Category Archives: Creative ideas

What To Do With Dead Malls?

Posted on by .

Just when you think you have a handle on the brick-and-mortar retail crisis, the prognosis gets worse. More than 8,600 stores will close their doors in 2017, according to Credit Suisse analysts—a number that exceeds store closures during 2008, when America was in recession. One quarter of all shopping malls are expected to shutter in the next five years, according to the same report.

This downward spiral has severe economic implications, although some are less apocalyptic than they seem at first. In fact, there’s some evidence that automation and e-commerce actually create more—and better-paying—jobs than they destroy.

But there’s one issue that no one has figured out how to solve: what to do with all those vacant stores. And America has more of them than anyone. Retail square feet per capita in the U.S. is more than six times that of Europe or Japan. As our physical stores continue to lose market share to e-commerce, more than one billion square feet of commercial real estate could be gathering dust by 2022. Because blight begets blight, that number could climb even higher.

If these predictions hold, America’s retail landscape could look a lot like the residential landscape of Detroit.

To find a solution, retailers need to face the failings that landed them here. Blaming Jeff Bezos doesn’t change the fact that many companies have spent years with their heads in the sand. Sales have been migrating online for almost two decades, and millennials prefer to splurge on experiences—tasting menus, concert tickets, trips to Iceland—rather than flat-screen TVs. Faced with a crisis, traditional retailers responded by iterating an outdated model. Chains like Sears and Kmart used loyalty programs as Band-Aid solutions. Guess and Payless played a discount game but couldn’t keep up with their online competition.

The industry as a whole needs to accept that the in-store sales of the past aren’t coming back. Consumers no longer spend their Saturday afternoons going shopping, and no promotions or window displays are going to change that. Consumers are looking for places to be—not things to buy—when they leave the house. What’s needed is a radical new approach to sales—one that may not include selling goods in store at all. Smart retailers arerepurposing physical stores to do what e-commerce can’t: offer a memorable, meaningful and multisensory experience. A reimagining of what retail can be is already under way. Only one thing is certain: That old retail mantra—“stack ’em high and let ’em fly”—now applies only to online order-fulfillment centers.

Three Disruptive Approaches to Physical Retail
Nothing to buy but plenty to see: Samsung 837.
Nothing to buy but plenty to see: Samsung 837. PHOTO: SAMSUNG
The Nothing-to-Buy-Here Approach

Samsung 837

New York City

You’ll find plenty of Samsung products at the company’s 55,000-square-foot space in New York City’s Meatpacking District. But the phones, tablets and TVs on display aren’t for sale. Instead of a store, 837 is a “full brand immersion” designed to push customer engagement rather than on-site purchases. In this paradigm, the store becomes a kind of 3-D billboard. “It’s about creating an authentic connection and moments where our technology meaningfully enhances the experience,” says Zach Overton, vice president of customer experience at Samsung and general manager of Samsung 837. In addition to product samples, you’ll find displays that flex the tech giant’s prowess, like an immersive image tunnel that pulls content from your Instagram account as you pass through.

The only thing available for purchase is food curated by Smorgasburg, Brooklyn’s locavore open-air market. For non-Samsung users—who represent the majority of visitors to 837—the message is simple: We’re cooler than Apple.

‘Palm Beach Parade,’ a mural by renowned artist Michael Craig-Martin, will transform the facade of an abandoned Macy’s at CityPlace.
‘Palm Beach Parade,’ a mural by renowned artist Michael Craig-Martin, will transform the facade of an abandoned Macy’s at CityPlace. ILLUSTRATION: RELATED COMPANIES
Culture is the New Anchor Tenant

CityPlace

West Palm Beach, Fla.

There was a time when anchor stores—Sears, Nordstrom, Toys “R” Us—were the beating hearts and financial engines of large shopping malls. But as the big chains have foundered, their sprawling, underperforming outposts havebecome anchors in a more literal sense. At the axis of a once-thriving shopping center in West Palm Beach sits a 110,000-square-foot former Macy’s location, abandoned by the struggling retailer earlier this year. An immersive arts experience is taking over the space in December. World-renowned visual artist Michael Craig Martin will transform the exterior of the entire building with his largest mural to date, and famed sound designer Stephen Vitiello is creating a sound installation that will live in and around the detritus left behind by brands that once called the space home. This experiment by the landlord, real-estate giant Related Cos., aims to transform the struggling shopping center by putting culture front and center—and relegating retail to a supporting act. “It’s all about driving different kinds of traffic to a project,” says Ken Himmel, the president and CEO of Related Urban. “Mixed-use retail developments centered on cultural offerings are outperforming every other type of retail offering by a long shot.”

