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Good Thinking

Advertising veterans to pioneer New Media Model for advertisers in Europe

June 23, 2006 Now here’s a concept that just might work. Using the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as the backdrop, Holland’s Spotzer Media Group announced a ready-to-air concept for video commercials. Spotzer intends to pioneer this radical new approach to video advertising that will enable clients to rent and run a professionally designed and produced advertisement for as little as Euro 500. Videos can be personalised for the client by Spotzer, create a media plan online and actually purchase and book air or media time on-line or have the video commercials prepared for use with websites, narrow casting networks, cell phones and other mobile devices such as mp3 players. It's not an entirely new concept, as our colleague the Red Ferret points out, with SpotRunner having launched in the US earlier this year.  Read More

SmartShopper - the voice-activated shopping list

June 22, 2006 This is a rendering of a concept device that may or may not be a killer app. SmartShopper is an automated grocery shopping list device that will use voice recognition technology to store, and intelligently aggregate lists for shopping and errands, then print the list. According to the company's co-founder Richard G. Brindisi, "the user simply presses a button on the unit and says the name of a grocery item they will need on their next visit to the store. The unit has an LCD and an embedded thermal printer that actually prints the list right out of the unit. The list will be printed according to the categories in the grocery store, i.e. all of the produce items will be listed together, frozen foods together, etc. The unit comes with nearly 2,000 grocery items already entered and the user can add their own favorite items or brands." Now on one hand, it’s easy to see this functionality being incorporated into a Palm pilot, Windows CE device or built into almost anything with a microprocessor, so it won’t exist without competition. But on the other hand, it is designed for people to keep track of things without having to use a computer, could be used by the technologically-dysfunctional, it’s small and handy, could be used driving a car … and there's a demo of the device here.  Read More

Internet for all - EU ministers commit to an inclusive and barrier-free information societ...

June 16, 2006 A pan-European drive to use information and communication technologies to help people to overcome economic, social, educational, territorial or disability-related disadvantages was endorsed by ministers of 34 European countries in Riga (Latvia) this week. "e-Inclusion" targets include halving the gap in internet usage by groups at risk of exclusion, boosting broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90%, and making all public web sites accessible by 2010. Welcoming the ministers' undertaking, Information Society and Media Minister Viviane Reding (pictured) said: "Many Europeans still get too little benefit from information and communication technologies, and millions are at risk of being left behind. Enabling all Europeans to participate on equal terms in the information society is not only a social necessity – it is a huge economic opportunity for industry. By implementing their Riga undertakings, European countries will take a big step towards making e-inclusion a reality.”  Read More

High performance web search

June 13, 2006 Search is the name of the game on the web these days because it’s where decisions get made about where to spend money – if you can control the space where the best informed (and hence most lucrative) decisions get made, then you win the game. Not surprisingly, as the amount of available relevant information (reports, research, emails, blogs, news stories, documents ad infinitum) continues to increase at a bewildering rate, our ability to make informed decisions is in danger of being overwhelmed (hands up all those who feel like that – see!!!!). Faced with this exponential expansion of information and information sources, how can anyone know with certainty that they have reviewed all available relevant information? Or uncovered the facts and relationships critical to sound decision-making? Insightful Corporation was this week issued a U.S. patent for the "Inverse Inference Engine for High Performance Web Search." The invention is designed to provide a faster and more scalable alternative for intelligent keyword search techniques. With this invention, Insightful claims users will realize a richer and more relevant search experience than traditional statistical keyword techniques. The invention is designed to enhance the end user's search experience by providing related and recommended options based on the user's query found within unstructured text such as web sites.  Read More

The PayPal Plus Credit Card

June 12, 2006 The points of contact where the real world meets the virtual world are somewhat akin to the fabled end of the rainbow and eBay’s grand plan for ownership of a sizeable slab of the pot-of-gold became a little clearer last week when subsidiary PayPal introduced the PayPal Plus Credit Card - a MasterCard that can be used both online and anywhere that MasterCard is accepted offline. It seems like the eBay global garage sale has truly assembled a dream team of online properties on the back of its growth to become the world’s largest online marketplace. Last quarter, eBay traded US$10 billion worth of goods and Paypal was already the most preferred electronic payment method among eBay users before it was acquired in October, 2002. PayPal now has 100 million account holders and eBay has 200 million users (up from 147 million a year ago) and the recently acquired Skype VOIP communications company has 100 million users, so we forsee a healthy future for PayPal Plus. Not surprisingly, there’s a generous rewards program that applies to all online or offline purchases and just to ensure things get going with some immediate impetus, cardholders can take advantage of a special introductory offer – 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers until 2007. This limited-time offer is good through August 31, 2006, and will automatically appear on eBay items over US$50 as long as sellers accept PayPal and have not opted out of displaying PayPal Buyer Credit messages on their listings.  Read More

How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

June 12, 2006 Last month was the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of one of the most important inventions of our time - the shipping container. That first step, where a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston in April, 1956, heralded a better way of transporting goods that has supercharged global trade. A new book tells the story of the container's creation and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about. By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world's workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.  Read More

