#463 – WikiScout

I’ve written in the past about Wikistrat, a crowd sourced geo-political consultancy, and more recently, Tongal, a crowd sourced platform for coming up with ideas for marketing campaigns.  My fascination with crowd sourcing is simple.  It’s awesome!!!  Which is why I wanted to see if I could come up with an idea for a crowd sourcing platform for something that has not yet taken advantage of the wisdom of crowds but which could really benefit from doing so.  As it turns out I know just the thing: sports.

If you think about it professional sports are tailor made for crowd sourcing.  They already employ a network of people, known as scouts, that they rely upon for insights.  However, with limited time and resources it’s hard for those scouts to see every player and in turn it’s hard for the organizations that employ them to get a complete picture of every player that is available in the draft.  Wouldn’t it be great then if those organization could rely on the opinions of hundreds or even thousands of people instead of just a handful?

The key becomes whether or not you can trust the opinion of total strangers from all walks of life who wouldn’t have had any formal training as a scout.  I believe that you could.  Fans today are smarter than they were even just ten years ago.  We’re no longer slaves to the basic statistics provided by TV broadcasts.  Thanks to the internet, the popularity of Money Ball and the advancement of sabermetrics most fans, even casual fans, are now intimately aware of the more sophisticated metrics that teams are utilizing nowadays.

Take me for example.  I’m a pretty big baseball fan.  I’m in several fantasy baseball leagues and I’ve started a tradition of going to Spring Training every year.  I could probably file a pretty accurate report on a player that I’m watching in person or even on TV.  I may not know a whole lot about a pitcher’s arm angle or a hitter’s swing path but it’s fairly obvious to me which players have potential and which are over matched.  Couldn’t my broad insights be useful to a professional team?  Especially if those insights are coming at a high school or college game that they’re aren’t sending their own scouts to cover?

Baseball aside just think about how useful this could be to other sports like baseball and football that don’t have the traditional scouting budgets that baseball teams do.  Front office executives in these sports rely on video clips and what they see at scouting combines.  Wouldn’t it make sense for them then to also take in consideration what thousands of amateur scouts see from attending games in person?  Sure these “scouts” would consist of parents, teachers, and school administrators some of whom may be biased.  But it also would consist of hundreds if not thousands of fans, like you and me, that would be objective.  And with that many people filing reports it would be easy to get an accurate picture of who the majority of people think are the best players.

The best part about a crowd sourced scouting platform like WikiScout is that it could translate to other industries as well.  Take music for example.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the music labels to listen to thousands of fans who are giving their recommendation on who is about to blow up instead of relying on just a few people to make that determination for the many?  After all, if thousands of people are all raving about the same band then they’re probably on to something.  Perhaps the wisdom of the crowd could even be applied to the stock market as it relates to noticing trends and identifying promising stocks on the rise.

In order for this concept to take off though it would be important to provide incentives to the crowd.  The way to do that would be to create a gamification engine.  The more you scout and the more detailed your reports are the more points you earn.  Points could then be redeemed for prizes such as tickets to games or concerts and merchandise that are provided by the organizations and companies reaping the benefits from the wisdom of the crowd.   It’s kind of like scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  Everyone wins.

All in all, I really believe that a crowd sourced approach to scouting amateur and professional athletes could really catch on.  Fans would pay attention more and form a deeper connection to the game they love while helping the on field product improve.  Teams would save money and have a built in excuse when the team struggles as they could shrug their shoulders and say don’t blame us all of you thought that player was going to be good too.  It’s the best of both worlds.

When it comes to scouting baseball players who would you rather trust?  These guys?  Or the wisdom of thousands of fans?

Here’s a look at some of the great ideas from around the world that caught my eye this past week:

1.  KiteString

From the why didn’t I think of that first department comes a new app that makes sure you got home okay.

As TechCrunch explains, “Rather than asking your mom, bestie, or significant other to stay on the phone with you while you walk down a sketchy street at night, you can use Kitestring. You punch in your emergency contacts, let it know when you’re somewhere dangerous, and Kitestring will text you a little later to see if you’re okay. If you don’t respond, it alerts your loved ones that something may be wrong.”

