The future of motorbikes is electric

23 October 2012

Kawasaki KR1-SI normally leave the coverage of all things patent related in the capable hands of my colleague Steve van Dulken and his Patent Search Blog.

However, Steve is not the keen biker I am (nor the owner of the best motorbike ever created). So he is unlikely to have come across this story in the latest issue of Bike Magazine.

It is about a patent for an electric motorbike from Honda in Japan. And I have to admit I struggled to read all 19 pages of the patent application. But my understanding of the innovation, is the use of smaller electric motors located near the rear axle. This avoids the need for a traditional chain to provide motive power from the engine to the rear wheel.

The point of this story is that you can use patents as a form of market research. It is unlikely Honda would go to the trouble of protecting this idea if they weren’t planning to launch an electric motorbike in the near future.

You can read more at the Espacenet website. US Patent: US8028785  (B2) ― 2011-10-04 ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLE or European Patent: EP2168858  (B1) ― 2012-06-06

Honda_electric_bike

Honda_electric_bike2


Playback Rewards, a success story in the making

29 June 2012

playbackrewards-logoMost of the inventors and entrepreneurs we help in the Business & IP Centre realise that it takes hard work and patience (and some luck) to become successful.

For Alistair Kelman the man behind Playback Rewards it has taken three years of seven day weeks with no holidays.

I have often seen him working in the Centre, and for the past couple of years he has been giving me regular progress reports on his patented invention. These updates have been an alternating mix of positive and negative news, as hurdles appear and then are overcome. Or amazing opportunities arrive, but then disappear again.

Alistair_KelmanThroughout this roller-coaster of events, Alistair has remained positive, and bounced back from setbacks (an essential ingredient for an entrepreneur). He has also taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to commercialising his invention (another necessary requirement – but sadly rather too rare for inventors).

For the last few months I have been waiting for permission from Alistair to talk about his invention on my blog, and now he has given me the green light. I am excited because Playback Rewards has the potential to be our biggest success story so far, by far.

Alistair started working on his ideas for revolutionising television advertising at the Centre at the beginning of 2009. He filed his first patent later that year, which was granted in February 2011. He then worked for months, almost on a daily basis at the Centre, developing, researching and refining the commercialisation of his invention.

In late 2010 Alistair ran out of money for his patent. But managed to persuade Stephen Fry to put in a little to keep the project on the road. As you can see from the video Stephen recorded ???, he liked Alistairs’ ideas and wanted to help. Then on Christmas Day 2011 his company was mentioned in an article in the Sunday Times.

Five months later Playback Holdings Ltd won a place in the semi-finals of the CISCO BIG awards, where it stands the chance of winning $100,000 for the business. Alistair feels that which everyone should know about this amazing programme.

As part of his entry for the CISCO i-prize competition Alistair has made a video Magic in your pocket which explains how the service would work.

On 6 July Playback Holdings Limited starts its Series A  fund-raising via an Financial Services Authority (FSA) approved crowdsourcing  platform called Seedrs. This innovative investment method allows ordinary people to invest between £10 to £100,000 in any of the start-ups on its platform.

The full story behind Playback Rewards, and where they are going is on their website www.playbackrewards.com.


Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Forward-thinking Fashion

12 June 2012

Tonight’s excellent Inspiring Entrepreneurs event looked at different approaches to ethical, environmentally-friendly and sustainable fashion.

Rather than seeing ethical fashion as an add-on, our speakers are taking advantage of new technology and practical innovative business models to make them more creative and also sustainable in the long-term.

Tonight was run in partnership with  London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) and Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre (DISC).

DISC-image

Christian Smith is Corporate Responsibility Manager at ASOS, and has an MSc in Environment and Sustainable Development from UCL. His work at ASOS includes measurement of greenhouse gas emissions, helping the company to understand its impacts and opportunities for improvement.

Annegret Affolderbach is designer and founder of Choolips, who revive  ancient textile traditions. She is passionate about sustainable fashion, and the exciting and potent future it presents for global fashion. Her range is now sold through the ASOS Green Room.

Annegret spent a year and a half after graduating collecting ideas on Post-It notes trying to work out how she could use her talent to make a positive difference to fashion in the world. She also felt the need to be inspired for her whole business career, rather than a short term goal.

Annegret spent another year travelling and listening, visiting the Gambia to learn about Batik, and how the local producers thought about their lives and impact on their local environment.

She was determined to create a product that would be harmonious to both the producers and consumers of the products, and started with just two simple dresses.

Electrobloom flowerMark Bloomfield with a background experience of designing wearable accessories for brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williamson and Asprey, talked about developing his own jewellery business, Electrobloom.

This has been inspired by how the worlds of nature, art, technology and science collide, he produces unique jewellery designs using 3D printing technology.

Eleanor Dorrien-Smith is the founder of PARTIMI, and graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA in Fashion and Print. She has worked for Mary Katrantzou, Tata Naka, John Galliano and Eley Kishimoto before setting up PARTIMI. After creating a capsule collection for US retailer Anthropologie, the PARTIMI ready-to-wear collection was launched in 2010. The PARTIMI collections are defined by striking prints, a distinctive personal narrative and an environmental edge.

The evening was chaired by Melanie Frame, Sustainability Manufacturing Developer at London College of Fashion (DISC). Melanie is part of the DISC project to support fashion manufacturers and designers to innovate their production process. Melanie has been involved in various sustainability projects helping small businesses to set up sustainable and ethical practices.

A question about the concentration on sustainable supply lines led to a fascinating discussion about the speaker’s views on what sustainable fashion means to them.

For Mark it was about recreating a made-to-order type of personalised shopping experience, which gives a more engaged experience for customers.

For Christian improving the welfare of the environment and fashion producers are an important new additional part of the business model, from the traditional success measures of company share price and market share.

