Archive for November, 2012

CoDev 2013: Open Innovation in La Jolla!

November 23, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Conferences, Event Info, Events

Over the past decade, CoDev conferences have been a driving force in leading a cross-industry exchange on the evolution of open innovation practices. Today, open innovation is no longer viewed as an optional business strategy —companies now recognize the potential value creation an open innovation approach can yield and are committed to evolving company culture, allocating resources and embedding open innovation as a standard operating business process.

CoDev 2013 addresses current trends, emerging issues as well as the core fundamentals needed to launch, sustain and profit through open innovation. This highly acclaimed annual forum consistently assembles an extensive network of open innovation practitioners and leading thought leaders in an effort to foster a collaborative open innovation community, exchange lessons learned, and connect with potential partners.

Register here!

Innovation now coming earlier in the process

November 19, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation In The News

For many years companies have been focusing their offerings to end users on their products. Today we see companies are realizing they can increase the value they deliver by also adding service innovation to their portfolio.

This trend is often associated with business model changes that enable companies to transform their proposition and better compete in today’s ever-changing environment.

The companies embarking on this new way of doing business are not afraid to experiment and even challenge their current assumptions and conventional way of doing business. They are focusing on creating services that drive growth and differentiation in increasingly competitive environments.

Companies are expanding their product-centric view and focusing not just on what they manufacture based on their current competencies. This approach is a departure from conventional product innovation and often requires a different mindset and the development of new competencies.

New value being created by service innovation does not lie in a physical product, but in the collaborative relationship being created with customers and end users. Together they co-create a new value proposition.

One type of service innovation is referred to as “on demand.”

There are many enablers today that drive the value of this type of service innovation. For example, most of us are challenged with little free time and are looking for simple and convenient ways to minimize our involvement in tasks that aren’t always a priority or are time consuming.

More on-demand service opportunities are becoming available to provide convenience and minimize the burden on customers. One example would be grocery stores adding home delivery.

English: Zip car carsharing service at downtow...Another example is Zipcar.

This company has challenged the traditional industry assumptions and introduced a business model/service that addresses an unmet need for many consumers without personal transportation.

In many urban areas and college campuses, Zipcar on-demand rental vehicles are changing the basis of competition. Consumers rent cars parked in convenient locations by the hour and now have increased access to a car of their choice, when they need it.

No waiting or reservations required. All you need is a Zipcar membership, and a card to unlock vehicles they see parked nearby. This flexibility of access has created value for consumers by minimizing planning time, and for some, even decreasing their investment in their own vehicles. In urban areas this can be quite an advantage, where owning and parking a car is often expensive and difficult.

Web-based delivery, the Cloud and social networking have create new possibilities for developing relationships, collaborating and sharing knowledge. In the future, mobile and Web-based delivery models will not only be a competitive advantage, but a necessity for service model innovations.

Innovative business model changes like these are helping companies stand out from their competition and emerge as leaders in new spaces.

New perspective can alter outlook on world

November 19, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Green Innovation

Solar EclipseI’m back on the West Coast this week and it turns out that by coincidence while I am here there is going to be an impressive solar eclipse. Not only are solar eclipses uncommon, but when they do occur, they can only be seen from the few places on Earth where the actual path of the shadow of the moon almost completely blocks out the sun.

A solar eclipse of this magnitude hasn’t been seen in the United States since 1994, so there is naturally a lot of excitement about it here in California.

People throughout history have always been amazed, and often even frightened, by eclipses. Even after we no longer have apprehension over what sinister forces may be causing them, they are still amazing to see. I was fortunate enough to experience an almost-total solar eclipse some years ago while my husband and I were students at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in the 1980s.

I have to say it was an eerie experience — it got darker and darker at midday, as if someone had put a dimmer switch on the sun. Even with the reassuring knowledge of why it was happening, I felt a little appreciation and some emotional understanding of why ancient civilizations feared the events.

But probably the most interesting thing that I remember about that day is walking under the shadow of a dense tree and seeing something I had never seen before: hundreds of miniature crescent images of light on the ground. My husband, a physicist-in-training at the time, noticed them and realized that they were actual images of the eclipse seen through thousands of little “pinhole cameras” made by the tiny gaps created randomly between the leaves in the canopy of the tree. We were both amazed, it wasn’t something we had ever heard to expect.

All of the excitement out here over the upcoming eclipse got me thinking about how impressive it really is that we can predict the path of these celestial objects. Even more so that we have been doing it for many years — predating modern technology and the advent of computers.

Babylonian astronomers thousands of years ago didn’t have accurate models of the motion of heavenly bodies, but just based on painstaking observations they were able to make some fairly accurate predictions of solar eclipses.

This also got me to thinking about change of perspective. Where once the Earth was considered the center of the universe, the change of perspective to a sun-centered “solar system” led to precise mathematical descriptions of planetary orbits by Johannes Kepler and others in the 17th century. These “laws of motion” are still taught in astronomy today to get a fundamental understanding of the orbits of planets in our solar system, or the motion of a spacecraft about the earth.

