Sunday, 30 March 2008

Login failures

This security feature may well exist, but it is not something I have yet experienced:

Whilst many login systems have a 'disable account after x failed logins' feature, an added security feature would be to communicate to the user (once successfully logged in) how many failed logins there had been prior to this successful login (but below the account disable threshold). This is important as it is only the user that knows how many times they have failed - if they haven't then they know that someone has tried to get into their account and they know to change their password or alert security.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Spy camera sunglasses

I recently read an article on spy camera sunglasses, which look a great idea. How often have you been looking at something when something exciting happens, but you haven't had the time to rummage in your bag to find your camera?

But these glasses are hardly worthy of the word 'spy'. The glasses are bulky and the camera obvious. To reduce the size of the glasses, they should be given bluetooth, allowing the camera control and storage of images to be on a mobile phone. This would also allow easy communication of images captured. All that would need to be in the glasses would be CCD, battery and bluetooth transmitter.

Fresh bread

The problem I identified today is a lack of readily available (cheap) fresh bread. The highstreet bakery has been killed off by supermarkets, whose bread really doesn't cut it.

My solution is bread vending machine. They are two ways of implementing this:

Slow vending machine - in such a device, the bread would be stored in sealed packs of ready-shaped dough. After selection by the purchaser, the dough would be unwrapped and moved to an oven, baked and then delivered. Obviously baking takes a while so the customer would need to wait. The customer could be given a pin to access their bread once cooked, so that other customers could use the machine. Alternatively, both payment and collection could be instructed through a mobile phone (or company intranet). The customer would be texted (or emailed) to let them know the bread was ready. The slow vending machine seems most appropriate to a semi-private setting like an office.

Fast vending machine - this device would be more suitable for a public location. Bread would be pre-baked and stored in sealed containers. Once ordered, the bread is microwaved in a humid environment to give it a warm, moist, fresh taste/texture. Again such a device could be controlled by mobile phone (although the need for texting is removed by the faster cooking time).

Sandwich making machine - on the subject of bread vending machines, would it not be possible to automate the Subway sandwich making process? Ingredients would be in pre-packed containers; robot arms would add ingredients per the customers order. The great thing about this would be that your favorite sandwiches could be stored on your mobile to be texted to the machine.

Mobile phone cameras

Mobile phone cameras are getting to the stage where a separate camera is an unnecessary indulgence. But the problem is that they only do straightforward photos. It would be a great product differentiator for phones were they to have the option of additional lenses (fish eye, wide angle, fibre optic, macro, zoom, etc). Give that phones are much smaller than SLRs, a new range of lenses would need to be developed. And as phones should ideally be flat (most of the time), the (normal) lens would need to screw into the phone body - obviously a fibre optic or zoom lens would stick out, but these would only be used on occasion so that wouldn't be an issue.

If the housing was standardised then people would be able to use their old lenses when they got a new phone; on the plus side for the manufacturer, the lenses would be another optional extra to generate more revenue.

Simplifying English spelling

English spelling could do with simplifying, just take 'bow' and 'bough' as an example. The problem is that even spelling inconsistencies are inconsistent. So how best to respell words? The method that occurs to me is to get a database of every word (i.e. a dictionary), with pronounciation data and a ranking on how common the word is used. The new spelling of each sound is based on the most common spelling of that sound, and all words are given a new spelling automatically. The only problem then is convincing people to start using the new spelling and making sure people don't change how they pronounce things...

Further ideas on bins

Further to yesterday's discussion on bins, I have refined the problem I am seeking to solve: rather than having to change the bin per se, it is changing it when overfull that creates the real issue. And the solution: a sensor (and alarm) that tells you to empty the bin when its getting too full (solar powered of course). This way may lazy housemates would be forced to change it. Perhaps it could even lock when full to prevent over filling.

I think I've got carried away. It's only a bin after all.

Another spin-off idea: the lid of the bin should say "Can it be recycled?" or when the bin lid is opened then a voice recording says the same thing (solar powered of course). This would encourage people to recycle (or in the case of an annoying little voice - go insane).

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Inventions process

The key part of the inventions process is identifying need. And the key way to do this is to pay close attention to your own and other peoples' lives. Just off the top of my head, two needs occur to me, based on two of my pet hates: changing the bin; and having to stand up (particularly in queues).

Putting out the rubbish. It's a pain. If you do it the night before the bin men come, then foxes tear it open leaving a mess. If you put it out in the morning, it adds to the mornings woes (don't get me started on mornings). My first thought on solving the problem is some kind of chute from the kitchen to an outside place where the binmen would collect it. This way, rubbish is never stored in the house and I wouldn't need to do any changing. The problem is that the nature of kitchen waste means that chute's going to get messy. Really messy. Next thought: a robot. This is a particularly high-tech solution to a low-tech problem. A humanoid robot would do the trick, so perhaps would some kind of chair-lift like rail that carries the bag outside, tying it in the process.

Another alternative would be to do away with bags: they add to the landfill after all. A bin hatch would be built into the side of the house and rubbish/recycling would be dumped straight into a set of bins (see diagram). These would be picked up and emptied by the bin lorry, perhaps with some kind of robot arm that swept the inside of the bin (and sprayed with water to clean).

With respect to my issue of standing, the absence of queues would be a nice start, together with much more public seating. In lieu of this, what I need is a seat I can carry with me. It needs to fold so I can put it in my bag. I've seen umbrella seats, but how can the length be folded? Using a combination of locking corner joints (as used on step ladders) and telescopic arms (see diagram). Obviously a seat would need to be attached at one end, an either a spike or piece of rubber on the other.