Archive for August, 2011

New York City crowdsources Hurricane Irene storm damage

August 30, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Crowdsourcing

Courtesy NYC Severe Weather

Storm damage maps can be very useful in pinpointing where severe weather is heading, and New York City residents are using that same idea to help direct cleanup crews and emergency responders.

Over the weekend the city launched a new mapping project where residents can report downed trees, powerlines, debris and power outages. It’s a crowdsourcing endeavor that works with Google Maps, and even with no electricity more than a couple hundred people are using social media to report problem areas. Check out the real-time  NYC Severe Weather Crowdmap to see where crews are heading this week.

The city already has a similar crowdsourcing project available online for snow removal, but this map takes crowdsourcing to the next step!

It’s the real thing: Coke Lets You Create Your Own Drink on Facebook

August 24, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Crowdsourcing, Innovation In The News

via Flickr

I spotted this article over at today and thought I’d share it. What a great example of how Coca-Cola can tap into crowdsourcing in real time to understand how fans and customers think drinks.  And for customers who live in a larger town, there is a good chance they can take their ideas and quickly turn them around into a reality via a vending machine that dispenses their own unique concoction. I wonder how an application like this can help Facebook fans of other companies create their favorite restaurant meal, custom footwear or even the latest automobile design?

Coca-Cola on Wednesday rolled out a Facebook app that lets you mix your own Coke drink. The app is no online-only experiment, though: Real Coke vending machines that do the same thing are rolling out across the country.

The Coca-Cola Freestyle app, created by digital marketing agency 360i, lets you mix a drink using 125 Coke beverages, including Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta and Powerade. After choosing each, you hold down a “push” button to fill a cup of your choosing. When you fill your cup, you can name it. There’s also a game designed for the iPhone and Android formats.

The Facebook Page also directs you to Freestyle vending machines in your area and lets you ask for one in your town. There are now about 1,500 such machines in restaurants like Wendy’s, Burger King and Five Guys, but Coke plans to make more noise about Freestyle next year. The company is working with ad agency Ogilvy & Mather on a 2012 ad campaign for Freestyle, according to Advertising Age. Coke would like the apps to eventually generate a 2-D barcode, which could be scanned at one of the machines to create a blend, according to Ad Age.

Image courtesy of

Nanotechnology and the future of medicine

August 17, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Biotechnology

It seems every day I’m hearing more and more about the hopes for nanotechnology and the role it could potentially play in our economic future. We all know that these are white-knuckle times for many investors, but it appears that nanotechnology is an area that will boost our economy, especially in the areas of energy, electronics and biomedical innovation.

Our scientific knowledge of this fascinating field is increasing, and the more I look at it the more hopeful I am that we are on the brink of change. We can now engineer and control the tiniest applications and machines that, until a few years ago sounded like science fiction. I recently came across an article over at about some of the ways nanotechnology is advancing the world of medicine, and I thought I would share it with you. I’ll bet you can think of a few reasons to keep an eye on companies investing in nanotechnology!

25 Ways Nanotechnology is Revolutionizing Medicine

  1. Nanobots: These devices have great potential for medical uses. These smallest of robots could be used to perform a number of functions inside the body, and out. They could even be programmed to build other nanobots, increasing cost efficiency.
  2. Nanocomputers: In order to direct nanobots in their work, special computers will need to be built. Efforts to create nanocomputers, as well as the movement toward quantum computing, are likely to continue to provide new processes and possibilities for the science of medicine.
  3. Cell repair: Damage to the cells of the body can be very difficult to repair. Cells are so incredibly small. But nanotechnology could provide a way to get around this. Small nanobots or other devices could be used to manipulate molecules and atoms on an individual level, repairing cells.
  4. Cancer treatment: There are hopes that the use of nanotechnology could help in cancer treatment. This is because the small,

    specialized functions of some nano devices could be directed more precisely at cancer cells. Current technology damages the healthy cells surrounding cancer cells, as well as destroying the undesirables. With nanotechnology, it is possible that cancer cells could be targeted and destroyed with almost no damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

  5. Aging: Nano devices could be used to erase some of the signs of aging. Already, laser technology can reduce the appearance of age lines, spots and wrinkles. With the help of powerful nanotechnology, it is possible that these signs could be done away with completely.
  6. Heart disease: There is a possibility that nanobots could perform a number of heart related functions in the body. The repair of damaged heart tissue is only one possibility. Another option is to use nano devices to clean out arteries, helping unclog those that have buildup due to cholesterol and other problems.
  7. Implanting devices: Instead of implanting devices as we have seen in some cases, it might be possible to send a nanobot to build the necessary structures inside the body,
  8. Virtual reality: Doctors could explore the body more readily with the help of a nanobot injection. Creating a virtual reality that would help medical professionals and others learn could help make some operations more “real” and provide practice ahead of time.
  9. Gene therapy: Nanotechnology would be small enough to enter the body and even redesign the genome. This would be a way to alter a number of conditions and diseases. However, the human genome would need to be understood a little better for truly advanced gene therapy. However, nanobots would be qualified for swapping abnormal genes with normal genes and performing other functions.
  10. Drug delivery: Systems that automate drug delivery can help increase the consistency associated with providing medication to those who need it. Drug delivery systems can be regulated using nanotechnology to ensure that certain types of medications are released at the proper time, and without the human error that comes with forgetting to take something.
    Homeopathic medicine

