you have the equipment to rip them to digital formats at high-quality (USB turntables don't count), you're left with a recording of a recording that was mastered specifically for the qualities (and limitations) of the vinyl format. Well aware of the dilemmas facing record collectors with iPods or digital DJ rigs, U.K. based First Word Records have released their first "digiwax" vinyl record, which includes a code allowing purchasers to download DRM-free 320kbit MP3's of the album. Read More