Category Archives: gadgets


TrollyBag – the shopping bag of the future with a patent

Logo_packingsortedMy dad has always been something of an early adopter, keen to try out new ideas and inventions. He bought a Sharp EL-801 one of the first pocket calculators, a Sinclair ZX 80 computer, and VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a shiny new set of Trolley Bags in his cupboard the other day.

A little research shows the colourful product was invented in Ireland by Paul Doyle in 2010 and is protected by a patent for A Re-usable Bag System.

With the imminent charge for plastic bags in England, the time is right for Trolley Bags to clean up. The Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015 comes into force on 5 October. And the order requires sellers who employ more than 250 people to charge 5p for a “single use carrier bag” which is less than 70 microns (0.07mm) thick.


Espacenet screenshot

trollybag patent drawing

15 learnings from a year of Brompton cycle commuting in London

It’s been over a year since I bought my Brompton folding bicycle to help cope with my long-distance commute from Eastbourne. I have to admit there was a steep learning curve to get the complex folding system (there is only one way to do it right – but lots of ways to do it wrong). And adapting to the hyper-sensitive steering (which does become something of an advantage once mastered), took much longer. But apart from these early niggles, the bike has been a joy to own and use.


So let’s start with a list of negatives from a year in the saddle:

  1. The almost daily stories of death and injury, often appearing on the cover of Evening Standard, make me question the risks I am taking.
  2. Having to share the road with tipper trucks, articulated lorries, and buses. They are noisy, big and scary for a cyclist.
  3. Fellow cyclists who blatantly ignore red lights. I can see the temptation to get going, but they give all of us such a bad name.
  4. Taxi drivers who squeeze you into the curb. I wonder if it is deliberate, or perhaps they just didn’t they see me? On reflection I would say a combination of their skill and experience, probably means it is a conscious action.
  5. Teenage scooter drivers with some kind of ‘death-wish’ who cut through the smallest of gaps and swerve across multiple lanes of traffic.
  6. Pot-holes, which seem to multiply nearer the edge of the road (where I want to cycle), forcing me out into the path of cars and vans.
  7. Pedestrians with headphones and tunnel vision, determined to cross their patch of road, often right in front of me. They seem entirely oblivious to the world around them.
    Southwark Bridge blue cycle lane
  8. Badly thought out and implemented cycle lanes. For instance my daily route takes me over Southwark Bridge with its blue cycle highway. On the bridge I feel nice and safe with a concrete bollard between me and the heavy construction lorries. But coming off the bridge, I have to filter through three lanes of those monsters, praying the lights don’t chance until I get to the safe haven of the cycle box at the front. It is genuinely scary.
  9. Cobbled back streets. I love the fact that London is steeped in history, but my bottom would appreciate some smoother tarmac please.

That was a bit depressing, so let’s end with some positives from the year of the Brompton:

  1. Mental health. According to an Evening Standard, one of the best ways of helping to develop a Mindfulness approach to live is to cycle regularly.Brompton from above
  2. Exercise. I can feel my legs getting stronger and my stomach getting a bit smaller every time I swing my leg over the Brompton’s saddle.
  3. Surprising pedestrians. My favourite trick is to stop for pedestrians as they step onto a zebra crossing. I usually have to wave them on, as they think it is some kind of trick, having become accustomed to cyclists cutting in front of them.
  4. Getting to work on time. I can usually get to work five minutes earlier than if I changed trains and relied on Thameslink to get me across central London.
  5. Knowing I can fold my bike up and get on the tube if necessary. So far I have only been ‘rained off’ once.
  6. Being able to get from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus in 15 minutes. It’s even quicker than the tube.


Lego gets into bed with Dr Who

300px-LEGO_logo.svgI have long been impressed at how Europe’s biggest toy company Lego (who’s name is derived from leg godt, Danish for “play well”), managed to pull themselves back from the brink of bankruptcy back in 2003.

One of the keys in returning to profitability was listening to what their customers wanted from the company, and so re-focusing on their core products. They also began to exploit the opportunities of licensing deals with famous brands. This explains why, when you enter a typical Lego store, your eyes are assaulted by models from Star Wars films, scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter characters, and good old-fashioned  superheroes such as Batman and Superman (in their various guises).