    Image via Wikipedia

  11. Nanotweezers: These devices are designed to manipulate nanostructures. These can be used to move nano devices around in the body, or position them prior to insertion. Nanotweezers are usually constructed using nanotubes.
  12. Stem cells: Nanotechnology can actually help adult stem cells morph into the types of cells that are actually needed. Studies showing how nanotubes can help adult stem cells turn into function neurons in brain damaged rats.
  13. Bone repair: It is possible to accelerate bone repair using nanotechnology. Nanoparticles made up of different chemical compositions can help knit bones back together, and can even help in some cases of spinal cord injury.
  14. Imaging: Nanotechnology can provide advancements in medical imaging by allowing a very specific and intimate peek into the body. Nano devices result in molecular imaging that can lead to better diagnosis of a variety of diseases and conditions.
  15. Diabetes: Instead of having to draw blood to test blood sugar level, nanotechnology is providing a way for diabetics to use lenses to check their blood sugar. These nanocomposite contact lenses actually change color to indicate blood sugar level.
  16. Surgery: We already have robotic surgeons in some cases, but nanosurgery is possible using some lasers, as well as nano devices that can be programmed to perform some surgical functions. Being able to perform surgery at the smallest level can have a number of benefits for long term medicine.
  17. Seizures: There are nanochips being developed to help control seizures. These chips are meant to analyze brain signals, and then do what is needed to adjust the brain so that epilepsy could be better controlled.
  18. Sensory feedback: For those who have lost feeling in their body, it is possible to use nanotechnology to increase sensory feedback. Nanochips provide the opportunity for electrical impulses to be intercepted and interpreted.
  19. Limb control: Prosthetics continue to advance, and nanotechnology is likely to help revolutionize the way paralysis is handled. There are some attempts to use nanochips that can help those who have lost limb control use their minds to send signals to provide a certain amount of motion.
  20. Medical monitoring: You might be able to increase your ability to monitor your own body systems with the help of nanotechnology. Small nanochips implanted in your body could monitor your health and systems, and then send you feedback to your computer or other device.
  21. Medical records: In addition to monitoring your own body systems, nanotech can be used to send information to your health care providers, and increase the efficiency of electronic medical records.
  22. Disease prevention: Having a nano device in your body could actually help prevent diseases. With proper programming, it should be possible to help you avoid some diseases, repairing problems before they become serious issues. They may even be able to help prevent chronic diseases.
  23. Prenatal: There are a number of ways that nanotechnology can help in terms of prenatal diagnosis. Being able to get inside the uterus and even inside the fetus without causing trauma can be beneficial to prenatal health, and nanotechnology can also help potentially repair problems in the womb.
  24. Individual medicine: Nanotechnology is moving toward making medicine more personal. Being able to accurately work up your genome can help health providers more precisely pinpoint the proper treatments and tweak a treatment plan according to your individual needs and responses.
  25. Research: Nanotechnology is advancing medical research, providing the tools that can help us learn more about the body and how it functions, as well as providing insight into chemistry and physics, which provide the building blocks for the body.


Global focus on innovation rapidly on the rise

August 11, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation In The News

I recently returned from our first Food & Beverage 2011: Sustainable Innovation Summit last week in Chicago,  where some of the top innovation leaders from small and large global food giants (Kraft, General Mills, Heinz, Smuckers and many others), gathered to talk about innovation. We learned from each other how to better create a user experience that builds brand loyalty, and how to open new market channels.  It was an incredible experience for all of us. We all know that we are hungry for new solutions in the industry, and I have noticed that every industry is paying more attention to innovation opportunities–especially in our current economic climate.

I saw this article today over at, and thought it spoke to that insatiable desire to become more knowledge- and technology-intensive as we step up our game:

The world is hungry for innovation. So concludes a recent innovation study from the  National Science Foundation.   The upward trend of worldwide R&D expenditures has been doubling year-over-year for more than a decade and investment in innovation is now growing faster than total global economic output.National Science Foundation

As one might expect, R&D investment growth of mature Science and Technology (S&T) countries differ greatly from the R&D growth rates of rising economies. The US, the EU and Japan averaged 5-6 percent R&D expenditure growth from 1996-2007 while India grew 9 percent and China over 20 percent.

The growth in Asian R&D spend (excluding Japan) resulted, says the National Science Foundation, in decreases in the percentages of world R&D expenditures for the mature S&T entities like the United States, EU, and Japan. These decreases in R&D spend were substantial, especially in view of the short period and large expenditures involved. North America’s  share of estimated world R&D activity decreased from 40 to  percent whereas the EU’s share declined from 31 to 28 percent. The Asia/Pacific region’s share increased from 24  to 31 percent  – even with Japan’s comparatively low growth).