If I was in a really sketchy area by myself I’d probably still want to talk to someone on the phone so that they can put me at ease or just distract me from having to think about all of shady people eyeing me down.  But if that’s not an option then at least having an app that knows where you are and can alert others is probably the next best thing.


2.  Food Sniffer

We’ve all been there.  Holding a piece of meat that we just bought at the grocery store the day before wondering if it’s okay to eat.  Soon we won’t have to rely on our noses and gut instincts to figure it out.  Soon we’ll have an accessory that can help us out.

According to Dvice, “A small handheld sniffer samples the air around the meat, measuring the levels of volatile organic compounds and ammonia along with the temperature and humidity, then transmits the data to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. Once analyzed, an app tells you whether the food is fresh, still okay but should be eaten straight away, or only fit for the trash can.”

3.  The Osteoid

This 3-D printed cast uses ultrasound to heal broken bones.  According to the Verge, “Low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS ) systems have already been found to promote bone fracture healing and can reportedly increase healing rate in non-union break by 80 percent.”

Why couldn’t they have had this when I broke my ankle!!

4.  Concrete Eating Robot

I work right by Ground Zero so everyday I have to deal with the sound of annoying jackhammers and concrete destroying drills.  Thankfully, that’s a fate that others may not have to endure in the future thanks to a new concrete eating robot!

As Discovery explains, “Building demolition demands a lot of heavy machinery to crush concrete and separate valuable materials for reuse. Often, those materials are transferred to offsite locations, which wastes time and resources. The process also wastes a lot of water in order to prevent harmful dust clouds from blooming. However, a Swedish student’s concrete-eating robot aims to change all that.”


Here’s a look at some of my most recent random thoughts:

One of the things that bothers me the most about social media, aside from all of the pictures of babies of course, is the fact that whenever I receive a new notification, I receive it on my cellphone, tablet, and laptop.  That in of itself isn’t the problem, the social media services have no way of knowing which device I’m actually using (at least I hope they don’t) and so they are merely covering all of their bases.  But what bothers me is that when I clear out the notification on one device it still shows up on the others causing me to have to duplicate or even triplicate my efforts.  That shouldn’t be the case.

I’m kind of surprised that a materials scientist hasn’t invented an unbreakable umbrella yet.  Can it really be that hard.  Just mix something with Graphene and call it a day.

I watch a lot of TV.  Probably more than I should.  And yet not even I can catch up on all the shows that I’m interested in.  Take a show like Homeland for example.  I watched the first two seasons, started season three, and then lost interest.  There is a zero percentage chance that I will ever go back and finish the show.  However, I do kind of want to know what’s been happening on the off chance that I’m ever at a dinner party and it comes up in conversation.  Thankfully there is a solution for someone like me.  I can just go online and read some spoilers to find out what happened.  I realize that this isn’t the same thing as actually watching the show but in some instances it could be a very helpful option.  And I think this trend is going to continue.  In fact, I can see reading the spoilers becoming the digital equivalent of reading the cliff notes version of books.

Speaking of TV, on HBO’s new show, Silicon Valley, one of the characters was hearing product pitches from young entrepreneurs who reside in his incubator.  One idea that was pitched was for a new version of Alphabet Soup called Alphabit soup that would replace letters with binary code.  The character went into a tirade and ripped this idea.  For the record though I kind of think it’s a good idea.

Earlier today, Popular Science ran a story about a plan to brighten the Moon to save energy.  Apparently this proposal was just a PR stunt from the cosmetics company, Foreo, and would probably do more harm than good since nighttime light would be bad for the environment and potentially for human health as well.  However, just like with the Alphabit soup concept I kind of think this idea has some merit as it could reduce energy costs, make us more productive, and lower crime rates.

side by side photos showing scenes with duller and brighter moons

Is a plan to brighten the moon the Greatest Idea Ever?

I’ve always believed that we should try to create and store energy from unexpected places.  My suggestion would be to harvest the energy from subway station turnstiles as those are constantly getting moved every second during rush hour.  Perhaps that would be enough energy to power the entire train station.  Well as it turns out I’m not alone in trying to think of novel new ways to create energy.  Here’s a look at three ideas that try to tackle that same problem.