Drinking before shopping at the Restoration Hardware Lifestyle Store in Chicago.
Drinking before shopping at the Restoration Hardware Lifestyle Store in Chicago. PHOTO: RESTORATION HARDWARE
Everything Under One Roof

Restoration Hardware Lifestyle Store

West Palm Beach, Fla. (coming in Nov.), Denver, Chicago and more

While most retailers are shrinking their physical footprints, Gary Friedman, the chairman and CEO of Restoration Hardware, is thinking big. In 2015, the brand took over the 70,000-square-foot Three Arts Club in Chicago—10 times the size of a normal Restoration Hardware. The space allows for expanded showrooms but also an expansive vision of the brand, including design ateliers, a wine-tasting room and a music venue. “The key to unlocking the value of our assortment has been to transform our retail stores into huge design galleries,” Friedman says.

“Our new galleries generate two to three times higher retail sales than the legacy galleries they replaced.” In November, Restoration Hardware will open a 74,000-square-foot gallery in West Palm Beach, which is turning into a hotbed of experimental retail. An RH-branded hotel concept is also in the works.

How 3-D Printing Is Changing Health Care

Posted on by .

Recent advances have made the technology more useful for planning surgery and creating drugs

The Mayo Clinic printed a model of a patient’s pelvis to plan surgery to remove a rare tumor that had spread to the base of the spine.
The Mayo Clinic printed a model of a patient’s pelvis to plan surgery to remove a rare tumor that had spread to the base of the spine. PHOTO: MAYO CLINIC

A year ago, an 11-year-old girl named London Secor had surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove a rare tumor located in her pelvis. In the past, surgeons would have considered amputating one of Ms. Secor’s legs, given that the tumor had spread to the bone and nerves of her sacrum and was encroaching on her hip socket.

That didn’t happen this time, however, due largely to advances in 3-D printing.

Before the surgery, Mayo printed a 3-D model of the girl’s pelvis, scaled to size and showing her bladder, veins, blood vessels, ureters and the tumor. Members of the medical team were able to hold the model in their hands, examine it and plot a surgical approach that would allow them to remove the entire tumor without taking her leg.

“There is nothing like holding a 3-D model to understand a complicated anatomical procedure,” says Peter Rose, the surgeon who performed the operation on Ms. Secor, an avid swimmer and basketball player from Charlotte, N.C. “The model helped us understand the anatomy that was altered by the tumor and helped us orient ourselves for our cuts around it.”

The pelvis model was one of about 500 3-D-printed objects created at the Mayo Clinic last year. It’s part of a web of organizations racing to find ways to use 3-D printing to improve health care.

Some research institutions, including the Mayo Clinic, have set up on-site printing labs in partnership with such makers of 3-D printers as Stratasys , 3D Systems and Formlabs. General Electric Co. and Johnson & Johnson are diving in, too, with GE focused on 3-D printers and translating images from various sources into 3-D objects, and J&J focused on developing a range of materials that can be used as “ink” to print customized objects.

Using data from MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds, as well as three-dimensional pictures, 3-D printers create objects, layer by layer, using materials ranging from plastics to metal to human tissue. Beyond organ models, the printers are being used in health care to create dental and medical implants, hearing aids, prosthetics, drugs and even human skin.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2019, 10% of people in the developed world will be living with 3-D-printed items on or in their bodies, and 3-D printing will be a central tool in more than one-third of surgical procedures involving prosthetics and implanted devices. According to research firm IndustryARC, the overall market for medical 3-D printing is expected to grow to $1.21 billion by 2020 from about $660 million in 2016.

Though the industry is young, Anurag Gupta, a Gartner vice president of research, says 3-D printing in health care “could have the transformative impact of the internet or cloud computing a few years ago.”

