Sunday, 29 December 2013

Solar powered flip flop tile

Problem statement

To optimise energy efficiency, buildings need to reflect radiation (infra rad, visible light, ultraviolet, etc) when they are at or above their intended temperature, and absorb radiation when they are below their intended temperature.

Potential solution

The tiles of the roof of the building would have a hinged panel in the middle of them. One side of the panel and the corresponding side of the underlying tile would be painted with a high albedo paint, the other side of the panel would and the other side of the tile would be painted with a low albedo paint. A small motor in the panel would flip the panel between the two states. The motor would be powered by a small solar panel and battery, and controlled remotely.

The panel and hinge attachment could either be attached to existing tiles, or built into new tiles.

The diagrams below illustrate:

It is noted that it may be better solution to cover the roof in solar cells and solar water heaters.

How is value created?

By having good ideas, and then coordinating people and resources to have them implemented

Random connections: Carbon nanotubes and toileteries

This post is the first in a planned series of posts on random connections. The concept for the series is that invention often arises from the combination of concepts that might not otherwise be linked. As a result it is hypothesised that by selecting two or more "things" at random and then thinking about them, novel invention may arise.

The two "things" to be connected are: carbon nanotubes; toiletries

The first idea that came to me was whether could be used coat toothbrush bristles with nanobristles. These nanobristles would potentially need to be fibres made of multiple nanotubes in order to reach a size and strength that would be useful in removing tartar, etc.

Another interesting thought, though not really an idea as such, is that carbon nanotube synthesis could become cheap enough that disposable items such as toilet paper would be made out of it. Carbon nanotube toilet paper could be engineered to be lighter (saving fuel in transportation), stronger, more absorbant, etc. And potentially engineered to degrade after a specified time to reduce the environmental impact of waste.

Use tilt of head to control indicator

With motion detection / 3D scanner technologies it should be possible to collect alternative forms to input from drivers rather than relying on existing control mechanisms. A possible use of this would be to allow a driver to control the turn signals through a left or right inclination of the head. This would be a natural motion for a driver, and would allow the signalling to be done without loosening the drivers grip on the steering wheel, and would allow signally whilst the driver's hand is on the gear stick (for those cars where the turning signal control is on the same side of the steering wheel as the gear stick).

A short inclination to a particular side would turn the turn signal on for that side. A short inclination in the other direction would turn it off.

Windows in toilet doors

Toilet doors typically don't have windows to ensure privacy. Additionally these doors typically come in pairs to ensure adequate separation from other areas. (I'm talking about the doors to the toilet facilities, not the door to a cubicle.)

A downside of the lack of windows is that people can be hit by a door by someone coming from the other direction.

However, it should be possible to address this by the use of polarising filters. If a window is placed in each door an perpendicular polarising filters are placed on each window, then light from within the toilet room would not make it through both windows. However, light from within the gap between the two doors would be able to exit both windows, ensuring that people are not hit by others opening the doors.

Suspended in water power suit

Most designs of powered exoskeletons I have seen have the pilot tightly secured to the exoskeleton (the AMP suit in Avatar being a good example). However, a downside with such design is that the human occupant will be jarred significantly by the movement of the exoskeleton (in Avatar these are seen jumping significant distances from aircraft).

One solution to this jarring would be to contain the pilot within a capsule that is suspended from the main chassis, akin to the suspension seen in motor vehicles. Another possible solution would be to have the pilot suspended in water, with relatively loose bindings to stop the pilot impacting the walls of the container.

The salinity of the water can be adjusted to ensure the pilot is entirely neutrally buoyant, and is hence supported uniformly across the body.

The water also provides a medium for the pilot to move in, with these movements recorded by sensors and translated to the movement of the exoskeleton.

Obviously this design of exoskeleton would need to be at the larger end to accommodate a sufficiently large capsule in which to house the pilot.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Job dimensions

Jobs can be divided in to three key activities:

  • Manipulating relationships (with the archetypal people person being most focused on this activity)
  • Manipulating information (with the archetypal knowledge worker being most focused on this activity)
  • Manipulating the physical world (with the archetypal labourer being most focused on this activity)
On top of these three activities is another dimension: creativity. It is possible to be creative, or not, in each of the three activities. An inventor would be a creative manipulator of the knowledge space; the con artist a creative manipulator of the relationship space; and the dancer a creative manipulator of the physical space.

An expert is typically someone with a lot of knowledge about one (or more) of the key domains. This may or may not be accompanied by creativity.

A leader is typically a manipulator of the relationship space, but often accompanied by skill in manipulating information.

Email message tracking

One of the unfortunate facts of modern life is that people don't always respond to emails on a timely basis. To address this feature of our modern interaction requires sending a chaser email. But more challenging (at least for me) is remembering to send that chaser email. The following functionality added to an email client would go some way to addressing this issue:

When a message is sent, the sender is prompted with a "Track / Don't track" option via a simple UI pop-up. Alternatively this could be a tick-box on the compose UI (however people may forget to tick it), or a prompt only for a pre-defined list of contacts (regular late-response offenders), or a prompt if the destination email address has been tracked before, or a prompt only if the email contains particular wording (e.g. making a request) (semantic analysis required).

A UI screen would be required to view all messages currently being tracked (and history).

When the user receives a response to a tracked message, they prompted to remove from tracking list (e.g. if the required information has been provided).

A possible extension of this functionality would be an option to track an action for each recipient.

Why not use Outlook task functionality? It's too formal and too demanding (it creates the task at the destination end, not the sender end). Plus its Microsoft...

A simple three-point manifesto for a better political system

  • Don't make promises you cannot keep
  • Complete transparency on all domestic matters
  • As much transparency as possible on foreign matters, provided such transparency does not compromise foreign standing

Before and after vactrain

With Elon Musk's Hyperloop in the news, the vactrain concept has been closer to the fore of my mind. One angle I think it would be interesting to explore would be whether it would be possible and efficient to create a temporary partial vaccum in front of each train.

Such a design would require fans, in separate tubes, spaced along the length of the tube holding the train. As the train approaches, the fans would be used to reduce the air pressure in front of the train, by pumping the air behind the train.

The mechanism could potentially be used to power the train, as the pressure of the air behind the train would push it forward, particularly if there was relatively little air gap between the train and the tunnel wall.

Would it work?

