#18: Multimedials

Medals have always interested me, both as beautiful objects and because of what they represent. They act primarily as part of the extended phenotype, providing women with increased information about the reproductive fitness of their wearers.

Medals also make a promise to young men that bravery in battle will make them more attractive. As a means of celebrating that bravery, whilst also combatting war, today’s invention is the multimedial: a minor variant on the clamshell mobile phone. These can be worn just as medals currently are, but with each able to show images on an electronic display when worn in the open position.


Soldiers these days commonly carry small moviecameras with them. I suggest they be equipped with a multimedial and if decorated, the footage they shot at the time should be played on the display of the device at subsequent ceremonies and occasions. This would provide members of the public with an insight into what war is really like, without its heroes having to talk about their activities.

Another major advantage of this idea is that the chestfuls of clamshells adorning our monarchs would be conspicuously, yet eloquently, quiet.

#17: USB Passport

The UK Government have been faffing for ages about whether, and in what form, to impose ID cards on we citizens. (Of course, people forget that we used to have such things in the UK during the last war, when it was compulsory to carry a brown, dogeared card with a sepia photo which made everyone look like a Nazi spy).

According to some ‘latest poll’, 30% of us would be willing to pay £20 for an ID card -out of our own pockets (That’s surely a bargain, to avoid sitting next to some sweating crazy hugging a briefcase and fiddling with his shoe heels at 20,000 feet).


Anyway, you can now buy a 1-Gigabyte USB flash drive, with fingerprint recognition, for about £18 (1 off).

My idea is therefore to equip all of we potential hijackers, money launderers and terrorists with one of these drives. To get onto a plane, you stab your device into a reader attached to any of the 20 year-old PC’s which litter airports. Your fingerprint would allow the PC to access information on the drive which could then be cross checked with data from the top secret MoD undesirables list. It might even allow some additional security questions (‘Mother’s maiden name?’ seems a bit old fashioned -and assumes she was later married, of course).

These cheapy devices currently make a mistake and incorrectly admit someone about 1 in 100,000 times I believe, whilst stopping someone incorrectly only about 1 in 10,000 times. Both of these rates, if correct, seem pretty good given the low cost involved.

That cost could be further reduced, considering that HM Govt. would be able to buy these at a huge discount for 60 million off (it would also be a hell of a lot cheaper than the current Heathrow shenannigans: www.misense.org )

The only problem then would be the much more difficult one of working out which way to put the USB connector in the slot (a future iotd perhaps).

#16: Reshredder

To transform a one-cut office paper shredder into its more expensive two-cut cousin, I suggest a reshredder insert that allows the output from a one-chop machine to be caught and fed, at right angles, into the same machine again.

This could be achieved by use of a plastic hopper costing only a few pence.


#15: Flatpack flap

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in the rain with a collection of flat-pack boxes just too much the wrong shape to get into your car (or perhaps even into Elvis’ car), here’s a suggestion you might like to make to the Ikea’s of this world. Or you could just knuckle under and pay them £80+ to deliver your chipboard….

The store should provide, alongside each cardboard box full of furniture components in the collection shed, an identical cardboard box containing nothing (in fact many of each of these spare boxes could be stored flat, adjacent to the goods themselves and at almost no extra cost).


These empty boxes could be unflattened and carried with ease to your vehicle where you could then undertake a small experiment to see if the antique formica effect fitted kitchen you are about to buy will actually be coming home with you that evening. Even items which are not normally boxed, eg armchairs, could have a rough pop-up cardboard facsimile made for this purpose (or you could just take that home and sit on it, I guess).

This idea also saves our warehouse chums the costs and hassle associated with the ‘immediate returns’ department (who have to cater to people who made it as far as the rainstorm outside only to discover their Shogun Landcruiser inadequately proportioned).

#14: Escaping from tv advertisement mentality

14% of all spending on advertisements in Britain is now invested in online marketing. I expect a lot of that goes on slush funds and junkets to the Maldives, but even so, that’s a hell of a lot of money. I suspect two things are driving this:

1) That more people are frustrated by the low quality of contemporary tv.
2) That advertisers are starting to get the fact that in online advertising, you don’t just fire a campaign out there: you can actually monitor the results in terms of clicks, or even £ spent, as a result.

Which leads me to today’s idea. It’s hardly an invention, more just common sense.

