Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keys duplicated from digital copies stored in the cloud

While Lockitron has done away with physical keys with its smartphone-based door locking system, what if homeowners lose their phone? A new startup called KeyMe has developed a kiosk that enables anyone to cut a new copy of their house key from a digital file stored in the cloud. Located in several 7-Eleven stores around New York City, the kiosks first require customers to place the key they want cutting into the slot, which scans it and creates a digital version. Users can either pay USD 3.49 to get a copy of the key there and then, or can choose to store the file by creating a KeyMe account with an email address and their fingerprint using the biometric scanner. If they lose their key, or suddenly find they’ve been locked out of the house, account holders can then simply head to the nearest 7-Eleven, scan their finger and cut a new key for USD 19.99. Customers can choose between a standard key and a range of novelty designs, including KeyMe’s special bottle-opening key. The innovation could save homeowners the hassle and cost of calling out a locksmith at difficult times. As more and more tasks are able to be completed by machines, are there other emergency needs that could be met by all-hour automated kiosks such as this?

Stylish planning app personalizes suggestions for weekly activities

We’ve already seen Koozoo‘s crowdsourced public video help users see what a location is like in real-time before they decide to go there. For those who have a hectic week to organize, Foresee is an app that informs users of the most opportune moments for a range of activities, to help them better plan their time. Created by BorderLeap, the app uses a number of metrics – such as weather, time of day, location and learned user preferences – to determine the optimal time of the week for a particular activity. With individual profiles for sunbathing, running, swimming, golf, hiking, walking the dog, gardening, kite flying, and other outdoor pursuits, the app is able to suggest the best time in the next seven days to do them. Although the app comes with pre-loaded profiles based on preferences for the average person, these can be tweaked to cater to personal tastes – for example, some users may enjoy running in the rain rather than clement weather, or early in the morning rather than after work. On top of this, the app is designed in an intuitive and slick infographic-style manner. Foresee is for USD 1.99 from the App Store. Are there other ways for smartphones to become even smarter by learning user preferences and personalizing results?

App enables wheelchair users to report abuse of disabled parking spaces

Innovations such as Accessibility View have helped wheelchair users to easily find their way around the city, but sometimes these facilities aren’t available – for example if disabled parking spaces are taken up by those without a licence to use them. Parking Mobility is an app that empowers disabled people to report abuse of reserved spaces, while also raising money for relevant charities. The app – which is available for free on the App Store – uses a one-step process to allow those who come across a parking space being used unlawfully to file a report with the authorities. Users simply submit three photos – one of the car’s licence plate, one of the front window indicating the absence of a disabled ID certificate, and one of the car in the parking spot. The images are then used by Parking Mobility to file a more complete report with the city, which issues fines where necessary.

Through platform, Dropbox users can monetize their uploads

There are now numerous avenues to sell products online, with platforms such as Soldsie even enabling consumers to buy with a Facebook comment. Now Sellbox wants to provide a way for anyone to sell downloads of digital files direct from their Dropbox or Google Drive accounts. Users setting up a Sellbox profile first connect their Dropbox or Google Drive accounts, as well as their PayPal email address. They can then set the price of each file and share the link on social media sites or their own website, which directs consumers to pay via PayPal before they can access the Dropbox content. The solution could be an easy and lightweight way for musicians, artists, coders, designers and other creators of digital content to charge users for each download. Sellbox takes a nine percent cut for each download.

Cargo train is turned into travelling art gallery

Virgin Atlantic has already launched an in-flight art gallery to enable its Upper Class passengers to buy a piece of culture while they fly. Now Station to Station is another project that aims to create a dynamic, mobile gallery – this time in the form of a cargo train that will house collaborative works from a curated list of artists as it travels from coast to coast. Conceived by artist Doug Aitken, the train will travel from New York to San Francisco, stopping at ten locations along the way. At the stops, visitors will be able to see experimental and site-specific work by renowned artists such as Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Carsten Höller, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Ariel Pink, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Dan Deacon. While it’s travelling it will act as a kinetic light sculpture that will be visible to passersby. The project is teamed with seven museums around the country that will receive funding from ticket sales.

Color-coded system helps autistic people learn to cook

We’ve already seen how toys such as the Auti can help children with developmental disorders learn to interact with others. Now Match is a color-coded cooking prep system that provides a way to guide autistic people of any age through the preparation of a meal. Developed by Syracuse University graduate Amanda Savitzky for her thesis project, the system consists of a set of preparation tools that are marked to keep things more organized. Since the kitchen can be a messy and overwhelming place for those with autism, the kit includes four color- and shape-coded pots that can be used to separate the different ingredients as well as measure them out. Three extra bowls are numbered and can be used to place ingredients according to their timing in the recipe. A companion iPad app also helps to guide users through the process through customized recipes that are navigated with a simple swipe.

Coach offers urban sightseeing and gourmet meals in one

Tourists often like to take in the local cuisine as well as the sights when they travel abroad. While startups such as EatWith offer a way to enjoy a homemade meal while in another city, Spain-based Gourmet Bus is now combining the two, offering haute cuisine at the same time as a trip around some of Barcelona’s landmarks. Created by Julià Travel, the spacious double-decker Gourmet Bus provides a way for tourists to take in some of the famous scenery of Barcelona, from its beaches and La Rambla to the Sagrada Familia. During each trip, restaurateur Carles Gaig cooks a taster menu including a starter, main course and dessert, along with champagne, wine or beer, which is served while the coach is parked at a panoramic spot offering views of the city. Each customer is also offered an iPad, providing information about each landmark, as well as access to cameras located on the front and back of the bus. The tour lasts for three hours and runs three times a day, with passengers paying EUR 105 for the trip and meal. Are there other ways to combine two different aspects of the travel experience to give customers more value for money?