Category Archives: gadgets

Walking back to health one step at a time with my EvenUp

Evenup LogoRuptured Achilles tendon is a phrase redolent with pain and anguish. In my case it occurred at the end of my regular Sunday evening friendly football match.

As I stepped forward to engage with an opponent, I heard an ominous tearing sound, much like when ripping up old tshirts for rags. I looked round to see where the sound was coming from, and discovered there was no one there. At the same moment my brain registered pain in my lower leg and I hit the deck. After struggling to my feet  and limping towards the touch line, my fellow team mates asked if I could cover the goal until the end of the match. I ruefully shook my head and slumped down at the side of the pitch.

hospital bootNearly a week later (thanks my local hospital losing my phone number) I was looking at an ultrasound scan of my leg. When I pointed my foot down, all looked well. But when I lifted it up, a gap was clearly visible. Fortunately the rupture was at the point where the tendon joins onto the leg muscle. So an operation was not deemed necessary. Just eight weeks of my leg being strapped into an orthopedic walking boot, night and day.

This was not good timing as we had a camping and walking holiday to the Scottish island of Mull planned for the following week. I soon discovered that I could not drive my car. My left foot was hitting the brake and the clutch at the same time with this clunking great boot on. I also found walking with my hospital loaned crutch difficult. The main problem was caused by the two inch difference in height between my two legs.

After some internet research I found out that although the ‘boot’ would fix my tendon, it could also result in long term problems with knees, hips and backs caused by limping. Further exploring uncovered a solution in the form of the EvenUp shoe lift. I immediately ordered one to arrive in time for my holiday.

evenup-shoe-balancer_2

As you can see above, the EvenUp is not a thing of great beauty, but it has transformed my ability to get around during the long recovery period.

I would definitely recommend it for anyone unlucky enough to be forced to wear hospital boot for any length of time.

Saving the planet one coffee at a time with my Keep Cup

Keep Cup logoSeven years ago I bought my first re-usable coffee cup for work. I was full of optimism and enthusiasm at the time Looking forward to a greener New Year with my Keep Cup December 2010. But sadly the reality did not live up to the expectation.

The main problem was the plastic which became increasingly tainted by coffee. I cleaned it rigorously and regularly, but to no avail. So after a few months I returned to using wasteful paper cups.

I diligently put the empty cups into our office recycling bin. But was shocked to discover that hardly any of them were actually being recycled. In fact out of the astonishing 2.5 billion paper coffee cups thrown away every year in the UK, a tiny proportion – just one in 400 cups is recycled. Apparently it is too difficult to separate the plastic coating from the rest of the cup.

Recently an Origin Coffee branch opened in the entrance hall of The British Library. In addition to their wonderful coffee and friendly staff, I noticed they also sell Keep Cups. But as well as the plastic version,  they also had the rather attractive glass and cork model below. After a few weeks of seeing it while  on the shelf my resistance crumbled and I handed over the £15 required to purchase.

Origin Coffee British Library

Origin Coffee British Library

I was glad to hear that many organisations are now working hard to find a solution to this wasteful situation. The race for coffee cup recycling solutions. But until they become widely available, a reusable cup remains the best approach.

I’m now a month into my Keep Cup, and it is remains crystal clear with no tainted coffee taste. So now I can enjoy my daily coffee, and feel good about it too.

KeepCup_Espresso_Small

The shoelace knot that never comes undone

Today there was an item on the BBC news about a scientific breakthrough in understanding why shoelaces come undone – Mystery of why shoelaces come undone unravelled by science.

FinishedSecureKnotHa! I thought. My shoelaces never come undone, thanks to a discovery I made about 15 years ago. The knot is called Ian’s Secure Shoelace Knot after the inventor Ian Fieggen, now known as Professor Shoelace.

As you will discover from his website, Ian is obsessed with shoelace knots. But it is the Secure Shoelace Knot (also known as the Seaman’s Shoelace Knot) that stands out for me, as it simply never come undone. It also prevents wear on the laces giving much longer life. So it saves annoying undone laces and having to buy regular replacements.

I strongly suggest you try this wonderful life-hack, and let me know how you get on. Here is a video with Professor Ian demonstrating how to tie it.

