Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stylish shirt doesn’t need washing or ironing for 100 days

ULTRA has already offered women a modular 10-piece wardrobe that aims to last them the whole year, but what about men? Wool & Prince has embarked on a mission to develop a smart shirt that doesn’t crease or smell even after 100 days of wear. The company wanted to create the shirt equivalent to a pair of jeans – a piece of clothing that can be worn multiple times before it gets too dirty or wrinkled. Rather than develop a new alternative to regular cotton, the startup takes advantage of the natural qualities of fine merino wool, which isn’t as coarse and scratchy as the wool used in jumpers. The thread isn’t prone to breaking, wicks sweat away from the skin and retains its shape when crumpled. After developing a prototype – based on the woollen heavy duty shirts manufactured by his father’s company Pendleton – Wool & Prince gave their fashionable button-down shirts to 15 volunteers, who wore them while clubbing in New York City and travelling in the Andes. Founder Mac Bishop also wore a version of the shirt for 100 days without washing or ironing to demonstrate its resilient properties. After launching its Kickstarter target of USD 30,000, Wool & Prince recently completed funding at over USD 300,000.

Through app, consumers connect with local fashion boutiques based on social interests

The fashion industry and social networks are just as dynamic as each other, which is perhaps why they lend themselves well to each other in a retail scenario, something that Material Wrld has already picked up on. Now the walkby app enables users to ‘follow’ new trends or products in order to receive notifications when local boutique stores have stock that matches their interests. Currently focusing on Chicago – where the team has partnered with a number of boutique fashion retailers – users start by registering a profile and search for their favorite stores, brands or apparel items. They can then choose to ‘follow’ their chosen search terms if they’re interested in finding matching products on sale nearby. Partner stores are alerted to the interest and can let users know if they have corresponding items. If they do, the products – along with details and photos – appear in a Facebook-style news feed for consumers to browse. If they like what they see, they can order items for delivery in the app, or make a reservation to visit the store.

In London, sewer fat will power world’s largest grease-powered electricity plant

Stay Green Oil has already offered those with waste oil the opportunity to re-use it, rather than throwing it away. In the UK, discarded oil and fat is causing problems in the capital’s sewer systems, and now 2OC aims to tackle the problem with the world’s largest fat-powered renewable electricity plant. According to Thames Water, which has agreed a GBP 200 million, 20-year contract with the company, the ‘fatbergs’ caused by restaurants and kitchens putting oil and fat down the drain create 40,000 blockages in London’s sewers annually, at a cost of GBP 1 million a month. Now 2OC will collect the fat, as well as pick up waste oil and grease from local restaurants and manufacturers. The material will serve as fuel for a combined heat and power plant in Beckton, generating 130 Gigawatt hours per year of renewable electricity – some of which will power Thames Water’s sewage and desalination plant, while some will heat residents’ homes . The scheme aims to provide green energy, as well as a solution to London’s sewer problems. When launched in 2015, the plant will be the largest in the world to solely run off fat-based products. Are there other ways to simultaneously clean up waste products polluting the environment while also using them as a renewable energy source?

Child abuse ad shows helpline info only to kids

While some innovations such as the Colombian Kid Rescue app call on adults to flag instances of child abuse in public, it can be down to the child to speak up when it takes place in private. With this in mind, Mexico’s ANAR Foundation developed an ad that uses lenticular printing technology to display encouraging messages to children that adults can’t read. Displayed in public locations, the advertisement comprised of two different images printed on a ridged surface. One image showed the face of a typical child with text reading: “Sometimes child abuse is only visible to the child suffering it.” As this was printed only on the ridges facing upwards, the image was the one that adults saw. On the ridges facing downwards, the same image with added injuries was shown alongside alternative text reading: “If somebody hurts you, phone us and we’ll help you.” This side also included the helpline number for the ANAR Foundation and was only visible to those viewing the ad from an upwards angle – children. Since child abuse is often carried out by adults that know the victim, the ad provided a way to get vital information to children without their abuser knowing.