Reply-to CC

Often I'm CC'd into emails not because the email that's being send needs to be read by me, but because the requested reply to that email needs to be read by me. What's needed is an additional field for "Reply-to CC". Any email addresses listed in this field would not receive the initial email, but would (by default) be copied on replies to it.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Big vs small company

What is the absolute number one thing that you learn working at a big company? Big company politics, and how to play the game

What is the absolute number one thing that you learn working at a small company? How to know a little about, and be involved in, every aspect of the business

Whilst on the face of it, the latter seems a lot more valuable, that skill-set doesn't necessarily help you succeed in a big company where the focus is typically on specialism and politics.

Employee focused recruitment consultant

Recruitment consultants appear to be an increasingly important part of the hiring process. But unfortunately for the potential employee, their business model is based on satisfying the needs of employers - they're the ones that pay. This business model creates some perverse incentives which may result in behaviour that doesn't benefit the potential employee.

This model can potentially be flipped, with the recruitment consultant being paid from, and in proportion to, the increase in salary of the employee they place in a new job. The recruitment consultant would operate on a "no pay-rise, no fee" basis. This way the employee always wins (assuming they pass the interviews), as the fees would be less than the increase in income.

An interesting aspect of this model is that the recruitment consultants would be most incentivised to place employees that are underpaid relative to their market rates - the more they are under-paid, the more the recruitment consultants can make. This could potentially have a levelling effect on the market.

Anonymous timesheet service

Understanding how employees spend their time is an important part of making an organisation efficient. Unfortunately, the act of measuring how employees spend their time may significantly alter how such employees behave, potentially in deleterious ways (an example of the Hawthorne effect / observer effect).

The author hypothesises that a key driver for the change in behaviour is a belief by the employees that they will be challenged on what they are booking their time to. A possible solution to this is a third party online timesheet service that guarantees that employers cannot identify what time employees are booking their time to, but only provides data in aggregate. This anonymisation technique is already in use for surveys, and as such it should be possible to automate the anonymisation (i.e. not giving the employer granular data where this would enable identification of employees). The employer would still be able to check whether employees were filling in timesheets or not.

The system may not work for small organisations or for projects where only a few people work on them, and of course would need good security to gain the trust of the employees.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Runaway biotechnology

I think the general principle for scientific research should be freedom by default, and restriction by exception (incidentally, I would advocate a similar principle for the openness of government/public information, or information within companies, i.e. shared by default, restricted by exception). The other day a scenario that seems a prime candidate for restriction that occurred to me: cellulose metabolism.

Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. It is also relatively difficult to break down (cellulolysis). However, if man were to, through biotechnological research, develop an enzyme that could more efficiently break down cellulose, such an enzyme could pose a significant risk. For example, if this enzyme is engineered into a bacteria (as is common practise in this kind of research) and this bacteria is released into the wild, the competitive advantage to the bacteria at being materially better at breaking down the most abundant food source could result in its rapid proliferation.

Once released, eliminating the bacteria from the wild would be nigh-on impossible due to difficulty in targeting the bacteria and the relatively rapid rate of evolution of bacteria (one possible solution would be nuclear strike on the release zone before the bacteria has had the chance to spread).

The effects of the engineered bacteria could be extensive. Plants existing immune-like mechanisms could potentially be effective, however the increased efficiency of break down would allow such bacteria to breed faster, potentially out-matching these defences. The impact on the world could be apocalyptic.

(The similarity of this thought to the "grey-goo" concept is noted. However, the biological basis for this is more thoroughly understood than self-replicating artificial nano-machines.)

Monday, 30 September 2013

Freedom of speech in companies

The concept of freedom of speech has strong ties to the history of distrust of government. Whilst a healthy distrust of government is a good thing, governments aren't the only entities that we should be wary of: our corporations have a lot of power too.

It would be interesting to explore what extent the principles of freedom of speech could be incorporated into companies. Typically companies work much like a tin pot dictatorship: there is much behind closed doors mutterings about leadership and strategy, but public criticism is frequently met with persecution.

A typical response might be: but how can companies remain successful if their leadership is openly criticised from within? The answer to that is: how has the USA been so successful when its leadership is only criticised from within.

The culture of persecution of free speakers within companies has led to a weak corporate culture, and weak corporations. Good leadership can still lead even when many of their flock openly criticise them.

So how might democratic principles be brought into companies? The big challenge is culture - there needs to be a top-down acceptance of democratic principles. Other levers include the employment contracts, which should be encouraged to state more employee rights about freedom of speech, and also through legislation. (In respect of the latter we do already have whistle-blowing legislation, which is a step in the right direction.)

Who's talking to who encryption

The problem: how to ensure that the "who" is just as private as the "what" of communication

The idea:

  • There exists a voluntary network of nodes that all have public key encryption systems, and published public keys.
  • The sender sends a message to the first intermediate node, encrypted with that intermediate node's public key.
  • The first intermediate node decrypts the message, which contains the second intermediate node's address and a payload that's encrypted with the second intermediate node's public key. The first intermediate note sends the payload to the second intermediate node.
  • The second intermediate node decrypts the message, which contains the third intermediate node's address and a payload that's encrypted with the third intermediate node's public key. The second intermediate note sends the payload to the third intermediate node.
  • The third intermediate node decrypts the message, which contains the final recipients node's address and a payload that's encrypted with the final recipients's public key. The third intermediate note sends the payload to the final recipient.
  • The final recipient decrypts the message.

Key points about this system:

  • the sender needs the public keys of all intermediate nodes (a published database would be needed of addresses and public keys)
  • I was originally thinking of this in respect of email, but it should work with any communication, e.g. snail mail, IP packets, etc
  • on a computer it should be fairly easy to automate the multiple layers of encryption
  • the number of intermediate nodes can be manually selected, or selected at random
  • the intermediate nodes themselves should be selected at random
  • the communication could contain multiple next-hop nodes with a priority order, in case nodes fail. The nodes could provide an acknowledgement message back to the node they received communication from
  • the messages could potentially be randomly padded to ensure that the reducing size of the message over time (as address headers are removed) does not give a clue to the communication direction
  • random communication could be added to the network to further confuse snoopers
  • to prove the source of the correspondence to the sender, the sender and recipient would need to pre-agree a secret that the sender would include in the message. Alternatively, the entire system could be set up such that each node gives a secret to each other node encrypted using that node's public key. This would establish encrypted relationships by default, without the need for pre-agreeing, and wouldn't allow anyone to infer relationships from the establishment of the original secret


  • as the network scales, the database of addresses and public keys becomes potentially too large
  • if the secret sharing mentioned in the key points is employed, the number of secrets each node would need to hold could get prohibitively large if the network gets large


  • Does this exist already?
  • Would it work?

