Why sustainable innovations shouldn’t be overlooked


Virtual reality may prove to be a disruptive innovation — but if it remains relevant for years — smaller innovations will deserve credit for maintaining its value. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Here are five ideas that impact the way we live, work and play.

1. Sustainable innovations are key to the long-term success of a business. Via the Harvard Business Review:

All the excitement about disruptive innovation has blinded us to one simple but irrefutable economic fact: The vast majority of profit from innovation does not come from the initial disruption; it comes from the stream of routine, or sustaining, innovations that accumulate for years (sometimes decades) afterward. An innovation strategy has to include both. Intel is certainly one of the great disruptors of all time. Its microprocessor fundamentally altered the structure of the personal computer industry. Yet, its strategy for almost three decades has largely been that of a sustainer, not a disruptor. Its fortunes have been built upon its successes in pushing the technological frontier of the microprocessor. But its essential value proposition — a higher-performing, high-margin product — has not changed.

2. Get woken up at your bus stop. Via PSFK:

Google Now has released an application that can wake people up when they’re on public transportation and are about to arrive at their destination. Google Now is an intelligent personal assistant available within the Google Search mobile app for Android and iOS devices and in the Chrome browser on personal computers. To use the feature, users simply need to open Google Now when they are using public transportation. Google Now will give users the option to set an alarm for saved locations like “Home” or “Work.” The new alarm feature will be able to tell where the user is and approximately when they should exit the public transportation they are on.

3. Amazon goes local. From Reuters:

Amazon.com Inc later this year plans to launch a marketplace for local services, a broad term that encompasses anything from babysitters to handymen to birthday clowns, beginning with a single market, several people familiar with the matter said. Amazon aims to gauge demand and test logistics before rolling out nationwide, mirroring its approach to its grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh. Fresh was tested in Seattle for years before expanding to San Francisco and Los Angeles last year. The move takes direct aim at consumer review sites Yelp Inc. and Angie’s List Inc. as well as U.S. home improvement chains Home Depot Inc. and Lowe’s Companies Inc., which have both invested in ways to link customers with local plumbers, painters and other service providers.

4. The decline of rarity. Via Medium:

“Rare” is such an quizzical descriptor, a blatant contradiction of the very nature of digital culture. Rarity describes a state of scarcity, and as we enter a proto-post-scarcity economy, digital stuff defies such shortages. Things are no longer rare; they are either popular or unpopular. Rarity itself has become very rare.

5. A ring that alerts you when your smartphone wants your attention. From Wired:

Ringly, a new line of technology-enabled rings, wants to make sure we have a say in which notifications are put in front our faces. The rings, which [launched Tuesday], are connected to your phone via Bluetooth Low Energy. You can configure the ring and its accompanying app to notify you when certain things are happening on your phone (calls, texts, e-mails, push notifications from Tinder, etc.) by blinking colorful lights and soft vibrations. For those of us bound to our phones, it’s supposed to be a way to free us from our technological shackles. … The team hints at potential future applications–things like gesture controls, easy mobile payments, unlocking doors–but for the moment, its sole focus is to see how people use the ring in the realm of notifications.

Disclosure: Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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