Archive for March, 2013

10 Gadgets That Never Took Off

March 28, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovators


We work with a lot of inventors to get their products in front of the right people who can help deliver success if there is a fit with their business needs. We create a unique Roadmap to Market process that builds on years of experience in product development and on extensive connections with industry leaders in multiple segments. If you are an innovator, check out what we have to offer.

And as a cautionary tale, I share this humorous top ten gallery from on the unique gadgets and inventions that probably could have used a roadmap. Everything from metal detecting sandals to a USB stick pregnancy test. Really!  Don’t let this happen to you.

10 Weird Gadgets That Never Took Off

Work environment can influence creativity!

March 25, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation

Some people can be creative anywhere, but many struggle with creativity. Given the right encouragement, many experts believe that anyone can be effectively creative, given the right encouragement and conditions.

While this “nuture vs. nature” debate continues, in reality creativity is a combination of the two. The right environment will always help stimulate creative thought and collaboration, and that can lead to breakthrough innovations.

There are of course many studies documenting the impact of environmental factors on health and well-being, and this just makes common sense. But today we are increasingly mindful of the role environment also plays in creativity and productivity.

People who are relaxed, comfortable, and positively stimulated are known to be more creative and innovative. The right mix of space, conditions, stimuli and aesthetics can enable creativity in many ways.

Environments that are most conducive to creativity have a focus on comfort, space, color and lighting.

First creative thinking people need to be physically and psychologically comfortable to allow their minds to relax and “stretch.” Comfortable seating, space to move around, and a pleasant temperature can all contribute to a creative environment. Many advocate the availability of unconventional seating like beanbags or pillows to help people relax.

Large open areas in combination with smaller, more intimate spaces for individuals or small groups can also help. These spaces should facilitate collaboration and be flexible so groups or individuals can adjust in ways most effective and stimulating for them.

And don’t forget about color. Colorful spaces can make people feel more childlike, playful and adventurous. These moods are conducive to new ways of thinking. Colors create visual interest and can also help fight fatigue.

There are many studies that indicate how light can affect people’s state of mind. Office workers report feeling happier and more productive when exposed to natural light. There is also evidence to connect daylight exposure with a person’s perceived feeling of creativity.
New technology also may help. The new Philips Hue light system, for example, allows users to create custom color lighting schemes for specific needs, for relaxation, concentration or energizing.

Everything we see and experience can be stimulus for creating new insights and innovations. Art, products, games, music and sounds, aromas and textures can all be used to affect the way people think. Including diversity in this way helps accommodate different personalities and thinking styles — ensuring auditory, visual, and tactile thinkers can fully engage.

It’s important to remember that creative environmental factors should not be limited to just offices or meeting rooms. Often, new insight and ideas can come anywhere or anytime, so “livening up” normally drab stairwells, elevators, break rooms, or even bathrooms can heighten the senses and stimulate creativity.

Environments have a significant impact on productivity, morale and collaboration. We all know this. Would you rather work in a drab warehouse basement, or an office with a view of a beach and palm trees?

That might be taking it to the extreme for trying to encourage productivity, but perhaps all of us would at least prefer an office with a window view, one that helps provide perspective on an outside world — the world where our customers live and work.

Health movement spurs food makers to innovate

March 21, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Food & Restaurant trends

A diet rich in soy and whey protein, found in ...
Food and beverage manufacturers today are capitalizing on natural trends in their search for innovation opportunities. We know food prices are increasing, but so are the number of health-conscious Americans. In a food industry increasingly competing for farmers market consumers, the buzz words on store shelves these days are raw, organic and GM-Free.

Some of the innovation opportunities that are in the limelight today are seen in the shift to more gluten-free foods, special oils, alternative grains, healthier vegetarian drinks and better genetically modified food component labeling.

Gluten-free food requests are reaching a new high. According to the market research firm NPD, a third of U.S. adults have expressed interest in reducing or even avoiding gluten. Grocery stores are packed with gluten-free breads, pasta, bakery items and other traditional carbohydrate-enriched foods. Restaurants have seen many consumers desiring gluten-free or wheat-free menu items.

As part of a continuing trend, consumers are demanding more mono-saturated fats, and we continue to see the rise in specialty olive oils.