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spying on undiscovered peoples

We are in a unique period in history where there are still undiscovered peoples, but where we also have sufficiently advanced and discrete surveillance technology to examine them non-disruptively. Are we fully making use of this? We should be hiding spy cameras and microphones in trees.

Structure your data and automate your tasks

If it's in your head, it should probably be written down. If it's on paper, it should probably be digital. If it's in a spreadsheet, it should probably be in a database. If it's in a database, it should probably be merged into another database or at least interfaced with other databases. If you're going do it more than three times, it should probably be scripted or automated.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hierarchical democratic government

Current democratic structures are not without some flaws, which include a lack of transparency, a disconnection between the represented and representatives, etc.

One possible solution to this would be a hierarchical form of democratic government. Each citizen would have a vote on only one representative (who would be their representative), and in turn that representative would have a vote on only one representative at a higher tier, and so on.

The ratio of representatives to population needs to be low enough that every person can get to know their representative: at the least one face-to-face meeting per year.

The tier that decisions are taken at would depend on the urgency and importance of the decision. For example, some non-urgent strategic decisions would be decided by plebicite. Less-strategic non-urgent decisions would be put to a vote of tier 1 representative (i.e. those immediately above the populace) (this is for the kind of decision where plebicite turn-out would be low). Urgent decisions (e.g. responding to natural disaster) would be taken at the highest tier.

Every decision of every representative would be publicly disclosed. Citizens could challenge tier 1 representatives on their decisions, including their choice of tier 2 representative; tier 1 representatives could challenge tier 2 representatives, and so on.

One potential down-side to this system could be the number of representatives. I would suggest 1 representative per 1000, at each level. This roughly corresponds to the number of people any one person is able to be acquainted with.

This would result in 1 million representatives for 1 billion people (and hence 7 million representatives for the current population of the world).

Population Number of representatives
1,000 1
1,000,000 1,000
1,000,000,000 1,000,000

Interestingly, this is actually a lower number of representatives per head of population that the US: in 1992 therewere 510,497 popularly elected state and local officials, against a population of 300 million (1 representative per 600).

Saturday, 10 August 2013

The glamour vs reality of working hard

There is a certain glamour to working hard that is often conveyed in popular media. But the reality can be health problems (and not only through neglect of health), strained personal relationships, psychological burnout, etc.

How can we sustainably improve personal output?

Barriers to adoption of a service

Barriers to adoption of a service:

  • UI learning curve
  • Concept learning curve
  • Functionality learning curve
  • Awareness
  • Use by other people
  • Perceived benefits
  • Cost (time, money, other)
  • Inclination to try
  • Inclination to keep trying

Adding social media features to email

It should be relatively easy to add social media type features to an email (webmail or desktop) program. For example, when composing an email the following options (tick-box) could be available:

  • Publish to followers (email pushed into the inbox of anyone of chooses to follow you - a Twitter equivalent)
  • Publish to web (email published on your public facing blog)
  • Publish to private blog (email published on your private facing blog - something that only your friends can read - similar to Facebook status updates)

The publish to followers could actually use email protocols, however there would need to be a separate web interface where people chose to follow / not follow you. Likewise the web interface for public and private blogs would also be required.

Another key use of email: risk/issue highlighting/escalation

A notable example of the "transmitting information" use of email (previously discussed here), is the raising/highlighting/escalation of issues/risks. What is notable about this type of communication is that there is an intention that the act of communication will absolve the communicator of responsibility: by highlighting an issue to one's manager, you are making it their problem.

From the senders point of view, keeping a copy of that email can be important. For example, if the risk materialises, the original communicator can point to the email and say "I raised this with you months ago".

The proactive employee may wish to do more than just flag the issue. If it's something they can't solve themselves, the ability to track the issue is important, potentially reminding the employee to remind the manager of the issue.

This functionality could potentially be delivered via the "assigning a task" functionality discussed previously. However, there is a cultural barrier to both raising tasks for people, and managing upwards. Additionally, a risk or issue may better sit in a different class to tasks, as they may not be something that can actually be ticked off.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The uses of email

The success and failure of email arises from its versatility. We use it for purposes that it's imperfectly designed for, but as it's "good enough" we continue to use it despite the inefficiency.

To design the post-email world it's important to understand what functions email currently covers. At a high level, here's what I think email covers:

  • Transmitting information (to one, or to many)
  • Assigning a task (which can include the provision of information via a reply)
  • Arranging meetings (physical, voice, video)

Within each of these broad categories, there are numerous subcategories. Commonly assigned (or requested) tasks include:

  • Reply with information
  • Review and provide sign-off/approval
  • Comment on or modify document (document collaboration)

Types of information transmission include:

  • Passing on news (information on what has happened)
  • Passing on plans (information on what is intended to happen)
  • Making a suggestion
  • Offering an opinion

There are some niche cases, which overlap with the three broad areas listed above:

  • Telling someone you're going to do something: i.e. assigning yourself a task, and communicating it some a group of people
  • Compound emails: e.g. assigning a task, and providing information in one email

Calendar and task management systems are pretty well advanced, although the integration of the latter with email is frequently limited. However, on the information provision side, much of the information that is to be transmitted should be stored in databases.

It's worth noting that there's a cultural issue to overcome around people assigning tasks to other people. Whilst asking politely for information is an email is culturally acceptable, raising a task for someone to provide information appears more demanding, and more too.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A couple of thoughts on the hive mind

Hive mind or better communication?

I put to myself today the argument that the root cause of the problems we have in society are not the result of separate individuals with their own separate agendas and motivations, but of the inadequacy of the communication between them, and perhaps to an extent the ability of those individuals to empathise/care when the information is passed to them.

The first of these problems is readily observable: our language is crude and we get nowhere close to communicating to one another the true nature of our experiences. There is also an interesting philosophical point on our ability to experience the experiences of others (see qualia for further information on subjectivity of experience). If we can improve communication, will we also need to improve empathy? Is the reason that the person watching the advert on TV raising money for famine victims in Africa who is not moved to act a problem of communication (the fact that the person is not truly experiencing the experience of the famine victims), or is it one of detached uncaring?