At the moment, whenever I reload this page (with its admittedly diverse content) the ads which our friends at Google send to my browser include:

  • one from a driving school
  • one from a hotel in Manchester
  • one from a vacuum flange manufacturer
  • one from a rental villa near Disneyland
  • one for some medical gas systems
  • one for a red consumer product ‘as seen on tv’ which is so indistinct that it’s unclear what is being sold (maybe the mystery element is supposed to provide an incentive to click?)

Today’s idea is that one way to improve online advertising effectiveness is to place less emphasis on tuning the ad. content to reflect the page content…instead, if I haven’t clicked on an ad. in say the last two or three showings, it can safely be assumed that I’m not interested…so don’t show me that ad. again: ever. This can all be arranged easily via cookies, without placing that much extra strain on anyone’s ad. server. I’d be happy to opt-in, even if a privacy obsessed minority object (do they actually ever buy anything?) Given that the current click-through rate on banner ads is only 0.39%, this must surely be worth a try.

#13: Catflap with integral grooming

For those of us bothered by moulting cats…

Get hold of one of those small vacuum cleaners, the ones that are pretty much useless for anything else. Wire the cleaner so that it switches on as the flap is opened.

Arrange a section of the hose in a loop around an existing catflap aperture. Make a longitudinal slot in the hose and blank off the end, so that, on entry (and exit), all of that surplus fur, skank, rotten leaves, mouse entrails etc are removed from your furry friend.

You still have to brush down the apparatus weekly and remove the bag of course (unless your cat is valuable enough to warrant a posh, overpriced Dyson). It may also deter foreign cats who aren’t prepared to brave the blowdry on the offchance of some extra rabbit’s liver biccies.

#12: Cheaper parking?

Disgusted at the prices which councils are allowed to charge for car parking, I thought it might be possible to drive a car transporter into town, in the early morning, park it covering several bays and buy one ticket for the whole day.

Then, I’d charge people a lower-than-council rate to park their vehicles (with greater security) on the back of the transporter.


Aside from the costs of a transporter (huge) and the fact that councils would at once disallow parking outside single bays, I rather fancy this.

#11: Evanescent structures

The countryside is littered with shopping trolleys, dragged there by shoppers, vagrants and yobs. The whole process of shopping with these things is a nightmare anyway, for store owners and shoppers alike.

Until someone invents home delivery (!) and all those ugly supermarkets close in favour of underground warehouses, I thought it might be interesting to consider the global proliferation of trolleys problem. Here is an alternative to the coin-in-the-trolley deposit approach (since I can never remember to bring the right coin with me anyway).


Ice. Imagine a trolley which can be as large or small as your purchases require and which, when you have used it, just disappears. So why not just make the entire basket thing of ice? Answer: the cost is way too high…if we just reproduced existing designs, I reckon it would require removal of 4 MJ to cool water enough to generate a solid trolley in the existing design. So my suggestion would be to come up with a trolley ice mould which is sufficiently strong in design to carry the shopping, whilst minimising the material. Surely someone out there with a CAD system and some polymer engineering expertise could cut the required mass of ice by a factor of 10…or 100?

Maybe there’s a way to make a shell-like design which could be sprayed onto a standard former (ie fast) and still be sufficiently light and strong? It would have to run on detachable, ablative skids I guess, but at least the shopping would get home still chilled and you could have separate baskets which exactly fit your own car boot.

#10: Wind resistant traffic cones

I’ve noticed that in particularly windy parts of the country, two traffic cones are used at a time, one purely being employed to hold the other one down in high winds. It occurred to me that it would be better to equip each cone with a moulded-in compartment into which water could be poured from the cone laying truck. The weight would allow each cone to stay securely in place in even the wildest weather.

When the roadworks have been completed (it does happen sometimes) a plug could be pulled before loading cones back aboard.


An alternative, involving no extra weight, would be for the base of each cone to incorporate an inverted aerofoil moulding which, as the wind rises, would suck it down harder onto the tarmac (a similar process to the ‘wings’ on F1 racers). This would also be a useful addition to the existing wheelie bin designs which routinely overturn in the wind, spilling household waste all over the pavement.

#9: Deadline downcounter

A clock which allows you to enter some deadline time and then says ‘Two minutes until deadline’, ‘One minute to go’, ‘You are cutting things a bit fine now’, ‘Get a bloody move on’ and eventually ‘…ok, you are now officially late.’

The voice could range from relaxed and encouraging to frantic and hectoring (Think 1980’s Montego but without the velour upholstery).