Whether we are talking about science, business, or even our personal lives sometimes a change of perspective is what is needed to shed light into the shadows, explain the unknown, and help make sense of a complex world.

Nature offers infinite tech ideas that should stick

November 18, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation

Gold dust day gecko licking nectar from Bird o...Gold dust day gecko licking nectar from Bird of Paradise flower. The image was taken at Kona, Hawaii. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)I continue to have a keen interest in the emerging area of biomimicry. The exploration of nature and its processes to yield innovative solutions to complex problems is an interesting and novel approach that not only researchers, but also some of our clients are formally using as another way to “think outside the box” to identify business opportunities.

These are exciting times, and we have access to millions of unique and wonderfully made species of plants, insects and animals to inspire innovations. Already, pioneers in biomimicry are delivering solutions in nanotechnology, adhesives, sports, consumer goods, alternative energy, manufacturing, medicine, transportation and many other industries and markets.

If you’ve never thought about how nature inspires innovation, consider the foot of a gecko. That’s right, the tiny foot of a little green lizard has inspired some of the next generation of cool products and gadgets that you might even already own. Each toe of the gecko contains about a million little hairs, and each hair has about a thousand little sticky tips to help the reptile climb and cling to walls, plant stems, rock ledges, or whatever.

By using the inspiration from gecko technology, product developers are finding new ways to innovate underwater adhesives, safety shoes, climbing gloves, surgical implements, robotics, automobile tires, and much more.

In another area that we have touched on before, amazing progress that is being made in mimicking part of the process of natural photosynthesis with efforts like the “artificial leaf.” Here researchers are using biomimicry in the ultimate goal to help find ways to deliver abundant energy to the worlds undeveloped and poverty stricken populations.

The outlook for biomimicry is incredibly promising as it becomes another pathway to innovation. Experts have made some pretty bold predictions as to the direct and indirect impact of biomimicry upon the economy over the next few decades. Regardless of the exact numbers, there will be an increasing impact, and new jobs and novel technologies are sure to result.

Who knows where research into the areas of impressive, time-tested, animal and plant functionality will lead, and what practical innovations will be discovered?

What we do know is that the potential of looking at the wonders of nature for help in solving complex human problems is exciting, and I’m looking forward to seeing, and sharing, more examples of the progress.

Bottling has had its share of innovations

November 17, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation

Photo courtesy Post Crescent

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road this year, and although it is sometimes difficult to be away from home, it allows me to learn more about different cultures and different approaches to everyday life. Beyond the major things like language, food and people, sometimes it’s the little things that make an impression also, and even get me thinking about innovation.

I’m currently in Europe — Lyon, France to be precise — and one of the little things here that I get quickly reminded of is the European passion for carbonated water. Inevitably, every time I am back in Europe, I order water and upon drinking get the unexpected feeling on my palate of bubbly tingly water. Oh yeah, I’m in Europe now, I have to be explicit — order water, of the non-sparkling variety. They call it “without gas” here.

Personally I prefer my carbonation in my soft drinks, or in the occasional celebratory glass of champagne, but here it seems to be making its way into other drinks too. My husband ordered his beverage of choice, iced tea, and guess what? It too was carbonated.

He said it wasn’t bad, just something that took him by surprise, and wasn’t what he was used to. Maybe if you have a preference for sparkling water, it will be something you enjoy and could catch on.

Finding something good that becomes popular takes experimental efforts like these. That is how carbonated soft drinks and champagne got their start.

Mineral waters from natural springs were popular for a long time, as they made a beverage that was considered healthy. Once it was learned that the bubbles in the water were due to carbonation and could be created artificially, drug stores began selling carbonated water with flavorings, including medicinal. This gave rise to the drug store soda fountains of old. These were so popular that eventually consumer demand led to the formation of the soft drink bottling industry.

Multitudes of innovations and patents soon followed for bottling and sealing. Methods for preventing the gas from escaping before the drink was opened were of paramount importance, and were soon solved. There were also numerous advances in manufacturing and delivery. Automated vending machines were developed, along with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and the pop-top opening tab.

Today it seems that a lot of the innovation in soft drinks is in new flavors and packaging. However there is still room for new ways of delivery. One example is the futuristic fountain dispenser created by our local company Plexus that can dispense multitudes of different carbonated and noncarbonated drinks. If you have been to a Five Guys or to Noodles & Co. restaurant recently you have probably already seen this impressive technology in action.

For the past couple of hundred years, the carbonated drink industry has been on an impressive run. It continues to grow even today, with lots of new ideas and directions. Just imagine what could be carbonated next.

An App That Turns Any Surface Into An iPhone Keyboard

November 14, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

I came across this interesting iPhone app today from the Innovation Engineblog, and thought I’d share. This is the future of mobile communications!

An astonishing app uses an iPhone’s accelerometer to sense the location of a tap on any surface and translate it into typed letters on a keyboard.

We have virtual keyboards, clip-on keyboards, magnetic keyboards and even laser keyboards. But what if your keyboard wasn’t a keyboard at all?