First up, we have SolePower a shoe insert that hopes to power mobile devices by collecting energy from the footsteps that a person takes throughout the day.  As the Huffington Post describes, “Cell phones are transforming lives in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, where they are crucial for advancing everything from education to medicine to commerce.  The problem? Many developing countries lack access to the electricity needed to charge mobile electronics. Over a billion people lack access to electricity worldwide, about 99% of whom live in the developing world.  Enter SolePower. Using a basic shoe insert, SolePower allows users to charge mobile electronics simply by walking. In capturing the kinetic energy of footsteps, SolePower’s shoe insert converts energy into electrical power that is stored in a battery for later use. The battery is then used to charge electronics like cell phones.”

Check out this video below to find out more:

Next up we have an audacious plan to capture energy from when you flush your toilet bowl!

According to Popular Science, “A team of researchers in South Korea have created a transducer that translates water motion—from toilets, raindrops, or other water-based uses—into electricity. The technical side is wonky, but essentially, by using the motion from a tiny droplet of water—30 microliters—the team was able to power a small green LED. It’s a proof-of-concept demonstration, but scale up to a flushing toilet or a rainstorm, and you can see the appeal.”

All due apologies to the NFL but we may need to steal the name Super Bowl for this awesome device if it ever makes it to market.

Last but not least we have a rather unusual concept that aims to create energy from an unlikely source: cow farts.  Although this sounds like something you might read in an article you find on the Onion this is actually a real concept.  According to Fast Company, “The project from Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology is only a proof-of-concept at this stage. But it is intriguing. Researchers put plastic backpacks on cows, then inserted tubes into their rumens (their biggest digestive tract). They extracted the methane–about 300 liters a day. That’s enough to run a car, or a fridge for 24 hours.”

As you can see whether we’re talking about cow farts, flushed toilets, or shoe inserts there are plenty of intriguing outside the box concepts for how we can create energy.  Which begs the question: what else can we turn into energy?

Is extracting energy from cow farts the Greatest Idea Ever?

As is to be expected when it comes to Google, Project Ara isn’t the only big project they’re working on at the moment.  Or, rather, it isn’t the only big project that they were trying to work on.  That’s because as Fast Company reports they were actually trying to make a working space elevator but unfortunately fell short.  At least for the time being.  As interesting and intriguing as that is what I’m really excited about is the recent news that came out around something that they might actually have more success in creating: a contact lense version of Google Glass.

Considering the negative stigma surrounding Glass turning them into contact lenses is a great idea.  Obviously Google had good intentions when they first created Google Glass but the general public hasn’t warmed up to them yet.  They’re considered a fashion foo-pah, the people who wear them are known as Glassholes, and there have even been laws passed banning their use in certain situations or in certain places.

Stoking all this negative sentiment are the privacy fears that have come to define our modern times with the assumption being that someone wearing Glass could be using them to spy on you in either a creepy or even malicious way.  In fact, this animosity is so great that Glass has become a symbol of sorts for the growing gentrification tensions between the rich and poor in San Francisco leading to people wearing Glass getting assaulted.   Those stories concerned me so much that when I had the opportunity to buy Glass for one day only last week I balked at the chance.  Glass contact lenses could change all that.

Aside from letting users avoid harassment and the stigma surrounding Glass these contact lenses would also have very practical uses.  According to PC Magazine the possibilities include the ability to take pictures and videos just by blinking, enhancing your peripheral vision to widen your field of vision in a busy intersection, giving law enforcement personnel facial recognition capabilities, and enabling people to zoom in to see further than they can on their own.  All of which are very useful attributes to have.

So how would they work?  According to Extreme Tech, “This new smart contact lens would have a tiny CMOS camera sensor just below your pupil, control circuit, and some method of receiving power wirelessly (more on that later). Because an imaging sensor, by definition, has to absorb light, it wouldn’t be transparent — but it could probably be color matched to your iris, so that your eyes don’t look too freaky.”