More recently Lego have cooperated with the internet phenomenon Minecraft to enable their customers to create ‘real-world’ creations. Surely this must be the ultimate expression of turning a virtual world competitor into a physical world partner.


Lego have continued to develop their approach of listening to their customers by introducing  a crowdsourcing community LEGO® Ideas. This an online place where Lego fans can submit their own ideas for new products, and vote for other members’ ideas. Those getting more than 10,000 votes have a chance of being selected to be made into real Lego products. To date, nine products have been released via the platform, with three more to launch in 2015.


One of those will be a “Doctor Who”-themed project. The Lego Review Board has chosen the “Doctor Who and Companions” project by Lego Ideas member AndrewClark2. Andy Clark is an artist at a gaming company by day, and a Lego builder by night.

Lego Doctor Who

Doctor Who began in 1963 on BBC Television, and it is the world’s longest running sci-fi drama. Since then the show has entertained generations of British children. But since its revival in 2005 this quintessentially British show has become something of a global phenomenon. So the new ‘Dr Who’ line will be sure to find a wide audience.


It’s Valentine’s so add romance to your life with a 2-stroke candle

flyingtigermoto-475x443I’ve just popped out to the shops to find a suitably romantic card in time for Valentine’s day tomorrow.

It is always a mistake to expect something in return, but it certainly would be a big surprise if I found one of these Two Stroke Smoke Candles waiting for me at home.

It must rank towards the top amongst the niche products I have come across over the years. And sadly, thanks to emission regulations, the smell of two-stroke engines is becoming a very rare thing (in the west anyway).

Of course I do have my own supply of the smell to hand in the form of my treasured Kawasaki KR-1S.  But I am ashamed to admit that it rarely makes it out of my garage to be fired up in all its smoky glory.

But now thanks to Flying Tiger Motorcycles I can relive the two-stroke smell from the comfort of my sitting room by  for only $20 US Dollars. Although to be brutally honest, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want have that particular smell following my around my home.

Two Stroke Smoke Candle

The one and only original! Super awesome custom blended 2 stroke smoke candle. It’s made with real live Klotz 2 stroke oil with high-octane fragrance.

We have reformulated the candle and are using metal cans with an awesome new label; however, the wood wick and 16 oz of wonderful soy wax stay the same.


50 Shades of Grey – the shopping experience

50ShadesofGreyCoverArtWalt Disney was possibly the first to introduce merchandising to the world of feature films in the early part of the 20th Century, and the company has certainly fully exploited the spin-off potential of their films up to the present day (Disneyland and World spring to mind).

But it was the original Star Wars films from the 1970’s that made cultural history. And in doing so also turned the director George Lucas into a billionaire. In fact he made more money from the sale of action figures, lightsabers, key chains, games, books, pajamas, etc. (thanks to 20th Century Fox giving him the rights) than from the films themselves.

So now we come up to date with the release of the long anticipated film adaptation of E.L. James best-selling erotic romance novel. Which I blogged about back in 2012- The law of unintended consequences and e-books – Fifty Shades of Grey.

Regardless of how well the film is received, it seems likely the spin-off products will sell strongly, however tacky they might be. And according to the Guardian newspaper, they are pretty tacky.

50 Shades of Earl Grey

A less tacky spin-off from the film

fifty shades of grey the official pleasure collectionAnd of course one should not be surprised to find sex toys high on the list of merchandising for the film. Even the Amazon website has a page created especially for these products, with several five star reviews already posted. There is even a Pinterest page for the Official Collection with a quote from the author: “This range is what I always imagined while I was writing Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m so excited that the toys I described in the books have come to life and can now be enjoyed around the world.” E L James

fifty shades of grey the official pleasure collection overview

A sample of the kind of products available



Launch 22 – a charity business incubator in Silicon Roundabout

Launch22 logoI first met David Hardman the General Manager & Co-Founder of Launch22 back in August 2014. I was immediately impressed by his enthusiasm, and the service offered to business start-ups in the heart of Silicon Roundabout in East London.

Many of our customers in the Business & IP Centre ask where they can find incubation space for their business. And although other incubators exist in London, I’m not aware of any that are run on a charitable basis and offer scholarships. Also, I like the way they offer a mentoring service and help finding finance in addition to the work space.