Florian Kräutli has developed an ingeniously simple alternative called the Vibrative Virtual Keyboard. By placing an iPhone on any surface, that surface becomes a keyboard. Technically, the phone’s accelerometer is measuring vibrations on that surface. Kräutli’s software maps those vibrations to a point of origin on the table. And when the phone can “

see” where you’re tapping, you can have a QWERTY keyboard on any tabletop.

“I wondered how a normal surface might become interactive, without using an elaborate combination of projectors and cameras, as Microsoft is currently doing in their research,” Kräutli explains. “There are already tons of sensors in current smartphones, so I thought there must be more that we can do with them.”

Kräutli was right. By using an Apple-approved iPhone app called SensorMonitor, he can access the raw sensor outputs of an iPhone via a network connection. The software he coded analyzes this sensor output on a networked Macbook. All the user needs to do is train a new surface–tap a few points and let the software know what letter those taps are supposed to be–and Kräutli’s software will number-crunch the positions for the rest of the keys. A user can then save this surface so the software won’t need a calibration for it again.

So how could this possibly be accurate? Machine learning is a powerful tool used successfully in many industries, but truth be told, the measurements still aren’t 100% clear. Instead of achieving flawless data, Kräutli has cleverly designed the software around this shortcoming.

“The important bit is that the software needs to deal with the fact that this recognition is not perfect,” Kräutli explains. “Therefore it also uses a kind of spell checker.”

Kräutli invisibly autocorrects typing, much like Apple’s own spell checker fixes mistakes, though at a deeper level of the application. Unfortunately, this design breakthrough won’t carry over very well to another killer application–gaming.

“When you play a game, you want every interaction to be recognized correctly,” he says. “Typically, you also want this when typing, but because the software ‘knows’ that you are writing with a certain vocabulary, it can correct errors more easily.”

For the same reasons, music creation is a no-go as well, since a computer could hardly predict your next move (unless you wanted every song to sound the same). Even still, Kräutli’s creation is a remarkable statement about the future of user interfaces, where conceivably, every surface becomes a conduit for digital input. But sadly, the OS X software isn’t available for download at this time.


Here is a video on how it works:


Turbine Blades Made Out Of Vegetables!

November 11, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

The next generation of turbine wind blades may someday come from natural fibers and plant-based plastics from soybean, linseed, and other vegetable oils, instead of oil-based polymers.  Here is the story from Fast Company:

A world powered by wind sounds super clear, until you start having to replace football-field-sized turbine blades. But what if they were made of something easy to recycle, like plants?

There’s nothing to burn. No ore to mine. No coal trains snaking from Wyoming to Midwest power plants. But wind power has its own pollution problem looming.

Last year, one third of new electric capacity in the U.S. came from wind, reports the DOE, and it’s growing quickly. All of the new U.S. generating capacity in September 2012 came from wind and solar, says the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, and the U.S. now relies on wind for 4.43% of its total generating potential. And there’s plenty of room to expand: Industrialized nations–Denmark (29%), Spain (19%), and Germany (11%)–are building heavily wind-driven energy grids.

The problem comes when all of those wind turbines need to be replaced. Scandinavia, among the first to adopt wind into its energy mix, is on the leading edge of this problem: “As the wind becomes a central part of energy supply, a huge waste problem is growing with similar speed,” reported Denmark’s major business newspaper Dagbladet Børsen in 2011.

While wind power looks self-contained–a field of towers, white fiberglass rotors, and the breeze–the massive fiberglass and carbon-composite blades eventually have to be decommissioned and replaced. Mechanical engineering Christopher Niezrecki of the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Wind Energy Research Group estimates the U.S. will have as many as 170,000 wind turbines by 2030 (about 20% of the country’s installed capacity) translating into more than 34,000 trashed blades per year; globally, the figure may be as many as 170,000. Since each blade can stretch the length of a football field and weigh 18 tons, that’s a lot of unplanned waste.

To prevent this avalanche, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding Niezrecki and the University of Wichita to find biological-derived materials for biodegradable blade materials that replace carbon-fiber composites and petroleum-based epoxies, the current industry standard. As today’s materials cannot be easily recycled, most used blades are cut or ground up for incineration and burial in landfills and roads.


Breathing toy lulls kids to sleep

November 1, 2012 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Health and Wellness

Photo via Takara Tomy

Toys are getting a lot more sophisticated these days, and many of them have been innovated to solve a consumer challenge. Take the Hug and Dream Minnie Mouse toy from Japan, for instance. This new toy lulls little ones to sleep by simulating their breathing patterns.  The dolls were made available worldwide from Japan Trend Shop today.

The dolls are created by Takara Tomy, who collaborated with cognitive and respiratory researchers at the Showa University School of Medicine.  Inside the doll, there is a mechanism that copies a slow and rhythmic movement, encouraging the child to fall asleep.

According to the corporate website, the concept behind this doll is that breathing is central to how well you sleep. Hug Minnie and it will feel like she is breathing slow, gentle breaths, which will in turn then transfer rhythmically to the child. The would-be sleeper will eventually match Minnie’s breathing and relaxing into slumber.