Archive for February, 2012

Subscription service offers organic baby food direct from local farms

February 28, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Food & Restaurant trends

 

If I had to do it all over again as a mom just starting out. I’d go the natural organic route for my little ones. I saw this over on Springwise and thought you’d enjoy it:

Farm to Baby NYC is targeting parents with a subscription-based service offering organic baby food:

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Photo courtesy Springwise

There’s no shortage of efforts bringing more sustainable and transparent food alternatives to consumers. Now, New York-based Farm to Baby NYC is specifically targeting parents with a subscription-based service offering organic baby food.

To begin using the service, parents based in New York can log onto the Farm to Baby NYC website and order a range of seasonal produce – from hubbard squash to parsnips and spinach – sourced from farms in the local area. Customers can sign up for either Half Membership, which offers four 10-ounce pots per week for USD 55, or Full Membership, which includes eight 10-ounce pots per week for USD 99. The glass pots are collected by Farm to Baby NYC for re-use. The service currently uses Gorzynski Ornery Farm and W. Rogowski Farm in New York and Phillips Farms in New Jersey, ensuring a low carbon footprint and supporting these local businesses.

We’ve covered numerous subscription-based services on Springwise in the past, but by adding some (still) made here appeal to the model, Farm to Baby NYC have also boosted their green-credentials. An idea ripe for exporting to other parts of the world?

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Clean Energy Fuel Cell Could Power a Neighborhood

February 27, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation

 

Clean Energy Fuel Cell Could Power a Neighborhood

Photo courtesy of Solvay International

Did you know that a new “super battery” (the largest fuel cell of its type), can produce enough clean electricity to power over 1,400 homes? I saw this over at Solvay International Chemical Group’s site, and immediately thought of all of the innovative applications and energy-saving ideas that could come from this. Cars, ships, and any number of potential uses could benefit from this Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell, which uses hydrogen’s chemical energy and an electrochemical reaction with oxygen to create clean energy.

The project is happening in Antwerp, Belgium, where 800 hours of operation generated more than 500MWh, the equivalent to the use of energy from 1,400 houses.

Here’s the story: Check out the related articles below and let us know what you think:

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Scientists Print Cheap RFID Tags On Paper

February 22, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » RFID
Internals of a bus card, showing the RFID tag

I saw this at TechWeekEurope. I’ve been involved in RFID technology for years now, and it never ceases to amaze me where these tags can be used. They are getting smaller and smarter! Read on:

Scientists Print Cheap RFID Tags On Paper

Technology could make RFID tags cheap enough to replace barcodes in the future. A way to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips right onto paper has been discovered by a team of scientists from University of Montpellier.

The technique uses a thermal evaporation process to deposit of thin aluminium coil antennas on sheets of paper which can later be used to create packaging or printed material. Researchers claim that this works out to be cheaper than any other method of producing RFID tags, allowing the technology to replace both barcodes and QR codes.

Circuits everywhere

RFID tags are an essential component of modern shopping and logistics and are found in everything from DVD cases to casino chips and even passports. They are used to prevent shoplifting, track pets and, if you live in London, your Oyster card has one at its core.

The tags can both store information and provide a way to track the item to which the tag is attached. Unlike barcodes, they use radio signals, which can be detected over a short range, without a visual contact between the tag and the reader device.

So-called “passive” RFID tags, using NFC (near-field communications) do not need a power source. The reader sends a signal, which induces a current in the tag, that is used to power a radio transmitter, sending a signal back to the reader.

Even passive, NFC-based RFID tags are relatively expensive when compared to barcodes, because they contain some electronics instead of just a printed image, so their use is not as widespread. The ability to produce tags at a fraction of the present cost, using a printing technique could change that.

According to the article published in International Journal of Radio Frequency Identification Technology and Applications, the thermal evaporation process makes the RFID tag cheaper, as it requires less metal than conventional designs. The scientists involved said using aluminium might reduce the costs of tagging with an RFID chip by as much as 80 percent.

Aluminium is a lot less expensive than copper or silver, which are used in some types of RFID tag. This is good news for inventory users operating millions of RFID tags in their systems.

“Prototypes are functional and easily detected by the reader; the next step is to optimize the design for each family of RFID chips,” said Camille Ramade, spokeswoman for the research team. ”This will significantly improve performance while maintaining the same low-cost technology on paper.”

RFID tags are not the only printable ultra-thin circuits. Last year, Norwegian technology company Thinfilm Film Electronics ASA developed a memory prototype embedded on a sheet of plastic.