Launch22 is a charity business incubator dedicated to growing early-stage startups and connecting entrepreneurs with industry experts as well as like-minded businessmen. We work mostly with disadvantaged entrepreneurs for whom a social co-working space with constant access to professional advice, networking and industry-related events is vital.

Our space runs on a membership basis with scholarships available for entrepreneurs who have a great business idea, but are struggling to launch it.

Many incubators are exclusive and expensive. We are turning that on its head so that every new entrepreneur can access great workspace, regardless of their economic or social situation.

We know from experience that starting a business is not easy. Any start-up will face challenges and difficulties on the road to success. That’s why at Launch22, we are not just providing a great workspace, we’re creating a community, a place where people can offer advice and guidance to each other, where they can collaborate on new or existing ideas, and of course make new friends along the way.

Mentoring on three levels
Entrepreneurs-In-Residence have been carefully selected because they have themselves experienced the challenges young entrepreneurs face when building a new business, and are always on hand to provide assistance when problems arise.

Allocated mentors provide vital one to one feedback, and are here to go that extra mile when it comes to understanding every facet of your business, and what it needs to succeed.

Specialist mentors are experts in their field, all giving up part of their day jobs as successful lawyers, accountants, and many more to share their wealth of knowledge with our startups.

When your business needs a kick start we’ll be there to make sure your getting the right help, at the right time, from the right people

The future of money is here now and in my pocket

Last week I made my first ever cashless payment using my shiny new debit card. The transaction itself was something of an anti-climax, but those additional four little curved white lines on my card brought back memories of the future of money.


Many years ago I went for a job interview with a company called Mondex, who were developing a cashless payment system they called the ‘future of money’.

Mondex logo from 1993

Mondex logo from 1993

Mondex logo from 1997

Mondex logo from 1997

I didn’t get the job, but I have been watching out that future to arrive ever-since.

And now finally it is here, just 21 years after its initial announcement, and twenty years after a three-year trial began in the unlikely location of Swindon in Wiltshire.

As with so many new technologies, such as mobile phones,  the early hype did not match the reality. But gradually the impact became much bigger than predicted by the so-called futurologists. Now many of us are dependent on our phones, and I wonder how long it will take before cash begins to disappear from our pockets, and we become reliant on the little chips in our cards.

Below is one of the first newspaper reports on the Mondex card, and a reminiscence of the ill-fated Swindon trial from the Swindon Advertiser earlier this year:

`smart’card to wipe out cash – 8 December 1993 – The Evening Standard

THE National Westminster Bank, Midland Bank and BT today announced plans to introduce a new plastic `smart’ card which puts Britain ahead in the race to create a cashless society.

The Mondex card, which will be offered to more than 11 million customers of the two banks within two to three years could eliminate the use of money for many everyday transactions within a few years.

Instead of carrying hard cash, customers will be able to use the card to pay for anything from a newspaper to a drink. The cards are charged with cash electronically either down a domestic phone line, from a payphone, or through the bank’s existing hole-in-the wall cash machine network.

The cards will dramatically reduce the Pounds 4.5 billion of hard money in circulation in Britain. They will also have the capacity to carry five different currencies at once, making it possible for cardholders to move freely from country to country without going to a bank.

How smart was that? – 21 May 2014 – Swindon Advertiser
BARRY LEIGHTON revisits the electronic cash revolution of 1994…

TO borrow a line from an old HG Wells novel, it was the shape of things to come… a society where grubby notes and pockets full of change had become a spent force – something to reminisce about alongside the eight-track cartridge, loon pants and the Watneys’ Party Seven.

And in all the towns in all the world, Swindon was where it would all begin. The “electronic cash” revolution, that is. At least, that was the plan. Twenty years ago this spring financial institutions around the globe cast their collective eye upon our unlikely Wiltshire town.

Swindon in 1994 was chosen for a unique experiment that, it was envisaged, would bring to an end to more than 1,000 years of tradition – the way people bought and sold goods. A new company called Mondex had created a “smart card” that would see the pound in your pocket vanish. Carrying cash would become a thing of the past. You won’t need the stuff anymore. No more holding folding.

