Solar powered trucks

IdeaSpies Solar truck

Canadian Solar, one of the world’s largest solar power companies, has acquired a minority equity interest in eNow, a U.S. company specializing in solar-based energy management system for the commercial transportation industry. The investment will accelerate the expansion and growth of photovoltaic (PV) based mobile energy solutions which will reduce transportation fuel costs while making a significant impact in cutting vehicle emissions in the commercial transportation industry. http://investors.canadiansolar.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=196781&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=2272206

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Solving the plastic waste problem with plastic roads

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Scottish startup MacRebur has one simple, clever invention to solve three world challenges: using millions of tons of waste plastic that sit in our landfill sites; reducing the millions spent on new roads, maintenance, and pothole repair; making our roads stronger and longer lasting. They launched in January 2016 and their new product has already been laid on roads in Cumbria and Dumfriesshire in the UK, as well as on a runway at Carlisle Airport. www.macrebur.com

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Inside The Race To Build A Battery That Can Power The 21st Century – Greg Satell

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The garage startup has become as much of an American icon in the twenty first century as the automobile and the drive-in were to earlier generations. The idea that anyone with an idea can change the world is as romantic as democracy itself, but it’s not altogether true. A garage startup only works if there is existing technology to build on top of. The problem is that every technology eventually runs out of steam. When that happens, progress will grind to a halt without a significant breakthrough. As technology becomes more complex, that type of advancement becomes so hard to achieve that it becomes out of reach for any single organization, much less a few guys in a garage. That is essentially where we are with energy storage. Lithium-ion, the 40 year-old technology that powers everything from smartphones to electric cars is nearing its theoretical limits just as the renewable energy revolution is demanding cheaper batteries that can store more energy at lower cost. Solving problems like these requires a massively collaborative approach. A Brief History Of Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery was originally discovered by the American scientist John Goodenough, in 1979, with funding from the National Science Foundation. Over the next decade, the technology steadily improved and by the early 1990s, it became commercially available in Sony Camcorders. Since then, lithium-ion batteries have increased in energy density by a factor of six, while costs have dropped by a factor of 10. That’s made them good enough to power our phones and laptops, but they’re still not powerful enough — or cheap enough — to power electric cars or the electric grid. Experts believe that to create a true transformation, battery costs need be below $100/ Kw/hour and the current technology is unlikely to get us there. So getting where we need to be is not a matter of simply improving efficiency, we have to come up with completely new materials with greater energy density and lower cost. When the Department of Energy began thinking about how to solve such an enormous and seemingly intractable problem, it realized that it needed to take a very different approach. The result is the Joint Center For Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which is currently in the fourth year of its five year mandate to develop next generation batteries. Pooling Scientific Knowledge The basic idea behind JCESR is that the knowledge required to create a breakthrough solution is spread out among a diverse number of scientists working at a wide variety of institutions, such as the national labs and academic institutions. So the first step was to combine their talents and coordinate research through a single hub focused on the energy storage problem. Venkat Srinivasan, Deputy Director, Research and Development at JCESR explains, “National labs tend to have bigger teams of people working on bigger problems, while academic researchers are more specialized in their expertise. Our structure allows us to access stars in the academic world and apply their specific expertise to the problem of next generation storage.” “For example,” he continues, “Matthew Sigman and Shelley Minteer at the University of Utah have done pathbreaking work in chemical stability in the pharmaceutical field, but we recognized that the same technology can help us make better batteries. Their work has really propelled our mission forward, while working on batteries has taken their research into new areas.” So combining the expertise of five national labs along with a number of the country’s top universities gives JCESR an incredible amount of scientific talent. Yet the battery problem is about more than science. The aim is to come up with a solution that not only works, but can win in the marketplace, which is why getting input from private companies is crucial. Bringing In Private Industry Scientists are focused on discovering new phenomena, but have little insight into the practicalities of the marketplace. For example, a researcher that discovers a new material with vastly more energy density than current batteries will have no idea whether it is feasible to procure, manufacture and distribute. That’s a big problem, because by the time a scientist verifies his results, prepares them for publication and goes through peer review, it can take years before he realizes that he wasted his time. So getting input from partners and affiliates in the private sector has been invaluable for focusing research at JCESR on the most promising paths to a better battery. It has also greatly benefitted the companies that have participated. As Brian Cooke, a Group Vice President at Johnson Controls told me, “We saw our involvement as an opportunity to shape the future, so the science coming out of JCESR would have the greatest benefit for our customers, our company and our industry. It has also enabled us to interact with top notch researchers from some of the country’s best labs.” Yet it isn’t just big companies that are benefitting. Through JCESR’s affiliate program even small companies can participate, which gives them a better idea of how to focus their efforts. That’s especially important for firms that can’t afford to go off in the wrong direction and waste limited resources. Mike Wixom of Navitas, a four year old company that focuses on military and industrial applications, told me, “As a small company, we’re fighting for our survival on a daily basis. Becoming JCESR affiliate gives us an early peek at technology and you get to give feedback about what kinds manufacturing issues are likely to come up with any particular chemistry.” Innovating The Discovery Process Historically, the process of making a new battery has been mostly trial and error. Building a battery for use in a car has vastly different requirements than, say, for the grid or a power tool. So, for the most part, battery developers experimented with different combinations until they get the right specifications for the product they were trying to make. One of the major achievements at JCESR has been to build tools to make this process more rational and efficient. The first is a computer model that analyzes the complex interplay between technical and economic factors that a battery will need to achieve. The second is materials and electrolytes “genomes” that known properties of the various possibilities. “Moving to the materials genome is like moving from your local library to the Internet,” says Mike Andrew, a […]

