Steal this Idea: Mass-Produced Tailored Clothing

I was reading an article about how technology is creeping into the world of clothes shopping, or at least fitting rooms, when I hit a familiar wisdom: “But a size 10 in one shop can easily be a size 14 in another.”

We’ve been able to reduce the cost of clothes by producing them to a generic pattern in a range of sizes. That enables mass production and automation. The problem is that they’ll rarely fit the person who buys them perfectly.

What we could all do with is custom-made clothes, tailored to fit our bodies.

The sizes and shapes clothes are currently designed to are an average of a sample of body measurements. To make clothes fit each individual you would first need to get detailed measurements from each person. Continue reading

Steal this Idea: Economy Cruise Control

I don’t do too many long car journeys, but I recently undertook a 300+ mile round trip so got a chance to try out the cruise control function on my car. It’s not the first long run I’ve done in my car but for whatever reason I’ve never bothered before.

Each system is different and it took a bit of time to figure out what I was doing but I soon got the hang of it. On the return part of the journey I didn’t bother with it, instead focusing on getting better MPG (the old game of trying to get the figure on the car computer as high as possible). This meant going slower when heading uphill and picking up speed when heading down. I was amazed at the difference.

Cruise control is a fairly blunt instrument, you set the speed and system will try and maintain it no matter what. You head uphill and it applies more power to overcome the incline, you go downhill and it won’t coast, it’ll brake to get you back down to the set speed. If you have to disengage it for any reason and then re-apply it’ll usually floor it to get back up to speed.

Manufacturers already offer adaptive/autonomous cruise control systems to monitor traffic in front and slow down before speeding up again once in the clear. How about an economy mode for cruise control?

It’s not as simple as just maintaining a constant speed, but it’d be easy enough to detect an incline and not apply additional power, or to let the car cruise down a hill with a degree of leniency for going over the required speed (this is probably the most contentious part, especially if speeding tickets are involved). Add it to the systems that can monitor traffic in front and slowly drop the speed as they approach a slower vehicle and you should see an improvement in MPG compared to traditional cruise control.

Steal this Idea: Baby Health Monitoring

My nephew is about a year old, but already he’s spent a fair bit of time in hospital.  In the last two cases he was admitted by ambulance in one and through A&E in the other.  In both cases his symptoms seemed fairly routine and, as with most people in the UK, his parents didn’t want to overburden doctors for what was probably a minor illness (i.e. cold), not that they could always get an appointment.

They’re not bad parents, I’m sure the NHS would prefer more like them rather than the over-protective types who take their children in for anything, but it highlights an area where there’s massive potential for private companies and services, an area tech could help play a part in as well.

I’ve sort of hit on this already, but I think parents and child health are a particularly good area for this sort of application, partly because children tend to pick up a lot more illnesses and partly because neurotic parents are likely to want this service.  Plus, it’s much harder to identify problems when your child can’t tell you it hurts, or where.

So, aside from offering tools to allow remote monitoring of temperature, pulse, heartbeat, urine and whatever else, monitored by both automated systems and health professionals (perhaps elevated to them should any levels indicate an issue) to keep an eye on your child 24/7 and preemptively notify parents of any potential issues (temperature would be a  good place to start, sensors could be built into clothing, it should catch infections as well as being able to trigger simple alerts about when your child is too hot or too cold). Continue reading

Steal this Idea: The Save Africa Game

Don’t ask me why, but occasionally my mind turns to the problem of Africa, of people living in poverty, dying of starvation or disease, people who seem to perpetually need our help. And therein lies the rub, because despite the billions we’ve poured into Africa we seem no closer to solving the problems.

My theory has been that we need to pick a nation, one with a stable and open-minded government, then attack the problems in that country as a showcase to the rest.  The help would mainly be through advice and expertise. The first issue is feeding the country, aside from the obvious issue that you can’t achieve anything if your people are starving, it avoids the need for handouts and frees up money used to buy in food for other things.

So you look at improving farming techniques, run schools for farmers on how to improve crop yields, simple stuff, tailored to their environment and crops, but enough so the country is capable not just of feeding itself, but also generating a surplus to sell. Continue reading

Steal this Idea: Improved Lamp Timers

I have some great ideas (at least I think so), but I’m never going to get around to bringing them into reality, so I’m going throw them up here in the hope someone can capitalise on them (and assuming I can remember them) and at least I can benefit.  First up: lamp timers, those things you plug into sockets, not just to switch lamps on and off, but that’s what they mainly seem to be used for.

In my lounge, like many people, I have a lamp that runs off a timer.  Mainly to turn on in the evening, partly for security, but also on winter mornings I have it come on so I’m not groping around in the dark.  The problem is keeping it updated with when it needs to come on.  In winter the light needs to come on sometimes at 5pm or earlier, while as we get to the height of summer it’s more like 9 or 10pm.  This is not a new, or I’m sure unique, problem.

My idea then is simple: add a light sensor.  Set the time to switch the lamp on and, before it comes on, a light sensor checks the ambient light.  If it’s too light (this may need to be adjustable), then the lamp doesn’t switch on until the light level drops. Obviously it needs some sort of override to stop it promptly switching itself off when the lamp turns on and the light level rises.

I’m not sure I’ve worked out all the kinks yet, for example, how does it handle plugs that are behind something?  That’s part of the reason for the adjustable level check, maybe an extendable sensor to get it closer to the light would work. Continue reading