So if you were thinking about Google Glass you may want to hold off.  A better alternative may soon be on the way.  Let’s just hope though that Google can overcome whatever technological hurdles they may face going forward so that this project actually winds up with a better fate than the space elevator.

Is a Google Glass contact lense the Greatest Idea Ever?

“The smartphone is one of the most empowering and intimate objects in our lives. Yet most of us have little say in how the device is made, what it does, and how it looks. And 5 billion of us don’t have one. What if you could make thoughtful choices about exactly what your phone does, and use it as a creative canvas to tell your own story?”

That quote was taken from the Project Ara website and it pretty much sums up Google’s audacious plan to create a modular phone with components that can be swapped out to create custom phones.  That’s right.  The days of mass produced smart phones are over.  Soon we will all have a say in what our phones look like and what functionality they have.  I think this concept is extremely intriguing so I’ve decided to dive deeper into exactly how they work and why we should care.

According to the Verge, “these smartphones would begin as simple skeletons that owners would have to flesh out with everything from a processor and display to a cellular radio and camera. Each of these pieces would be sold as a small square or rectangular block, called a module, which can be slid into and out of a phone’s skeleton depending on what its owner wants and needs — Google is even expecting to see some nontraditional cell phone parts pop up, such as an incense burner.”

In other words you’ll have the chance to create your very own phone letting you give more emphasis to the features that you care about the most, say the camera, while neglecting those that you don’t care about.  A marketplace will be created along side the Google Play store enabling users to browse modules and select the ones they want.

So why should we care?  Well, in reference to Samsung’s latest phone, the Galaxy S5, Time magazine stated that the phone’s “headline improvements included a better camera, a fingerprint scanner and a heart-rate monitor” before adding that, “In a world of modular phones, you might be able to pick any or all of those features and add them to the phone you already have. You’d even be able to pick among multiple cameras, or choose quirky features not meant for the masses…”

This means that aside from giving consumers the freedom to design the phone that works best for them there is a tangible benefit to utilizing a modular phone: they last longer.  No longer will you be a slave to the never ending two year cycle of phone upgrades.  Instead these phones will last three times as long as you upgrade specific features on your own schedule.

Not only that but Google also plans on offering a basic phone for around $50 that won’t come tied to a carrier.  In fact, as Time magazine explains it, “wouldn’t even be capable of working on cellular networks — just Wi-Fi.  But owners could upgrade their grayphones on the fly as their needs changed and budgets permitted.”  This could go a long way towards giving the billions of people in the world who still don’t have a phone basic access to one.

So, will everyone want one?  Well, if people are willing to pay way over market value for a gold iPhone as a way of expressing themselves then I think it’s safe to say that people are going to want to use a Project Ara phone to express themselves even more.  Sure there may be some resistance at first from those among us who still need to call a relative to figure out how to DVR something, but I think those concerns will fade away once the early adopters prove how easy it is to set up a phone and swap out parts.  And once someone comes up with a really clever hack that revolutionizes what we can use our phones for then everyone is going to want to get a modular phone and swap in that cool new feature.

That to me is really the best part about this project.  Who knows what someone might dream up.  With millions of people free to tinker with the modules we could be on the verge of revolutionizing exactly what a phone looks like and how we interact with it.  Forget about using the phone as a creative canvas to tell our own story.  We could soon be writing a whole new story.

Is a modular phone the greatest idea ever?

A children’s book that teaches young girls how to code. An apartment complex that gives residents a free bike. Gym classes that cost less the more frequently you attend. These are just some of the amazing ideas from around the world that get compiled and disseminated daily by the folks at Springwise, a company dedicated to scanning the globe for inspiring new business ideas. I mentioned this company yesterday when writing about a database of ideas that I’d like to create as they are one of the only places that I know of to maintain a database of their own.

To find out more about this amazing company and their desire to make the world a better place I exchanged emails with Chris Kreinczes, Springwise’s Managing Director. With over ten years of experience as a writer, public speaker, and trend watcher Chris has a wealth of knowledge about innovation. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: I believe that the work that you are doing over at Springwise.com is very important as you are helping to spread great ideas and promote a culture of innovation. Would you agree with that sentiment? What is it that you hope to accomplish through Springwise?

