Category: Inventions

The Usual

February 7th, 2009 — 12:20am


I would be shocked if some coffee or fast food chain somewhere is not already about to launch this. The drive-thru experience can often be such a downer, people (at least some I know) will sometimes prefer to park their car and go inside for more humane service. I am still fond of old-school-walk-in-and-talk-to-a-human style service, but that seems to be getting phased out more and more in favor of drive-thrus that translate both your voice and the servers voice into klingon with a distortion pedal and a 4khz bitrate.

So let’s put an end to that nonsense. Combine a drive-thru workflow with RFID technology and customer profiling, so that customers can keep their most commonly made order on file. It works like this:

  1. A customer places their order at the drive-thru
  2. The server places the order in their point-of-sale system
  3. The server offers the customer “The Usual” card, which will retain their most commonly-requested order
  4. The customer gets their order, and “The usual” card
  5. Next time the customer returns to the drive-thru, they can place their order by waving “The Usual” card.
  6. The customer modify “The Usual” card’s order be logging in to a website (with a serial # on the card) and changing their order, or they can make the change at the drive-thru.

There are a variety of ways this can be implemented. For example, a customer could keep a few cards on hand for a few different orders. Another option would be to link the RFID card to a touchscreen-style drivethru, so customers could place the initial order on the touchscreen, and then subsequent orders could be made with one-click when their order history is shown on the touch screen.

Many fast-food chains are already implementing RFID cards for quick payment. Given that each card would already have a unique ID attached to them, it might not be such a stretch to use this unique ID to store customer preferences, if the customer wishes to.

1 comment » | Inventions

Power Anywhere

February 4th, 2009 — 9:30pm


How many people do you know who bounce a knee under their desk all day? Many people who work at a computer for most of the day have energy to burn, and nowhere to burn it. meanwhile, road-warriors often have to scramble for power when they realize their laptop is running out of power.

The concept of using human power to supply energy to electronics devices is not new, however most implementations out there lack one key thing for portable electronics: portability. Resembling a wa-wa pedal, PowerAnywhere is a small, foldable, foot-powered generator that works on a similar principle as old-fashioned singer sewing machines. The foot motion is transferred to a flywheel, which then drives a DC generator, which is then connected to a rechargeable battery. When the bettery has sufficient charge, it will supply standard AC 120v household current by way of an inverter, or a DC-powered device up to 24v.

The device could generate power for a variety of electronics with, like iPods, mobile phones, laptops, etc… As this is powered by only one foot, the generator alone may not provide enough power to keep the average laptop going. Rather, the user would try to keep the charge topped up throughout the day, and use it only when needed. For example, it may sit under the desk being charged for 2-3 hours, but only provide an hour’s worth of power for a power-hungry laptop.

The user could generate power in a variety of ways. Some might push with their heel, others with their toe. To build up a charge more quickly, someone might stand up and bounce on it with one foot for a few minutes. The device would ideally be foldable, and fit easily inside a suitcase, briefcase, laptop case, or carry by hand. It could also have an option to snap on to the back of your bike to generate power while you coast down hill.

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Scanner / Shredder

February 4th, 2009 — 12:32am


I’ve been thinking about this one for a while… A household shredder that scans at the same time. Used to archive memorabilia such as children’s artwork, new clippings, etc… without having to find appropriate places to store them.

It would accept paper up to 24″ wide, with varying thicknesses, so it could accommodate all sorts of messy mixed-media hand-painted creations. The shredder would viciously tear apart these treasures in seconds, but keep them preserved with care via an SD card, with an internal memory backup just in case. A USB jack would enable the shredder to be connected to a PC for quick download of memory contents. The shredder would not function unless the memory card was in place, so nothing could be shreeded unintentionally. 

Shredding would be slower than other shredders, to allow time for scanning. Scanning mechanism would be similar to that of a fax machine, with a high-res color CCD. The mechanism would need to be designed to grip the artwork and carry it through the scanner steadily, and able to maintain focus on crumpled, torn, or messy pieces of art, with internal self-cleaning cycles to wipe away paper bits, glitter, macaroni noodles, etc…

Color-coded buttons at the top could be used to assigned custom tags to the item being scanned, so “green” might be kid’s artwork, and “blue” might be news clippings, etc…

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