He talked about how the Green Room at ASOS helps breakdown the enormous challenges of sustainable fashion into bite sized chunks, making it more manageable. Also telling the story behind the product is another way of engaging customers and staff.

He gave several examples of innovation and change:

The discussion ended with a transparent discussion of producer pricing and markups that are common in sustainable fashion.

My colleague Fran Taylor who organised the event has written an excellent review of the evening on her Creative Industries blog .


The ingenious Tapsell gates of Sussex

31 May 2012
Tapsel_gate_at_St_Andrew's_church,_Jevington

Image from Wikipedia

On one of my regular wanderings up on the South Downs, I recently chanced across an intriguing type of churchyard gate.

For my undulating perambulations I often carry a day-pack filled with waterproofs, extra layers and ‘emergency rations’ (in my youth I was a Boy Scout, so ‘Be Prepared’ is my motto). So conventional gates are an unsatisfactory ergonomic experience.

The most common obstacle is the stile, which often involves an unsteady climb and descent on frequently wobbly and slippery planks of wood. Kissing gates appear more straight-forward, but the hinges are often rusty, and half the time your rucksack gets snagged as you squeeze through the narrow gap. Then there is the traditional five-bar gate, which if new, requires Herculean strength to prise the spring-lever open, or once old, has collapsed on its hinges and has to be lifted out of the mud and dragged open and closed again.

As you can see from the photo above the Tapsell gate is a much more ingenious device, as it balances on a central spindle. The gate opens with the slightest of touches, and can be pushed right round so it comes to rest on the fixed stops of the gate posts in a closed position. In effect you only ever have to open the gate, and you never have to wait for someone coming the other way as they can pass by on the other side simultaneously.

According to the little leaflet I picked up in Jevington church written by Rosalind Hodge, the Tapsell gates even allow coffin bearers to comfortably pass on either side without breaking step. Apparently, the bearers could even rest the coffin on the gate if they needed to pause before entering the churchyard.

Sadly, very little seems to be known about who invented this style of gate or when. The most likely source seems to have been a branch of the Tapsell families of Sussex, some of whom were carpenters.

For me, the most intriguing thing of all about these gates is just how few there are. Currently only six examples survive, but it seems not that many were made even at their peak.

This brings me neatly back to a regular discussion I have with inventors. So often they assume that their great idea must be entirely new because they haven’t come across it before in the shops. I explain that of the seventy million or so patents registered in the UK, only a tiny minority ever actually became commercially successful.

The sad truth about inventing (or any innovation come to that) is having a good idea is not nearly enough. I fact I would say it is the easy bit. The hard part is proving the commercial viability of the idea (usually to understandably cynical investors), and then find a way to market it successfully.

Too many follow the path of Ray Kinsella the character played by Kevin Costner in the film Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come”. And this proves to be very much the exception rather than the rule.


Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do by Euan Semple

16 May 2012

euan-sempleYesterday evening the British Library hosted a book launch for Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web by Euan Semple.

Instead of a speech, Euan was interviewed by Richard Sambrook a friend and college from their days together at the BBC.

Here are my notes from the evening followed by my selections from Euan’s book:

  • The development of the internet and social media present a unique opportunity for social change – Euan considers this a phase change in society.
  • Euan wanted to be part of that change for his children’s sake.
  • He felt that when he was at the BBC, the World Service was a role model for the rest of the organisation. There people rubbed along together from all departments and levels sharing information. Other parts of the BBC were much more hierarchical and stuck in their silos.
  • A lot of the use of early collaboration technologies were simple tools to help people find out answers to simple questions, such as ‘does anyone know a fixer in Poland’, or ‘how do you claim for petrol expenses’.
  • On a wider level introducing these collaborative tools helped to create a shared understanding of corporate issues.
  • Euan recognises that the control issues for social media for many organisations such as law firms are non-trivial, but he believes they will get there eventually.
  • Finding your own ‘authentic voice’ through blogging is so much more valuable than writing endless management reports written in “management bollocks”, to a set formula,  which no one actually reads.
  • Euan describes his idealised vision of future corporations as ephemeral meritocracies.
  • He wonders if it is unreasonable to expect people to be able to, or want to have their own voice. And thinks that education and corporate structures have led to many thinking they don’t. But he believes that ultimately everyone wants to have a say in their lives.
  • The barriers to social media are not about age, but about open versus closed approaches to the world.
  • He believes the internet and social media is the next big story after 18th century religion, early 20th century fascism and communism, and late 20th century capitalism.

The tweets from the event have been Storified here.

A more detailed summary from the Strange Attractor blog by Suw Charman-Anderson.

Book coverReview of Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do

The book comes in 45 Bite sized chapters, each with introductions and summaries. And in fact each chapter can be purchased individually in electronic format. Euan’s idea is to make it as easy as possible to spread the message to those who remain unconvinced by the benefits of social media.

An essential read for anyone with a connection to social media in the workplace (which means everyone), it is very wide ranging, quite philosophical at times, and always passionately personal.

Euan makes a strong case for the democratising benefits of adopting  social media and collaborative tools.

However, my experience of both successes and failures to introduce these technologies in various workplaces, makes me think that Euan is somewhat naïvely optimistic (an accusation he is aware of, and attempts to address several times in the book).

He ended the engaging question and answer session by saying he thinks it will take up to fifty years for the change to fully occur, and this strikes me as more realistic.

Here are my highlights from reading the book:

What is the book for? It is not a “how to” book nor, I hope, is it cyber-utopian vision of the future….I prefer to think of it as a collection of ideas that… can make the web more understandable and useful in the world of work.

Growing up onlineWe will only be able to take full advantage of the networked world if we grow up, think for ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives and our actions. I am not naïve. I know that, at least to begin with, truly thinking for yourself and saying what you think with any degree of authenticity is a big ask. It may never happen for many people. There may just be too much at stake and too much to take into account for a politician or someone in a corporate setting to really be authentic.