The technology of 3-D printing has been around since the 1980s, but recent advances in software and hardware have made it faster, more cost-efficient and of higher quality. Five years ago, the 3-D printers made by Stratasys could print in one or two materials and one or two colors. Now they can print six materials simultaneously and create more than 360,000 combinations of textures and colors to better mimic materials ranging from soft tissue to bone, paving the way for wider adoption.

The rise of customized medicine, in which care and medicine is tailored to individual patients, also has helped fuel growth of 3-D printing in health care, as more patients and doctors seek out customized medical devices, surgical tools and drugs.

One of the areas in which the technology may hold particular promise, experts say, is in the manufacturing of drugs in the dose and shape best suited to certain groups of patients. Aprecia Pharmaceuticals recently launched a 3-D printed epilepsy drug called Spritam, a high-dosage pill that dissolves quickly with a small amount of water and in a shape that is easy to swallow.

Printing whole organs, such as livers and kidneys, remains the Holy Grail, but that is more than a decade away, says Gartner’s Mr. Gupta. Printing smaller pieces of human material, however, has already begun.

Researchers at the University Carlos III of Madrid, along with the Spanish biotech company BioDan, have printed human skin to eventually help burn victims and others suffering from skin injuries and diseases. The process involves a 3-D printer that deposits bioinks containing cells from an individual as well as other biological molecules to create a patch of skin. Like the real thing, this printed skin consists of an external layer, the epidermis, and the thicker, deeper layer, the dermis.

Organovo Holdings Inc. of San Diego prints pieces of liver and kidney tissue to test new therapies and the toxicology of early-stage drugs. Johnson & Johnson is working with Aspect Biosystems Ltd. to develop bioprinted knee meniscus tissue. And 3D Systems is developing 3-D-printed lung tissue with United Therapeutics Corp.

While entry-level 3-D printers used by hobbyists can cost a few hundred dollars, industrial 3-D printers used by hospitals can range from $10,000 to $400,000 for those that print plastics and polymers.

Another hurdle for hospitals is the “hidden cost” of operating 3-D printers, says Jimmie Beacham who leads GE Healthcare’s 3-D printing strategy. Engineers are required to transform dense digital images from MRI, CT and ultrasound scans into information that can be printed into a 3-D model. What’s more, printing a 3-D object doesn’t yet happen with the click of a button. It took 60 hours for Mayo Clinic to print Ms. Secor’s pelvis and tumor, for example.

Still, 3-D printing can lead to cost savings in other areas, say experts such as Jonathan Morris, a Mayo radiologist. Allowing surgeons to practice on 3-D models of a specific patient’s organs before surgery can significantly reduce time in the operating room. Printing implants and prosthetics on demand and on location means fewer middlemen in the supply chain and less waste. And given the better fit of customized implants from 3-D printers, patients may not have to replace them as often.

The Mayo Clinic and a half dozen other cutting-edge research hospitals have blazed the path in terms of creating 3-D printing labs on site. Now some larger city network hospitals are beginning to purchase their own 3-D printers, while smaller hospitals and doctors can order 3-D models for complicated surgeries on a case-by-case basis from 3-D printing companies.

Coke learns big lessons from small startups

Posted on by .

FoodBusinessNews

by Monica Watrous

Coca-Cola’s V.E.B. unit has invested in and partnered with such brands as Honest Tea, fairlife ultra-filtered milk and Suja Juice.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Nearly a decade ago, the Coca-Cola Co. found itself at a crossroads. The Atlanta-based beverage company, along with the rest of the carbonated soft drink category, had come under fire for the negative health consequences of sugar consumption. That is when the company launched its Venturing and Emerging Brands (V.E.B.) unit to identify and partner with disruptive startups in the beverage category.

“When we started V.E.B. in 2007, we certainly were challenged on innovation and finding new growth in areas that were unfamiliar to us,” said  Matthew Mitchell, vice-president of portfolio strategy and ventures for V.E.B., during a March 11 panel discussion at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. “We talk about acquisitions and deals, but for us this was about behaving in a relationship. We knew that this was important for us to go out and not only buy brands but to invest in people because they were helping us change that dialogue.”

Coca-Cola has since invested in and partnered with such brands as Honest Tea, Suja Juice, Zico coconut water and fairlife ultra-filtered milk. Mr. Mitchell said the missions and values of the brands have influenced Coca-Cola’s business model.

Coca-Cola acquired Honest Tea in 2011 after an initial 40% investment in 2008.

Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea, said: “When we did the deal, Muhtar Kent, the c.e.o. of Coke, said, ‘At the end of the deal, if Honest Tea becomes more like Coca-Cola and we don’t become more like Honest Tea, then we failed.’”

Coca-Cola acquired Honest Tea in 2011 after an initial 40% investment in 2008. Mr. Goldman said the partnership has opened new doors for his organic beverage brand, including recent distribution in Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A restaurants.

“There isn’t anything we have done with the brand that we wouldn’t have done independently, and quite frankly wouldn’t be able to do without Coke, whether it’s getting into Wendy’s or Chick-fil-A with fair trade organic product… or upgrading to fair trade sugar in our (plastic-bottle teas),” Mr. Goldman said. “That decision came out of Atlanta, and for me, that means our DNA has penetrated.”

For Jeff Church, co-founder and chief executive officer of Suja Juice, which last year received a minority investment from Coca-Cola, the partnership is a step towards making his company’s organic cold-pressed juice beverages more affordable and accessible to mainstream consumers.

Suja Juice, Coca-Cola
Suja Juice received a minority investment from Coca-Cola last year.

“For us, when we felt we had proof of concept for conventional channels, we really wanted to go, and in order to do that, we had to make sure our cost structure was right, and we had to make sure we had proper funding to do that because we’re not going to win the day with an $8 bottle of juice,” Mr. Church said. “It’s got to be a product where the quality and integrity is there, but the price delta between our products and traditional products is not that high, and the way to do that is to partner with someone who can help us with that.”

Suja Juice leverages Coca-Cola’s scale, distribution and access to cost structure while retaining its entrepreneurial spirit and speed to market, Mr. Church said. Honest Tea also has maintained control over all major decisions, Mr. Goldman said.

“(We had) a three-year runway to demonstrate that we could scale the business the right way and do it with integrity,” he said. “By the time we got to the three-year point where Coke had the option to buy the rest of the company, they said this is working and bought the company.”

V.E.B. also invested in Zico coconut water.

Coca-Cola’s primary objective through V.E.B. is to seek and develop the next billion-dollar brand. The business unit tracks startups through four phases of growth: experimentation, proof of concept, pain of growth, and scale to win.  V.E.B. also analyzes consumer trends to predict how the beverage marketplace will evolve over the next five to 10 years.

“For me, the exciting part is not only have we shifted the way we’re looking at the brands, but we’re looking at how we operate,” Mr. Mitchell said. “Much more at the street level … (We have become) cognizant of segmentation and cognizant that what people buy in the store on one street may be very different than what we’re buying five blocks away. How we market that, how we divide our products in each one of those stores is very important.

“That’s not easy for us. That’s a long road for us, quite frankly.”

Ways Predictive Analytics Improves Innovation

Posted on by .

InformationWeek

3/12/2016

From drug discovery to price optimization, across virtually every industry, more companies are using predictive analytics to increase revenue, reduce costs, and modernize the way they do business. Here are some examples.

Disrupt An Industry Drug discovery has been done the same way for decades, if not centuries. Researchers have a hypothesis-driven target, screen that target against chemical compounds, and then iteratively take them through clinical trials. As history has shown, a lot of trial and error is involved, perhaps more than is necessary, particularly in this day and age. According to industry association PhRMA, it takes an average of more than 10 years and $2.6 billion to develop a drug. Pharmaceutical company BERG Health aims to change that. It is using predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to discover and develop lifesaving treatments. 'There's no way a human can process the amount of data necessary to dissect the complexity of biology and disease into form-based discovery,' said Niven Narain, founder and CEO of BERG. 'We use human tissue samples to learn about as many biological components as we can and we include that patient's clinical and demographic data.' Its platform builds a model of healthy individuals and then compares that to individuals with a disease. The AI then builds a model of the genes and proteins that pinpoints the core differences between health and disease. The model helps BERG target its drug discovery process. The company also uses the same process to identify which patients are the best candidates for a certain drug. Using a single tissue sample, its platform can create more than 14 trillion data points that collectively become a 'patient signature.' The patient signature indicates whether or not the individual will likely respond well to a treatment that, for example, is far more precise than first-line pancreatic cancer treatment. First-line pancreatic treatments fail 90% of the time, Narain said. (Image: bykst via Pixabay)

Disrupt An Industry

Drug discovery has been done the same way for decades, if not centuries. Researchers have a hypothesis-driven target, screen that target against chemical compounds, and then iteratively take them through clinical trials. As history has shown, a lot of trial and error is involved, perhaps more than is necessary, particularly in this day and age. According to industry association PhRMA, it takes an average of more than 10 years and $2.6 billion to develop a drug. Pharmaceutical company BERG Health aims to change that. It is using predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to discover and develop lifesaving treatments.