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Making seawater drinkable

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New research from the University of Manchester developed a graphene-based sieve that can filter out salt from seawater. The graphene oxide membrane could be a cheaper and more efficient filter for desalination plants to use. https://futurism.com/scientists-just-figured-out-how-to-use-graphene-to-make-seawater-drinkable/

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A garbage bin that’s fun to use

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Waste is a big concern for cities. Sencity seeks to fight this apathy by turning litter disposal into a game with its new TetraBIN, a connected trash bin that rewards you for tossing out your garbage. https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/04/tetrabin-smart-garbage-can/

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An easier way to find affordable in-home aged care

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A new online marketplace, Careseekers, is reinventing the traditional way people find in-home aged care workers.The start-up is using digital technology to directly connect more than 1,200 skilled, qualified care workers with people who need care, making it easier to find affordable in-home care. http://anthillonline.com/digital-disruptors-careseekers-set-revolutionise-aged-care-sector/

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10 Personal Innovation Lessons – Gijs van Wulfen

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Yes, innovation is extremely difficult. That’s why I love it actually. My personal mission is to simplify innovation so you, your colleagues and/or clients will be able to master innovation yourself. “How can I become a successful innovator?” is the most asked question to me offstage, after a keynote on innovation. Most people are well aware that their organisations are not able to stand still in this fast paced business environment. But a lot of people don’t know how to start innovation. Most of them are afraid to fail, ending up by doing nothing, until doing nothing is a bigger risk. That’s why I like to share with you ten personal innovation lessons to inspire you to become a successful innovator. Lesson 1: “Organisations frustrate their most innovative employees.” – Organisations are rules by best practices, procedures and regulations, which is completely understandable as they want to be the best in class in their current product-market combinations. As innovator you are continuously tweaking present offerings and coming up with completely new concepts. The unfortunate thing is that they hardly ever fit present best practices, procedures and regulations. Sometimes you get the impression that everybody within the company tries to stop you, instead of giving you a helping hand. Companies really know how to frustrate their most innovative employees. Innovation is always a struggle. My personal lessons learned was that I just needed ‘to learn to love the struggle’. That helped a lot. Lesson 2: “Most Managers behave like dogs. They bark at what they do not know.” – Or should I say “Most people….”? How do you behave yourself when someone reaches out to you to tell a great new idea? Do you really listen? Do you ask questions to understand what it’s really about? Do you postpone your own judgement? No. Most of us don’t. Something new never fits in our known patterns and routines. When dogs see something they don’t know the get frightened and start to bark. We humans are so alike :-). Lesson 3:”Managers say yes to innovation only if doing nothing is a bigger risk.” – The chance that a front-end innovation project actually becomes a success on the market is one out of seven. Why should a top manager say yes to innovations with a high risk as long as low-risk line/brand extensions will still do the job? He or she won’t. No, most managers say yes to innovation if doing nothing is a bigger risk. Lessons 4: “A manager wants to control innovation and that’s where it ends. A leader leads innovation and that’s where it starts.” – Managing innovation in a controlling way will never work, because per definition real innovation is a high risk venture with many uncertainties. If