Archive for January, 2010

Inventables delivers inspiration and innovation to the dreamers of the world!

I am thrilled to see that TECHCRUNCH.COM is featuring the innovative company of my friend and partner Zach Kaplan. Zach’s Chicago-based company, Inventables, inspires thousands of designers in their companies (such as Proctor & Gamble, Motorola, and Black & Decker), to be innovative. Check out the artlicle here!

So what is Inventables and why are so many designers and engineers excited about this company? Inventables is a no-frills website that was launched this month where vendors of raw materials and technologies can create online profiles for their products in order to generate qualified sales leads worth their time. Inventables makes it very easy for vendors of materials and technologies to get an initial introduction to potential buyers.

Microsoft X-Box, PING Golf Clubs, and Kraft Foods are examples of buyer companies using the marketplace. Dupont, 3M, and Eastman are examples of companies participating as vendors.

I’ve been serving as an advisor to Inventables, and couldn’t be more pleased and excited for its future.

Says Zach:

“We founded Inventables to help companies innovate by sharing our excitement for what technology makes possible with the world’s innovators. We’ve opened up our once proprietary research for free to the world so that information and access to new materials that was once only available to the largest companies in the world is now available to anyone with an internet connection.”

Will 3-D be in your living room this year?

January 22, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

ps3-3d-113We like gadgets at our house, and I am amazed at what I saw last week at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the premier event for the presentation of the industry’s latest electronic products.

Without a doubt I have to say that the event was the coming-out party for consumer three-dimensional (3-D) display technology. 3-D devices were on display in whatever area you looked at the show- televisions, video players, cameras, gaming and even broadcasting. The results were impressive! It is no longer just a curiosity. 3-D technology has been around for quite a long time, but along with the advancement of higher resolution displays, it has obviously been the focus of many electronics companies’ recent R&D efforts.

We are all familiar with older versions of 3-D video and movies that use different colored paper glasses, but the newest techniques when combined with modern high-definition displays were incredibly realistic. The next step up from colored red-and-blue glasses has been dark polarized lenses that can separate the two images necessary for the 3-D depth effect. This is the technique used in the popular and very successful Avatar movie.

On display at the CES show were televisions using “active” glasses where the video seen through each lens is electronically “shuttered” on and off in sync with the display images so that each eye sees a different image appropriate for that eye’s viewing angle. This gives an even more realistic, bright and colorful display. The first live DirecTV 3-D broadcast was demonstrated with the Panasonic TC-P50V25 using this technology and it felt like you right there underwater swimming with the dolphins or soaring over the Grand Canyon.

Intel also demonstrated a very interesting monitor that could present three-dimensional images where the viewer didn’t have to use any type of glasses at all. It was mesmerizing to watch. The technology that was used here is called “lenticular” and is similar in principle to the flip-flop pictures our parents (and us!) used to get out of Cracker Jack boxes as a kid. This is a principle that has been around since the late 1800’s and has been reapplied to 21st century needs.

To me it is amazing that for as long as it took to get HD television into our living rooms, the electronics manufacturers have unveiled three-dimensional video displays surprisingly fast. However to make the hardware sing it needs content. Fear not, the broadcasters are joining the party.Just a few weeks ago it was announced that ESPN and the Discovery Channel are entering the third dimension now. ESPN 3-D and will broadcast over 85 sporting events in 3-D this year.

I’m not sure I relish the idea of replacing recently purchased HD television sets so quickly, but much like the adoption of HD, once you see it you can immediately appreciate the benefits. 2010 will be the turning point in 3-D television and entertainment. Like it or not – it is coming, and coming soon.

Who’s Mining the Shop? The Need to Mine Inventions in Companies, Universities

“Who’s mining the shop?” This is a question that needs to be asked for every university, company, and organization capable of creating inventions. In my corporate and academic experience (am the former Corporate Patent Strategist at Kimberly-Clark Corp., and was a professor before that), numerous inventions never get the protection they deserve because nobody was there to coach the inventors, to recognize the potential for intellectual property, and to do the extra work required to develop a sound IP strategy for the work. Many inventors know almost nothing about intellectual property. Many don’t even recognize that what they have developed is an invention. This can be especially true in businesses when the invention is developed outside of a normal R&D department, such as a new business method or software tool. But even research scientists and professors may miss the patent potential of their work unless there is someone there to coach and guide them.

Technology transfer offices are charged with this task in many universities, and legal departments or patent review boards have this duty in many companies, but both can miss huge opportunities unless there is someone who goes out to mine the organization for inventions. That involves reaching out to groups and individuals, educating them (often in presentations or group meetings) about intellectual property, being available for one-on-one discussions, asking questions, looking for signs of exciting developments, being an advocate and mentor, and constantly mining for IP gold. These are activities that we at Innovationedge have done for some of our clients, with exciting results. Let us help you develop a plan to capture more of the inventions that are in your midst, and to generate new intellectual assets (including low-cost assets) to build a powerful portfolio.