Don’t let the techies ruin the party…keep things out of the hands of technologists as much as possible. Some of them aren’t so bad, and some of them are re-inventing themselves…if there is a single biggest block to making social media happen encountered by my clients in large organizations it is with their IT department.

Ten steps to success with technology:

  1. Have a variety of tools rather than a single system.
  2. Don’t have a clear idea where you are headed.
  3. Follow the energy.
  4. Be strategically tactical.
  5. Keep moving, stay in touch, and head for the high ground.
  6. Build networks of people who care.
  7. Be obsessively interested.
  8. Use the tools to manage the tools. E.G. Blog about blogging in your organisation.
  9. Laugh when things go wrong.
  10. Unleash the Trojan Mice. Don’t do big things or spend loads of money. Set small, nimble things running and see where they head.

Anarchy versus controlSomeone once called me “an organizational anarchist” and I have to admit I was quite chuffed at the description and took it as a compliment…. What I am talking about here is not complete free reign for individuals … I am more interested in the possibility  of all of us taking full responsibility for ourselves and those around us – the ultimate in democracy.

How about moving democracy inside the firewall instead of outside it?

Bosses who don’t get itIf you can’t get support from your boss, see if you can get support from their peers. Find senior people who get what you are trying to do and enlist their support … Keep talking to them in their language about what you are doing and why – even if they occasionally glaze over!

Collaboration and trustThere is a lot of “collaboration software” out there that is really just the same stuff that failed to deliver data management, information management, knowledge management  and is now failing to deliver collaboration. In fact a lot of the tools labelled as collaboration tools actually work against effective collaboration.

Blurring work boundariesThe blurring of the inside and outside raises issues both for us as individuals and organizations we work for. For us it means that we have to take more responsibility for whatever lines we draw between work and non-work.

PR and marketing under threatI believe that marketing and PR are professions at real risk of disintermediation by the web. We will need people to do our marketing for us less and less as we use the tools in everyday work and start to have more effective conversations between ourselves and our customers.
Help your staff to become your best advocates. Give them the tools and the insights to become your ambassadors online.

The Return on Investment of social media – … I am becoming more robust about the ROI question and turning it back on those who ask it. What is the ROI of the way we do things now? … Where is the competitive advantage in preventing staff from using these tools to build and maintain the networks that develop their knowledge and their ability to get things done. Where is the competitive advantage in allowing your competitors to embrace these changes before you do and potentially re-inventing the industry you are so rigidly clinging to?

Online indiscretionsMuch has been made about recruitment teams searching Facebook and LinkedIn to find prospective candidates and the damage supposedly done by online indiscretions. In some ways this is an anachronistic attitude coming from people who don’t themselves engage online. People are becoming much more robust and open in their online lives. Besides, what is so awful about these supposed indiscretions? Rather than worrying about photos of potential recruits drunk at parties, I would be more worried about people who appeared to have something to hide. In fact I would be less likely to employ someone who hadn’t been indiscreet as a student!

Deal with management fearsOnline …You can’t hide behind your status or your pomposity. In fact being remote and pompous will severely inhibit your attempts at effective communication on the web.

So the answer is to help those who are disapproving or pompous in reaction to what is happening on the web. Don’t dismiss their reactions or sneer at them but make it easier for them to relax and say what they think. Show them the ropes and hold their hands rather than ridicule them as they discover  for themselves the fast changing world they have felt excluded from.

Develop guidelines-not rules, collaborativelyDon’t start with rules. Learn to use your tools, and see how people make them work before you cast too much in stone.

Use Trojan miceSet up small, unobtrusive, inexpensive, and autonomous tools and practices, set them running, and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.

Don’t feed the TrollsThe best way to deal with trolls is to befriend them. Even the worst of them are human.

If your critics have shown the energy to engage, and can then be turned around to be supportive of you, then this sends a very strong signal to other dissenters.

Radical transparencyIn fact online I recommend that people assume that if you have written something on a computer then someone else will at some time be able to see it.

Does this mean you can’t write about anything? No, but it does mean you have to think harder bout what you are writing, where, and why.

Blogging as therapyBy writing about the workplace you become more thoughtful about your place in it and what it does for you.

My favourite quote in the book comes from Vint Cerf, one of the ‘fathers of the internet’. When asked by a journalist if the internet was a good or a bad thing, he replied, “It is just a thing. Whether good or bad depends on what you are doing with it.”

Euan ends the book with his final blog post at BBC after 21, years about the importance of love at work.


Archiving video games – the search for the impossible

30 March 2012

gameCity_logoOn Monday we had a presentation from James Newman and Iain Simons, co-authors of 100 Video Games, co-founders of Game City, and co-founders of the UK National Videogame Archive. And what an entertaining pair they made, switching seamlessly from slide to slide and from one to the other. They handled the great many enthusiastic interruptions from the very knowledgeable audience with patience and politeness.

They were at the British Library to talk about why the archive was created in 2008 and progress it has made since then. In practice much of the talk was explaining why it is impossible to archive vidoe games, due to their very temporary nature. Even the plastic of the early consoles is starting to degrade, ending eventually in a pile of fine grey dust.

With my background in computer science, I was expecting to hear about all the clever ways programmers are preserving the games so that they are playable on current hardware. They did talk about emulators and the good work fan programmers are doing, but ultimately their efforts are doomed to failure.

It will never be possible to exactly replicate the way the games played back on cathode ray tube (CRT) screens and 16 bit processors. And even if you could, the cultural context will have been lost. Consequently they are concentrating on preserving the experience of game-playing rather than the games themselves.

They do this by capturing live game playing at events like GameCity, and preserving written material relating to games such as Walkthroughs, also known as cheats.