If it is a question of better communication, can this problem be addressed? Perhaps we are already addressing it. The world is better connected than it used to be thanks to communication technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet. But then much of the communication on texts and tweets is arguably not the deep interpersonal connection that we need to forge a better world.

The next paradigm in communications is brain-to-machine. And with it brain-to-machine-to-brain. We will have the potential to share our experiences directly. Such understanding of the perspectives of others that we will be able to get will profoundly shape the way we organise the world.

Where does the hyper-connected collection of individuals stop and the hive mind start?

The concept of the hive mind is to me about conformity. A singular intelligence acting in unison with no dissent. A top-down strategy. But do we begin to see the properties of the hive mind in the absence of top-down authority, just through the hyper-connectedness of individuals?

"No", in the sense that individuals still have the freedom to act. But potentially "yes" in the sense that each individual will potentially be able to know how an action will be judged by every other person in advance of the action, and hence will conform if the potential action is seen in a negative light.

Diversity in a hive mind

If we end up as a top-down hive mind, we will be at risk of a monoculture-of-the-mind that does not have the diversity of perspective to adapt to unforeseen events. How can this be addressed? It is possible that the hive mind can create intellectual sandboxes within itself, where such sandboxes have the ability to explore lines of thinking (and irrationality) that would be impossible within the core of the hive mind.

Are such sandboxes enough to benefit from the inherent qualities of diversity?

So much to know... but reducing value in actually knowing it?

As the extent of domain-specific knowledge increases at a near-exponential rate, it may be the case that the relative value of knowledge to the ability to obtain knowledge, or the ability to make relationships, reduces. The information age does to prize people who know, but learners and connections-brokers.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Unified task management

How will task management look in the future? Hopefully better than it looks today. Here's some of the pitfalls of today's approach, and how current/future technology can help.

Tasks are currently allocated to people in the following ways:

  • Via a workflow system (the good way)
  • Via email
  • Via face-to-face conversation
  • Via telephone conversation (or voicemail)
  • Via meetings (whether the task recipient is present or not)
  • Via written communication
There are probably some more obscure media (e.g. text message), but I think the above captures it.

The tasks an individual has assigned (i.e. has to do themselves) and is tracking (i.e. is waiting for someone else to do) are stored in the following ways:
  • In memory
  • On a notepad (or worse, multiple notepads)
  • In an email inbox
  • In a workflow system
  • In a voicemail inbox
  • In a spreadsheet
  • In a to do list application (although this typically stores "to dos" and not actions outstanding from another
Other challenges include:
  • Cross-system incompatibility
  • Linking task data with other meaningful data (e.g. customer records)
  • The ability for multiple people to track a single task
  • The ability for an action recipient to carve up a task into sub-tasks to be delegated
  • The ability for task recipients to mark tasks as having a dependency on another task, and for the task issuer to have visibility for this
The real challenge is getting all tasks into a single database. Once they're there, everything else is a matter of good database design, reporting and management (and a good UI to access the data). Here's some thoughts on how to get tasks into the database:
  • Adding tasks to email composition: this already exists but is not widely used (in my experience) largely on cultural grounds, but potentially also to do with a lack of interface/API into workflow systems; there needs to be some kind of natural language understanding that identifies that the composer of the email is issuing a task and prompts the composer to formalise the task (e.g. recipient, date required by, etc)
  • Speech recognition by always-on mics on smartphones combined with natural language understanding could be used to identify tasks being issued and add these automatically to the database. This technique is applicable to phone calls, face-to-face conversations, meetings and voicemail messages.
If the above two are addressed, the workflow system will become such a routine part of day-to-day working life that people will automatically use these tools or add tasks manually to the workflow system as required.

And then we'll all feel like automations in a giant delivery chain...

Monday, 1 July 2013

A thought on databases

Relational databases can become complex quickly due to the number of tables required to map all the relationships. It occurs to me that a simple structure might look as follows:
  • 1 table for each class of data (where each record will share the same fields)
  • 1 table defining relationships (recording the definition of the relationship between records)
  • 1 relationship table (recording all the relationships)
Under this model, the number of database tables would be equal to the number of classes of data + 2.

Here's a simple example to illustrate the point:

Relationship table
ID Class Relationship ID ID Class
1618 People 7348 1234 Company
9371 People 0829 5678 Company

Companies table (a class of data about companies)
ID Company name Company registration number
1234 Blob inc. 555-666
5678 Yodle inc. 314159

People table (a class of data about people)
ID First name Second name
1618 Albus Dumbledore
9373 Michael Jackson

Defining relationships table
ID Relationship name
0829 is employee of
7348 is shareholder of

This structure should facilitate all of the necessary queries. For example, a query of all the employees of a company.

A key feature is the directionality of the relationship: i.e. from A to B.

Information that products can transmit

I wrote yesterday on what I want from a battery charger, which touched on the subject of what information products can collect and transmit. It's a very broad topic, but fundamentally only limited by the following factors:

  • available sensors
  • available transmitters
  • power for sensors and transmitters
  • storage of data (prior to transmission)
  • cost (of the above, and of bandwidth)
  • value of the data to the manufacturer
  • consumer acceptance
So let's take another example product: the electric shaver. Probably the first most important sensor is a clock, allowing the frequency of use, time of day and duration of use to be captured. This might be supplemented by a gyroscope to measure the angles the shaver is moved through during use. And perhaps also a GPS sensor assess whether it's used as a travelling shaver, or just one left at home. Other data collected could include what buttons are pressed and when, charging patterns, and potentially data on component failure. From a transmitter point-of-view, wifi and Bluetooth are obvious and ubiquitous (and typically free at point of use), but these do require input from users, so perhaps a cellular network chip would be a better alternative. Obviously a shaver already has power (either from the wall or battery), so this is only an issue in that it might drain the battery faster. A clock  is so cheap to implement that it's immaterial to the cost of the device. The storage (a few megabytes of ssd) is also pretty low cost, as is the cellular chip and bandwidth. So in conclusion for a shaver, basic monitoring is doable from a technology and cost point of view. The only remaining issues are the value of the data to the manufacturer, and consumer acceptance. The value of the data is probably fairly low, but as the cost of the components drop and drop, this the value relative to cost will tend to increase. Consumer acceptance is a whole discussion in itself.

