Posts Tagged cool-stuff

Innovations of all shapes and sizes that I came across in my travels

Bonne Maman

Clean, simple (and cost effective) single serve jam…

How many times have you fumbled with those circa 1970 tiny square plastic single serve jams, or worse, been subjected to the petri dish communal jam pots? Now no doubt the cynics among you are thinking “hey what about those little glass jars?” Agreed, the mini jars are great, although what about the waste? What about the cost to the proprietor? Someone is paying for that thing.

So I was out for brunch this past weekend and noticed this little pot of jam on the table and thought “what a great example of simple packaging innovation.” Clean, simple, cost effective for the business–and a single serve!

This might not be one of those innovations that wins awards or gets talked about in job interviews, yet I think it is worth a mention. Sometimes the little incremental improvements can make all the difference to the overall experience for the customer and in this case for the small business owner too.

*served at Katy’s Place Carmel

… And a product that promised to combat the effects of jetlag

On a recent trip to Australia I came across 1Above at the airport. It was the first time I had seen a product available that promised to combat the effects of jetlag. The brochure I picked up informed me that the founder, a young New Zealander from memory, came up with the idea after filling two passports before the age of 30 and discovering long haul flying seemed to be getting tougher not easier. Being a too frequent flier myself, I purchased every variant and decided to put it to the test.

Like most people who travel too much, we never have a great deal of time at the airport, so without reading the labels I grabbed the two different sizes that were on shelf and ran to my gate.

Upon boarding the plane, I took a closer look…

The large water bottle option was great; it came ready mixed and had a lid-come-cup which made drinking less medicinal and more pleasurable. The downside: it was kind of expensive, and I could only buy one due to my later plane change and the TSA liquid regulations.

The concentrated bottles were excellent in theory, fit the TSA regulations (under 100mls)–smart–in fact, I had bought several of these so I had a stock supply for future use.

The ingredients are basically a combination of sugar and salt (electrolytes), with a few other vitamins and minerals thrown in. I understand the basic chemistry of our body; I get you need to stay hydrated when flying and a concentrated delivery of electrolytes is better than water alone. That said, it was a lot of money for bunch of electrolytes.

The recommended dose? I needed to drink 6 liters of this stuff to get the desired result. That was a piece of information I wish I had known at point of purchase–there goes my stock supply! And hold on, I would not be able to fit enough of these in my TSA designated clear plastic bag–well that’s an oversight.

I was willing to play though, and pay. Jetlag is tough for me these days and only getting worse. So I settled in and started drinking 1Above. The taste was fine, I had heard from the shop attendant that her boyfriend didn’t like the taste. It wasn’t something you would order in a restaurant, but it didn’t bother me.

I quickly consumed my ready made bottle and then went to mix up one of the concentrated versions – decanting into the large bottle of course – genius. The only downside was the flight attendants were not that keen on giving up that much water, and I was flying business class! Eventually I was successful and by the time I needed to make up the next bottle there had been a change of crew, so it wasn’t as difficult.

I diligently drank the required amount (with frequent bathroom breaks) for the duration of the flight. When I landed I felt more hydrated and I didn’t experience the cracked lips, dry skin or sinuses discomfort that I had experienced in the past. Sleeping pattern? Sadly this drink made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Same old 3am wake-ups for the next week.

Would I buy the product again? Absolutely. Do I think it had any impact on jetlag? Not at all.

This product is ripe for repositioning as a personal care product. In fact I might just contact the owners…

Travel is one of the best ways to discover new innovations–from small incremental improvements in commercial innovation to transforming existing technologies into new product innovation.

Sometimes minute adjustments are the best changes

Cycling is both the lowest and highest tech hobby on the planet. On the one hand, even the most expensive and carefully designed bikes on the planet would look recognizable to the Victorians who road the first “safety bicycles” of the 1880s. On the other hand, bikes made from more and more advanced materials arrive on a regular basis, and the sky is the limit for the number of sensors a single cyclist can attach to themselves and their bike to manage every conceivable health and performance metric.

But for all of the new gadgets and geometries in cycling, one of the biggest areas of improvement possible is one that most recreational bikers never approach — making sure your bike is sized correctly to your body. Lots of variables affect your stamina and speed on a bike, but your comfort is a surprisingly big factor in both. This has led to a cottage industry that appropriately reflects the high- and low-tech nature of cycling: the computer-supported bike fitting shop.

This is a service that has emerged in the last decade. For about $300, you bring in your bike to a shop, get sticky dots attached to multiple points on your body, and then you ride in place while being video taped while a technician analyzes the tape for indications of appropriate posture. Measurements are made on the computer against the video, and adjustments are made to the angle of the handle bars, the position and height of the seat, and parts are occasionally swapped for others that fit better.

At the end of it all, you wind up with a bike that encourages you to adopt an ideal posture more often (slight bend to the elbows, feet that remain close to flat throughout the pedaling cycle, slightly swayed back, loose shoulders) and make it easier to get to and stay at your highest speed. I’ve embedded by After and Before video above (the video before adjustments is on the right side) so you get a sense of the change that’s possible.

How effective is it? Quite a lot. In the four months since, biking has gone from painful to enjoyable once again.

It’s a good reminder that sometimes the best changes happen not by throwing out everything and starting over, but by making minute adjustments to what you have until it turns out just right.