you manage real innovations like ‘a normal project’, it will never work. Getting an idea to the market takes a long time and the process is full of iterations. Trying to control it, in a conventional PRINCE-like structure will kill it for sure. Lesson 5: “Real innovative leaders give both focus and freedom.” – Leading innovation by giving both focus and freedom works much better. As leader make sure that your teams focus on the right strategic priorities and know what you expect from them. On the other hand, to be effective, you must give them freedom. Freedom to do it in an unorthodox way, with unorthodox partners, which keeps the passion of your innovators high. Lesson 6: Innovation is not a person or a department. It’s a mindset.” – When you outsource innovation to a person or to a department most of the times nothing materialises. Innovation affects the total internal value chain, and everybody involved. It’s all about creating an innovative mindset: an way of thinking open to the world around you, which sparks new ideas and gives you energy to to take action. Lesson 7: “You can invent alone, but you can’t innovate alone.” – How many people do you need in your organization to get a new concept from idea to market launch? Right. A lot of people. You can come up with an idea on your own. but you need a lotto colleagues to develop it, to produce it, to do the logistics, to do the sales and of course do the invoicing for it. So connect your colleagues in your innovation project from the start. We they are co-creators they will be the strongest supporters. Lesson 8: “The best innovators are need seekers.” – Need Seekers, such as Apple and Procter & Gamble, make a point of engaging customers directly to generate new ideas. They develop new products and services based on superior end-user understanding. Studies confirm that following a Need Seekers strategy offers the greatest potential for superior performance in the long term. Need seeking is essential, because a good innovation is a simple solution to a relevant customer need. Lesson 9: “Think outside the box and present your idea inside the box otherwise nothing happens.” – Of course you are expected to break patterns. And originality helps. But when you present your idea it is wise to keep in mind that the rest of the organization is still as conservative as ever. Your senior management might praise you for your creativity. But, will they buy the idea and give you the resources to develop it after seeing a movie, a mock up or a flash mob? I have my doubts. Don’t bring them ideas, bring them business and growth potential! Lesson 10: “If there’s no urgency, innovation is considered as playtime.” – Most people in your organisation focus on the business of today. As, innovation will only pay off tomorrow. A lot of companies consider innovation as ‘nice to have’, although they will hesitate to said this out loud. it’s considered by many executives as playtime, as long as there’s no urgency. That’s why in cost cutting programmes innovation will be one of the first activities to be killed. I wish you lots of success on your personal innovation journey. Please share your own innovation lessons  as a comment. Written by Gijs van Wulfen -Inspiring you to master innovation Also published in Innovation in Australia, BSI Innovation — Do you want to improve your personal innovation skills? Check out this hands-on training April 2017 in the proven FORTH innovation […]

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Paint that could cool a room

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While still in the developmental stages, nanopaint is seen as an effective means of dealing with a number of different issues. As an example, the application of nanopaint on the exterior of a building could be used to block infrared rays and thus help to keep the interior of the space cooler, while also making it possible to absorb solar energy on days that are sunny but cool. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-nanopaint.htm

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New remote controlled lifesaver

A remote controlled lifesaver

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4 Things You Need To Build An Innovative Culture- Greg Satell