You’ve probably already noticed the crackers, chips and snacks that are made of more whole seeds. Fax, sesame, quinoa and hemp are becoming new food choices.

In the world of beverages, tea drinkers are familiar with many of the standby herbs, but many are also experimenting with interesting-sounding blends like carrot curry, broccoli cilantro or spinach chive.

Smoothies aren’t just for berries anymore. And kale may be more than just a garnish. Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are packed with nutrients. And with the popularity of the new high-powered juicing and blending machines, health-conscious connoisseurs are putting greens in their smoothies, along with the fruit. Powdered versions of the green superfood are also available at health food stores or in the organic aisle at the grocery store.

And in the area of high-tech, engineered foods, consumers are becoming more educated on how genetically modified (GM) grains have transformed our food supply. And while modified wheat and corn have made it possible to feed more hungry people around the world, there is discussion of whether eating GM foods has potential health impacts.

To help consumers that might have concerns, whether founded or unfounded, we are beginning to see GM food labeling. Just recently Whole Foods Market became the first national grocery chain to address this and they have set a deadline of 2018 for full GM transparency — that is the products available in their North American stores will be GM-labeled in the next five years.

Better labeling of food can’t be anything but good for all of us. Improved identification of ingredients and calories will help us make better choices for our well-being and for our long term health.

There is no doubt the food and beverage industry is evolving, with a driving theme of health and health consciousness. It is exciting to follow the offerings, and fun to try the new things that are coming out. Although I have to say, I don’t know how many of us will be ordering a spinach smoothie anytime soon.

Saving the whales: With an app!

March 18, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Interesting links

Humpback whales are well known for their songs...

Researchers are hoping a new app called WhaleALERT will reduce the number of collisions between ships and whales. This new app can alert shipping operators if whales are nearby.

Environmentalists are concerned that the noise of ships traveling through areas where whales reside can not only harm the mammals, but interfere with their ability to communicate with each another. So the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration developed the app to help captains avoid whales. It works via buoys that have whale-detecting sensors that send information to smart phones in real time. The app even suggests alternate routes, and provides information on seasonal whale movements through GPS tracking.

Check out the WhaleALERT website here.

Rise of the floor-cleaning robots!

March 14, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool videos

The Upper Midwest Regional VEX Robotics Tournament was held a few weeks ago at Xavier High School. This tournament was the state’s largest competitive robotics event, and the sheer energy and excitement of the participants was astounding. And this was just one of many robotics competitions that are happening across the country this year.

Robotics and autonomous machines are one of the most rapidly growing fields today, and as technology improves more new kinds of robots are being invented for all kinds of practical, commercial and military purposes. With such a rapidly changing and exciting technology, it is no wonder that students across the country cannot seem to get enough. An explosion in the popularity of high school robotics teams is sweeping the nation, with thousands of students participating on competitive robotics teams. No other sport or activity is growing as quickly.

At these events school teams compete by building robots to perform specific tasks like shooting basketballs or throwing Frisbees to see which ones perform best.

The competition is not only educational, but it is also a fun way to get involved in real-world engineering as a student. Volunteer professional mentors, who recognize the importance of science and math extracurricular activities for our youth, lend their time and talents to guide each team from the start on through the competitions.

These tournaments combine the excitement of sports with the rigors of science and technology.

The VEX Robotics competitions, like the one recently held at Xavier, are managed by the REC Foundation, a nonprofit organization that strives to inspire and motivate students to advance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by engaging them in hands-on, affordable robotics engineering programs. The competitions are becoming quite popular with over 7,000 teams right now, and are on target to grow by over 30 percent this year.

Competitive robotics is an effective tool to engage and impact our students. They not only enjoy the hands-on learning approach, but are also learning more the value of education.
Companies are helping robotics grow by sponsoring and mentoring teams, and volunteering at events. Some of these participating companies have found it makes sense to fill summer internship positions with students they have mentored, knowing the work quality they are capable of delivering.

Robotics learning programs have never been better. What’s next? One idea locally to keep things growing is to create a community robotics center that could support those creative youth who do not have access to the program at their schools. The idea would be to provide equipment and instruction on how to build and program a quality robot, and could serve as a facility for teams to practice.