The electric shaver proved a fairly easy product to analyse from a product self-reporting point-of-view. So let's try something a little more challenging: a tube of toothpaste. The obvious challenge here is the absence of power. However, that's not necessarily a show-stopper due to cheap disposable solar cells, piezoelectric generators and passive near-field communication. So what could be measured? Time again is an important one, with the other key metric being degree of deformation of the tube or the degree that the sides of tube touch each other (both being proxies for the amount of toothpaste left in the tube). Although there might be enough power to collect and record the data, sufficient data to power a wifi or Bluetooth chip is unlikely. However, with a near filed communication chip, the communication could occur to a smartphone when in range, and then the data would be passed onwards to the manufacturer via the internet.

If it's possible to do it with a tube of toothpaste, it should be possible with just about any product. Bring on the Internet of Things.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

What I want from a battery charger

Battery chargers (and rechargeable batteries) are interesting products. Like many other complex products there are a fair number of things to consider when buying one, but most consumers don't understand what they should buy and why. If you're similarly in the dark, the Wikipedia page has useful information on the differences between smart, manual and timer chargers, and the benefits of smart chargers.

So why am I interested in battery chargers? Partly for environmental reasons (we throw away too many batteries), partly for efficiency (we don't make good use of our batteries). I think rechargeable batteries are a  great case study on making more efficient and environmentally-friendly use of our resources.

What do I want from a battery charger? Much of what the top-end battery chargers do: separate channel charging; smart charging cycle management; refresh/reconditioning; battery capacity testing; etc. This is all useful getting best use out of batteries, and in lengthening the mean time before replacement.

But what battery chargers don't seem to do, however, is collect data. Charging data (voltage/time) and battery capacity testing data can easily be collected by a charger and communicated to computers via wifi (or Bluetooth). This information could be transmitted back to manufacturers (via the Internet) to aid in their battery or charger development, and to give them real-world use data. To get really granular data, each battery could be printed with a unique barcode or QR code. This would allow sensors in the charger to collect per-battery data, transmitted to users, and back to manufacturers. (Consumers could be provided with stick-on bar codes to label up existing batteries.)

Do you like this color? An app

Do you know which colors you like? Are you sure? Wouldn't it be good to have some data?

All that's needed is a simple app. Running on your phone (or other computer, or device) the app would at regular intervals prompt you with random colors, asking you to rate them (potentially a simple 1-100 scale, or potentially a more complex scale of the emotions elicited). Over time, a full dataset of preferences is built up, with a pattern likely to emerge pointing you to your favourite color (or favorite color for a particular emotion).

Innovative minds

How does society best make use of innovative minds? Is the current structure optimal? If not, what are its weaknesses?

These are difficult questions, but perhaps an easier place to start is: what do innovative minds needs? The answer to this question is almost certainly:

  • education - filling the minds with information from which to make connections between; and
  • feedback - the innovative mind will make connections, and generate an output. Such minds require feedback on that output in order to further develop it, refine it, or (if it's not a goodun) to discard it and move on to the next
So, does the current structure of society provide sufficient education and feedback?

  • education - I think we're OK at getting education done up until graduate stage (although it's not without problems around equality of access, attendence, syllabus, etc). But lifelong learning is pretty lacking and unstructured, yet essential (I'm sure its not just young minds that have ideas)
  • feedback - I think we're light years off where we need to be with feedback. We need a system of mentors such that everyone has a mentor. These mentors would be the first port of call for feedback, and their primary responsibility would be encouragement and facilitation of development of ideas, together with the referral to other experts as required. Even where innovative ideas are not developed into something practical, they should be recorded and published, as they might spark innovation in others.

The role of technology in political debate

Before getting started on this post, it's worth noting that I define technology pretty broadly. I think of it as any process, technique, tool or system that is not is not inherent (i.e. is not genetic in origin, but has been created by man) but that allows man to act on the environment, or each other, to achieve a goal. It is about practical knowledge - knowledge that let's you do things. As an example of the breadth of my definition, my broad definition of technology includes language, as it is a technique that allows man to coordinate acts with others to achieve a goal, and is something that has built up over years - it is something created by man rather than something in our genes.

Today's observation is that the role of technology in political and moral debate is too frequently ignored. However, the available technology sets what is practical, which in turn sets morality*.

Take for example the debate between whether the outcomes or intentions of actions are relevant when making a moral judgement. Those that focus on the outcomes in part do so because of the current limitation in ability to know intentions. But what if mind-to-mind or mind-to-computer communications technologies development sufficiently that knowing intentions is entirely possible. Does that not change how we look at that debate?

Another frequent debate is about the tragedy of the commons. This is relevant to political debate as a key argument for capitalism (in the capitalism vs communism debate) is that people will not put in as much effort to the maintenance of public assets as private assets, therefore it is better that assets be in private hands (there's obviously much more to the debate than that!). But what if monitoring technology could be used to effectively measure people's regard for a common asset: catching the people who drop chewing gum on the pavement; or measuring how hard people work at a shared task. If such technology existed (and it may yet do so), might our sentiments dip in favour of communism?

And last, but by no means least, nearly all political and moral debate assumes the existence of multiple individuals. But what if that paradigm were to shift? What if we assimilate into the hive mind? Will not the subjects of morality and political science cease to exist?

*I don't really believe in morality, but that's a separate topic...!

Baby pod

There are some good gadgets out there to keep babies entertained and happy, but have we gone far enough in designing the perfect baby care and entertainment system? Here are some requirements for a "baby pod" a device to hold, move and entertain babies:

The platform

  • A mattress/cushion or hammock-style (i.e. shaped fabric) container to hold the baby


  • Rotation
  • Rocking side-to-side
  • Rocking forward-backward
  • Movement up and down
  • Vibration
  • Combinations of the above movements programmable

  • Audio
  • Video (webcam)
  • Movement sensor (e.g. Kinect)
  • Heart rate (perhaps via Bluetooth enabled smart clothing)
  • Eye tracking
  • Temperature
  • (As much other biological monitoring as feasible)

Sensory inputs
  • Audio
  • Touch screen (see also this on tablets) (but controversial)
  • Multi-jointed robot arm holding various objects (like a mobile), able to move those objects in multiple dimensions
  • The ability to infer the baby's preferences from the monitoring (e.g. heart rate, eye tracking) and respond accordingly. For example, if the screen shows a set of images and the eye tracking indicates that these images are stimulating to the baby, this information is storage, and these images are subsequently used when monitoring inputs indicate that the baby is bored. As another example, the optimum set of movements to calm the baby when unhappy can be determined through trial and error.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Would managers be paid more than workers in a perfect world?

