Monthly Archives: March 2016

Walk – Or Else!

Every day, we seem to see something new that dooms personal privacy to history. We’ve already seen a number of companies using fitness trackers to encourage their employees to live a healthy lifestyle and minimise health insurance premiums. Now, Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma is adopting the tactic with its students. – but with a stick rather than a carrot.

Students are each be required to buy a FitBit wearable watch, and track their aerobic points and fitness with it. Daily steps and heart rate are automatically recorded using Brightspace, a learning management system, which earns them points for their course. Students don’t earn the course credits unless they walk 10,000 steps each day.

Now you could argue that it’s ‘big brother gone mad’, or that it’s for the students own good. But either way,  it shows again what can be done with the technology. Is there some way you could use activity tracking software to motivate, reward or help your customers or employees. And if there is, can you do it  without making them feel uncomfortable about the invasion on privacy.

Three Sides

There are three sides to every story. Well, to be truthful there are probably a lot more, but three is still two more than most of us are exposed to. That’s the premise behind Perspecs, a new app that attempts to present news stories from several different perspectives.

When you download the app, you are presented with important questions of the day, together with three differing views taken from newspapers around the world. These include neutral, left wing and right wing political perspectives, or even  three predictions on the outcome of a sports fixture. The idea is to allow readers to make up their own minds after hearing all the arguments, rather than  being fed  just one point of view.

I mention it because it’s a useful app, but also as a mental springboard. Are there other niches in which you can combine different views on an issue, problem or event to create a successful website or app?


Money For Old Rope

For the past 3 years, I’ve been in touch with a chap called Michael Tasker up in the Lothian region of Scotland who mentors a team competing in the Young Enterprise initiative each year. The competition is for 16-18 year olds, and requires them to start and run a real business for 6 months or so,  selling real products or services. It’s a great experience for all concerned. My daughter was involved last year. She was M.D of a company that reached the National finals despite (or perhaps as a result of!) not asking my advice once.

Anyway, Michael was telling me about his team this year, and I love the concept. They called themselves, ‘Creative’ and here’s their website:

The product is Crayons – called ‘Crayzies’ – fashioned into fun shapes and created by melting down and re-shaping old discarded crayons that they had begged, borrowed or stolen….well maybe not stolen. Once they exhausted the supply of old used crayons for recycling they went to Asda and cleared the shelf of a discontinued line of stick crayons, achieving a big discount off the price.

Michael described it as ‘money for old rope’, and I suppose it is. But the key thing is that they’ve added value by turning old rope into something fun, interesting and useful. Surely there have to be myriad opportunities to do the same thing with other  products which have outlived their usefulness. Inspiration here for everyone, I think.

Anyway, take a look at the website and get in touch with the team if you’d like to buy some crayons. A good proportion of their profits will go to charity, so you’ll be helping both a very entrepreneurial team and a good cause at the same time.


The Waiterless Restaurant

It’s hard to know where the list of jobs under threat from technology will end. I just read about Chinese restaurant Renrenxiang which  has replaced all of its front of house staff and payment equipment with a smartphone messaging service.

Renrenxiang, in Beijing, is using China’s most popular messaging app WeChat. Visitors begin by launching the app, browsing the menu and placing their order. They then pay for their meal using the messenger service and are given an order number. Their meal is prepared in the kitchen and their number called out over a tannoy system when it’s ready. The customer can then collect their food and seat themselves.

I’m not sure whether anyone is doing anything similar in the UK yet, but it could be worth investigating if you’re in the market. While some waiting staff do a great job, I’m sure we’ve all been to venues where they add little or nothing to the expeience.