“There’s no way a human can process the amount of data necessary to dissect the complexity of biology and disease into form-based discovery,” said Niven Narain, founder and CEO of BERG. “We use human tissue samples to learn about as many biological components as we can and we include that patient’s clinical and demographic data.”

Its platform builds a model of healthy individuals and then compares that to individuals with a disease. The AI then builds a model of the genes and proteins that pinpoints the core differences between health and disease. The model helps BERG target its drug discovery process. The company also uses the same process to identify which patients are the best candidates for a certain drug.

Using a single tissue sample, its platform can create more than 14 trillion data points that collectively become a “patient signature.” The patient signature indicates whether or not the individual will likely respond well to a treatment that, for example, is far more precise than first-line pancreatic cancer treatment. First-line pancreatic treatments fail 90% of the time, Narain said.

(Image: bykst via Pixabay)

Meet Customer Demand

Handmade photo product company PhotoBarn has increased its throughput 500% by creating warehouse software and lean manufacturing processes that are built around predictive analytics. Before its transformation in 2015, the company struggled to balance supply and demand.

About halfway through 2015, the company started using predictive analytics to forecast sales, inventory, and raw materials to anticipate what it would need before and during the holiday season. That and its new lean manufacturing process enabled the company to move five times more product using the same number of people.

“The spikes and volumes in the holiday period are hard to handle. In 2015, we reimagined our supply chain from suppliers to customers,” said PhotoBarn’s business analytics and marketing chief Ryan McClurkin. “We were able to handle the order volumes without hiccups [because] we’re anticipating versus reacting, and it pays huge dividends.”

Right-Size Resources

Predictive analytics has helped Alabama’s Birmingham Zoo more accurately forecast attendance. As a result of that, the company can make more informed staffing and marketing decisions.

“The number of people who attend the zoo affects staffing, marketing and events planning. You could look at historical averages, but we pulled historical data and correlated that with weather data, school calendars, national holidays, [and other] variables to predict how many people would show on a given day,” said Joshua Jones, managing partner at data analytics and data science consulting firm StrategyWise.

The information is displayed on a digital dashboard that provides a much more accurate forecast. Instead of guessing that 10,000 people will come to the park based on historical information alone, Birmingham Zoo can now see it is likely that 7,131 visitors (or whatever the number happens to be) will attend on a particular day.

Create The Perfect Game

Success in the lottery industry is all about finding the right payout levels. Two of the most important factors are the sizes of the prizes and the frequency of payouts, which is why prize values and odds vary significantly in a single game. However, some games are more popular than others.

“Lotteries want to maximize their revenues so they can [contribute to] education and whatever social programs the state wants to support,” said Mather Economics director Arvid Tchivzhel. “We’ve measured responses in tickets purchased due to changes in the payout structure. You can almost build the perfect game based on where you set the payout levels and the frequency.”

Sell More Effectively

Jewelry TV (JTV), like many luxury goods retailers, was hit hard by the recession. The company tried a number of tactics to improve sales that didn’t work as well as hoped, so it eventually embraced predictive analytics.

“A regression model helps you understand what’s impacting your revenue. When you start building a predictive analytics model, it can tell you why what you’ve been doing isn’t working — customers don’t care,” said Ryan McClurkin, former director of strategic analytics at Jewelry TV and currently chief of business analytics and marketing at PhotoBarn. “Predictive analytics can tell you your customers care about this [instead].” That’s the power of predictive analytics. It allows you to see the variables you can innovate around.

The top 10 branded processed food companies have lost 4% of market share in past 5 years.

Posted on by .