I posted recently about product legislation in a perfect world, and have subsequently found that the concept of a perfect world is a useful one for exploring logical extremes without immediate ridicule, such that they might then be translated back to our world.

Today's perfect world thought is on managers. Perhaps in the perfect world then would be no individuals, only a collective mind with a single purpose - not the myriad of competing forces we have today. But if we don't go as far as a hive mind, and retain individuals, then it's likely we'll need managers and leaders.

A brief note on managers vs leaders: managers manage things (whether those things be people or other resources), making sure they're in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. It's a logistics game. Leaderships is about people and motivation, about inspiration and empathy.

Back to our perfect world, where we're not a hive mind and we do have individuals. Another assumption is required before we consider pay differential for managers and leaders: whether we're in a communist or meritocratic regime. In some conceptions of the former (arguably all true conceptions of the former) pay differential would be nil.

So, we're in a non-hive mind meritocratic perfect world: should managers be paid more? Actually, one last thing to clear up before we answer this question: are we in a world that considers one's genetics and upbringing a form of merit, or just working harder?

A supply-and-demand based meritocracy (like those that exist in the Western world today) would value genetics and upbringing as a form of merit. As such, the capabilities of good management and leadership, if sufficiently rare, would command a higher price in the market. Are good management and leadership rare? The answer is probably "yes", although this is the point at which evidence-based research should step in. Arguably, there is much highly paid management and leadership in this world that is not "good", and those with good management and leadership skills not in such positions.

A hard-work based meritocracy would currently be, and would have been before now, impossible to implement in practise due to the difficultly of measurement. However, with advances in monitoring technology (monitoring body and brain) effort may become measurable, and hence a pure hard-work based meritocracy possible. Do managers and leaders work harder than their minions? In some cases "yes", but there are many workers who put in more effort than their managers/leaders. Again, this is the point that evidence-based research should step in.


You can disagree with highly paid management and leadership if:
  • You advocate a hive mind (albeit technology permitting);
  • You advocate communism;
  • You advocate hard-work-based-meritocracy (unless you genuinely believe management works harder); OR
  • You advocate genetics-and-upbringing-based-meritocracy AND believe the supply of good management and leadership does not justify the market price
You cannot disagree with highly paid management and leadership if:
  • You advocate genetics-and-upbringing-based-meritocracy AND acknowledge a constrained supply of good management and leadership

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Wind power from gusty, direction-changing wind

I've been thinking recently about obtaining wind power from gusty, direction-changing wind - the kind of wind that classic wind turbines are not great at harnessing, but the kind of wind prevalent in valleys and cities.

One possibility would be to have a magnet attached to some kind of cup or sail, and within a coil. Any movement of the magnet induces electric current in the coil, which can then be harnessed.

Another possibility would be to use a gimbal, like a gyroscope. This could be used to house a rotor and blades (as from a conventional horizontal-axis wind turbine), keeping the rotor always pointing towards the wind. Alternatively, the gimbal could be set up with blades such that the wind turns the gimbal rings. At each joint of the gimbal would be a generator to harvest the rotory motion.

Product legislation in a perfect world - recycling plans

What would product legislation look like in the perfect world? That's a tough question to answer without defining a perfect world. If the perfect world shares attributes with communism, there would only be one product for each task; if the perfect world shares attributes with capitalism, there would be a myriad of competing products.

But common to both of these would be a requirement to make efficient use of resources, which would require products to be recycled. As such, product legislation would require that recycling plan is in place before a product can be released. (Potentially even, a recycling plan would need to be in place to cover the recycling of materials used in prototyping a new product.)

An interesting aspect to this thought, is that it would require a government-level (although potentially autonomous / quasi-autonomous) database of products. Such a thing is unthinkable at the moment, because so many products exist, products pop into and out of existence with such high frequency, and the cost of maintaining such a database and the bureaucracy that would come with it would be unworkable. But with information technology, is such a database inplausible? The headache comes in inputing the data, and keeping the data up-to-date. If much of that work can be done by an AI, such a database should be possible.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Robotic home delivery service

I don't think that many futurists, technologists and planners have grasped how significant the development of robotic home delivery could be, and how close such a technology is to being developed.

Curbside robotic delivery is basically the same technology as self-driving cars, which have already proven to be a viable technology. There are safety barriers to overcome, but we are a long way down the path to that being a reality.

With robotic delivery, the cost of providing home delivery take out meals is reduced significantly (much less people cost), potentially to a stage where take out becomes the more common than home cooking.

Combining robotic delivery with warehouse automation (e.g. Kiva Systems) would bring down the cost of home-delivered supermarket shopping below the cost of actually visiting a store, which would lead to significant uptake, and eventually the end of the supermarket.

Robotic collections, including those easily scheduled for hours when you're actually at home, would eliminate one of the frustrations of online shopping, leading again to greater uptake.

And, even if you're going to shops to view items, do you need to hassle of carrying bags of goods around, loading and unloading your car? Or will you elect to have to goods delivered to you? That which was previously a luxury becomes affordable with robotic delivery

Robotic delivery will become the primary way that goods enter the household.

So how will it work? An easy mechanism for the first generation would be to rely on cars, with the proven self-driving car technology. The car (or more likely a van) would contain numerous compartments accessible from the exterior of the vehicle. When the vehicle arrives at your premises it notifies you via call / SMS / tweet / etc. You would then go out to the road and type in a code into the vehicle (to ensure identity). The door of the compartment would open, and you would take your goods.

The second generation would be pavement based (probably more difficult to master than roads), but could deliver smaller goods to your front door.

Later generations could potentially deliver goods into your home, and even put them in your cupboards for you. But such feats would require very sophisticated AI, object recognition, not to mention a dexterous robot.

Free consumer VDI

How cheap does computing need to become before VDI becomes cheap enough to be free (ad supported)? Already many applications are hosted in the cloud for free (ad supported), but why not a desktop too? It is simply a matter of the hardware costs becoming dropping sufficiently below the advertising revenue.

