Tuesday, March 22, 2011


This new product is in the form of a website that lists and rates products that you bought according to a predefined set of criteria. I envisage the website as a tool that people would be able to use in order to make smarter purchases. If I wanted to buy a new watch for example, I would be able to search the BlackList website and if the watch didn't appear there, I'd be a little more confident in my future purchase. This obviously wouldn't replace conventional product reviews, which are essential for making well-informed smarter purchases, but it would complement them. BlackList would save you the hassle of searching for that not-so-positive product review that can be so informative and is usually buried under numerous positive reviews. As a person who has made many a bad purchase, I started looking for such a site and was surprised to find absolutely no such thing. Not even one! The closest thing I found was in a ChinaDaily article claiming that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology plans to "draw up a blacklist displaying the names of those firms breaching quality-related regulations" (click here to view the article).

Sometimes, purchasing a dud product can be so unequivocally frustrating that all you want to do is make sure 'they' (the product's manufacturer) suffer. Other times, when you're in a more positive and sane state of mind, it's just bloody annoying. Either way, with BlackList, you could make a difference. BlackList would be beneficial to us consumers for many reasons, including:
  • Helping other people avoid the unfortunate experience of purchasing a dud.
  • Improving consumer awareness.
  • Rewarding good products that don't appear on the website.
  • Punishing bad products that do appear on the website by sharing our experiences and preventing others from making similar purchases.
  • Knowledge sharing for more a more enlightened society.
  • And punishing those bad products again.
Due to the legal problems associated with public badmouthing, the BlackList's product rating and listing system would need to be automated so as not to make the website owner liable for the blacklist in any way. For example, entering a new product in the site would open a form with the following fields: Manufacturer, Product name and model, Primary reason for blacklisting (dead on arrival, does not work as advertised, breaks down every day/week/month, requires constant servicing, no customer support, no spare parts, appears to be used, and so on), Secondary reason for blacklisting (same as above), Other (short free text), Get it off your chest (free text describing your experience). Each field would then be assigned a score out of 10, for example, Primary reason for blacklisting – dead on arrival = 10; Primary reason for blacklisting – breaks down every day = 9; Secondary reason for blacklisting – any = 1. When a final score is calculated, the website's database would be searched for the same product, according to manufacturer and product name and model, and would be added to the grand total. The 100 highest scoring products would then be listed on the blacklist. A further precaution could be added to only list products with over a certain number of entries. A disclaimer could be included in the form stating that the person filling out the form is solely responsible for the information contained therein and to the accuracy of that information.

When buying a new product, check the BlackList first. I know I would. Marketing wouldn't be a problem once a large enough online community makes use of BlackList. Manufacturers that don't appear on BlackList would be more than happy to use this as an advertising gimmick. Even those that do appear on the list could use that information as a wake-up call for improving. Proven steps taken by companies on the blacklist to alleviate their products' problems could even be used a tool to remove them from the site, or at least scale down their products' prominence on BlackList. It would be a great day indeed when one of my new ideas or new product innovations makes it onto or off BlackList!

Monday, March 14, 2011


If you’ve ever come back to your car after a long and busy day and found a vacant hole where your driver side window should have been, fragments of glass on your seat beside a brick and that the only thing missing is your $500 stereo system, then Titan is for you. This is my contribution to the anti car theft and abuse cause. Titan is car window armor in the form of a rollable steel mesh screen that would roll down on rails connected to the car’s frame, on parallel sides of all the car’s windows. The mesh screen could be rolled up and down manually or automatically by a small standard motor and would need to lock when in either rolled or unrolled position. In order to prevent driving hazards arising from Titan blocking your view of the road when driving, Titan’s motor would need to be disengaged when the car is running. I don’t like products that create more work for people, and with that in mind, the Titan motor should be wired up to your car alarm system just like the central locking system so that when you exit your car and activate the alarm, the doors lock and Titan descends, completely covering the most vulnerable parts of your car and giving new meaning to the term armored car.
anti-theft, car appliances, security, product innovation
Steel mesh, like chainmail, is extremely durable, easily strong enough to prevent someone gaining access to your car by smashing something against your window. Although your window will need repair, at least your car will still be where you left it with its contents intact. Titan would complement your car’s theft determent systems perfectly. It wouldn’t replace your car alarm or immobilizer, but it would save you the hassle of having to disconnect and remove your GPS, stereo system, or other valuables whenever you leave your car. Titan could also be available with an attached sun-proof fabric that could also protect your car from harmful UV rays as well as prying eyes.