They ended their fascinating and stimulating presentation with a wonderfully rude example of the challenges of completing a Super Mario Brothers level. This has had an amazing 20 million views on YouTube, but comes with a health warning as it is fully of swearing in response to the frustrations of playing the game.

As something of a failed gamer, it certainly make me laugh.


Summly founder Nick D’Aloisio @British Library

27 January 2012

Summly_logoI couldn’t see how my colleagues could top the speakers at our first Digital Library Conversations @British Library. Internet pioneers Vint Cerf (known as one of the fathers of the internet) and Ted Nelson who founded Project Xanadu, the first hypertext project in 1960. There is a video of the meeting if you are interested.

However, I was wrong. As a result of Stella Wisdom (one of our Digital Curators) reading an article in the Metro newspaper, we were privileged to hear from 16-year-old ‘internet genius’ Nick D’Aloisio, the founder of Summly.

This iPhone app has made international headlines and attracted backing of an investment company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing..

Summly is an iPhone app which summarises and simplifies the content of web pages and search results. Currently it can condense reference pages, news articles and reviews but according to Nick,  has the potential to go a lot further.

Nick_D'AloisioNick has been profiled in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Wired and FastCompany for his entrepreneurial success and interest in Artificial Intelligence. Before founding Summly, Nick created Facemood, a service which used sentiment analysis to determine the mood of Facebook users, and SongStumblr, a geosocial music discovery service.

Did I mention he was 16 years old?

According to an interview with the BBC, Summly came from his frustration in researching for his exams.

“I was revising for a history exam and using Google, clicking in and out of search results, and it seemed quite inefficient. If I found myself on a site that was interesting I was reading it and that was wasting time,” he said.

“I thought that what I needed was a way of simplifying and summarising these web searches. Google has Instant Preview but that is just an image of the page. What I wanted was a content preview,” he says.

What impressed me most from our meeting with Nick at the British Library (which you can get a glimpse of here thanks to Reuters), was his intelligence and modesty.

I’m sure he has had plenty of practice, but his ‘elevator pitch’  (which is something of an obsession with me), was superb.

And when I asked him if he was planning to pursue an entrepreneurial path or go on to university, he talked enthusiastically about studying philosophy after his A levels. This is from someone just back from a series of meetings with high powered investors and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

I came away with the impression that he was quite possibly the most confident and mature person in the meeting.

Addition 28 March 2012:

The video of this event has now been posted onto YouTube, and the interview with Nick starts 34 minutes in.


Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A monster of a book about a monster of a man

24 November 2011

Steve_Jobs_by_Walter_IsaacsonMany thanks to Debbie Epstein for giving me this amazing book as a present.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson is the only authorised story of the life and death of one of the most influential figures of the last 50 years, who died on 5 October this year, aged 56, from pancreatic cancer.

The book is something of a monster at 627 pages, and chronicles Steve Jobs‘ life from his childhood, through the creation and early days of Apple computers, his battles with Microsoft, his sacking and 12 year later return to the company he founded. Isaacson managed to interview Jobs himself over forty times, and tracked down more than a hundred friends, family, colleagues, competitors and adversaries.

I found it a compelling read, and managed to complete it in less than a week. It is perhaps the most honest and revealing authorised biography ever written of an industry leader. Isaacson uncovers both the amazing stories behind the revolutionary products Apple produced. However, he also reveals something of a monster of a man.

Jobs was a sensitive person, perhaps more so due to being adopted at birth, who spent several months wandering across India in his youth looking for spiritual enlightenment and followed Buddhism for the rest of his life. But he could also be the most manipulative and down-right nasty person it is possible to imagine. So much so, that his early colleagues referred to his ability to distort reality to his own ends (Reality distortion field even has its own Wikipedia entry).

Having been something of a computer nerd as a teenager in the mid-1970s I first came across his creations in the form of an Apple II computer. As you can see it was some way from the sleek and sexy design of the more recent iMacs. So reading the story of how Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed these machines made for riveting reading.

Apple II computer

Although he made many mistakes along the way, as well as many enemies, and a trail of broken colleagues, his vision and passion resulted in products which have truly revolutionised the computer industry, and made Apple the most valuable company in the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Steve Jobs was that he never felt the need to conduct market research (something we recommend all our clients in the Business & IP Centre should do). Instead he worked on creating ‘insanely great’ products people would discover they didn’t know they needed until they saw them.


Trends in the computer games industry

15 September 2011

WiiAs part of the Library’s work to engage with the creative industries, my colleague Fran Taylor has been finding out some of the key facts and figures about the UK games sector.  We’d like to encourage games makers to use our collections for inspiration and contextual research and to use the Business & IP Centre to commercialise their ideas. Fran used the Business & IP Centre’s resources to gather it all together, including reports from Euromonitor, Datamonitor and online NESTA reports.

1.    In 2009, the global video gaming market was estimated to be worth approximately $72.2bn. It is expected to grow by 5.1% during the period 2009–14, to reach $92.5bn in 2014. Software revenues are worth 69.4% of total revenues.

2.    The UK video games industry was worth £2.8bn in 2010, which is bigger than its music or film industries.

3.    In the UK, the most popular brands are the Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Kinect and Call of Duty.

4.    Almost one third of all people older than 16 in the UK describe themselves as ‘gamers’ (with an equal breakdown between men and women).  The percentage goes up to 74% for people between the ages of 16 and 19.

5.    One in every two UK houses owns a video games console.

6.    The profile of the industry is changing, with a new breed of games developers working as sole-traders, freelancers and in small companies. Growth is expected at the lower end of the price range, i.e. online and mobile games.

7.    The online gaming segment is rapidly gaining traction and is gradually overtaking the PC and console gaming segments. Business Insights forecasts that online gaming revenues will increase from $13.2bn in 2009 to $25.3bn in 2014.