What would be the advantage to the VDI hosting provider?
  • With some control of the desktop the hosting provider should be able to place advertising directly into the desktop
  • The hosting provider may be able to charge fees for application providers
  • Users who upgrade from a basic desktop to a better spec'd one, or taking more storage
What would be the advantage for consumers?
  • A portable customisable desktop environment
  • The ability to install legacy applications that have not been turned into a software as a service offering and access these anywhere
  • No loss of desktop with loss of hardware
  • Integration with cloud applications
  • Integrated backup solution
  • Cloud but with the traditional file system feel (and with it that little bit more control)
Operating systems that might work (needs to be free):
  • Linux with WINE to enable legacy Windows applications
  • ReactOS

Crowd-decided RPG outcomes

There is potentially an opportunity for a web/social/online service to add depth and originality to tabletop role playing games by allowing the crowd to contribute to key game decisions.

When player a game the Games Master would submit to the web site a particular scenario in the game, and would suggest several options for the outcome of that scenario. Users of the website would vote on those outcomes, and submit their own outcomes, which could also be voted on.

The GM would set the minimum votes required, or the timelimit for the decison to be made. And would provide the website users with a short after-action report.

The benefit to the gamers would be an infusion of original, unpredictable outside influence into their playing experience. The benefit to the web users would be the fun of controlling the destiny of the game and the characters, the insights to the scenarios that Games Masters are dreaming up, and the opportunity to submit (and receive votes for) original ideas.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Automating datacentres

Do datacentres lend themselves to automation? In some respects yes. Racks and servers are standardised sizes. Rows are laid out systematically at standardised distances. However, wiring can be fairly tricky (even for a human, with superior image recognition abilities).

So how might datacentre automation work? Specially designed servers that can be racked and de-racked by a robot are designed and deployed. These would be similar to blade servers to avoid wiring issues. Robots would take servers from a store and place these into the racks. When a server fails, or the server has a component that fails, the monitoring system would give the robot the row, rack and server positions. The robot would then remove this server and deliver to a workshop for fixing or recycling. Meanwhile the robot would deploy a replacement from stock.

A similar approach (although slightly more complicated) should be possible for drives swaps of storage arrays. Again, some customisation of the design of the IT hardware would make the task easier for the robot.

This should be possible with existing technology levels, e.g. using floor guides (like Amazon's Kiva), and other optical cues.

It might also be possible to combine this idea with my thoughts on datacentres and lasers.

DNA degrading coating

Problem: surfaces are contaminated with the DNA of too many people, making identification of individuals associated with a crime difficult.

Potential solution: coat surfaces with DNA degrading enzymes that will reduce the half-life of DNA on the surfaces. As a result, only the most recent DNA will still be present, making identification easier.

Pressure sensitive kitchen worktop

Problem: when cooking, having to get the scales out to weigh out quantities. Incurring the extra washing up of the scales' pan.

Solution: pressure sensitivie kitchen worktop that allows any part of the work surface to be used as a set of scales, without clearing the worktop. To use the scales, the user would place a container on the work surface and hold the container of food to be weighed out (e.g. a bag of flour). The user would press a button on a small display on the wall behind the surface (or another convenient location) to turn on and zero the work surface. The user would then poor the food into the target container, watching the display indicate the mass transferred.

Possible problems: spills will count towards the weight measured.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Entrepreneur Top Trumps

As we live in a world of entrepreneurs (yes, I'm jealous) wouldn't it be fun to have a game of Top Trumps based around entrepreneurs?

The variables could be the factors that made the entrepreneur successful, e.g.:
  • Hard work
  • Intelligence
  • Education
  • People skills
  • Right place/right time
  • Risk appetite
  • Resilience
Alternatively they could indicate the relative success:
  • Net worth
  • Age at first million $
  • Age at first billion $
  • Countries operating in
  • Market share%

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Compare stock price to subsequent series of dividends

I know it's an obvious analysis that's been done to death, but it would be interesting to me to see how the stock price divided by its subsequent series (length dependent on payback period) of dividends (discounted at appropriate discount rate) varies over time.

Based on the input criteria, i.e. payback period and discount rate, a value of greater than 1 means the stock was over valued, and a value of less than one means a stock was undervalued.

What proportion of the time is spend under or over valued? How has this changed over time? How do different stocks, different sectors compare? etc

Cloud audit-trail / control evidence service

The Problem: organisations need to maintain an effective system of internal control to ensure effective operation. To ensure and prove that controls are operating, evidence must be retained. Much of this is paper based or electronic, but due to the abilities of printers and image manipulation software, proving the date that the evidence was prepared, and proving who actually prepared it, become a problem.

The Solution: a cloud-based control evidence hosting service that integrates with key business systems. This solution includes user access control (proving the "who") and time/date stamping (proving the "when"). As it is a third party, the risk of manipulation is significantly reduced. Obviously, all information communicated over the internet would need to be encrypted at source, and stored in an encrypted form.

In an ideal world there would be multiple cloud-based control evidenced hosting services, such that each of these services could host their own evidence with an independent third party.

Psychology of group photo composition

Hypothesis: people appearing in the centre of the photo are perceived to be more important.

Experiment: assemble a group of people, and photograph them in every possible combination. Ask respondents to rank the importance of the people in the photo, with different groups of respondents getting different photos to look at. Control for the specific people (as tall people are perceived as more important). Look for patterns.

It would also be interesting to explore whether there are any cultural differences in the findings.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Working 9 to 5....

...that's no way to make a living.

Observation: the relationship between the number of hours you work and how "hard" you work is non-linear. This observation ignores presenteeism (which itself heavily distorts the how "hard" people work). To explain, imagine that your job is to assemble cardboard boxes, and each box takes 30 seconds to make, that if you work at 120 boxes per hour consistently, the impact of that upon you physically, emotionally and intellectually increases per hour. Human beings have a finite capacity for productive output within a 24 hour period, requiring rest and sleep (and a break from monotony).

Hypothesis: the graph of "hard" vs hours per day looks something like the following:

The peak at 1h is recognition of the fact that, due to the human condition, it may be harder for people to motivate themselves to do one hour's work per day than to do two.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

How hard did people work?

Written accounts of working practices during the industrial revolution paint a stark picture of working life. Not just the absence of health and safety, and workers' rights, and not to mention low pay, the working hours were long. But how hard did people actually work? It should be possible to get a sense of this by recreating the working conditions and tools, and comparing output achieved, e.g. coal mined per person per day.

The inevitability of human suffering

We may yet get to a utopian future where war, genocide, discrimination, inequality and other major human-caused sources of human suffering have been eliminated. But was it possible to get from where we started to that endpoint without such human-caused suffering?