In the not-too-distant future, everything you bought – from a packet of chewing gum and a round of drinks to a bag of fish and chips – would be done with an electronic card. But before going global Mondex needed some guinea pigs to practice on. A community with which to experiment. They chose 170,000-population Swindon. Why? Because we were deemed ‘average’ – a typical British town, in terms of age and social make-up, whose spending habits could be scrutinised and analysed and regarded as “the norm.”

It took just over a year to install Mondex in Swindon – a project that saw hundreds of shops, restaurants and pubs gear up to receive payments for the “cash-on-a-card” system by training their staff to use new-fangled, hi-tech Mondex gadgets (see panel).

“Farewell to filthy lucre” said the Adver as one shopkeeper, eagerly embracing the concept of a cashless community, branded conventional notes “nasty, dirty and unhygienic.” Mondex predicted: “The people of Swindon will go down in history as pioneers.”

The focus of everyone’s attention, bizarrely, was one of our paper vendors, retired railway worker Don Stanley, 72, who made history by accepting the world’s first electronic cash transaction – 28p for a copy of the Advertiser.

As the months rolled on more and more Mondex machines and appliances sprang up like an alien invasion. They were everywhere: in telephone boxes, public car parks, shops, post offices, on the buses. Keen to make it easier for us give them our money, even bookie shops got in on the act.

Mondex tended to polarise opinion. PE Ault of Devon Road wrote to the Adver saying: “It is a very smart card indeed, I am delighted.” Pinehurst pensioner John Archer opined: “It’s a load of rubbish. The hassle of messing around with a card is a waste of time.”

In July 1998 Mondex said “Thanks a million Swindon” and were off. Trials were continuing elsewhere.

“Mondex devices evaporated from our streets, car parks, shops, buses and telephone boxes as if they had never been there..


The Humble Cycle Clip

When I first started this blog back in 2006, my intention was to review a selection of significant product innovations and the impact they have had on our lives.

My post on the Paper Clip remains one of the most popular, but over the years I have rather neglected this topic.

But thanks to my daily ride aboard my Brompton folding bicycle, I found myself in need of one of the most simple products of all time – the humble bicycle clip.

This time the objective is not to hold pieces of paper together, but to prevent trousers getting caught in grubby oily cycle chains, ruining the sartorial elegance of the trouser owner.

Now, some simple hearted folk might say that socks were perfectly capable of fulfilling this important role, in addition to keeping feet warm. But having tested this approach thoroughly, I’m convinced there is a better way.

My first choice was the traditional steel sprung cycle clip available from ‘all good bicycle shops’. And I was happy with this method for a few weeks. But gradually I became annoyed at the way they often slipped down during riding, or how they pinched my growing calf-muscles. They are also quite fiddly to store between journeys. The temptation is to hook them over the handlebars. But this inevitably results in them rotating around and dropping to the ground with a clang, followed by scrabbling in the road to pick them up.

Steel cylce clip

I turned to Google for a better solution, and found a coalescence of positive reviews around the leather trouser strap from Brooks England. This long established British firm are known for making the best leather replacement seats for bicycles. The product is almost as simple as its shiny rivals, and consists of a steel band, which in this case is covered in soft leather. The difference is the band rolls up into a neat little ball when not in use.

Brooks cycle clip

The cost compared to a steel clip was a challenge, but I decided the potential benefit was worth the investment. And I was proved right. As with all well designed products, daily use is either almost unnoticed or a small pleasure. The way my Brompton folds away is an example of the latter.

Not only does the band fulfil its primary purpose of holding my trouser leg firmly in place, despite the jarring of London’s badly potholed roads, it is simplicity itself to fit, and sits nice and securely on my handlebar when not in use. What more could one ask of a product?

12 amazing reasons why In through the Outfield is back and better than ever

Neil InfieldApologies for the rather hyperbolic headline above, but according to social media experts a catchy headline is the number one way of getting visitors to your blog. And as I have been rather neglecting In through the Outfield in recent months, I think it needs a bit of a boost.

In fact according to , Alasdair Inglis from Grow, Your online content must be more like terrible journalism.

Use clever, attention catching headlines

Headlines are probably the single most important aspect of your post. You could write mind-blowing, world changing content but if you don’t write good headlines, no one’s going to click through and read them. Therefore they need to be attractive and intriguing enough to make readers check out your blog.