A: The primary aim of Springwise — be it online or through our presentations — is to inspire. We believe that there is room for innovation across all industries, and collaborations and genuinely creative and uninhibited thinking are the key to unlocking this. One of the advantages of a platform such as Springwise is that we cover innovations from a broad variety of sectors, enabling readers to draw inspiration from perhaps unexpected sources.

Q: You’ve been described as an innovation expert. In your opinion what kind of innovations can we expect to see over the next decade? What’s going to be the next big thing? Will it be 3-D printing? A new material like Graphene? Something else?

A: Certainly wearable technology is the next major frontier for digital. All of the big players are moving with pace into this area, and startups will be pushing the possibilities at the same time. 3D printing has been around for a while now, but as materials become cheaper and printers become more capable, it could soon have it’s day in the mainstream. The exciting thing here is that it’s a technology which will have ramifications everywhere, from supply chains, to retail environments, to clothing.

Q: Everyday, you and your team have to come up with three new inspirational business ideas. Is it ever a struggle to live up to that standard?

A: We have a team of 17,000 Spotters globally who send in roughly one hundred innovations a day, sourced from around the world. With that many ideas to analyse we usually have the opposite problem, whereby it’s hard to limit ourselves to 15 a week.

Q: What separates a great idea from the pack? Are there certain things that you look for when evaluating a product or company?

A: Our main criteria is that the innovation must be in some way genuinely innovative. Another company offering a “Buy One Give One Model” won’t cut it, unless it’s a genuinely remarkable and unexpected application. We’re looking for the model or central premise itself to be innovative. Secondly, the company must have just come to market, or be on the brink of coming to market — we steer clear of concepts that may never materialise. Lastly, we’re always interested in a range of ideas from across the globe, as well as a strong mix of digital and physical innovations.

Q: Thanks to shows like Shark Tank it seems that entrepreneurism is at an all time high. Do you think interest in startups and new business ideas is just a passing fad or do you think the trend will continue?

A: I think with the rise of factors such as 3D printing and home code academies, we’ll see a continued rise in home grown innovative solutions for the foreseeable future. Especially combined with the fact that there is continued media hype over the large figures many startups are now being sold for to the major players…

Q: Your focus is more on the entrepreneurial side of things as you cover already existing products and companies. On the other hand I tend to write more about loose ideas, concepts, new technologies, etc. that aren’t necessarily consumer facing at the moment. Things like nanotechnology, synthetic biology, augmented reality, etc. Are you interested in those things as well? If so, is there anything in particular that stands out to you?

A: While concepts and scientific/technological breakthroughs are always an area of interest, we have a strong focus on ideas which either have already — or we feel definitely will — come to market. Of course it’s necessary for us to keep tabs on what’s going on a level down from here, but there are plenty of other sites which focus specifically on that level. We focus on the tangible, in order to avoid speculation and a drift into the realm of science fiction.

Q: One of the things that I’d like to do is create an ideas database so that someone can quickly and easily access information about concepts for inventions and new technologies the way they can use the Springwise database to retrieve information about the products and companies that you’ve covered. Do you think there would be interest in such a database?

A: Very possibly. The issues here would be sourcing the infromation effectively and, where necessary, incoporating the neccessary patent information etc.

Q: Springwise covers a variety of topics ranging from health & wellbeing to entertainment. Which of those sections interests you the most and why?

A: We try to be unbiased in our coverage in order to ensure we cover a genuinely broad range of industries. However, on a personal level, I take particular interest in those innovations which seek to use business as a source of good for the world — be it through sustainability initiatives or social causes.

Q: What’s your favorite idea that Springwise covered recently? In my opinion it has got to be the edible water blob!

A: I like to go walking, so for me it would have to be the Life Tech Jacket created for the Korean brand Colon Sport. It incorporated a built-in first aid kit, straps for carrying another body in the event of a rescue, as well as a wind generator which powered a built in heating system for when temperatures dropped. A little excessive for my needs but interesting nonetheless!

Thanks to Chris Kreinczes and his team at Springwise great ideas get spread worldwide everyday.


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