Thanks to all the robotics team teachers, volunteers and sponsors for helping illuminate another positive pathway for our youth.

The possibilities are exciting, and fulfilling.

Ben & Jerry’s Rewards Dissatisfied Customers

March 12, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Consumer "Identity"

A pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream

If you’re going to shell out the money for premium ice cream, you would be pretty unhappy if your pistachios were soggy, right? That’s what one Massachusetts woman thought, and she decided to take her dissatisfaction all the way to the top. What she didn’t expect was an invitation to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
It’s a great story about taking a customer complaint and turning it into a sweet opportunity to enhance a brand in the minds of consumers.

Here’s the story from ABC News:

On a warm summer day last July, Leslie Gerhat of Waltham, Mass., went to the store to purchase one of her favorite Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream flavors, Pistachio Pistachio. But when she took her first spoonful, Gerhat was disappointed because the pistachios were soggy and fell apart in her mouth.

“I never had had a problem with Ben & Jerry’s before,” said Gerhat. “I felt I had to let them know they had bad products out there.”

Gerhat tossed the pint in the trash and headed straight to her computer, sending the Burlington, Vt.-based company an e-mail explaining the issue. A few weeks later, Gerhat received a coupon in the mail for free ice cream, as is company policy when there’s a complaint. But it’s the personal response she received seven months later that made her feel like a VIP.

“I was sitting watching the Super Bowl and received an e-mail from Ben & Jerry’s inviting me to come to Vermont and take a tour of their factory.”

Gerhat got an opportunity to not only see how one of her favorite treats is manufactured, but share her suggestions on how to improve the product.

So on March 2, Gerhat took a three-hour chartered bus ride from Boston to Vermont with 16 other loyal Ben & Jerry’s customers who had also written to the company.

“Once we arrived, we swapped our stories with employees and they explained to us how some of issues had already been addressed,” said Gerhat.

The soggy pistachios, she learned, were the fault of a vendor. Ben & Jerry’s discovered that the supplier had been roasting the nuts too long.

“We worked with our supplier to make improvements,” said Eric Fredette, one of the company’s “Flavor Gurus.” “The pistachios are now a beautiful green and perfectly crisp.”

Another customer had complained that the brownies in the popular ‘Half Baked’ were dry and crumbly. Ben and Jerry’s addressed that issue by mapping out the entire process with the brownie vendor from temperature to size.

Read the rest of the story.


Food trends you’re probably already trying

March 8, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Food & Restaurant trends

food trendsBon Appetit magazine is enticing a lot of “foodies” to check out its 25 Food Trends for 2013.

One of my favorites is the homemade yogurt. Who knew it could be that easy?

And as many of you have told me, the idea of being self-sufficient home farmers or canners is one that is definitely trending in these uncertain times. What I’ve noticed in my work in the Food and Beverage industry is that major corporations and manufacturers are partnering to take advantage of these trends so that consumers – in our zeal to make our own versions – don’t leave the food industry high and dry.

Check out the top trends and let me know if you see any innovative ideas.

Smart tires weigh your car to prevent overpacking

March 5, 2013 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Cool Inventions and gadgets

I spotted this interesting innovation over at Gizmodo on a new idea for vehicle tires. These haven’t come out yet, but the developers hope these will become invaluable to consumers looking for this sensory solution:

Intelligent Tires Will Automatically Weigh Your Vehicle So You Never Overpack Again

Photo via Gizmodo

Continental already sells tires packed with monitors that keep tabs on air pressure, automatically letting you know when it gets too low. But the company is planning to expand that technology with improved tire sensors that will actually be able to calculate and report the current load weight of your vehicle so you don’t exceed its suggested capacity.

How does it pull off such a feat without turning your garage into a giant scale? As the weight of a vehicle increases, the tires get smooshed and flatten out, increasing the surface area touching the ground which is known as the contact patch. And by detecting the size of this patch, the sensor’s electronics can then determine if the vehicle has been overloaded, making it dangerous to drive.

The company hasn’t given a specific timeline on when these enhanced tires could be hitting the road. And in order to calculate the weight of the vehicle it would have to be driven a few hundred feet, which makes strategic packing kind of difficult. But, if it also means you don’t destroy your tires or suspension on a long vacation drive, it could be worth the upgrade.