Food Industry & Consumer Trends

By Elaine Watson

Jan 27, 2016

B41B8B41-60D2-4581-AECE-B9B93BA9F76F-1

Picture: ©Istockphoto, anyakerbut

The top 10 branded processed food companies in the US have lost 4% of their market share in the past five years as smaller, more innovative brands have seized the initiative, says Rabobank.

 “Small and emerging brands are stealing market share because they are winning at innovation, have appealing brands, are social media savvy, and have a better awareness and ability to take advantage of market opportunities,” argues executive director, food & consumer trends, Nick Fereday in a note exploring the challenges facing ‘big food’ in 2016.

Big food manufacturers are also sitting on outdated assets optimized to produce a small number of products at huge volumes, at a time when consumers are shunning ‘mass produced’ goods in favor of personalized, artisanal and local products, he points out.

“Some companies have already begun to shed assets, including Kraft Heinz, General Mills, Mondelez and Kellogg…. Yet probably more could be done as they reassess the risks of owning the means of production in a market where consumers are becoming increasingly needy and fickle…

“The idea that one size no longer fits all is a fundamental challenge to their business model and is being felt across the food chain… Flexibility is the future.”

Cleaning up labels, acquiring sexier brands

So what’s to be done?

When it comes to ingredients, big food companies have already made significant steps to ditch artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, embrace cage-free eggs and even label GMOs in 2016, says Fereday.

We can expect more fast-growing, entrepreneurial brands such as EPIC to get snapped up by strategic investors in 2016, says Rabobank

The problem is that consumers, particularly Millennials, don’t always give big corporations credit for such moves, so it’s not always clear what the ROI is, he observes.

“Our big fail for food companies around this strategy lies with their marketing, and how they have struggled to find their voice and target audience in the age of multimedia.”

As smaller, more entrepreneurial and mission-driven brands are seen to be more ‘authentic’ by many consumers, they will also be snapped up at an earlier stage by large CPG companies in 2016, he predicts.

“Some of these smaller companies become attractive targets surprisingly quickly.”

IRI: Categories offering quick, healthier solutions for on-the-go consumers are driving growth

His comments came as Chicago-based market researcher IRI published its latest ‘Times and Trends ‘ report observing that the US consumer packaged goods (CPG) market is characterized by declining volumes (-1.7% in 2015), and very modest dollar growth (+0.6% in 2015) that is driven largely by inflation.

However, some food and beverage categories are growing, says IRI, notably in “categories that provide quick and healthier solutions for on the go consumers”.

The top performers in terms of unit sales growth in the year to Nov 1, 2015, were refrigerated lunches (+14.2%), refrigerated tea/coffee (+10.5%), ready-to-drink tea/coffee (+10.3%), spirits/liquor (+8.3%), energy drinks (+8.1%), refrigerated salads/coleslaw (+7.8%), bottled water (+7.1%), sports drinks (+7%), other sauces (+6.8%), and bakery/snacks (+6.1%).

DCB48713-4611-4C81-AA53-86FE3ABAC5B8 (1) 2

Which food and beverage categories are growing? Source: IRI Times and Trends report, Jan 2016

Healthy eating and easy-preparation trends are helping to support growth across a number of categories

It adds: “Within edibles, refrigerated lunches posted the strongest unit sales growth for the year, up 14.2%, versus overall refrigerated department sales increases of 1.1%.

“Unit sales growth came despite significant price increases, which were spurred by inflationary prices …and only minimal increases in merchandising activity.

Unit sales of bottled water surged 7.1% in US retail outlets in the 52 weeks to November 1, 2015, says IRI

“The bottled water category saw volume sales increase 7.8% during the past year, amid relatively flat (+0.5%) prices and the proliferation of enhanced bottled waters. Healthy eating and easy-preparation trends are helping to support growth across a number of categories, including refrigerated salad/coleslaw, which saw unit sales increase 7.8% for the year.”

Performance was weakest in the frozen foods sector, where unit sales declined 1.5%, and strongest in beverages, where unit sales increased 2.9%, adds the report: “Frozen dinners/entrees and frozen pizza saw sharp unit sales declines during the past year (4.6% and 3.6%, respectively).”

‘Explosive’ online sales growth

While online sales of consumer packaged goods account for less than 2% of overall industry sales, growth has been “explosive”, notes IRI.

“In fact, average annual growth of online CPG spending has topped 15% since 2010. Between 2013 and the end of 2018, the Internet will account for about 50% of industry growth, or $28bn.”