8.    The global PC gaming market was estimated at a value of $4.5bn in 2009, and is likely to erode to $4.3bn by 2014, posting a decline in of 0.9% CAGR during the period.

9.    Mobile games are the fastest growing segment of the video gaming market, with a forecast CAGR of 14.4% during the period 2009–14. Increasing mobile and 3G and 4G penetration are the key market drivers.

10.    Emerging technologies that are in a much more advanced stage of development include thought-based games, motion sensors, connected TV and HTML5.

 


SquidLondon brighten up a rainy autumn day

12 September 2011

emma-jayne_parkes_and_vivian_jaegerSomething of a surprise on my way home tonight to see a full-page advert for our Success Story SquidLondon in the Evening Standard.

Fashion graduates Emma-Jayne Parkes and Viviane Jaeger founded SquidLondon after being inspired by Jackson Pollock. They thought it would be cool to walk down the street, it starts to rain and your clothes turn into a walking Jackson Pollock.

Their first product, the Squidarella, is an umbrella that changes colour as it rains. Developing such an innovative product meant that intellectual property – protecting their ideas – was an essential topic to crack. The pair visited the Business & IP Centre to learn more about how intellectual property applied to them.

Squid have now moved to the bathroom with their latest product : ‘Miss Squidolette’ Shower Curtain!

Miss_Squidolette-Shower_Curtain


Will falling forward get me to the top of Kilimanjaro?

22 June 2011

KilimanjaroWith just a few days to go before my big trip (hopefully) to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, I have been told about a revolutionary new way of walking.

Apparently all I have to do is ‘fall forward’. and I will be at the top without even realising it. This ‘new’ technique is called Chi Walking (with a Chi Running offshoot).

What I find interesting about this idea, is how even the most basic of human activities can be re-invented and turned into  a commercial product or service.

As one of the videos explains, when we are children we run by leaning forward, but by the time we are adults we have unlearned the natural way to move.

loiclemeur.com-how-do-you-like-my-new-five-fingers-shoesSo you can now buy a range of books, ‘five-finger’ shoes, or join classes to re-learn from the experts how to walk or run properly.

I am aware than many runners do get injuries from their activities, especially road running, but my scepticism is still high on whether this whole thing is some kind of Snake oil charm. Try watching this video of Master Stephen Hwa’s Tai Chi Walk Lesson, and see what you think.

However, I am prepared to try pretty much anything reasonable that might aid my path to top of the highest mountain in Africa, so will try it for a while.

Although my climb was not planned to raise money for charity (more to prove I’m not quite over the hill yet), quite a few people have asked if they can sponsor me. justgiving_logo_detailSo I have created a JustGiving page with a choice of charities to donate to if you would like to contribute.

What is Chi?
http://www.chiwalking.com/what-is-chiwalking/what-is-chi/

Master George Xu, our T’ai Chi teacher, asks us to focus on our dantien, our center and to allow all movement to  come from that place. The energy moves from the center into the body and into the  limbs to create movement. Why? Because Chi is stronger than muscles, and movement that comes from Chi is more deeply powerful.

More powerful than muscles? In the West, muscles are almost akin to a god the way we worship them and what they represent. Covers of magazines and TV commercials extol rock hard abs and buns of steel. What is stronger than rock and steel?

In T’ai Chi we quickly learn that muscles are no match for the power of Chi. Like the flow of water that created the Grand Canyon the power of Chi takes you much further and faster than vulnerable muscles whose duration is very short lived.

Your dantien is the best home for your Chi and the best place for you to focus your energy so that you can come from a balanced, whole place in yourself. Your dantien is just below your navel and a few inches in toward your spine. In Chi Running, Chi Walking and Chi Living we encourage all movement, all action, all choices to come from this center, that deep place in yourself that is home to your greatest potential and power.


Growing Knowledge – The Information and James Gleick

12 April 2011

Growing_KnowledgeWe have had a lot of interest since we opened Growing Knowledge in October – Growing Knowledge the Evolution of Research – the garden is open.

the_Information_James_CleickAnd tomorrow we are lucky to have James Gleick speaking at the library. He is the author of  The Information, a new book which shows how information has ‘become the modern era’s defining quality – the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world’.

The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanished as soon as it was born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood “talking drums” of Africa, James Gleick tells the story of information technologies that, he claims, changed the very nature of human consciousness.

He will explore where the age of information is taking us, swept along by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets.

John Naughton also interviewed him in the Observer last weekend.


The Rise and Fall of Information Empires – One Facebook to rule the Internet?

31 March 2011

My second event at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (my first was IP for Innovation and Growth) was a fascinating look at history of information monopolies and what they tell us about what might happen with the Internet – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

Tim WuTim Wu a professor at Columbia Law School and author of the THE MASTER SWITCH, talked about the surprising recent discovery that Bell Labs, the research arm of American telephony monopoly AT&T, had invented magnetic tape in the 1930’s, but kept it secret. It was developed as part of a telephone answering machine, but it was felt that the technology was threat to the growing use of telephones. In particular AT&T had done research to show that two thirds of telephone calls contained obscene content, so customers would stop using them if they thought they were being recorded. How and Why AT&T Killed the First Answering Machine.

At that time AT&T was the largest corporation in the world, and wanted to protect its position.

The point Tim was making was how quickly a company that was in the vanguard of introducing a revolutionary new technology, changes into a monopoly that strangles innovation it sees as a threat to its business model.

Tim explained how each of the disruptive information technologies of the Telegraph, Radio and Television, went from being open and anarchic to monopolistic within a very few years.

In the case of telephony, the thousands of phone companies which appeared initially in the United States, developed into just one player AT&T, until till eventually broken up the US government.

Radio in the US, also started with hundreds of local independent stations, but by the mid-1930’s had consolidated into just two big players.