My new Blazing Saddle ignited by my Burner light

Blaze logoI have been watching the Crowdfunding scene for quite a few years now. It has now grown into a important source of money for many start-ups. It is also a great way to test the market for new ideas. Following the Lean start-up approach we advocate in the Business & IP Centre.

I’ve seen lots of new exciting new products over the years, and I’ve been tempted in invest in quite a few. But it wasn’t until I saw the impressive Kickstarter campaign for the Blaze Burner rear bicycle light that I committed. The aim was to create the ultimate back light for cyclists. With 100 lumens of brightness to help make the rider visible to even the most distracted of London drivers.

blaze-bus-02-sAlso, it came from the Blaze company founded by Emily Brooke and Philip Ellisby. They had previously used crowdfunding to launch their revolutionary front safety light for cycles. The original Blaze light combines a very bright white light with a green laser, which projects a symbol of a bike onto the road several meters ahead. The idea is to make bikes more visible to cars and particularly large vehicles turning left at junctions. A high proportion of cycle accidents are caused by drivers being unaware of a rider coming-up on the inside.

The Blaze has been a spectacular success, and is about to be installed across the London Cycle Hire network – officially called Santander Cycles, but more popularly known as Boris Bikes, (despite being introduced by Ken Livingston the previous Mayor of London).

So when I saw the very professionally produced video announcing the Kickstarter campaign for the Burner, I signed up the next day. By then it was already fully funded (in just one day). And went on to raise £153,636 from 2,208 backers, instead of the initial goal of £35,000.

blaze-burner-rear-light-1Since the campaign closed, the team have been on something of a roller-coaster ride. With quite a few technical and supplier problems along the way. This meant the original production date of April slipped by several months. The team kept the backers updated with the issues and delays. So it was with great delight that I finally got to open the package above this week. Just in time for use during the dark evening rides home.

Hopefully you can see from my photos, the light is a very high quality product. Which is one of the reasons the company delayed distribution. It is innovative, in that it shows you the level of battery charge each time you turn it on. It also has a setting to turn the light on automatically when the ambient light level is low, such as in a tunnel or tree-lined route.

blaze-burner-rear-light-4It is early days in terms of usage, but so far I am very happy with the light and the quality of its components, such as the flexible mounting bracket and powerful magnetic attachment.

For me the brightest setting is actually too bright, so I am using it on the normal steady mode, which is claimed lasts 60 hours per charge via the handy USB cable.

So I am feeling triply happy with myself. I own an innovative high quality product. I got a discount for being an early backer. And I am supporting a fledgling UK company, making a great UK designed and assembled product.

Update

I’m still happy with my Burner light, but perhaps if I’d had a bit more nerve I might have gone for Bike Balls instead.

bike-balls

I think they describe the product far better than I could:

In a world filled with disgruntled drivers who hate sharing the road, you need some pretty serious balls to ride a bicycle these days. The morning commute is crying out for a little humour to diffuse the tension, and as a cyclist you need to be noticed! It’s in this spirit that Bike Balls were created.

Bike Balls are a raunchy rear bike light designed to be mounted beneath your bicycle saddle – they dangle off the seat rail and playfully bob-around as you ride. The simple mounting system is secure enough to stay on during bumpy rides whilst remaining easy to attach and take off.

Made from waterproof silicone, this durable scrotum houses a powerful red LED to alert drivers to your presence. Just give them a gentle squeeze to turn them on (just like the real thing) and to switch between the various light modes. They’re as functional as they are hilarious.

Grab yourself a pair today.

More info
Product Features:
The World’s most over confident bike light
Turn them off and on (and switch modes) with a gentle a squeeze
High-grade silicone body with integrated strap and switch
Water/splash resistant construction, built to last
Super efficient red LED
Three light modes – solid light / slow flashing / fast flashing
Powered by 2xCR2032 replaceable batteries
Battery lasts for ~100 hours (solid light mode) or ~190 hours (flashing mode)
Includes 2 zip-ties for semi-permanent installation
Funded within 3 days on Kickstarter

 

 

 

trollybags

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.

trollybags

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.

Brompton_Fold

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.
    London_Evening_Standard_23_6_2015
  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.

LegoMinecraft

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.

1781839-doctor-who-watermark

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.

Two-Stroke-Candle_1024x1024

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-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.

Workspace
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.

Finance
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