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We pushed the innovation envelope!

February 21, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Open Innovation

I spent this past week in beautiful La Jolla, Calif., chairing the Co-Dev 2012 Conference. Here top innovation leaders from all over the country joined me in addressing open innovation’s critical role in achieving higher returns while managing risk, costs and uncertainty.

I have been attending the conference for many years, and every year there are always new faces and perspectives. This year was no different. It was especially exciting with inspiring keynote presentations, case studies, panels and workshops with innovation visionaries presenting from an impressive global cross section of industry.

Clorox, Corning, PepsiCo, Avery Dennison, Mars, Nestle Purina Petcare, United Healthcare, Allergan, GOJO Industries, ConocoPhillips, Kraft, Philips, the Hershey Co., Siemens, General Mills, Nokia Siemens, MeadWestVaco and Unilever all sent representatives to make it a memorable event. It was also a special treat this year in the preconference workshops to have the participation of executives from the world-class San Diego Zoo.

At the conference there was a focus on several factors that all organizations, regardless of size, can take advantage of. One consistent theme of the conference is open innovation, an area that I always enthusiastically support. We worked together to discuss ways to better identify and implement open business models to achieve faster results, including how to consider external innovation solutions sooner. New engagement platforms were also introduced to help companies better “co-innovate” with customers, partners and suppliers.

In addition there were general discussions of how to accelerate the pace at which a company can adapt to changing marketplace conditions and how to develop complex deal structures to effectively manage IP rights. All of these areas are especially relevant to business today, and I’m sure they will make good topics for exploring in future columns.

For this year’s attendees, it wasn’t hard to quickly realize that the “what” of the innovative solution is more important than “where” and “who” it comes from. The companies presenting demonstrated that by leveraging the capabilities, new ideas, technologies, products and services of others they were able to conduct strategic experiments at lower levels of risk and resources. Over time, they also were able to evolve to a more innovative culture, from the outside in.

These companies also discussed some of the challenges they still face within their organizations. It is especially hard for them during these economically challenged times to find the required amount of funds and resources to do what they feel they need to do.

Defining the “right” comprehensive business model and gaining alignment from the top-down were cited as critical to the ultimate success of a project. In addition, they believe that investing enough time to build collaborative relationships and manage the key “touch points” of strategic relationships was also very important.

Above all, I found that the conference offered the attendees an unparalleled opportunity to continue to build on their professional network. Spending a few days with such a large group of innovation leaders from top-performing companies always gets me enthused to see the current trends, new insights and how the best companies are successfully leveraging their open innovation efforts into business success.

Will Pinterest keep their interest?

February 18, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Social Media
filedesc A brass thumbtack.

Have you been pinning? if you are one of those folks who love collecting things (rooster figurines, baseball cards, antique gardening tools), you may have discovered how to collect and share without clogging up your attic or that guest room closet. Pinterest is one of the hottest new social platforms for collecting and sharing sharing the things you love in a very visual and engaging way. It is also extremely addicting.

Pinterest is not exactly new, having been around since 2008. But for some reason, folks are just now “discovering” it.

How popular is this new online media? Here’s how it stacks up, according to FastCompany:

Pinterest just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, who spend an average of 98 minutes a month on the site, compared to 2.5 hours on Tumblr, and 7 hours on Facebook. It’s also driving more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn–combined, according to Shareaholic.

Finding Your Happy Place and Sharing Your Ideal Self

Dr. Christopher Long, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University teaching a course in consumer psychology this semester, says some of his students expressed concern over an assignment to use Pinterest to pin their own examples of content relevant to each chapter in the textbook. “They were trying to wean themselves because they were concerned with how much time that had spent on the site last fall. One even said her New Year’s resolution was to cut down on Pinterest,” Long says.

Long believes that Pinterest, like Facebook, relies on people generating content that interests other users, so once a critical mass of people comment and re-pin, it reinforces others to generate content. The more content is generated, the more it makes sense for users to frequent the site.

It’s more than just a critical mass of users, though, that’s driving Pinterest’s growth, says Long. “Pinterest boards are like its users’ personal happiness collages. [They represent] things that I appreciate, that I desire, and that express who I am, whether the things are cupcakes, shirtless David Beckham, or an inspirational quotation,” he says.

In contrast to Facebook, Long believes Pinterest is a refuge from relationship status, check-ins at restaurants, or pictures of kids. “It’s not a place where I have to worry about being bombarded by other people’s over-sharing of un-interesting or annoying daily experiences or about accidentally revealing intimate details of my day-to-day life,” he says.

