26 Great Ideas From Around The World
Instant EKG - India
High-risk cardiac patients, take heart: Researchers have developed a personal monitor that can call for help in an emergency. The Wearable Cardiac Telemedicine prototype keeps tabs on your ticker by continuously conducting its own electrocardiogram. It uses Bluetooth, a short-range wireless link, to transmit the data to a cell phone programmed to analyze the information. If the data indicates a problem, the phone sends a text message to a nearby hospital so you can get treated quickly.
Lending a Hand - Canada
Most people probably think they can do CPR. But the procedure is tricky, and performing it correctly can mean the difference between life and death. The CPRGlove leaves a lot less room for error. The device, which was invented by two engineering students from Ontario and will soon be undergoing clinical trials, is packed with circuits and sensors that guide you on the depth and pace of your compressions, and can signal you when it’s time to do mouth-to-mouth.
Dress for the Cold - U.S
Designer Olivia Ong’s gold dress makes more than a fashion statement: It fights the flu. For her Glitterati line, Ong used cotton coated in silver, a natural antibacterial agent, so it blocks germs that can make you sick. Talk about the high price of fashion: The Cornell researchers who engineered the nanotech fabric say it cost $10,000 per square yard to make. At least you’d save on dry cleaning. The metallic finish also keeps the dress from getting dirty.
Super Bowls - Japan
Doing your business is serious business in Japan with three new high-tech toilets. The Intelligence Toilet, which retails for $3,300 and up, checks sugar levels in your urine and sends the data to your PC over a home network. The portable Wrappon, $1,250, which comes with a remote control, seals waste inside diaper-like bags in a bin below the seat. And the Alauno, $2,900, made of stain-resistant glass, packs its own scrubbing bubbles, helping its spiral-shaped siphon flush clean while also conserving water.
Germ-Detecting Wipes - U.S.
Disinfecting wipes are great, but what if they could tell you exactly what’s living on your kitchen counters? Researchers at Cornell University have created a special fabric that, when immersed in a fatty solution, changes color if you’ve picked up E. coli bacteria. In the future, this technology could be used to detect other types of biohazards.
Good Pour - Switzerland
The Twist & Spout is so simple it’s brilliant. Attach it to the mouth of a regular 2-liter bottle, and presto, you’ve got a watering can! A smaller kitchen version of the gizmo, designed by Nicolas Le Moigne of Switzerland, makes it easier to dispense a round of Sprite. It’s available in two sizes for $5 each at perpetualkid.com.
A New Kind of Houseboat - The Netherlands
There’s a new trend in Dutch architecture: houses that float. The need to build on all available land—lakefronts, riverbanks, areas below sea level—to accommodate the country’s growing population has many developers embracing the concept. The typical amphibious home has a hollow concrete foundation that acts like the hull of a ship, rising and falling with the tides. The structure is connected to mooring posts that keep it from drifting away. In an alternative “ecoboat” design by retired engineering professor Frits Schoute, wind and wave energy would be used to heat the home and filter seawater for drinking.
Riding on Air - France
The hybrid is old news. Fuel cells? Bah. How about a zero-emissions vehicle that runs on compressed air? MDI of France has announced that its Air Car, invented by CEO and founder Guy Nègre, will debut in India and France in late 2008. Over time, various models will be introduced, offering 2-, 4- and 6-cylinder engines at prices ranging from $4,800 to $12,900. The OneCAT, the first out of the gate, fits up to 5 passengers and can go as far as 500 miles on the highway with one fill-up, and as fast as 68 mph. Just plug in the car at home and the built-in compressor will refill the tank in 4 hours. For more information, visit theaircar.com.
You’re Getting Warmer - Australia
How hot is that latte? Like baby spoons that change color when dipped into a dish of microwaved mashed peas, the Smart Lid changes from coffee brown to red when placed over a steaming cuppa joe. To help prevent spills, the lid’s bottom ring also turns red when not securely fastened. The tops are expected to start popping up in U.S. delis and doughnut shops by the end of the year.
