Eco-innovation as a tool to be more competitive

innovar para ser más compatitivos

Innovation is the key for the future of our business. Without innovation, we can hardly survive in the complex environment in which we are immersed. One of the fields in which we can apply innovation is what we call eco-innovation. In this sense, we talk about all forms of innovation, both technological and non-technological, that allow creating business opportunities while benefiting the environment. By means of prevention, reducing the impact on the deterioration of the environment or allowing optimization in the use of resources.

Without a doubt, eco-innovation has a very direct relationship with our way of producing, consuming and using natural resources.

New challenges that require great solutions

Climate change is a matter of principal importance, which is increasingly focusing efforts and resources. It is no secret that our planet faces serious environmental problems and we need to find imaginative solutions if we want to maintain our standard of living while avoiding the deterioration of our planet. As many times I said, maybe there may be a plan B for many things, but for the planet there is no plan B, it is necessary to preserve it for future generations.

In this context, ecological or environmental innovation is a tool that can help companies to find and develop sustainable solutions that optimize resources and reduce the negative effects on the environment of our economy, increasingly globalized, achieving a sustainable economic development.

Are companies innovative in this regard?

Despite the advantages of eco-innovation for companies, we need to make a greater effort in this area, as we can see great differences between countries and sectors and many gaps still need to be filled.

The concept of “responsible innovation” clearly benefits companies and society. Perhaps this is the first point that must be internalized by both, companies and people. The second is that innovation is not only a matter of large companies, but also SMEs and entrepreneurs.

In summary, whatever company, whatever sector, and regardless from the size of it, all have the capacity to add its grain of sand in solving this immense challenge we have.

3 examples of eco-innovation in different sectors

Climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, limited access to basic resources or environmental health problems are some of the challenges that arise when we incorporate sustainability into business strategy, in all its operations.

As sometimes an example is like an image, worth a thousand words, here are some examples of environmental innovation in various sectors; some of them are really ingenious and interesting:

Trains that work with liquefied natural gas

In 2015, Renfe implemented in its metric width network in Leon and Asturias a railway project powered by Liquid Natural Gas (LNG).
It is a pilot project that tried to analyze the feasibility of adapting the railway convoys to operate with LNG.
The results were promising for the industry: a positive economic impact that led to a reduction in operating costs, since this fuel has a lower cost than diesel fuel; a clear reduction in pollution and a more efficient use of natural resources (reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution).
Increasing the use of rail transport, especially for merchandise, is an element that needs to be incorporated and if we do so, using clean energy, even better. The problem is that this initiative did not have any kind of continuity.

Use of malt shell to create a biomaterial to recover bone grafts and dental implants

Mahou San Miguel has found a way to optimize the management of by-products (in this case, the shell of malt) in the production process, identifying new applications for the benefit of society.

The company found a new destination for the recovery of bagasse, a residue of the brewing process.
It turns out that this residue has the main components present in bone mass. Thus, if modified, it can be used as a support for the coating of prostheses, dental implants and bone grafts.

 

Biofuels from fats and oils used at home

Since 2013, Cepsa, works on a new biofuel model. This biofuel is obtained from household fats and oils that are used, with molecules equal to those contained in conventional diesel. The big difference is that this new fuel is 100% renewable.

The production of this biofuel offers very positive effects for the environment. Not only is achieved a 100% renewable product, but it is also achieved through the reuse of household waste.

The development of products and processes that contribute to the sustainable development, applying commercial strategies to generate, directly or indirectly, benefits or ecological improvements, is the key in all sectors. However, its importance and need is accentuated when we speak of the logistics sector because of its complexity.

If you are interested in this topic, eco-innovation in the logistics sector, I speak about it in more detail in an article that I have written for the newspaper El Vigía. I invite you to read it:

http://elvigia.com/eco-innovacion-en-el-sector-logistico/

And, as always, your comments are welcome.

 

 

Graphene: The material of the future

 

grafeno-el-material-de-futuro-300x200Graphene promises to revolutionize the field of technology and especially the mobile sector, but its impact will be seen in many other industries. In fact, the versatility of graphene is considered in terms of the different presentation forms and approaches of each manufacturer for its industrial application.

Beyond the many possibilities in the production of smart phone screens, this material has potential applications in devices such as brain-embedded chips that allow detecting epileptic seizures in real time; or ink that, once used in the printing, will allow us to interact with other devices.

This reality is bound to be the very near future. But some of this technology is already underway. This is the case of flexible screens, made possible thanks to graphene, and which experts estimate will be on the market in about three years.

Now first things first, what is graphene?

It is a carbon-based material. It is so thin that it is considered only two dimensional, and it is one of the most flexible, lightweight (five times lighter than aluminium) and resistant materials out there (200 times stronger than steel), in addition to its high conductivity of heat and electricity. It is a relatively inexpensive material. Therefore, it has all the features to become a key material for building many of the elements that we know, and others we don’t, at a lower cost, with a lower environmental impact and a higher performance.

Surprisingly, it is not a new material, since its structure was described eight decades ago. However, it was not isolated until 2004 by researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, which led them to be awarded with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/2010/

Current applications

Graphene chargers

One of the firms participating in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (MWC ‘16) was Zap Go, a start-up that develops graphene batteries and chargers that will charge mobile devices in just five minutes.

Flexible screens

Maybe one of the most surprising and unexpected… In just a few years it will allow us to wear our mobile on our wrist.