In an ironic way, Long says, this frees many people to be more public about who they really are and who they want to be, because it’s less focused on the kind of personal content that sets off privacy and security alarms. “Pinterest is a place where we can demonstrate: ‘If it weren’t for all those mundane things that I do that I post on Facebook, this is what I would be doing and consuming. Here is my real self,’” he explains.

Perfecting the Art of Collecting

Though he doesn’t have his own Pinterest account, Ken Carbone, an acclaimed graphic designer whose clients include Tiffany & Co., Herman Miller, the Museé du Louvre, and the W Hotel Group, spent half an hour dissecting the design of the platform, after which time he admitted he’s jealous of everything from the logo to the generous but restrained size of the photos.

Beginning with the logo, which Carbone pronounces, “Casual but considered. People actually crafted this and it speaks to their attention to detail, which is not too rigid.” He goes on to praise the ease with which Pinterest devotees can gather images and create lists.

Carbone says Pinterest trumps Google image search because most of the images appear to be from original sources and art-directed photography, which makes products looks terrific.

“Not only does this stuff look great in the way it is presented, it takes me to this different world. I could waste a lot of time here. It’s visually very engaging,” says Carbone.

Though many social platforms have a tendency to lean toward content-rich density, Carbone says “That translates into busy and repulsive for me.” Pinterest’s secret weapon, he says, is its simplicity. “It’s generous in the way the graphics appear. With scrolling you can have a lot of content but not in the one frame. They’ve carefully built an interface with subtle touches of gray framing that is just enough.”

The proportion of the comments is also well-designed. “It is a clear sign the images are the hero and we are going to make those look as good as possible,” Carbone says.

Secret Sauce of Sharing

Long doesn’t know why some images get shared more than others. “I assume someone at Pinterest does, and that they are staying up late figuring out how to turn that into more users and more revenue.”

He does say that users seem to respond differently to pins from brands than the same one posted by an individual. “On Facebook newsfeeds, brand communications often take the form of sponsored stories or other ads, clearly indicating that this recommendation is being placed in your newsfeed because the brand wants it there.”

Long says that because Pinterest boards are essentially collections of “Likes,” the expectation is that users curate these more carefully than they may curate their Facebook Likes. “When I pin or re-pin something related to a brand, I am saying that I care about this content enough that I want to hold onto it or that I want to show other people that it is important,” he explains. “If Pinterest can keep enough eyeballs on people’s boards, those pins can functions as a more powerful and permanent recommendation than will my Facebook newsfeed’s transient mentions of what I listened to on Spotify or what brand of coffee I liked today.”

Carbone concurs. “The whole thing is advertising, but I don’t feel like I’m being sold anything directly, even though each pin will eventually take me to the source. I feel like a service is being provided for me to totally enjoy something that I am passionate about and find images I didn’t know existed.”

Room for Improvement

That said, Carbone has one suggestion. For decades, he’s kept versions of Pinterest’s mood boards in paper journals. “My own way is analog and private. I don’t necessarily need to share all my stuff,” he says. But for design and development, private Pinterest boards would be an excellent tool for professionals. “I would buy a subscription to that.”

Are you listening, Pinterest?

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On the roof: Aquaponic farms produce vegetables and fish

February 14, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation
English: vegetables

High above the soil and sod, a German company is building an aquaponic farm on the roof of an old malthouse in Berlin that will produce both vegetables and fish.

Rooftop farms are gaining in popularity in many areas of the world, and German company Frisch vom Dach is doing something that may lead to future innovation to feed the world–one rooftop at a time.

Constructed from an upcycled shipping containers, this farm also has a fish tank and attached greenhouse. It operates on a closed water cycle system, and the cool thing is that fish waste fertilizes the plants, and the plants purify the water.How is that for an eco-system?

Similar systems are popping up that produce both vegetables and fish, and operate within Germany’s sustainable aquaculture guidelines. The farm’s first harvest is coming early next year, and the company says it will sell its produce at its onsite shop as well as to local retailers.

Check out their website for more photos.

 

 

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Dutch Kids Pedal Their Own Bus To School

February 9, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation

Here is a prototype from the Netherlands, where riding your bike to work or school is the norm. These inventors are taking the bike idea to the next realm: Public transportation. Here is a story of the “bicycle school bus” from Fast CoExist: World Changing Ideas and Innovation:

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The Dutch are bicycle fanatics. Almost half of daily travel in the Netherlands is by bicycle, while the country’s bike fleet comfortably outnumbers its 16 million people. Devotees of the national obsession have taken the next logical step by launching what is likely the first bicycle school bus.