Similarly, the growth in the global research pool varies from country to country (again, with APAC countries outside of Japan taking the lead in terms of growth), but trends in research growth point towards continued growth.  All these new researchers produce lots of research in the shape of patents, articles, reports, etc.  According to the National Science Foundation report, worldwide, the number of engineering research articles has increased substantially faster over the past 20 years than total S&E article production, particularly in Asia.

With science and technology no longer the province of mature S&T enterprises, how can countries and companies hold on to their lead in innovation?  Investments in higher education, and attracting and retaining talent and support for R&D top the list.

As established and up-and-coming organizations compete for every advantage, they must strive to continually make themselves more knowledge- and technology-intensive. Organizations that put repeatable innovation best practices in place  – incorporating people, process, platform and programs along with disciplines for connecting to and leveraging technical knowledge and know-how are sure to come out on top.

Disruptive Green Packaging

August 3, 2011 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Disruptive Innovation, Green Innovation

Can consumers embrace product packaging that looks dull, or somewhat imperfect, in exchange for packaging that is good for the environment?

Check out this article on Greener about a new package disrupting the detergent aisle. It has a molded-pulp outer shell made from  recycled cardboard and old newspapers, with an inner film pouch–both parts can easily be recycled. Read on:


Image via


Molded-pulp bottle disrupts laundry detergent category

Ecologic Brands has found a winning application for its multi-component molded-pulp package in Seventh Generation’s new 4X concentrated brand of liquid laundry detergent. The product has been on shelf for just 12 weeks (at presstime) and is already the number-three top-selling detergent in its category of 150 SKUs. The package was also a winner with the 2011 Greener Package Awards judges, who rewarded it with an Environmental Impact award in the Non FDA-Regulated Products category.

The Seventh Generation container consists of a molded-pulp outer shell made from 70% recycled cardboard (OCC) and 30% old newspapers (ONP) that can be recycled up to seven times. The material, without the paper label, has been certified through the Biodegradable Products Institute as being compostable per ASTM 6868. The package’s inner film pouch with spout has been constructed of polyethylene only, making it suitable for recycling with plastic grocery bags in retailer drop-off bins from Trex. When compared with a rigid plastic container, the pouch reduces plastic use by 75%, Ecologic informs. And, because the shells can be nested and the pouch can be transported flat to Seventh Generation, one truckload of the packaging materials equals nine truckloads of rigid plastic containers. Lastly, the package closure, as with most traditional laundry containers, is made from polypropylene, and is recyclable through Preserve’s Gimme 5 recycling program, found in Whole Foods Market stores. The result: A lighter-weight package that easily fits into the existing recycling stream.

Not that Seventh Generation is any newcomer to sustainable packaging advancements. At 80%, the company boasts the largest content of post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene in its rigid laundry detergent containers. “We were reluctant at first to look at the molded-pulp bottle, because we had worked so hard at recycled HDPE,” says Peter Swaine, Seventh Generation’s director of packaging development. “But the reality is that only 29 percent of HDPE is recycled.”

Swaine attributes the low number to several factors, including lack of consumer education, confusion surrounding the SPI codes for plastics, and the lack of recycling in many U.S. municipalities.

With the molded-pulp bottle, consumers immediately understand the environmental proposition of the package. And, the likelihood of the molded-pulp shell being recycled is much greater, as OCC is recycled at a rate of 82% and ONP at 88%. “Recycled-content HDPE bottles are industry-leading,” says Swaine, “but it’s hard to tell the story because they look so much like traditional bottles. The new bottle is completely unique.”

As Ecologic founder and CEO Julie Corbett explains, part of that unique appearance also comes from the challenges associated with using recycled paper materials, which often have a large variance in the quality and origins of the feedstock. “Both these factors will have an effect on the color and outside appearance of the shell,” she says. “For example, small spots or flecks might be visible on the outside and inside of the shell.”

“If we want to continue to make products from recycled materials, this is something consumers will have to overcome. Our bottle’s general likeability and design will help consumers better understand that the beauty of a package is not only about the outside appearance, but also about the origins of materials.”

One current package-manufacturing drawback of the shell versus injection molding of rigid plastics is that the molded-pulp packaging requires the application of heat longer than required for plastic. Corbett assures that technology is quickly advancing to solve this issue. “The direction is the right direction, and this is an industry that has taken on a new life, but it’s kind of at its infancy in terms of infrastructure.”

Corbett reports that future projects in the works for Ecologic include the development of a 64-oz stock container, as well as other stock sizes, and “custom bottles for many other customers for liquids, dry ingredients, consumables, and non-consumable products.”

Says Greener Package Awards judge Jack DiMartino of Stonyfield Farms, “I love everything about this project; the amount of thought and consideration for its consumers and the environment puts Seventh Generation on a different level for sustainable packaging.”