Retail beacons: will they drive an in-store revolution?

Bricks and mortar retail outlets are coming under increasing pressure from e-commerce websites and ongoing changes in consumer behaviour, which have seen traditional stores losing a large part of their market share to online sales.

The emerging trend of "showrooming," or examining products in a store before ultimately buying online, often at a lower price and from a different retailer, poses a particular challenge to the traditional business model. Businesses that are not working pro-actively to drive in-store commerce risk being left behind by tech savvy consumers.

Smart retailers are therefore making the most of various up-and-coming emerging technologies that that can be used in clever and creative ways to help drive in-store commerce. This is where retail beacons come into their own.

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Brain-computer interfacing: Cyborg technology comes to life!

Advances in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging technologies are allowing human brains to interface directly with machines. This technology is made possible through brain-computer interfaces and sensors, which can monitor the physical and neural processes of the human brain, offering the potential to transform the ways in which we perform everyday tasks, and improving the quality of life of patients with physical disabilities.

This technology is known as the brain-computer interface, or mind-machine interface.

So, what exactly are the practical applications for this futuristic new tech, and who are the companies to watch?

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Biomimicry: Creating smart technology by going back to nature

Biomimicry is a discipline that seeks to observe how nature has dealt with the ever-changing challenges of its environment, and mimic these processes to solve technological problems and improve our everyday lives. The thinking is that 3.8 billion years of evolution has resulted in nature developing some very effective, and sustainable solutions, which we should seek to learn from.

This principle cuts across many of the companies we discover in our innovation scouting searches.

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The Internet of Things: DIY home-hacks to make life smarter

The Internet of Things revolution is already under way, with a growing number of devices appearing that can network and communicate with each other and with other web-enabled gadgets, connecting new places - such as manufacturing floors, healthcare facilities, energy grids, and transportation systems - to the Internet.

Our recent innovation scouting searches that have drawn heavily from the Internet of Things include The Future Railway, Waste Container Logistics, Smart Home Innovations, and The Future of Retail. The common theme is more data, gathered from more places, with more ways to increase efficiency and improve safety, security, and customer service.

While much of this technology is being developed within commercial settings, there are some great opportunities for creative DIY enthusiasts to easily turn everyday home appliances and other personal possessions into “smart objects”.

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Scuttling delicacies: Will eating insects ever catch on in the West?

In the latest in our series of articles on emerging innovation areas we take a closer look at using insects as food.

All things that creep, scuttle and have more appendages than the average “leg at each corner” tend to be viewed with some suspicion by consumers in the Western world, and the idea of sitting down to a meal of fried cockroaches or caterpillar kebabs is enough to make most people lose their appetite.

While the nearest that most of us will have come to eating anything small and leggy will have been in the form of passing a street vendor peddling scorpions on sticks while on holiday somewhere exotic, 80% of the world’s nations already incorporate bugs, arachnids or insects of some kind into their staple diets. Our distaste for making use of the rich stream of food resources right at our feet is something of a First World affectation.

However, with the world’s population on an ever-increasing upwards spiral and even the richest nations having to face the very real fact that the finite resources available to us in terms of grazing land and feed for farmed animals are quickly dwindling, scientists, farmers and nutritionists are taking a more sanguine view of our future food security.

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