Built by Tolkamp Metaalspecials, and sold by the De Cafe Racer company, the bicycle school bus (BCO in Dutch) is powered entirely by children and the one adult driver (although there is an electric motor for tough hills). Its simple design has eight sets of pedals for the kids (ages 4 to 12), a driver seat for the adult, and three bench seats for freeloaders. The top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and features a sound system and canvas awning to ward off rainy days.

Co.Exist spoke with Thomas Tolkamp who built the BCO about its origins and how the idea is catching on around the world for the sets of 11 lucky kids who get to arrive in school pedaling their own school bus.

Co.Exist: What was the inspiration for the bus?

Tolkamp: I had already made other big bikes (like the Beerbikes) and a few years ago someone mailed me with the question if I could develop a bike especially for transporting kids. So for that other company (a child care) I made the first bicycle. Some other companies were also interested, so I began to produce more bicycles and have improved the bike.

How many of these have been sold? How many are in use?

We’ve sold around 25 bikes. They are still all in use, except for the very first one, which was a prototype.
Does it only come in yellow?

No, we’ve sold bicycles in green, blue, purple, grey, red, yellow, but all [standard] colors are available.
How much does it cost?

Around $15,000, so less than a taxi or normal bus.
Can the kids alone make it go?

It’s possible to ride the bike without the motor when most seats are in use, but it wouldn’t be safe to ride without an adult.
Do you have plans to export it?

We have already exported some bikes to Belgium and Germany, but not this kind of bike. We have gotten frequent requests for information about the bike from all around the world (North America, South America, Europe) but we’ve never sold a bike outside of Europe.
Do you think it will work well in other countries, or is it something special about the Dutch culture?

I don’t know really, but what I do know is that people from all around the world like the idea. We have gotten interest from the press all over the world and all people are positive.

I hope I can sell the bike in the near future to a foreign country and see how people at other countries react on the bike. I think it will work well in other countries, because as more and more people [are] becoming fat and “green living” becomes more important, ideas like this get more popular.

Dutch Kids Pedal Their Own Bus To School | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation

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Why Flexible Hours Inspire Performance

February 7, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation

If you want to start creating a culture of innovation, try getting rid of the time clock. According to Inc.com, business supervisors should stop trying to track their employees’ work hours. The result they say is that employees will be more productive. Read on:

Watches

“What time do you want me to start work?” That’s the question a new hire recently asked me. She looked a little startled by my reply.

“I don’t care.”

But it was the truth. I didn’t care—and I never have—what hours are kept by the people who work for me. You could say I’m the opposite of a control freak, in the sense that I have always resisted rules, for myself and for others. Why? Because once you have rules, you have to enforce them—and there’s no more tedious task in life.

I’m relaxed about timekeeping in part because I had great bosses early in my broadcasting career. They didn’t care about hours either. They trusted that, with a broadcast date in the schedule, any producer would work their socks off to make the best program on time—because that’s how you advanced your career. Nobody ever said, “Wonderful timekeeping, shame about the show!”

And so that’s how I’ve always managed people who worked for me. I’ve trusted them to get the work done on time and on budget—and they have. Treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way. Of course, this also implies that no one person’s schedule should mess up anyone else’s: we all work collaboratively and to do that, it’s helpful to be in the same place at the same time occasionally. But I’ve rarely had to spell this out.

I have also always taken the same approach to maternity leave. No woman knows exactly what she will want once her baby has arrived: some mothers can’t wait to get back to work while others decide that they want to stop for awhile. Their partners’ attitudes too are unpredictable too. So I’ve always taken the line: figure out what works for you and let me know. I have never yet had anyone come to me with an unreasonable proposal. Nor have I ever seen two proposals alike. People are different and so are families and I’ve always assumed that I was the last person to dictate how anyone should feel or behave.

I cannot remember a single instance of being disappointed by this approach. Of course I’ve had poor or under-performing employees and not a few staffers who were simply in the wrong job. But in none of those cases were hours the problem. Instead, I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of dedicated, committed, energetic individuals whose stamina was hugely enhanced by the freedom to work as they saw fit. They more often exceeded expectations than under-delivered.

‘But weren’t you afraid of being ripped off?’ I’m often asked. Strangely enough, no. I wasn’t ripped off, I wasn’t disappointed and, perhaps best of all, I didn’t have to walk around ostentatiously staring at my watch. There are much better ways to spend precious time.

Why Flexible Hours Inspire Performance | Inc.com

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