Cash or Cell? - Finland
The Finns have it all: Lapland, Marimekko—and cell phones that work like debit cards. A new technology developed by Nokia and its partners lets you download virtual cash into your mobile. You can then buy train tickets or pay for parking by swiping the handset past a reader. In the city of Oulu, seniors can even order home-delivered meals by tapping their phones against the menu.
Bike for Bucks - U.S.
You’ve heard it before: Bike to work, save the planet. Getting to the office under your own power reduces your carbon footprint and promotes good health—which makes you more productive at work, so your employer wins too. That’s why the
Burke Group, a civil engineering firm in Rosemont, Illinois, pays 48.5 cents a mile
(the IRS reimbursable rate) and offers other incentives—such as free passes to a nearby gym so you can take a shower—to encourage employees to leave the car at home.
Unchained Remedy - Norway
Stuck in the snow? Wrap your tires in AutoSocks and you’ll be back on the road in no time. The high-tech fabric’s individual fibers are arranged to increase friction and improve grip on the slipperiest of surfaces. And you don’t have to jack up the car to put these covers on: Just spin your wheels and you’re ready to roll. Invented by a group of Norwegians seeking an alternative to snow chains—chief inventor Bård Løtveit’s grandmother used to wear socks over her shoes to walk on ice—AutoSocks are now available in 14 countries around the world (including the U.S.) for about $100 a pair. To find a dealer, go to autosock.us.
Smog Scrubber - Italy
A new cement coating developed by Italcementi takes smog right out of the air. The material, called TX Active, contains titanium dioxide, which neutralizes nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide when exposed to light. The pollution eater, which can be painted on buildings, bridges and streets, also keeps surfaces white and bright.
Motel in Motion - Spain
Optimus Prime has nothing on this transforming truck. The Hotelmóvil, built on a trailer, converts into a 450-sq.-ft. building big enough to sleep 44 people. Once it’s parked, detach the cab and press a button on the remote; 30 minutes later, you’ve got 8 bedrooms and 3 suites on 2 stories, with an upper deck, bathrooms, big-screen TVs and other amenities. You can rent one of these mobile bunkhouses, available next year, for the weekend for $8,000 and have a family reunion. If you’re enterprising, buy one and then set up shop wherever there’s a big event and no more rooms at the inn. All you’ll need is half a million dollars and you’ll be in business.
Search for Good - U.S.
Now you can raise money for your favorite charity just by surfing the Net. Every time you search the Web at GoodSearch.com, a penny goes to the nonprofit of your choice. The site uses Yahoo! Search—the second most popular search engine after Google—so you get results you can trust. Yahoo! and GoodSearch share the site’s advertising revenue, generated when users click on sponsored links; GoodSearch, a for-profit philanthropy, gives away half its cut, or about 1 cent per search. For some beneficiaries, it’s no chump change. So far, GoodSearch has helped the Save Darfur Coalition raise $3,635; the ASPCA, more than $6,000.
Can Do - Argentina
Would a funny-looking bin make you more likely to recycle your empty Coke cans? Designer Patricio Forrester’s “Feed the Cow” design inspired many in Buenos Aires to dispose of plastic bottles, paper and glass more responsibly—62% more over 3 months—and now the CowBins have migrated to the U.K. Maybe sheep are next.
Mirror, Mirror - Spain
In the Andalusian countryside, just outside Seville, there’s a field of 600 mirrors, each one 1,290 square feet. Their job: direct the sun’s rays to the top of a concrete tower, where the heat turns water into steam, which is used to drive turbines that generate electricity—11 megawatts of it, in fact, enough to power 6,000 homes. The operator of this solar thermal power plant, Solúcar, is working to increase the yield to 10 times that so the plant can someday serve all of Seville.
