Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cycle helmet vending machines, recyclable disposable helmets

With the proliferation of bicycle sharing schemes, concerns have been raised about encouraging the use of cycling without a cycle helmet. The solution, it seems to me, is installing cycle helmet vending machines at the bike share sites. Cycle helmets must be fairly cheap to make, it may even be possible to make recyclable disposable helmets that people can dispose of after use.

Overnight rail service

It is not uncommon for travelling business people to take a flight the evening before an early meeting the next day, and stay over in a hotel at the destination. I think this use of travel/accomodation presents a real opportunity for rail, as the slower speed of rail can be negated by combining the travel and accomodation in a high quality sleeper service.

The passenger would, as with the flight, board the evening before. Dinner would be served in a spacious and comfortable (contrast with aeroplane) dining carriage. The passenger would then retire to their cabin where they could take a shower, work at a desk, or watch a movie on the TV. The passenger would then go to sleep for the evening. In the morning the passenger would return to the dining carriage for a lovely breakfast. And then, most importantly, the passenger would arrive refreshed, in the heart of the city, ready for his/her meeting.

  • Cost (no separate accomodation)
  • Time (no need to travel from the airport to the hotel on arrival or again the same morning)
  • Comfort (trains can afford to be more spacious and therefore more comfortable than aeroplanes)

  • Although the train will be much more comfortable than the aeroplane for the travel, it is likely to be less comfortable than a hotel
  • It may not be possible to have a gym in the train (and certainly not possible to have a swimming pool)
If the person was travelling only for the day, they may wish to return by plane due to its superiour speed. If this is the case, an integrated travel company (or network) would be needed. The alternative is that the person boards the train again in the evening, and is returned to their home city in time for work the next day (again refreshed and in comfort).

Is there anyone else like me?

I'm sure this must be a commonly asked question, if only asked of ourselves. How to find out? Perhap a dedicated website where people post the things about themselves that they want to find out are shared by anyone else. The system then matches similar entries, and allows visitors to search the site. I suspect people would want a high level of privacy if sharing their deepest thoughts.

Nutritionally balanced bread

adreama: Food

I've written before about wanting to have a fully nutrionally balanced bar and milkshake. I wonder whether it is possible to bake a fully nutritionally balanced loaf of bread?

Head-mounted video camera

Having a constantly-recording head-mounted video camera would be a useful source of information for any job (assuming the convenience and privacy issues can be addressed), but it strikes me as particularly useful for builders and repair-person, if this information can be shared.

Say for example you have a problem with your heating system. You call out a heating system repair-person who has a head-mounted video camera. As they investigate to diagnose the problem, they talk through what they are doing, so that the latter viewer can understand. They identify the problem and fix it. A couple of years later you have another problem with the heating system. You call out a heating system repair-person and, before they start work, you give them a copy of the video. The pull this up on their tablet and scan through to get an understanding of past problems and solutions. They are then able to understand the system quicker and fix it quicker.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

What people want: to know their place in the world

But nobody tells them. They are left to figure it out for themselves. And how can they be certain of their conclusion?

A magnetic bag catch

I was thinking today about a magnetic bag catch. The magnets would be fairly thin, but sufficient strength of attachment would be achieved with a wide area (mainly height). The lose end of the strap (with magnet) would be passed through a non-magnetic metal loop on the other part of the bag and doubled back on itself. I think the diagram will explain better:

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Signing paper

Although many aspects of business have moved onto computer systems, there is still a requirement in many areas to produce hardcopy evidence. Often this is signed, however it is often difficult to prove when documents are signed as it's possible to sign at a latter date, but change the date to earlier.

I wonder whether its possible to produce a digital date stamp, that has an inbuilt clock updated by RF.The stamp would include the time, date, timezone, employee reference, etc. Obviously such a stamp couldn't eliminate fraud, but it could make it more difficult.

Reverse auction task website

While I'm thinking about reverse auctions (see previous post), how about a reverse auction task website? Buyers enter a task, e.g. paint my fence (5m x 2m), and sellers compete on price. Kind of like an eBay for services.

Reverse auction dare website

From looking on the internet, there seems to be a large number of crazy people in this world that are willing to do stupid things just to get youtube hits. But how about taking this to the next level? A reverse auction dare website, where "buyers" suggest dares and a maximum bounty they'll pay, and "sellers" compete on price. The "winner" does the dare and uploads video evidence. Whether the execution of the dare met the requirements would be up to community vote, after which, if sufficient, the bounty is released.

Obviously this is hugely unethical and would probably lead to serious injury and death, and I therefore advocate its creation in no way.

Layered utilitarianism

I've recently been reading Michael J. Sandel's Justice. I've found the arguments against utilitarianism to be unsatisfying (probably due to my staunch belief in utilitarianism). The argument about the total utility of feeding christians to lions is interesting (and perhaps provocative as the majority of Sandel's audience are likely to be christian). It led me to think about a layered version of utilitarianism that perhaps accords with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The bottom layers of the pyramid take precedence over the upper layers. This way, in a life or death situation the utilitarian principle can be applied in saving the most number of lives (even if this requires sacrificing the few), but a self-actualisation situation would not infringe on basic needs.

Obviously this model shows up the lack of justice in the world, where the wealthy self-actualise whilst the poor starve.

I note there has been some criticism of Maslow's ranking, suggesting therefore that research is necessary to properly define the layers.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Sticking to the core mission vs making the most of opportunities

I read an article today about Apple's patent for a smart bike, making me think about whether this is something that it's in Apple's shareholders' best interests for it to be doing. Here are some arguments for and against companies expanding out of their normal area of expertise:

Arguments for
  • If an employee has come up with an innovative idea, it will be motiviating to that employee and other employees for the organisation to pursue it (it will also make the company a more attractive place to work, helping recruitment and retention)
  • Potential for more revenue
  • Potential to diversify the revenue base, making the company more stable and therefore more valuable
  • Potential to increase brand value by reinforcement (i.e. making the brand more common), and by associating it with new and innovative products

Arguements against
  • There is potential for the failure of the venture to cost the company money
  • There is potential for failure of the venture to cause brand damage, or that even a successful product could dilute brand value due to differences to the core product line
  • The lack of expertise in a new field increases the risk of failure
  • There is the potential that the venture could distract management time away from more important issues

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


All costs are labour costs (manhours) back down the line. Say you buy an apple from a shop, the cost of that apple includes the following:

Manhours for shop staff
Manhours for construction of the shop
Manhours for the materials that are used to construct the shop
Manhours of the farmer
Manhours of the construction of farm equipment
Manhours for the materials that are used to construct the farm equipment
Manhours of the distributer
Manhours of the construction of transport equipment
Manhours for the materials that are used to construct the transport equipment

In all but as simplified model society, it would be prohibitivelly complicated to calculate the total manhours for an item, but it is an interesting thought experiment.

In a totally equal society would it be possible to have a currency based on manhours?