Titan relies on existing materials and products for its manufacture. The innovation is in their combination and application. I am not sure if Titan could be patented or not, but it could definitely be produced and manufactured at very affordable rates. Since Titan would require professional installation to ensure its durability and safety, it could easily be marketed through the vast infrastructure of car appliance installation specialists. Not to mention, if Titan was to be adopted by a car manufacturing company, the addition of such an innovative new product could be a major marketing advantage for that company.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

RFID Shopping

Why can't I walk into a supermarket, fill up my shopping cart, swipe my credit card at the door and leave? And I'm not referring to smart shopping carts which cost heaps and offer little or RFID enabled mobile phones or credit cards. RFID Shopping is simple, safe, and much more fun – more like a filling up at a self-service gas station. I guess this is more of a service based on existing products than a product in itself, but here goes anyway. RFID Shopping is a system that includes RFID tags instead of barcodes on all the items in a supermarket, a fixed RFID reader located anywhere in the supermarket and connected to a user-operated pay station, and a second fixed RFID reader located near the exit and connected to an alarm.

With RFID Shopping, you would enter the supermarket, fill up your cart or shopping bags, proceed to the pay station where a list of all your items would appear onscreen, swipe your credit card, and leave. When you approach the exit, if the additional fixed RFID reader detects that the content in your shopping cart mysteriously doesn't match the content you paid for at the pay station, it would sound an alarm notifying security personnel, or not open the door for you. Such a supermarket would still employ one or two conventional check-out personnel for dealing with problems that could arise or for people who prefer to pay cash.

RFID Shopping is a relatively cheap way for supermarkets to evolve, without necessitating enormous initial costs, as do some of the other RFID related ideas out there. With RFID Shopping, most of the supermarket infrastructure remains the same as new smart shopping carts or expensive computer systems do not have to be purchased or developed. RFID Shopping has many advantages for a supermarket, including reduced supermarket personnel expenses due to the reduced amount of check-out personnel required; increased floor size obtained by reducing the amount of check-out counters and lanes, which in turn enables displaying and selling more products; a more positive and less time consuming shopping experience for customers.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Originally, this idea was for an infrared-based remote controlled power socket that you could plug into an electric socket and plug any electric appliance into it, giving you remote control over the power to that appliance. This idea came to me when I was in bed, too lazy to get up and turn off the fan which was plugged into the wall socket a few meters away. I wished I had a remote control for the damned thing… Since I thought of LazyPower just about 10 years ago, and technology has leapt forward, I think it would be prudent to update this idea to incorporate both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies. B-LazyPower would be an electric power socket with BlueTooth that would be connected between any electric appliance and the wall socket and be controlled by your smartphone, when within range. Wi-LazyPower, on the other hand, would incorporate Wi-Fi technology and enable control of the socket from your home network (or anywhere else via this network). Each has its pros and its cons and each provides different development opportunities and user comforts. I would incorporate some software with each, for example an iPhone app for controlling all the detected B-LazyPower units and a program (Win/Mac) for controlling or setting up timer de/activation of all the detected Wi-LazyPower units from your PC.

