Formula 1 technology monitors children in hospital

An interesting article in the BBC this morning highlighted how technology is being adapted to different fields.

Telemetric data from cars is being continuously recorded and fed back to the F1 team, allowing them to monitor the levels of tyre temperature, engine output, suspension, braking and any other part of the car that needs to be watched. This information then allows the team to make adjustments to the car before races and refine the performance of the car over the season.

The technology that supports this has now been adapted to the field of health care, with Birmingham Children’s Hospital using it to monitor children in intensive care. Hospitals can keep an eye on a number of results, including blood pressure, oxygen levels, temperature and heart rate, and respond faster if a change in these is noted. The aim is that this information will be sent wirelessly, reducing the cost and speeding up the process.

TRIZ encourages us to look at the wider world for solutions to our problems. One of the first questions we ask before any problem solving session is “Has someone solved this problem before?”

By reducing the problem to its most important elements we can use the prism of TRIZ to identify possible solutions to our problem.

This new collaboration has got off to a strong start and hopefully we will be seeing this in hospitals more and more into the future. What other areas could telemetrics be expanded to? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Inventive Principles and the Olympic Cauldron

It was good to see a number of Inventive Principles at work in the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony on Friday night.


 Segmentation, Dynamics and Merging (among others) enabled the design to solve a number of physical contradictions:

  • There should be one flame and many flames (204 in all)
  • The flames should be separated (so that each participating country is individually represented) and yet together (not separated) because all countries are united through a common Olympic spirit.
  • The flames should be low (so that they can be lit from ground level) and high (so that the whole caboodle is more visible and impressive).

In many respects there a cauldron – and not a cauldron.

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The future of the umbrella

One problem from the recent bad weather we have been having here in the UK is that you can’t guarantee what the weather will be like from one hour to the next. To be prepared, you need to have an umbrella, sunglasses and a warm jacket with you at all times, just in case.

If you have a small umbrella, they can be blown inside out in a strong gust of wind, and they can make your bag wet if not put away properly, while a large umbrella is awkward to carry.

So what can you do if you want to have an umbrella with you, but you don’t want to have to carry it around?

At Oxford Creativity we used the TRIZ Inventive Principle of Pneumatics and Hydraulics and have come up with the solution below:

A designer called Mikhail Belyaev has come up with another solution to this problem, which is a wonderful example of Inventive Principle 13 – The Other Way Round. He has come up with the Lampbrella – an umbrella that is wrapped around a streetlamp and goes up automatically when the rain falls – which would allow people to share shelter from the rain when they need it.

A lovely idea, and one that I would like to see on streets soon. How about you?

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Intel’s New ‘Ivy Bridge’ Computer Chips

When we see the latest high-tech developments announced, it can be instructive how they still fit into the generic solutions contained in the 40 Principles. I was recently reading of Intel’s latest range of computer chips and their breakthrough new design.

For years, the computer industry has been shrinking the size of the millions (or billions) of transistors that make up a computer chip – cramming more in adds processing power in a given space, but more importantly allows the chip to run faster and consume less power. To this end, the spacing of the transistors has shrunk with each new generation of chip. To allow this trend to continue, now down to 22nm pitch, Intel has devised the Ivy Bridge chip. The change that has made this possible? Principle 17 – another dimension:

Two storey tent – another example of getting more into a given area by using ‘Another Dimension’

Instead of the transisitors being etched into the flat surface of the silicon, they are now raised up into a 3D structure.


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Which Apple product is best? Let the market decide

Apple unveiled 2 new versions of the MacBook Pro at their recent conference. One version has a 15.4 inch screen, retina display, is 1.8 cm thick and weighs just over 2 kilos, while the other has a 15.4 inch screen without retina display, is 2.41 cm thick, and weighs 2.54 kilos. There are other differences between the 2 models, but the real difference is found inside.

The MacBook Pro with retina display has been awarded 1 out of 10 for repairability by ifixit as it is almost impossible to upgrade or repair this MacBook yourself. It requires special tools, and as the battery and memory are glued into the body of the computer, this would not be a job for the faint-hearted!

Apple is giving its users a choice between ease of repair and extra features, and the decision that the market makes could define the future of Apple laptops.

TRIZ encourages solving contradictions, and in this case Apple is asking consumers to chose between size and adaptability. Which would you prefer?

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The invisible bike helmet

As an enthusiastic, though wobbly, cyclist, I make a point of wearing my cycle helmet whenever I go out on my bike. Although there are many arguments for and against the wearing of helmets, they make me feel a little bit safer when I’m riding down a winding country lane.

Then I saw an article on Treehugger about a new helmet which has recently become available on the market: the Hovding.

The Hovding is an inflatable helmet contained in a collar – you cycle with the collar around your neck and it will inflate when it senses an impact, covering your head and providing protection in the event of an accident, like an airbag in a car. You can wear a hat or scarf (as long as the collar isn’t covered) and it will expand around them.

This invention is a wonderful illustration of several of the TRIZ Tools. It is a separation in time as we want the helmet to be there when we need it (to protect us in an accident) and not there when we don’t (so we don’t look silly).

It is an example of Pneumatics and Hydraulics (inventive principle 29),

Dynamics (principle 15)

and Flexible Membranes/ Thin films (principle 30).

It is also an example of the trend of Increasing Flexibility (going from a rigid system to a flexible or hydraulic one).

Have a look at the Hovding in action here

This is definitely something I would wear. Would you?

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Why our food is making us fat

The article in the Guardian newspaper last week on “why our food is making us fat”  was riveting. It describes how in the western world we have become hooked on sugar, and the role of HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) in creating an obesity epidemic, but gives an interesting explanation for how this has come about which struck me as being very much “thinking in time and scale”.

Thinking in time and scale is one of the TRIZ tools which helps us understand our situation more clearly by broadening our scope to include the big picture and the detail, and how they change over time. This can help us see trends, connections and new potential solutions: instead of saying people have become more fat because they eat more sugar (and imply it’s all their fault, the greedy things!), you look at what is going on in the wider context and in the details in order to understand what’s happening and see new ways of dealing with the problems.

I have been reading around this topic and there is a LOT of information out there (I have provided some of the references below) and it is easy to drown in information, but laying things out in 9 boxes helps you keep thinking clearly. I have summarised this below, and have included the fact that longer working hours and more working women in the US and the UK have contributed to this.

I’ve used this to think about what the solutions could be – this is a big topic but thinking about it in 9 boxes shows how there are many solutions to this, as any, problem…


Farm Subsidy Database

Static Blog

The NY Times

Barbara Ehrenreich

European Food Information Council

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