AN EXOSKELETON THAT ACTS LIKE A WEARABLE CHAIR

Posted on by .

LIZ STINSON in WIRED
03.24.15

Innovationsforum 2015The Chairless Chair is an exoskeleton that allows workers to sit without straining their muscles.

 

STANDING IS GREAT for your health—Burn calories! Live longer! Tone those calves!—but only if you’re not forced to do it for hours on end. As with sitting on your bum, everything is best in moderation.

The thing is, if you work in a factory, you don’t get to choose when you sit and when you stand. You’re mostly standing. Employees in Audi’s manufacturing plants, for example, stand for nearly eight hours a day. And much of the time they’re stooped over in uncomfortable positions, fine-tuning some detail on an engine or console cluster.

It’s ergonomic nightmare, one Audi is trying to correct with a unique piece of technology: the Chairless Chair. Created by Swiss startup Noonee, it’s a hydraulic powered chair that lends lower-body support to people who have to stand all day long. You can think of it as a really bad-ass wearable or an especially lame exoskeleton.

The design is straightforward: A titanium frame hugs the back of the worker’s leg like a flexible brace, while a support belt is strapped around their torso. Workers can stand and walk like normal, but when they want to sit, pushing a button locks the frame into place at the desired angle. The weight the body is transfered through the frame to the floor or the heels. “You get the sensation of sitting on a barstool,” says Keith Gunura, a Noonee co-founder.
Why not simply sit on a chair? Companies like Audi have optimized factory floorplans designed to maximize efficiency, with little room, literally or figuratively, for chairs. The Chairless Chair effectively lets employees carry a seat with them at all times.

The approach posed some ergonomic challenges. Noonee designers say the biggest problem was ensuring workers can move freely. After a close study of how the leg moves when walking, they decided against creating a single rotation point at the knee in favor of a frame that moves more freely, accommodating many different gaits. (Noonee was vague on the details because it has a patent pending.)

Audi envisions the device being a task-specific tool that will help workers at the engine, door and center console assembly stations. The company says the chair will let employees take “micro breaks” of three to 10 seconds while working, easing muscle fatigue and increasing productivity.

The Chairless Chair doesn’t provide added strength like Lockheed Martin’s Fortis exoskeleton, but it is lighter, more comfortable and uses far less energy, so you might see them beyond factory walls. “I’ve had hunters say they’ll pay a pretty penny to use the device,”Gunura says. Fishermen, surgeons, farmers and retail workers also have expressed interest. “Basically anyone who’s standing for long periods of time.”

 

 

 

Hospital Looks to Virtual Reality in Emergency Situations

Posted on by .
LEO LUTERO in PSFK
11 MAY 2015
Hospital Looks to Virtual Reality in Emergency Situations

Patients and medical professionals will soon be setting aside diagrams and photos in exchange for VR goggles. Content developer Next Galaxy Corporation and the Miami Children’s Hospital has recently forged a multi-year deal for creating immersive virtual reality (VR) instructional content.

Virtual emergency situations will help train individuals in executing procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that could potentially save lives. With the technology, learners will have a more realistic exposure to emergency situations.

Using eye-gaze control, gestures and voice commands, the system aims to provide real-time feedback that will give participants corrective pointers to help them carry out procedures more accurately. The system will even congratulate learners who do well during the lessons.

The training modules will be released as an application for smartphones and will be compatible with Current VR devices such as the Google Cardboard, Gear VR, VRONE and the Oculus Rift.

Next Galaxy‘s Founder and President Mary Spio shares:

In addition to being one of the nation’s most esteemed hospitals for its clinical outcomes, MCH is building a legacy as a pioneer in healthcare with its unabated efforts to connect, educate and reinvent the healthcare experience.

ceek next galaxy corp.jpg

Next Galaxy Corporation develops a wide assortment of VR content for the future. The company’s flagship product, CEEK, is a social VR hub that aims to become the epicenter of VR experience.

The Miami Children’s Hospital is a 289-bed nonprofit facility and is South Florida’s only licensed hospital specialized for children. Miami Children’s Hospital’s President and CEO Dr. Narendra Kini shares:

We are very excited about the new partnership with Next Galaxy to leverage the power of Virtual Reality to create innovative and impactful medical learning experiences. Through our MCH Virtual Reality education, we are breaking new ground with leading technologies and look forward to transitioning our extensive training library from two-dimensional to three-dimensional immersive content for the benefit of patients and the entire healthcare community.