In addition to the plug-and-play variety, which could convert your fan, radiator, fridge, or even toaster into a smarter and more accessible appliance, LazyPower could also be incorporated into permanent wall fixtures (light switches, RJ-11/45), providing a more affordable solution to some of the comforts offered by conventional smarthomes. Marketability of LazyPower is almost endless, including providing accessibility to people with disabilities, controlling and enforcing power-out periods at either work or home, and efficient power-saving by not forgetting appliances turned on all night. Once again, I think that LazyPower could be produced fairly easily for it too relies on already existing technologies – it just blends them together for new purposes. For this reason, LazyPower be marketed at very competitive rates and I know I'd buy it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


When I was a technical writer, I often felt that a computer could be doing a lot of the software API documentation instead of me. AutoDoc is a program that would enable you to define basic tasks in your program that you wish to document and would create the documentation according to where, how, and what you clicked or typed. AutoDoc would either interface with your software or perform screen captures and OCR to get window, field, and box names and images for the document. Based on a set of predefined templates and a dictionary of technical writing terminology, AutoDoc would then describe your actions in a simple and user-friendly way. For example, if you right-click a button with the mouse, AutoDoc would write "In the [window/tab-name], right-click [button-name]". According to the template you selected, a result of the action could be included (i.e., "The [window-name] window appears") as well as an image of that window. The templates could also include customizable font style definitions and color schemes, to name a few. The process would be something like:
1) Run AutoDoc.
2) Run your program.
3) Press F8 to begin AutoDoc mode. The define task window would appear.
4) Enter the name of the task you wish to perform in your program and click OK.
5) Perform the task in your program and press F8 when you are done.
AutoDoc would then document the procedure in your word processor exactly how you performed it yourself, with all the necessary screenshots. If you happen to be the programmer who created the feature, you are guaranteed documentation consistency and accuracy (assuming you know what you are doing).

AutoDoc would need a few hundred hours of programming to get started but shouldn’t require much more than that for basic functionality. A technical writer should also be in on the project to correctly define the dictionary of technical writing terminology. AutoDoc could be offered free with basic functionality which would already make many a technical writer very happy. It could then be enhanced with added functionality and templates and licenses could be sold. I think AutoDoc would cut the costs for many software developing companies due to reduced documentation expenses. That is, a technical documentation company will charge much less for editing an already existing document than for documenting a program from scratch. With AutoDoc, you could be providing the technical documentation company with a rough draft of your program's user guide and only requesting that they edit and perhaps write some introductory material in each chapter about the technologies used by your software. Alternatively, if you are a freelance technical writer, you could save up to 50% of the project time by using AutoDoc and either offer more attractive rates to your customers or make a whole lot more dough.


Wouldn't it be great if when you're snapping pics on holiday, someone you care about could see them as you snap them from half the world away? Well, I tend to think so. Snapper would be some sort of BlueTooth enabled USB dongle that you could plug into your digital camera and would enable you to transmit pictures taken to your 3G phone. A simple application could then forward the received picture to anywhere you want (email, SMS, Facebook). I envisage it as a two-step procedure:
1) Plug in the Snapper dongle to your camera.
2) Take a picture.
When you plug in the Snapper dongle, your preconfigured Bluetooth device (phone) is recognized and ready to send any picture received to a preconfigured location. Then when you take the picture, it is automatically sent to wherever you wanted it to go. That is, assuming there is 3G network coverage when you take the picture.

Snapper could also work with a Wi-Fi dongle enabling you to send pictures through your home network to local storage or the Internet. This would alleviate the need for the phone acting as a middle man but is much more limited for there are fewer places with public Wi-Fi than with 3G network coverage. Snapper could also eliminate the need for large and costly memory cards by sending all pictures taken on your camera to be stored externally and not on the camera's memory card. I think that Snapper could be produced fairly easily for it relies on already existing technologies – it just blends them together for new purposes. For this reason, Snapper could be marketed at under $100 and I know I'd pay that much for it.

Snapper would be especially useful for whenever you go out with your camera, be it for a holiday or a trip to the zoo with the kids, but also for the more specialized market of reporters and professional photographers (to whom you could offer Snapper with data encryption). Also, if you take many pictures at home and you're lazy like me – simply can't be bothered transferring the pictures to my computer – Snapper would be perfect for you!
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