So the question to be asked is this an inevitable part of capitalism (economic destiny), or is there something intrinsically different about the Internet which will prevent this from happening?

Certainly the origins of the Internet are different from its forebears. It was created from the outset to be resistant to central control (to be able to continue working through a nuclear war).

The technology of the internet means that new developments are constantly appearing (the first Twitter message was only sent on 21 March 2006). So this should prevent the developments of monopolies. For example MySpace has seen a mass migration of users over to Facebook.

However, there is plenty of evidence that history will repeat itself, and monopolies arise.

The simple laws of economics mean that successful companies grow, initially organically, but later on by acquisition. Customers are either drawn into this larger entity or acquired as smaller competitors are bought up.

Human nature draws us to the most successful companies, as they usually provide a better, more reliable and consistent level of service.

So perhaps we are own worst enemy, as we create monopolies with our custom. Apple is an example of customers investing in products that make computing easier, more reliable and more attractive. Apple now dominate sales of MP3 players, online music through iTunes and more recently the tablet computer market with their iPad.

During question time Tim was asked if monopolies are such a bad thing?

He explained that the usually start off well from the customer perspective, but after five or ten years things start to decline. They become anti-competitive, smothering competition, by buying it out or lobbying government for protection.

The same could be said for dictators, who often start off with popular support, but resort to ever more draconian methods to cling on to power.

At the moment, most people still see Google as a good thing, but has a clear monopoly on search.

No mechanisms exist for removing monopolies when they go wrong.

So what are the warning signs?

Tim said we should watch for companies’ innovation versus their defence. When a company spends most of their time defending their position instead of innovating, then they have probably crossed over to the dark side.

Apple, Google and Facebook are currently the leading contenders for monopoly internet positions.

Sadly we have not evolved our thinking in how to deal with monopolies, (which will naturally continue to occur), in the way we have done in the political field.

There is a danger that we have moved into an era of power without responsibility.

 

One Facebook to rule the Internet – The Rise and Fall of Information Empires

 

 

My second event at the RSA (link to IP talk???) was a fascinating look at history of information monopolies and what they tell us about what might happen with the Internet.

 

Tim Wu (???) talked about the surprising recent discovery that Bell Labs, the research arm of American telephony monopoly AT&T, had invented magnetic tape in the 1930’s, but kept it secret. It was developed as part of a telephone answering machine, but it was felt that the technology was threat to the growing use of telephones. In particular AT&T had done research to show that two thirds of telephone calls contained obscene content, so customers would stop using them if they thought they were being recorded.

 

At that time AT&T was the larges corporation in the world, and wanted to protect its position.

 

The point Tim was making was how quickly a company that was in the vanguard of introducing a revolutionary new technology, changes into a monopoly that strangles innovation it sees as a threat to its business model.

 

Tim explained how each of the disruptive information technologies of the Telegraph, Radio and Television, went from being open and anarchic to monopolistic within a very few years.

 

In the case of telephony, the thousands of phone companies which appeared initially in the United States, developed into just one player AT&T, until till eventually broken up the US government.

 

Radio in the US, also started with hundreds of local independent stations, but by the mid-1930’s had consolidated into just two big players.

 

So the question to be asked is this an inevitable part of capitalism (economic destiny), or is there something intrinsically different about the Internet which will prevent this from happening?

 

Certainly the origins of the Internet are different from its forebears. It was created from the outset to be resistant to central control (to be able to continue working through a nuclear war).

 

The technology of the internet means that new developments are constantly appearing (the first Twitter message was only sent on 21 March 2006). So this should prevent the developments of monopolies. For example MySpace has seen a mass migration of users over to Facebook.

 

However, there is plenty of evidence that history will repeat itself, and monopolies arise.

 

The simple laws of economics mean that successful companies grow, initially organically, but later on by acquisition. Customers are either drawn into this larger entity or acquired as smaller competitors are bought up.

 

Human nature draws us to the most successful companies, as they usually provide a better, more reliable and consistent level of service.

 

So perhaps we are own worst enemy, as we create monopolies with our custom. Apple is an example of customers investing in products that make computing easier, more reliable and more attractive. Apple now dominate sales of MP3 players, online music through iTunes and more recently the tablet computer market with their iPad.

 

During question time Tim was asked if monopolies are such a bad thing?

 

He explained that the usually start off well from the customer perspective, but after five or ten years things start to decline. They become anti-competitive, smothering competition, by buying it out or lobbying government for protection.

 

The same could be said for dictators, who often start off with popular support, but resort to ever more draconian methods to cling on to power.

 

At the moment, most people still see Google as a good thing, but has a clear monopoly on search.

 

No mechanisms exist for removing monopolies when they go wrong.

 

So what are the warning signs?

 

Tim said we should watch for companies’ innovation versus their defence. When a company spends most of their time defending their position instead of innovating, then they have probably crossed over to the dark side.

 

Apple, Google and Facebook are currently the leading contenders for monopoly internet positions.

 

Sadly we have not evolved our thinking in how to deal with monopolies, (which will naturally continue to occur), in the way we have done in the political field.

 

There is a danger that we have moved into an era of power without responsibility.


Cool infographics that tell a story

17 January 2011

Although I have never really believed in the old cliché a picture is worth a thousand words, I have been a big fan of effective illustrations for many years.

I started with the seminal works The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and Envisioning Information by statistician and sculptor, Edward Tufte. Although, I have to say I was always somewhat underwhelmed by his examples.

Thanks to a recent BBC series on The Beauty of Diagrams, I discovered that Florence Nightingale (who is best known as the nurse who cared for thousands of soldiers during the Crimean War), was the first to use statistical graphics as to illustrate the causes of mortality.

More recently I have discovered the Cool Infographics blog, and have seen some excellent examples of effective presentations of statistical information.