VR Hospital image from Next Galaxy

Volvo’s New “LifePaint” Makes Cyclists Reflective At Night

Posted on by .

Bringing new life to night riders.

by 

The product is aimed at making cyclists more visible when riding at night.

The product is aimed at making cyclists more visible when riding at night.

Grey London / Via youtube.com

The paint is invisible in the day, but highly reflective when lights are shined on it at night.

The paint is invisible in the day, but highly reflective when lights are shined on it at night.

Grey London / Via youtube.com

At the beginning of the video, Volvo notes that 19,000 collisions involving cyclists happen in the U.K. each year alone.

At the beginning of the video, Volvo notes that 19,000 collisions involving cyclists happen in the U.K. each year alone.

Grey London / Via youtube.com

Though designed for cyclists, in a statement, co-developer Grey London said in a statement that LifePaint “can be applied to any fabric  —  clothes, shoes, pushchairs, children’s backpacks  —  even dog leads and collars.”

The “paint” — which lasts for about one week after application — also washes off and will not affect the color or surface of the chosen material, the agency said.

Grey London worked in collaboration with Swedish startup Albedo100 and is one of a series of outcomes as part of Volvo’s new product line-up. The developers also set up a website to direct consumers to outlets.

Hopefully this invention will make night rides a little bit safer for cyclists.

Volvo's New "LifePaint" Makes Cyclists Reflective At Night
Grey London / Via youtube.com

Bluesmart carry-on suitcase can’t get lost

Posted on by .
The Bluesmart acts as a high-tech travel buddy.Bluesmart

Up until recently, the humble suitcase had pretty much one job to do: keep your stuff together so it doesn’t scatter to the four directions when you go traveling. There have been a few tech innovations when it comes to suitcases, but none quite so complete as what you’ll get from the Bluesmart, a connected carry-on that works with your Android or iOS smartphone. The smart luggage is raising funds on Indiegogo to go from prototype into production.

The creators of Bluesmart have thrown just about everything they can think of into the design. Before you even head out the door, the suitcase helps you out with packing with its built-in digital scale. Pull up on the handle and check the weight on the app to see if you’ve overstuffed or packed just the right amount. Outlets can be few and far between when you’re on the go, so Bluesmart also has a built-in battery for charging up your tech gear.

A digitally controlled lock lets you access your suitcase using your smartphone. It can also be set to automatically lock itself if you become separated. If the battery dies, you can still get in with a special key. The lock is also usable by the TSA so you don’t run afoul of regulations should you have to check the bag.

Naturally, you’re attached to all the clothes and equipment stashed in your carry-on and you don’t want to lose it. For starters, Bluesmart has a Bluetooth proximity sensor function to send you alerts if you or your suitcase wanders off and to help you track it back down again using a proximity heat map.

There’s also GPS on board for locating the wayward luggage on a map if you get parted by a greater distance than the proximity feature can handle. This could also be very helpful in the event you have to check the bag and it disappears into the murky depths of the airline’s baggage system.

Storage situated at the front of the bag lets you quickly access your laptop and other electronic gear so you can roll through TSA checks. Avid travelers may also enjoy seeing their trip data collected on the Bluesmart app, including which airports you’ve been at, how long you’ve spent in each country and the number of miles you’ve covered during your journeys.

All the tech is cool, but you also need a functioning suitcase to go along with it. To that end, the Bluesmart is designed with waterproof zipper, anodized aluminum for the handle and four spinner wheels. It has a 34-liter capacity and the current prototypes weigh 8.5 pounds, though the Bluesmart team is working on making it lighter.

Bluesmart launched on Indiegogo with a $50,000 goal, but it seems the idea of a smart suitcase is a popular one. It has over $304,000 in pledges with 33 days left to run. The Bluesmart price is not far off from other high-end suitcase offerings. It’s going for a $265 (about £165, AU$302) pledge. It’s not too hard to see the appeal since the Bluesmart is shaping up to be a traveling gadget lover’s dream luggage.

Bluesmart suitcases
Bluesmart prototypes have already been traveling the world.