Here are some great tips to help create better headlines:

  • Go with numbers or numbered lists. There’s a reason why your Facebook feed is choking on articles like “11 sexist cats that look like Ryan Gosling”. Learn from sites like Buzzfeed and maybe one day your content can annoy the whole of the internet, too.
  • Use compelling, emotive adjectives. Whilst this isn’t your high school creative writing class, using more engaging words like: “amazing”, “beautiful”, “inspiring” etc will make your article sound much more interesting.
  • Make your headlines are intriguing, but not too vague. Upworthy do a great job of this, giving you just enough information to whet your appetite, whilst not giving away the payload.
  • Use keyword research. Make sure you know what the most searched terms are for what you’re writing about and make sure that they’re in your headline. If your target audience is searching for “How to write better headlines”, make sure that your blog post headline will show up on their search.

Right – now that we have got that important information out of the way, I can explain why I am back in the blogging saddle after my unplanned sabbatical. I am now commuting to work at the British Library from Eastbourne, which has extended my daily journey to over two hours each way. However this gives me plenty of time for reading, snoozing or even blogging, as I cruise through the beautiful Sussex countryside alongside the South Downs at the mercy of the Southern railway service.

Sunset over Fulking Escarpment

Sunset over Fulking Escarpment in the South Downs National Park, England (© Matt Gibson/Loop Images)

The other factor enabling me to revive my blog is of course technology. I spent many weeks researching the best computer to support my newly extended commute. I looked at getting a bigger and smarter phone than my current almost perfect Motorola Razr I (small in size, long in battery life). The new breed of smart phones are amazing, but unless you have fingers much smaller and more nimble than my clunking great ones, typing anything more than a short note is too painful. And although the recent ones have pocket-stretching sized screens, they are still too small to work on a blog post or effectively surf the web. But the real killer blow, is when you actually use any of their amazing features for more than a few minutes, their battery life disappears to almost nothing.

Next came a choice of tablets, of Apple or Android flavours. They have long battery life, bigger screens and are nice a light and compact to carry around. However, they don’t have keyboards, and as a touch-typer since my teens I can’t stand typing on a screen. It’s a bit like having to ride a moped once you have experienced a proper motorbike – there is just no going back. Admittedly you can buy a keyboard attachments, but the keys are incredibly cramped and obviously an after-thought, rather than designed-in. Also I need to run Word and Powerpoint from time to time, which meant the Microsoft Surface came closest to my rather demanding requirements. However their poor battery life put paid to that.

That left laptops, or Ultrabooks, as the small, thin and powerful ones are now known. However, when not typing or editing presentations I liked the idea of some light entertainment to help pass the time on train. And I have watched fellow commuters struggling to get a good viewing position on their laptops to watch the latest instalment of Game of Thrones. More research led to the new breed of ‘hybrid’ machines, and the appropriately named Yoga series from Lenovo.

I finally settled on the Yoga Pro 2, with its 3,200×1,800-pixel touch screen, claimed nine hour battery life, backlit full size keyboard, and flexible screen.


I have already tested out what Lenovo call the Stand mode to view BBC shows downloaded from iPlayer. And it works really well, with the keyboard tucked behind out of the way. I’m not sure how often I would get to use the Tent mode, and I have to admit that it makes a pretty clunky tablet when folded flat. This isn’t helped by Windows 8, which still needs some work to compete with Android as a touch interface.

So there you have it, new technology combined with an something of an epically long commute (nothing compared to these hardy Scots) are the keys to getting this blog back on its feet again.

Bringing the Victorian teasmade up to date

Swan_teasmadeMy partner managed to snap up a bargain ultra-modern teasmade at the weekend, and we have already had a first successful early morning brew-up.

The idea of waking up to a freshly made cup of tea in bed is of course not a new desire. And for Victorians who could not afford servants to get up early and light a fire, there was the (expensive) option of the clockwork teasmade and alarm clock.

Victorian Teasmade

Copyright Maurice Collins

Some of you might remember this invention had pride of place in our Weird and Wonderful exhibition way back in 2008. Maurice Collins, the collector of these amazing inventions is still going strong and has been featured on several television and radio shows.

In the clip below he demonstrates the somewhat dangerous aspects of the teasmade involving clockwork driven matches and paraffin.

I am sure he would want me to point out that all proceeds from his collection are directly donated to the learning disability charity Kith and Kids.