The Conversation Prism 3.0 for 2010 shows  the major players in each of 28 different online conversation categories.

Although not strictly speaking statistics related,  How Would You Like Your Graphic Design? gets an important point across very effectively.


More consumer trends from Insider Trends

3 December 2010

My colleague Frances Taylor recently attended an Insider Trends workshop in the Business & IP Centre.

Although I wrote a report on a similar workshop, How to become a cutting-edge retailer, Francis has noted some additional useful points.

Predictions from Insider Trends

Key trend 1: The recession

§        With the new government, spending cuts and changes in policy, it’s entering a new phase.

§        Food and energy costs are rising.

§        There is worry amongst consumers about the recession, even if it does not affect them personally.

§        Consumers are making more considered choices and buying budget brands.

§        Premium or ‘added-value’ products are still doing well, but only if they have real benefits, e.g. helping the environment or offering customised services.

§        Consumers are spending more time at home on activities such as baking and gardening.  Now 1 in 5 consumers grow their own fruit and vegetables.

§        The community is important: consumers are buying locally and supporting green initiatives. There is concern about pesticides and additives in food, and distrust of large corporates.

Tips for marketing:

§        Be clear and transparent in your messages.

§        Avoid hidden costs.

§        Offer free trials, 30 day guarantees and testimonials.

§        Focus on benefits not features.

§        Create new benefits to stand out, e.g. same day delivery.

Key trend 2: Genuine individuals

§        By 2020 there will be more single people than married people in the UK.

§        By 2018, 18% of households will be ‘single person households’.

§        This is affecting buying habits, e.g. people are buying smaller portions of food such as smaller loaves of bread.

§        Living in urban areas and single-person households means that interior design has become more compact.

§        Co-creation has taken off i.e. consumers helping to shape the products they buy, such as the Nike ID trainers.

Key trend 3: Technology

§        The mobile internet is really taking off.

§        Mobile apps are a growth industry which will be worth over 50 billion by 2020.

§        Smart phone owners are buying on average one app per month.

§        Location-based apps are becoming popular such as Foursquare.

§        The ‘perpetual beta’ has become the norm.

§        There is more experimentation e.g. retail trucks and pop-up shops, secret restaurants, etc.

§        Consumers feel like there is too much choice which can be overwhelming.

§        There is a movement of consumers that are ‘unplugging’, which is also called ‘the slow movement’.  For example slow cooking, gardening, home brewing, etc.

§        Some technology solutions have hidden complexity, e.g. the iphone.  It can perform a lot of functions, but is very simple and intuitive to use.

§        QR codes are being used on products for more information, for example, to show the ingredients on McDonald’s products.


Growing Knowledge the Evolution of Research – the garden is open

29 October 2010

Our Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research was officially opened by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee last week.

Over the next nine months, we will be using a dedicated exhibition to explore what technological tools will shape the library’s future research facilities.

The exhibition aims to challenge visitors on how research is changing and ask what you want to experience from the library of the future.

I have volunteered to be a guide to the exhibition so do drop by and say hello.

Working with hardware partner HP and software partner Microsoft, the library is showcasing a range of research tools, including a prototype of Sony’s RayModeler 360-degree Autostereoscopic Display that uses gesture control to view static and moving 3D images and video.

At the end of the Growing Knowledge exhibition, the British Library will evaluate the tools and decide which have been most useful for researchers – a term the library uses to describe anyone using its resources.

Richard Boulderstone, CIO at the British Library, explained: “It’s about trying to explore what tools and services we should provide for researchers in future. What is the future of the library? What tools, spaces, technologies should we provide for researchers?”

Clive Izard, head of creative services at the British Library, added: “We are evaluating the way researchers will work in an area that is not hushed and quiet – where people will be more collaborative physically.

“At the end [of the exhibition] we will produce a report. JISC [independent advisory body providing advice on ICT use to higher education] is going to take the findings and incorporate them into our services.”

The exhibition, which is running on a thin client solution, is testing everything from monitor set-up – from a single touch screen monitor to four standard monitors – to audio search software developed by Microsoft.

These tools, which include map rectification software that reshapes old maps over current maps, and a Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts tool that enables users to digitally delve into Austen’s handwritten manuscripts, will be alternated with other ones in the British Library’s portfolio over the nine months.

Researchers can also experiment with a Microsoft Surface Table, on which the British Library is showing an interactive, digital version of the world’s longest painting, the 19th century Garibaldi Panorama. A set of dials, developed with (University College London (UCL), also measures Twitter activity across nine capital cities.

The Growing Knowledge exhibition will run until 16 July 2011.

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research is open

Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research has been officially opened by Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

Showcasing some never-seen-before research tools, thought-provoking content and futuristic design in a fully interactive research environment, the exhibition aims to challenge our audiences on how research is changing and ask what they want to experience from the library of the future.

For more information watch this You Tube video for interviews with Library staff and further details about the exhibition.

Reuters have also produced a video piece on the exhibition.


Inventing the 21st Century Exhibition Evening

14 September 2010

Last Wednesday night was the formal opening of our Inventing 21st Century exhibition by BIS Minister Mark Prisk. He talked about the British Library and the Business & IP Centre in glowing terms which was nice.

During the evening I chatted to a range of inventors and business support advisers, but my most memorable conversation was with a man in a K-2 Wheelchair featured in the exhibition. He explained how using it had changed his life for the better. It was inspiring to see how an invention can make such an impact on the lives of people.

The BBC has put together a slide show of the exhibits featured in the exhibition.

On Saturday morning, Steve Van Dulken the curator of the exhibition was interviewed on BBC Breakfast News with the inventor of a double headed broom.

Steve has also written a book Inventing the 21st Century to coincide with the exhibition.


Our exhibition: Inventing the 21st century

1 September 2010

From next Monday our new exhibition Inventing the 21st century, opens here at the British Library in our Folio Society Gallery, and runs until 28 November 2010.