It’s been almost 12 months since we first wrote about the ArduSat project, when it had just successfully passed its target on crowdfunding website Kickstarter by more than three times. With the aim of making a form of space exploration possible for those without degrees in rocket science – but a little technical know-how – the scheme is focused on an open-source Ardunio-based mini satellite, packed with sensors, that anyone could register to spend some time controlling once launched into the stratosphere. The group behind the ArduSat have lofty ambitions in more ways than one, and has now formed its own company – NanoSatisfi – as a result of the success of their funding campaign. We spoke to CEO Peter Platzer to find out how they’re getting on in making the dream of accessible space exploration a reality. While the Kickstarter money helped the team develop its ArduSat product further, it was USD 1.2 million worth of seed funding that enabled it to create NanoSatisfi, a company whose aim now is to promote citizen space research and to help people develop their own innovative projects that may one day rival those of giants such as NASA. The investment – which came mostly from Silicon Valley angels and investors, as well some help from abroad – has enabled the company to grow from the three initially involved in developing the ArduSat to a team of 11. This group includes a broad range of skills and experience from science and engineering institutions like CERN, NASA and Lockheed Martin, business nous from former Wall Street and PricewaterhouseCoopers workers and education expertise that comes from Harvard, UC Berkeley and Brown.
“The biggest mile-stone has been that we secured a launch for ArduSat for this summer via our partner NanoRacks,” explains Platzer. This helped the company mark it’s first major step towards finally getting the ArduSat into space. Once in place, it is then that the team will be able to truly test the capabilities of their system and start enabling its users to make their research projects a reality. However, it hasn’t been easy. “The biggest shortage from the start has been time and money and these continue to be the major constraints under which we operate,” Platzer added. The funding and creation of NanoSatisfi was understandably a large help, but so too are the numerous recognitions the team has received. The company was picked as the best demo pit startup at the Launch Conference 2013 and only recently Entrepreneur magazine selected NanoSatisfi as one of its top ’100 Brilliant Companies’ on the cutting edge of business. This support helps to raise awareness of NanoSatisfi’s goals and ambitions, which are to continue growing in the future. Once fully operational, Platzer says that NanoSatisfi’s aim will be “building many more ArduSat-like satellites in the future and giving students across the world access to a real, hands-on, space exploration experience at an affordable price.” One of the keys to its success is its keen and active userbase, which has already started to establish itself. “Translating the passionate response from a small community into a viable business model with significant reach is an important and difficult transition,” Platzer states. A key demographic for the company is students, which is why it not only provides access to its satellite technology but has also created the ArduSatAcademy, a four-week course to help young people interested in astronomy to learn how to program the device, get experience working with genuine spacecraft and receive one-on-one mentorship from experts in the field. Platzer hopes to stimulate a generation who have grown up in the New World of the internet, who realize more than most the illimitability of what they can achieve. By enabling them to design and run their own space exploration projects, he hopes a larger number of young people will be turned on by science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, industries which are in dire need of skilled workers. “We need more graduates in the crucial fields of STEM and I think ArduSat and then NanoSatisfi can really have a big, positive impact on this problem by inspiring our next generation to enroll in STEM classes and become the innovation engine of the future.”

System crowdsources quake data from smartphones to save lives

We’ve already seen an app called Earthquake Buddy harness the power of smartphones to help users find their loved ones in the aftermath of a natural disaster. However, a new development called Crowdshake could act as an early warning system, by triggering warnings on nearby smartphones when tremors are detected by those nearer the epicenter. Created by the Caltech Community Seismic Network, the app uses the accelerometers, GPS and accurate timekeeping to provide data about potential earthquakes. In order to work, the system relies on a network of individuals using the app – when the accelerometers in multiple devices register a sudden jolt at the same time and approximate location, it is likely and earthquake has occurred. Using the data, the system can triangulate the location of the epicenter and automatically send alerts to others using the app within a certain radius. Given that seismic waves travel at around five kilometers a second, the app isn’t useful for those who can probably already feel the quake, but could give those on the outskirts time to get to safety.

App offers instant and easy small payment gift requests

Regular readers of Springwise may remember Jifiti, the app that lets consumers scan a barcode with their smartphone to gift the item to a friend. Now Ok’d enables anyone to take a photograph of a product and instantly receive money from a friend or relative to pay for it. Young people and those with low income – especially students – often find themselves in a situation where they need to ask for money from their parents or someone else they know, but account transfers can take days to process and in that time the item they wanted may have sold out. Ok’d, the first app from San Francisco-based startup Paidpiper, enables users to simply take a photograph of the product they want to buy and it automatically determines what it is and how much it costs. This information is then sent to a contact, who can review the request, chat with the requester and instantly agree to cover the cost through the app. Rather than actually transferring money, the app generates a one-time use gift voucher for the exact price of the item, to be used at the store the request was sent from. Retailers simply fill out the credit card number on the digital OK’d card or scan the barcode to accept the payment. The app, which is available to download on the App Store, could have multiple uses – for collecting money from multiple contacts to pay for a gift, for example, or to allow businesses to make small payments to employees rather than filling out expenses. With digital wallets growing in popularity, are there other options for densing money digitally?