Strawjet - making buildings out of straw

May 30, 2006 Every now and again, a technology comes along that is so momentous that it changes the way we do things from that point forth. Last year we saw the LifeStraw and this year, Strawjet. Strawjet just took out the History Channel’s Modern Marvels Invent Now Challenge and we suspect the sudden attention from this respected global medium will help to garner universal support for an ingenious idea. Strawjet is being developed by the Ashland School of Environmental Technology in Oregon. The School is a collaborative learning community dedicated to life-enhancing, technological innovations that serve ecological and humanitarian values worldwide and with the Strawjet project it has done itself proud. Strawjet manufactures straw into a low cost, fully recyclable, structural and insulating building material. Straw is harvested during the grain harvest and converted directly into entire finished wall sections for the construction of homes of any design, from standard homes to rapid assembly shelters for the developing world and disaster relief. Other building materials such as, cement, steel, wood, and glass, are associated with significant environmental costs through to their extraction, manufacture or harvest while straw is often considered a waste product and is continuously renewable and universally available. As a by-product of harvesting food crops it does not place any additional burden on the environment. It offers better insulation than typical brick and mortar construction and is better able to withstand the stresses of an earthquake. It saves resources for building, and provides the farmer with another source of income or the ability to create his own building materials as required. The process harvests straw, orients the stems so they are all parallel, then compresses and binds it into a continuous length of two inch diameter rigid cable which can be combined into a construction material in several ways. Labor costs at the building site are greatly reduced as the company has developed a system to combine the cables into standard panels and hence into completed wall systems in the field. Main diagram explanation: (1) modified combine grain harvester makes cables and harvests grain simultaneously. (2) truck collects cables, cuts them to eight foot lengths, weaves them into a mat and rolls the mat for ease of handling. (3) mat ready for use and a stack of mats. (4) Each pass of laminator adds a layer to composite wall. Layers are pinned and bonded ingeniously. (5) undulating wall section being made. (6) section of wall with the mobile cutter ready to cut it into finished wall sections complete with door and windows (7) which are delivered by truck and assembled. (8 &9). It’s ingenious and the full story is succinctly told here with an image library here.  Read More

Winning ideas of the ECOnomics Environmental Business Plan Challenge Award

May 29, 2006 The ECOnomics Environmental Business Plan Challenge provides a US$50,000 award for the business plan that best combines environmental innovation and profitability. Created by General Electric and The Wall Street Journal, the four finalists and winner of the award were recently announced and the quality of the ideas validated the exercise, with Robert Wright taking the gong for his Heated Air Spray Evaporation (HASE) Watervap technology (top of main pic) that will help solve the most universal human need: potable water. Another of the finalists, LiquidPiston, (bottom of main pic) was also a finalist of the prestigious MIT $50K Entrepreneurship competition. LiquidPiston is a novel internal combustion engine architecture, which is claimed to offer double the fuel efficiency of existing engines while drastically reducing pollutant emissions. The engine is based on a patent-pending "High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle" (HEHC) thermodynamic cycle, borrowing elements from Otto, Diesel, Atkinson, and Rankine cycles. The finalists of the competition can be found here.  Read More

Reclosable Aluminum Beverage Bottles

May 25, 2006 Astonishingly, glass has been with us for 5000 years. It was one of the first luxuries, is incorporated into 99% of all buildings and cameras and phones and has been a mainstay of global beverage packaging for more than a century. Not long ago, most drink containers were glass. With cardboards, plastics and now aluminium offering some advantages, the glass bottle is under threat. Aluminium drink containers were developed and commercialised and are peculiar to Japan, but this week Universal Can Company (UCC) of Tokyo entered into a licensing agreement for its proven, commercial technology with the American Ball Corporation which will manufacture and sell Alumi-Tek aluminum beverage bottles in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The Alumi-Tek offers the added convenience of reclosability to other aluminium bottle attributes, such as long shelf life, tamper-resistance, the ability to chill quickly and recyclability. Looks cool too!  Read More

Desktop device prints six colours on cylindrical objects

May 18, 2006 With desktop colour printers now under US$100, we constantly marvel at what we'll be able to do a few years from now. In recent times we've enthused about desktop cutters, and we regularly write about printers that can print three dimensional objects (here, here and here), and one that can even print metal parts. Well now there's a printer that can print on any cylindrical object. Croatian desktop printer company Azon specializes in printers that print on unconventional objects and materials, such as fabrics and textiles, and fingernails. Unbelievably, the company now offers several models that print on 3D objects such as pens, mobile phones, metal products, acrylic, fomax ad infinitum. Now the company has released a 10,000 Euro desktop printer that will print on any cylindrical object up to 17 cm long and with a a diameter of 2-14 cm for the cylinder. Like a coffee cup, f';rinstance - cool heh! The AZON MICRO CYLINDER uses Piezo inkjet technology with a two-level ink filter system to ensures the printhead doesn’t get clogged and anti-scratch technology ensures an extended life life for the printhead, reducing the cost of printing.  Read More

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