A new year means a new set of possibilities for inventors looking to take their ideas to market. Springwise, a site dedicated to entrepreneurial ideas from around the globe, has collected 10 ideas it feels can be game-changers this year. The site has more than 15,000 “spotters” from around the world keeping an eye out for next-gen products. Check out its picks for this year’s most innovative ideas and products.
1. Facebook Hangers: Brazil
In order to bring Facebook into the brick-and-mortar world, Brazilian fashion outlet C&A installed displays on their coat hangers to inform shoppers of the popularity of each item. This blurring of the boundaries between online and offline customer interaction is something that may set successful brands apart as the web integrates further into our daily lives.
2. The Connected Sidewalk: Spain
We’ve already seen sidewalks used to capture the energy of pedestrians’ footsteps, so it doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to see them emit power as well. Sure enough, iPavement is a sidewalk pavement stone that serves as a Wi-Fi hot spot with Bluetooth connectivity. Made of calcium carbonate, each iPavement stone weighs 55 pounds and measures 15 inches square. Available in either a classic smooth or a corrugated finish, the stones are the brain child of Spanish Vía Inteligente, which will start to manufacture them this summer. They offer 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1, and a coverage area of between 1,150 and 6,240 square feet, depending on their surroundings. Included with the stones, moreover, is a built-in Linux-compatible operating system, along with apps, offering access to maps, coupons, virtual libraries, and a wide array of local information.
3. Gravity-Powered Lamp: United Kingdom
Many of us may take electric lights for granted, but there is a considerable portion of the world—around 1.5 billion people—that lives in poor, remote areas and has to rely on dangerous kerosene alternatives. Currently being funded through an Indiegogo campaign, the GravityLight hopes to change that by offering a cheap lamp that runs on an entirely renewable resource. The device is attached to a weight, which when lifted for a few seconds harnesses enough energy to power the light for 30 minutes. Operating without batteries, the GravityLight contains no deteriorating parts and means owners don’t have to spend money to keep it running.
4. The Aggregated Credit Card: United States
Many credit card companies offer a variety of deals on their products in order to entice customers, meaning that many end up with more than one account in order to make the most of different offers. Rather than making card holders keep track of which card would be best for each purchase, Wallaby enables them to upload all of their cards’ details, which are accessed via the single Wallaby Card. Depending on what is being bought, at what time and how expensive it is, the Wallaby Card selects the best account and charges it.
5. Open-Source, Personal Water Desalinator: Italy
In a nutshell, Eliodomestico is an eco-distiller that uses solar power to make salt water drinkable. Created by Italian designer Gabriele Diamanti, Eliodomestico is an open-source project designed to provide safe drinking water for people in developing countries. Essentially, the device works like an upside-down coffee maker to produce five liters of fresh water every day. Users begin by adding sea water in the morning. Over the course of the day, the heat of the sun causes steam to rise into a water-tight boiler. The steam is then forced down through an expansion nozzle and condenses against the lid of a collection basin. At the end of the day, users can remove the basin, which is full of fresh water and designed for transport on the head.
Eliodomestico is made from widely available materials and requires no electricity or filters; maintenance is simple, Diamanti says.
6. Socialized Airline Travel: Holland
Indicating how much social media is becoming a major part of many businesses’ strategies, Dutch airline KLM this year rolled out its Meet and Seat program, enabling travelers to choose their seats based on the online profiles of those sharing their flight. Customers can make a match by offering their Facebook or LinkedIn data, depending on whether they’re looking for a potential personal or business relationship.
7. Real-Time Sports Performance Tracking: United States
Another trend that has grown in 2012 is the idea of the quantified self—learning about ourselves through data analysis. We’ve seen many new products which help to catch information about sports, one of the most comprehensive being Adidas’ miCoach, a suite of products to help sports professionals and trainers work out exactly how to improve performance. Using trackers placed onto players’ kits, the miCoach delivers metrics on speed, pace, heart rate and more in real-time. The system can also monitor entire teams at the same time, giving coaches the ability to make smart decisions during play.
8. Audience-Controlled Concert Lighting: United States
While new technology has often been the bane of major record companies over the past decade, artists seem to have readily embraced its possibilities. One such musician is Dan Deacon, who teamed up with Wham City Apps to create a way to take over the smartphones of live audiences. Those attending a Dan Deacon show in support of his album America could download the app, which enabled their phone to respond to sonic prompts, changing the color of the screen or playing sounds in addition to those coming from the stage. The app allows for a greater deal of interactivity between the musician and the crowd, making for a more engaging experience.
9. The Safe Phone: United Kingdom
In this era of ever more sophisticated smartphones, the need for a “simple phone” on the market has become increasingly evident. Enter the OwnFone, the latest entrant in this trend-defying category that adds a twist of personalization to the mix. A creation of UK-based CyCell, OwnFone is a mini, lightweight, and customizable low-cost mobile phone that focuses on providing direct access to a select set of key contacts. The handset can have up to 12 names for quick dialing. Phone numbers are not stored in the OwnFone, but rather are kept on a secure server (so if the device is lost or stolen, the numbers are protected). The credit card-sized OwnFone is rechargeable and will last in shutdown mode for up to a year without charge.
10. Wireless Shoe Phone Charger: Kenya
The brainchild of Kenyan entrepreneur Anthony Mutua, the shoe charger is a tiny chip inserted in the sole of any shoe that gathers and stores energy as the wearer walks. The technology consists of an ultra-thin chip of crystals that generate electricity when subjected to pressure; placed in the sole of a shoe, it gathers energy when the wearer walks, runs and moves about. A phone can then be charged via a thin extension cable that runs from shoe to pocket, or energy can be stored in the crystals for charging purposes later. Mutua charges about $43 to fit any shoe with one of his chips, and he offers a two-and-a-half-year guarantee. Mass production of Mutua’s chips will reportedly begin soon thanks to funding from Kenya’s National Council of Science and Technology.