The answer to that question can only be "no". Suffering exists throughout nature, and through all of humanities ancestors even before they took a form that resembles modern-days humans.

Do the atrocities of the twentieth century represent humanity's nadir? And hence should they be the focal point of our rememberance? Or should we seek to remember all human-caused human suffering throughout our history?


One of the thingss that concerns me about our inevitable creation of artificial intelligence is that those agents will be equivalently bored in undertaking mundane tasks: it seems to me that there is a broad class of tasks that are difficult enough to require sentience, but not difficult enough to be intellectually stimulating.

So, will this problem arise? There are a couple of reasons for optimism: firstly, boredom is a human concept that we can avoid programming into AIs (however, such a concept may evolve within an AI outside of our control); secondly, my own theory of human boredom is that it arises from our inability to effectively multi-task. We cannot ring-fence the intellectual capacity needed for a certain task, and use the rest for something else, hence we allocate too much intellectual resource to a task that doesn't require it. An AI agent may however be able to do this ring-fencing, and as a result may not be bored.

(I'm sure my concerns are in part attributable to Douglas Adams' Marvin.)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Lying down desk

The future of work will continue to involve interaction with a computer workstation (potentially until such time as the concept of work becomes obsolete). Most offices give employees a regular desk, keyboard, mouse and monitor setup. Progressive employers offer a few more options, but often these are actually worse for the worker from a posture and RSI point of view.

The ideal workplace needs to have multiple different types of workstation, that employees change between during the day. These could include:
  • Kneeling chair/chair/stool/exercise ball, desk, keyboard, mouse, monitor
  • Standing-height desk, keyboard, mouse, monitor (or Minority-Report-style holographic screen + standing)
  • Couch/armchair/beanbag with monitor on an adjustable arm (like a balanced-arm lamp) and wireless keyboard
  • Treadmill desk
  • Cycling desk
  • Lying down desk
There are a couple of lying-down-desk products around, but they tend to be holders for laptops, resulting in awkward arm positions. What would be ideal is a monitor on adjustable arm (like a balanced-arm lamp), that can be positioned directly overhead (or at a different angle if preferred). And then two half-keyboards that go one each side of the body (by the top of the thigh). This way the arms are almost entirely at rest.

All of this is possible with existing technology. The ideal is to have desktop virtualisation that allows workers to move their logical workstation quickly and easily between all these positions.

Potentially, the number of positions will reduce as voice-recognition supercedes keyboard input. However, the need for a pointing device (mouse or finger) is like to remain for quite a while (potentially to be replaced by eye tracking).

Monument to the unsung scientist

I would like to see a monument to the unsung scientist, with a sentiment similar to the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Prizes are won by individuals, but progress is made by the cumulative effort of the masses.

The Future of Apps

I still find it difficult to comprehend how marketers have somehow convinced the mass market that there's a difference between applications (on a PC) and "apps" on a smartphone or tablet, and that the latter are cool. I'm sure that there's a fair swathe of the population who thinks applications (or programs, or software) on a PC are fundamentally different from "apps" on their smartphone. But that's an aside.

It's probably not good futurism to base predictions on personal preferences, but as futurism is such a subjective topic anyway, I'm going to go with it:
  • I don't want to have to install to my device applications that I'm going to use once, use infrequently or will almost certainly be connected when using
  • I need the web applications to handle my data securely (e.g. I don't like online file converters that host your files in the public domain)
  • I don't want to have to remember a million logins and to have to keep logging in
  • I do need to know whether an application is local or in the cloud so I can plan for the times when I won't be connected
So what is and what will contine to happen:
  • Desktop apps are moving online (no installation)
  • Smartphone apps will do the same
  • Applications that are cross-platform
  • Applications that are predominantely web-based, but retain some functionality when disconnected
  • Single sign-on
  • Online application aggregation (the Windows Start Menu or quicklaunch bar for web-based applications)

Sealed freshwater tidal power generator

One downside that comes to my mind of using the tides to generate power is that the power generation components are exposed to sea water, which is both corrosive and full of physical and biological impurities. These factors could lead to accelerated component replacement, and hence lower cost-effectiveness.

I wonder whether a sealed environment could be used to generate power from tides. A sketch of an initial idea is below. The system has two tanks, one fixed then other free to move up and down with the tide (freshwater is less dense than sea water, so it should float). When the tide is in, the floating tank is up, so the freshwater flows to the fixed tank. When the tide is out, the floating tank is down, so the freshwater flows back from the fixed tank to the floating tank. Each time there is flow, energy can be extracted.

It is likely that some kind of active control of values would be necessary to optimise power generation, but the cost of implementing this should be minimal.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The work necessary to understand the status quo

I am frequently overwhelmed by the work necessary to understand the status quo. I was born into the world that had more books that I could read in a lifetime, more music than I could listen to in a lifetime (probably, but certainly now), more video that I could watch in a lifetime (again probably), such a rich history, such deep science, so many myriad of forms of artistic expression.

How does anyone become an expert?

Life themes

It would be interesting to get a good understanding (i.e. some good data) on how life's themes and preoccupations change over lifespan.

A Gantt chart would be an interesting way to present it. It would give people a road map of what to expect from life. Here's an oversimplified example:

How would we go about collecting such data? Respondents are asked to list their preoccupations on a regular basis, but are also prompted at intervals to confirm whether something previously identifid as a preoccupation is still one.

The same approach could work for worries, likes, dislikes, etc

Anti-tie campaign

How much power do marketers (in particular advertisers) actually have? An interesting experiment I'd happily fund (if I was a billionaire) would be to challenge a group of marketers (e.g. students or a professional firm) to get rid of the tie. In some ways its not a tough sell: ties cost money; they take time to put on; and they're uncomfortable. They are a complete waste of economic resource. However, our cultural attachment to them persists. Could a group of marketers with the right resources kill the tie? I'd like to know.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Effervescent tablets as an alternative to squash

An advantage of squash over other soft drinks is that much of the water content is provided at point-of-use, and therefore is not transported. Hence lower transport cost, and smaller environmental impact.

I wonder whether it's possible to take this concept further, and package squash into effervescent tablets. Such tablets are already extensively used to deliver medicine and dietary products. Consumers would drop one or more tablets (depending on glass size) into a glass of water, resulting in a flavored drink.