One of the many exciting experiences I had at Kimberly-Clark came after recognizing that a particular remote mill had developed some clever solutions to a few problems they were facing. After further inquiries, I learned that the mill had some very bright engineers who were solving lots of problems in clever ways. I suggested that there may be some patent opportunities coming out of that mill, and arranged a trip where a couple of us would spend a couple days there giving presentations and doing interviews of team members to see what they might have. I found many exciting and potentially patentable advances from their work, and ended up working with them to generate nearly a dozen invention disclosures, several of which were filed as patents. This created a lot of excitement for the mill and helped them pay more attention to the IP potential of what they were doing.

As with that mill experience, part of successful mining involves helping people write up the initial invention disclosure. When people are very busy and writing disclosures doesn’t fit their job description, someone needs to be the assistant/mentor who basically writes it for them, taking away the pain of the IP process. It requires resources, but it can lead to substantial returns.

We would be happy to work with you to examine your organization and determine what you could achieve by applying some additional resources to help generate IP through proactive mining. Mining and generating intellectual assets for clients are among our favorite services that we offer. We consider it an important step toward overcoming innovation fatigue in some organizations.

Who’s mining the shop? Great question. Give us a call today and let us help you strengthen your mining efforts.

Who are the best open innovation speakers globally?

ArticleIt is nice to make a list like this! NESTA is an innovation company from the U.K. that works with high tech startups.

Smart Signs and Smart Innovation: Are You Preparing Now? Let Us Help

One of the most exciting opportunity areas for targeted innovation is in the display of digital information.

The information-rich world of the film Minority Report is becoming closer to reality each day, with some practical twists. Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that Intel and Microsoft are teaming up to provide smart digital displays in retail stores that can look back at the viewer, identify gender and other information using cameras and image processing, and then automatically offer information about products that may be of interest to the viewer, including instant coupons, directions to the product in the store, etc. The article, “Intel, Microsoft Offer Smart-Sign technology” by Don Clark and Nick Wingfield (p. B6, Jan. 12, 2010), describes smart-signs as a way for retailers to fight back against online sellers. The technology builds upon the embedded computing capabilities that Microsoft and Intel have applied to point-of-sale systems, office equipment, car entertainment, and other systems. They are now collaborating to specify hardware and software components that could become a standard platform for other developers. They will seek to offer features similar to those provided by Amazon.com, which can identify returning customers and tailor promotions to them based on their history. It’s all about personalizing the shopping experience–but doing that without infringing upon consumer privacy may be a complex issue. A spokesman stated that the current technology does not identify individuals, only gender. Perhaps the future may involve an opt-in system for those who want to be identified and receive discounts or other benefits in return.

E-Ink Flexible DisplayMeanwhile, a variety of companies are developing flexible thin-film displays. One interesting technology space is electronic paper, which reflects light like ordinary printed paper to create images or text. Rigid versions of electronic paper are in use in some popular portable readers, while flexible versions are being developed by companies like E-Ink. A variety of technologies that have been used for electronic paper are summarized at Wikipedia, including electrophoresis, electrowetting, and electrofluidic displays.

What could your business model do with flexible smart displays, if they become inexpensive and easy to program or control? What could you do by adding sensors (perhaps sensors that respond to pressure, temperature, or capacitance to detect touch, or micro-electronic devices such as accelerometers or level indicators)? If you could track and interpret the actions a customer takes with a smart tag, for example, could that help you? What could you do if your smart tags or smart panels could communicate with each other and a network?

Will flexible displays become integrated with smart-sign technology to provide, say, magazines that can read you?

There is a growing body of publications and patents addressing creative aspects of what can be done with these emerging technologies. What will it mean for you–or for your competitors? What will these technologies mean for your supply chain? What do they mean for packaging, for shelf management, for inventor management, for market research, or for product safety? Are you aware of the future and how it might impact the business? At Innovationedge, we’re ready to work with you to find these answers for your company and to generate the intellectual assets that you will need to be prepared for a smarter, information-rich future. We’re ready to help you develop strategies and tools to reduce the impact of competitive disruptive innovation, while increasing your own opportunities to create intellectual assets and benefit from the emerging capabilities of the future.

In fact, there is one other very cool technology from Asia that you ought to be thinking about when you start exploring a world with smart, flexible display technology. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe you should give us a ring and let us show you how to do targeted innovation to help you go beyond mere brainstorming by generating the intellectual assets you need for the future. We tailor our approaches to each client, but in this case, we are likely to apply some of the insights from our recent book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue: Overcoming the Barriers to Personal and Corporate Success, a John Wiley & Sons book by Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins, and Mukund Karanjikar. Call us at 920-967-0470.

May your innovations be flexible and smart!

8 Jan 10: NESTA Connect Blog

January 8, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Media Coverage

Who are the best open innovation speakers globally?: NESTA Connect blog, January 8, 2010

Cheryl perkins innovation consultant best innovation speaker globally

Customer Service: Building a sustainable advantage

January 6, 2010 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Trends

smallbiztrendsIf you are a small business owner, this new year is a great time to take stock in how your company is doing. Do you have a plan for creating more value and exceeding customer’s expectations?

This year a big marketing buzzword to watch is “customer service.” Offering outstanding customer service doesn’t just make good economic sense for your small business. It is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage, according to Barry Moltz, who recently wrote an article about The 10 Customer Service Trends for 2010.

Some trends I highlighted from his list include personalized shopping experiences, “insourcing” and tighter relationships. Then there is the one about firing your customers! Browse the list and ask yourself if these are hitting the mark in your company this year.