This Bot’s Hot- Italy
Any fire department would be lucky to have the RoboGat. The robot is designed to douse flames in tunnels and other hard-to-reach places. Inventor Domenico Piatti, a fire engineer from Naples, went to work on the project after 39 people perished in the Mont Blanc Tunnel fire in 1999. Last June, Piatti successfully demonstrated his working prototype, which uses cameras and sensors to locate a fire, moves on tracks, and blasts water out of pipes that can withstand temperatures of up to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.
Biofuel Bugs - U.S.
Researchers at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University have found a new source of renewable energy: bugs (photosynthetic bacteria, to be precise). Like plants, these microbes use energy from the sun to grow, and scientists have found that the fat by-products can be used to make high-energy fuel such as biodiesel. It’s an appealing alternative to biofuels that come from corn, soybeans and switchgrass, which can divert land away from food and feed production, and are sometimes processed in coal-burning plants.
Cheesy Currency - France
Giving hope to struggling entrepreneurs everywhere, French organic dairy farmers Manuel and Sandrine Rogeri are paying their debts—in cheese. The couple solicited private loans from some 70 individuals, raising more than $41,000. In exchange, the lenders will receive a share of the produce—a range of blues and Gruyères, from both cow’s and goat’s milk—for 6 years. Get the local vintner on board and it’s a party.
The Light Is Green
Energy-efficient light-emitting diodes are popping up in public spaces around the world, from Toronto city parks to the streets of Guangzhou, China. Although LEDs can run at triple the cost of conventional lighting, they consume 30%-90% less power and can last 20-30 years without being replaced or even wiped clean—so there are cost savings in the long run. The city of Raleigh, North Carolina, expects that the LEDs illuminating a new 900-space parking garage will save $75,000 the first year.
Field of Dreams - U.S. and Italy
Quick, name your least favorite household chore. If you picked yard work, then Scotts Miracle-Gro feels your pain. The company is developing a low-maintenance grass that would grow half as fast as your average fescue or Kentucky bluegrass, letting you go two or even three weeks between mows. Although these fantasy lawns are years away, there’s a more immediate solution from Italy: the Ambrogio robotic lawn mower, a self-guided, battery-powered blade-on-wheels that’ll take care of business while you relax in your hammock.
No-Stick Salt - India
Ask a salt aficionado what’s shakin’ in the gourmet market and he’ll probably mention SaltWorks’ sea salt smoked with alder wood or Chardonnay oak. But we’d gladly trade the fancy stuff for plain old salt that’ll sprinkle free and easy on a hot summer day. Regular salt crystals are shaped like cubes; when they get even just a little moist, their edges dissolve and the grains bind together. Researchers in India have found that by mixing a tiny bit of glycine, an amino acid, with sodium chloride, they can create 12-sided, nearly spherical crystals that’ll roll off one another like marbles, even in humid conditions. Now that’s a breakthrough we’d like to put on the table.
Biodegradable Plastic - Australia
A new material called Plantic offers an earth-friendly alternative to the petrochemical plastic used in food packaging. Plantic looks and feels like its synthetic cousin, only it’s made from starch, so you can toss it into the compost bin or bury it in the garden. Want to get rid of it even quicker? Pour water on it and watch it dissolve.
Cutting the Cord - U.S.
Forgot to recharge your cell phone? Someday it may be able to recharge itself. Scientists at MIT have figured out a way to beam electricity across a room and run electronic devices without wires. To produce wireless electricity, or WiTricity, a transmitter creates an electromagnetic field, powering up anything from a TV to a lightbulb within a 7-foot range. What a bright idea!
Bombs Away - Switzerland
Zurich garbage-can manufacturer Brüco Swiss is doing its part to combat the global terrorism threat. Should someone decide to drop a bomb into the aptly named Littershark Protectus, its sleek shape and reinforced-steel construction would direct the force of the blast upward, limiting the collateral damage to a 6 1/2-foot radius, according to tests conducted by Swiss defense experts. The bin, in wide use in its home country, is now marketed around the world as a safer receptacle for popular thoroughfares such as the Champs-Élysées in Paris.