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  In the late 1960’s, Gary Starkweather had a serious spat with his boss.  As an engineer in Xerox’s long-range xerography unit, he saw that laser printing could be a huge business opportunity. His manager, however, was focused on improving the efficiency of the current product line, not looking to start another one. The argument got so heated that Starkweather’s job came to be in jeopardy. Fortunately, his rabble rousing caught the attention of another division within the company, the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) which wasn’t interested in efficiency, but inventing a new future and they eagerly welcomed Starkweather into their ranks. Within a decade, Xerox’s copying business declined sharply, but the laser printer took off and soon became the firm’s main source of revenue. In effect, the work that was squelched in one culture, thrived in another and saved the company. We tend to think innovation is about ideas, but it depends on people even more. Here’s how you create an innovative culture. 1. A Focus On Problem Solving When you think about an innovative culture what probably first comes to mind is a bunch of fast moving hipsters guzzling down energy drinks and pulling all-nighters, pausing only to play a quick game of foosball or frisbee. Or maybe Steve Jobs on stage with a devilish grin just before he wows the audience with “one more thing…” Yet in researching my book, Mapping Innovation, I found that very few of the organizations I studied looked like that. Some were fast moving startups, but most of the successful ones were led by executives that were mature and thoughtful, not brash or erratic. Others were large corporations and world class labs that tended to be fairly conservative. The one thing I found in common in every fantastically innovative place I looked at was a disciplined passion for identifying new problems. Unlike most organizations, which are content to struggle with everyday issues, the enterprises I studied had a systematic method of finding new problems to work on that would take them in new directions. The approaches vary considerably. IBM creates grand challenges, like building a computer that can beat humans at Jeopardy. Experian set up a Datalabs division to find out what’s giving its customers “agita” and launch new business off the solutions they build. Google’s “20% time acts as a human-powered search engine for new problems. We tend to think of innovation as fast moving, but the truth is that it usually takes 30 years to go from an initial discovery to a measurable impact. So the “next big thing” is usually about 29 years old. If you want to innovate effectively, don’t chase the latest trend, find a problem your customers will care about and solve it for them. 2. Create Safe Spaces In 2012, Google embarked on an enormous research project. Code-named “Project Aristotle,” the aim was to see what made successful teams tick. They combed through every conceivable aspect of how teams worked together — how they were led, how frequently they met outside of work, the personality types of the team members — no stone was left unturned. However, despite Google’s nearly unparalleled ability to find patterns in complex data, none of the conventional criteria seemed to predict performance. In fact, what they found mattered most to team performance was psychological safety, or the ability of each team member to be able to give voice to their ideas without fear of reprisal or rebuke. Interestingly,  highly innovative teams can be safe for some ideas, but not for others. For example, two of the scientists at PARC, Dick Shoup and Alvy Ray Smith, developed on a revolutionary new graphics technology called SuperPaint. Unfortunately, it didn’t fit in with the PARC’s vision of personal computing, the two were ostracized and eventually both left. Smith would team up with another graphics pioneer, Ed Catmull, at the New York Institute of Technology. Later they joined George Lucas, who saw the potential for computer graphics to create a new paradigm for special effects. Eventually, the operation was spun out and bought by Steve Jobs. That company, Pixar, was sold to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion. Xerox PARC is now a shadow of its former self. As it turned out, anything that didn’t have to do with the researchers’ vision for the future had no home there. So if you want to innovate consistently for the long term, you need to create a “safe space” for all ideas, not just the ones that fit with your initial mission. 3. Foster Informal Networks In 2005, a team of researchers decided to study why some Broadway plays become hits and others flop. They looked at all the usual factors, such as production budget, marketing budget and the track record of the director, but what they found was that what was most important was informal networks of relationships among the cast and crew. If no one had ever worked together before, both financial and creative results tended to be poor. However, if the networks among the cast and crew became too dense, performance also suffered. It was the teams that had elements of both — strong ties and new blood — that had the greatest success. The same effect has been found elsewhere. In studies of star engineers at Bell Labs, the German automotive industry and currency traders it has been shown that tightly clustered groups, combined with long range “weak ties” that allow information to flow freely among disparate clusters of activity results in better innovation. So before you embark on your next reorganization designed to “break down silos” you might want to think about how informal relationships develop within your enterprise. The truth is that innovation is never about nodes. It’s always about networks. 4. Promote Collaboration All too often, we think of innovation as the work of lone geniuses who, in a flash of inspiration, arrive at a eureka moment. Yet the truth is that research shows that the high value work is done in teams, those teams are increasing in size, are far more interdisciplinary than in the past and the work is done at greater distances. Just as importantly, there is growing evidence that it is crucial how these teams function. A study done by the CIA performed after 9/11 to determine what attributes made for the most effective analyst teams found […]