It is a celebration of wonderful British ingenuity, and contains a wide range of inventions from sport to tackling climate change to the weekly nightmare of changing your duvet cover. It also includes President Obama’s favourite dog bowl (as seen – and rejected – on Dragons Den), and Dyson’s revolutionary bladeless fan.

My colleague Steve van Dulken is the curator of the exhibition and has already covered several of the inventions on show in his excellent Patent Search blog.

We are also running an Ingenious Britons evening event, where you will be able to hear from and put questions to some of the inventors.

In conjunction with the exhibition we also have an Invent it! campaign. We want to inspire the next generation of ingenious Britons to develop products to make your lives easier, from a mug of tea that never goes cold, to a smart phone battery that can last all week. Personally, I would like to have a stretchy keyboard for my Blackberry, as I can touch type, but my clunking fingers are far too big for the standard BB keys.

What would you like to see an invention for? Have your say on our Facebook fan page and Twitter using the hashtag #bipcinvent

We’ll be announcing the top ten ideas during Global Entrepreneurship Week (15 – 19 November).


Intellectual Property: A Success Story To Be Extended?

15 June 2010

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I’ve just been reminded of one of my  more scary speaking engagements of recent times. It was back in January 2009 at the invitation of Professor Michael Mainelli, Emeritus Gresham Professor of Commerce at Gresham College.

It was at the Real Time Club. Founded in 1967, the Real Time Club is believed to be the world’s oldest IT dining Club. The Club is dedicated to participative events that provide “rapid responses to the challenges of the information society”.

My fellow speakers were:
Professor Ian Angel
, who is Professor of Information Systems at the London School of Economics and also Chairman of Creative Commons (England and Wales).
David Bunting, who is CEO of Trevor Baylis Brands plc (a company which he setup with Trevor Baylis), which provides route-to-market services for inventors and entrepreneurs. David is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a Fellow of the CMA,
Richard Overden, who is an Associate Director of Oxford University’s Bodlian Library and Keeper of Special Collections. Prior to that he worked at Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, and at the University of Edinburgh.
Tony Pluckrose, who is a Partner at Boult Wade Tennant and also a Chartered and European Patent Attorney.

Here is a brief report from the evening:

Some 40 members and guests of the Real Time Club attended the first dinner of 2009 to debate the subject of: “Intellectual Property: A Success Story to be Extended? Just Desserts or Global Gridlock?” The Chairman, Mark Holford welcomed the guests and then handed over to the evening’s host, Professor Michael Mainelli, who is also the club’s Vice President.

The format of the evening was a brief (three minute) statement by each of the panel of speakers, followed by a lively and challenging debate, to which everyone present made a contribution.

The introductory sessions posed a series of challenges. These included:

* “Is Intellectual Property protection being mis-sold?” Inventors often do not understand patent protection – they have a great idea, talk about it in the pub, and don’t realize that by doing so they have already exposed it to the public. Their problem is the extent to which they dare tell people what they are doing. They think that a patent will give them protection, even if the idea has been put into the public domain, and defending a patent is very expensive. What they should do is think like an entrepreneur, by keeping quiet, building a product, and once it is built patent it and sell it to a large corporation.

* The second challenge was the unreasonableness of traditional copyright law: “Is it right that I should be charged $500 in Las Vegas to use 30 seconds of Ella Fitzgerald in a presentation?”

* The third challenge was the fairness of current practice – monopoly rights that are given by governments in the form of patents should be properly categorized and reasonably charged; if they are not, it will stifle inventiveness.

* We then moved into the realm of science fiction and considered the Star Trek replicator, which is fast becoming science fact, since replication costs are negligible. Why shouldn’t we generate an idea, create value, and then make it freely available? Don’t we have a moral imperative to do this? After all, multiple people possess an idea – it is rather arbitrary that the first person who patents the idea owns it. Replication is now also now a major part of the librarian’s job; because of digitization, librarians have progressed from being curators of knowledge within a specific location to providers of digital representation on a global scale. And relationships with companies like Google introduce commercial, as well as engineering, considerations.

* The final contribution to the introductory session was the differences between USA and European IP law. In the past the USA has granted patents relatively freely (as in the case of State Street Bank), whereas Europe has been tougher (as in the case of Symbian). The USA has now resiled, and the high tide has passed and is now receding, But although patents are harder to get, they are still being granted when they shouldn’t be. The issues are cost and complexity, including the expense of challenging patent rights.


The World Cup In An Hour for 59 pence

14 June 2010

I love it when one of our clients does something really smart. In this case – taking advantage of all the excitement currently around the FIFA World Cup.

Annabel and Rupert Colley have created an ePublishing business initially aimed at the various forms of Apple iDevices (iPod Touch, iPhone and now iPad).

They have started with a set of  four history ‘In and hour’ titles, but have just come out with The World Cup In An Hour to coincide with the World Cup.

Opportunity Knocks, as good old Hughie Green used to say.

Welcome to Collca

Founded specifically as an ePublisher, Collca currently publishes book-derived and other educational and reference mobile apps initially for the Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. More platforms will be added as required.

We currently have 4 titles from the History In An Hour series available as iPhone apps in the Apple iTunes store:
•     The Cold War In An Hour by Rupert Colley     The Cold War In An Hour
•     Nazi Germany In An Hour by Rupert Colley     Nazi Germany In An Hour
•     The World Cup In An Hour by Rupert Colley     The World Cup In An Hour
•     World War II In An Hour by Rupert Colley     World War II In An Hour

We are planning a lot of future titles both in the History In An Hour series and for other series.

As an integral part of creating The Cold War In An Hour, we developed Condor – a software and data framework that streamlines the whole design and production process. Using Condor we can develop iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch apps quickly and economically.