Nearly every service comes with an app these days, leading to the oft-repeated criticism that people spend too much time glued to their phones. A new San Francisco startup is trying to reduce our screen time, however, with an innovative - if a little old school - idea. The Nudge is a planner tool that sends you info via SMS. Friends can share ideas for things to do, such as restaurants or weekend hike spots, but without being distracted by all the glitz that comes with an app. With 10,000 users already and more than half a million dollars in funding, The Nudge could be pioneering a new (old) way for companies to connect with customers directly.
Range and cost have often been cited as the biggest hindrances to the widespread use of electric vehicles. Nearly every major carmaker is understandably trying to develop the next generation of battery technology, and now Hyundai is getting in on the game. The Korean carmaker this week announced it was investing in Ionic Materials, a US-based manufacturer that builds solid state batteries. Considered to be safer and possess more energy potential than traditional batteries, Ionic may have found the answer to the problem of large-scale production in a special polymer it says can drastically reduce manufacturing costs. The wide-reaching implications of the “better battery” that the world of transportation has long been searching for are obvious: lower price points, wider availability, better range. Let’s hope Hyundai is on to something!
The race to do away with checkout lines is in full swing. Amazon recently debuted technology in its select brick and mortar stores that charge customers for items when placed in their shopping basket, thus eliminating queues all together. But an Israeli startup is hoping to take that seamless purchase technology to an entirely new level. Trigo Vision, which snagged $7 million in funding this week, is developing a service that uses cameras and sensors to scan items customers pick up and then charge them when they leave the store. The company hopes to market their product to stores all over the world by offering a range of options, including the ability for shoppers to pre-register their credit cards or pay in cash at scanners near the exit. The idea is that any store owner, anywhere, can make their shop seamless.
If you’re looking for a place to foster the brightest new business ideas, there is no better country than Switzerland. For the eighth year running, the Alpine nation topped the annual Global Innovation Index. Switzerland was handed top honors because of its tech industry, universities and research spending. The Netherlands came in second on the list of 126 countries, followed by Sweden, the UK and Singapore. Among global superpowers, China jumped up five spots from last year to 17th, while the US dropped two spots to sixth. Long a key benchmark for business and political leaders, the GII measures key economic factors like manufacturing, investment and scientific development to compile its ranking.
When it comes to getting around the city, there seems to be a never-ending stream of new options. Bike shares, electric scooters, ride-hailing, car sharing - you name it; a big city probably has it. But one of the frustrating things about this wealth of options is that first-time users often have to download an app to use the service. Now Uber, one of the world’s most ubiquitous ride-hailing companies, has made that step easier by announcing this week its integration of the popular Lime scooter rental service into its own app (and making a “sizable investment” to boot). No downloading, no new account, simply use your already-existing Uber profile to get around. Other major competitors are likely to follow with this kind of integration, rather than competing outright for city superiority. And beyond that, it’s a major sign that the big players in urban transport recognize the automobile is not quite as dominant as it used to be.