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Luggage that follows you

IdeaSpies Travelmate

Travelmate isn’t a normal suitcase – it’s an autonomous robot companion that follows you wherever you go and is designed to make traveling easier. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/travelmate-a-fully-autonomous-suitcase-and-robot-technology–2#/

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A free service to help you make ethical decisions

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The Ethics Centre in Sydney has an Ethi-call service which offers you support for difficult decisions you need to take (or have taken) and ethical dilemmas. These range from decisions & dilemmas at work to everyday parenting issues. http://www.ethics.org.au/ethi-call/ethi-call

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Innovation is Combination-Greg Satell

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Much has been made about the difference between innovation and invention. One writer went as far as to argue that Steve Jobs development of the iPod wasn’t an innovation because it was dependent on so much that came before it. A real innovation, so the argument goes, must be truly transformational, like the IBM PC, which created an entire industry. The problem with these kind of word games is that they lead us to an infinite regress. The IBM PC can be seen as the logical extension of the microchip, which was the logical extension of the transistor. These, in turn, rose in part through earlier developments, such Turing’s universal computer and the completely irrational science of quantum mechanics. The truth is that innovation is never a single event, but happens when fundamental concepts combine with important problems to create an impact. Traditionally, that’s been done within a particular organization or field, but to come up with breakthrough ideas in the 21st century, we increasingly need to transcend conventional boundaries of company and industry. Transforming Alchemy Into Chemistry Everybody knows the story of Benjamin Franklin and his famous kite, but few have ever heard of John Dalton and his law of multiple proportions. What Dalton noticed was that if you combine two or more elements, the weight resulting compound will be proportional to its components. That may seem vague, but it did more for electricity than Franklin ever did. The reason that Dalton’s obscure law became so important is that it led him to invent the modern concept of atoms and, in doing so, transformed the strange art of alchemy into the hard science of chemistry. Once matter could be reduced down to a single, fundamental concept, it could be combined to make new and wondrous things. Dmitri Mendeleev transformed Dalton’s insight into the periodic table, transforming the lives of high school students and major chemical corporations alike. Michael Faraday’s chemical experiments led to his development of the dynamo and the electric motor, which in turn led to Edison’s electric light, modern home appliances and even IBM’s PC and Apple’s iPod. Which of these are inventions and which are innovations? It’s impossible to tell and silly to argue about. What’s clear is none are the product of a single idea, but are all combinations of ideas built on the foundation that Dalton created. Merging Man and Machine In the early 1960s, IBM made what was perhaps the biggest gamble in corporate history. Although it was already the clear leader in the computer industry, it invested $5 billion — in 1960 dollars, worth more than $30 billion today — on a new line of computers, the 360 series, which would make all of its existing products obsolete. The rest, as the say, is history. The 360 series was more than just a product, it was a whole new way of thinking about computers. Before, computers were highly specialized machines designed to do specific jobs. IBM’s new product line, however, offered a wide range of capabilities, allowing customers to add to their initial purchase as their business grew. It would dominate the industry for decades. When Fred Brooks, who led the project, looked back a half century later, he said that the most important decision he made was to switch from a 6-bit byte to an 8-bit byte, which enabled the use of lowercase letters. Considering the size of the investment and the business it created, that may seem like a minor detail. But consider this: That single decision merged the language of machines with the language of humans into a fundamental unit. In effect, the 8-bit byte transformed computers from obscure calculating machines into a collaboration tool. Learning The Language of Life Much like Dalton came up with the fundamental unit of chemistry, a century later Wilhelm Johannsen developed the fundamental unit of biology in 1909: the gene. This too was a combination — and also a refinement — of earlier ideas from men like Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and others. However, for scientists of the early twentieth century, a gene was little more than a concept. No one knew what a gene was made of or even where they could be found. It was little more of an abstract idea until Watson and Crick discovered the structure and function of DNA. Even then, there was little we could do with genes except know that they were there. That changed when the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003 and unleashed the new field of genomics. Today, genetic treatments for cancer have become common and, with prices for genetic sequencing falling faster than those for computer chips, we can expect gene therapies to be applied to a much wider array of ailments over the next decade. Yet these new developments are not the product of just biologists. The challenges of gene mapping required massive computing power. So researchers working on genes needed to work closely with computer scientists to put supercomputers to work helping to solve the problem. A New Era of Innovation The confusion about innovation and invention reflects a fundamental misunderstanding about how innovation really works. The idea that certain ideas are flashes of divine inspiration while others are merely riffs off of earlier tunes sung long ago fails to recognize that all innovations are combinations. Over the last century, most inventions have been combinations of fundamental units. Many important products, from household goods to miracle cures, have been developed through combining atoms in new and important ways. Learning how to combine bytes of information gave rise to the computer industry and we’re now learning how to combine genes. The 21st century, however, will give rise to a new era of innovation in which we combine not just fundamental elements, but entire fields of endeavor. As Dr. Angel Diaz, IBM’s VP of Cloud Technology & Architecture told me, “We need computer scientists working with cancer scientists, with climate scientists and with experts in many other fields to tackle grand challenges and make large impacts on the world.” Today, it takes more than just a big idea to innovate. Increasingly, collaboration is becoming a key competitive advantage because you need to combine ideas from widely disparate fields. So if you want to innovate, don’t sit around waiting for a great eureka moment — look for what you can combine […]

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Human organs from pigs

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Scientists have created a human-pig hybrid in a milestone study that raises the prospect of being able to grow human organs inside animals for use in transplants. http://www.inkl.com/news/first-human-pig-chimera-created-in-milestone-study?etok=jDekUNJe4kR8PxS4

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A digital device you can use to play the guitar

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You can use this tool on any guitar. It works with an app that connects with LED lights. After you play a note, the app detects the sound and lights up where you put your fingers next. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/edgetechlabs/fret-zeppelin-play-guitar-in-60-seconds/description

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Keeping track of patients in hospital

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Patient Finder is a quick and easy app for family and friends to track your progress during a stay in a Healthscope Private Hospital, whether for day surgery or longer. It’s sent to patients by SMS the day before admission.

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Help in identifying your health issues

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Kang Health uses artificial intelligence to help you identify health issues early. Users enter their age, gender and the symptoms they are experiencing and the system mines through search results of similar cases from people with the same demographic data and symptoms. It offers you the typical diagnoses, or suggests you require medical assistance. Although the technology is mining predominantly user-generated information, Kang Health employ two full-time doctors to validate the information coming in to ensure its accuracy. The service also allows you to store your medical history and lifestyle for higher quality results. www.kanghealth.ai

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Why crime in NY declined

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IdeaSpies attended the last lecture given by Professor Kenneth Jackson today after 40 years of lectures on history and social sciences at Columbia University. He attributed the decline in crime in NY since the mid 90’s to factors such as more aggressive policing, handgun control, an aging population and abortions reducing unwanted children, which should interest other cities concerned about crime rates.

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A new way to show if you’re over the limit

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Description: DermaTec’s alcohol detection patch is worn directly on the skin, much like nicotine patches worn by smokers. The difference is that, instead of releasing a product into your body, it changes colour depending on the amount of alcohol that has been drunk. From white to very dark blue, the patch moves through a range of shades of blue, allowing you to tell at a glance when you need to book a cab or get a lift with a friend. http://www.derma-tec.com

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Smart socks for diabetics

Clever ideas- smart socks

Description: Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can cause swelling in the feet which can lead to ulcers and even to amputations. Siren Care’s socks for diabetics use smart textile technology to monitor the temperature of the skin on your feet. If a high temperature is detected an alert is sent to your smartphone app so you can have your foot checked. https://siren.care/

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A new way to be remembered

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Description: Artful Ashes creates unique glass memorials for those who have passed away. Through the use of art glass blowing they collect one tablespoon of your loved one’s ashes to include them in a glass art piece. http://www.artfulashes.com

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