Graphene ink

The company Novalia presented a poster with audio at the MWC’16. The poster showed the image of a battery printed in graphene ink and, when touched with the fingers, the different parts of the instrument powered some speakers that reproduced the sounds.

And much more…

Graphene chargers have an impact on the automotive sector as well. The field of Aeronautics has also discovered a material that is especially interesting for the industry for its lightness; or even the health sector. As mentioned above, this material can be embedded under the skin or clothing to detect and monitor processes and reactions in our body, such as vital signs, and it is even intended to help recover speech or vision.

The possibilities of such material are almost endless. Some of them were revealed at the MWC ‘16; many others are still to be unveiled or discovered…

A long way to go

Despite its many features, the huge expectations and the fact that it is already being used in the manufacturing process of various devices and technologies, there is still a long way to go.

Mass production of graphene is perhaps one of the barriers to overcome. Companies like IBM or Samsung are focusing much of its efforts in the research of mass production of graphene using methods that yield a very high quality material that can be used in high-tech. Researchers predict products and devices made from graphene will be on the market in about three years, but the commercialization and widespread use might take a little longer.

No doubt graphene is here to stay. And companies will try to make the most of its many properties to dominate the market, if possible, before making them public.

Innovation in the supply chain: Augmented Reality

 

AugmentedReality-300x169In recent years, technological advances have led a radical change in the optimization and improvement of logistics processes, thus increasing efficiency in this area. Drones, tablets or augmented reality glasses are just some of these advances. The present article focuses on this latest technology –augmented reality. More specifically, on augmented reality applied to the supply chain.

Few predicted that augmented reality has something to offer to the management of the supply chain. However, its possibilities are manifold…

But let’s start at the beginning:

What is augmented reality?

Put it simply, augmented reality is nothing more than what we see viewed from a mobile device. A technology that combines real-time physical and digital information in the same space, thereby expanding the information of the elements in our environment.

Augmented reality seeks to turn our physical world into an interactive and digital world. And this is precisely the difference with virtual reality, in that it does not replace reality, but it combines it with computer data expanding our perception of reality by means of images, videos and digital information through our mobile devices: smartphones, tablets or glasses like Google Glass.

Videos:

Google Glass:

What is augmented reality and what it is used for:

Augmented Reality in the supply chain

As a starting point of the impact of augmented reality in the supply chain, there is the fact that this technology allows us to anticipate information at all times and everywhere, it enables to speed up processes, optimize costs and even allows for greater security.

If, as noted above, this technology expands the information of what’s in our environment, just a pair of glasses could, for instance, provide operators with all the updated information on the location of the goods, routes, records and updates of changes in location, readable information in bar codes or storage planning through the provision of space necessary to store the goods, quickly detecting gaps in the warehouse.

But that’s not all there is. Space can be optimized real time, but it is also possible to use augmented reality to a higher or strategic level. By making virtual changes, you can create new gaps or redistribute the goods to optimize the available space.

Transport also has its advantages, since the use of devices adjustable to different readers or body elements will allow speeding up processes with bar codes and other identifiers when the goods are transported.

In turn, it will also allow having real-time information on possible damage to the product or its packaging.

We can envision the inclusion of augmented reality even on an administrative level, from registration to traceability, contributing once again to saving not only costs, but also management time.

And these are only some of the advantages and possibilities of augmented reality…

This video shows the application of the Augmented Reality (AR) technology to the picking processes to optimize their actions in the warehouse environment and the efficient management of the supply chain. In addition, depending on the hardware, it can incorporate voice recognition for the picking validation or to launch system commands.

Alternative sources:

Augmented Reality solution in the logistics industry:

Vision Picking at DHL – Augmented Reality in Logistics:

 

Technologies that will radically change our consumption habits

samnsung-afp-movil-644x362

The rapid development of technology has revolutionized our lifestyle at all levels, but perhaps these changes have been much more radical when it comes to purchasing and consumption habits. In this field, innovation and new technological proposals will continue to grow in the coming years. In view of the current developments, everything suggests that in five years’ time, we will dramatically change the concept of shopping we have today.

Against the odds, and although many predicted the death of retailing due to the rise of e-commerce, all developments and technologies that have emerged and which will see in the coming years, are aimed at combining the advantages of proximity trade with the flexibility of an online store.

Have you ever wondered what going shopping will be like in 2020?

For example, fitting rooms will replace curtains with digital screens that will allow customers to “try on” clothes using sensors that project on the screen the image of the item as it would look on the person. The company Magic Mirror is already developing this technology.
The shelves will host loads of smart tags that, through sensors, will recommend you products based on what you already have in your shopping cart or inform you about the special features of the items.

And these are not the only developments. Contactless payments using NFC (Near Field Communication) are already a reality with which companies like Auchan and Leroy Merlin have begun experimenting. Among other things, they allow facial recognition technology to analyse our mood when we go shopping or our reactions towards certain brands or others.

But in the countdown to 2020 and considering the emergence of all that we have mentioned above, the current pace of life compels us to optimize our time to the most and to bring the shops closer to where the customers are, rather than having them to travel to the store. We will analyse an alternative that allows to do this.

The British company Tesco has turned the walls of different metro stations and bus stops in Seoul into a great showcase where they exhibit their products and that enables users to shop through their Smartphone while waiting for the subway. Passengers use this service to purchase goods virtually, which are then delivered to their own homes.

The walls of the stations are only different from a common display window in that the products, instead of appearing physically, are shown through photographs and each includes a QR code. To buy any item, underground users only need to scan the QR codes that correspond to the items they want to acquire. The amount is automatically charged to the bank account that the user chooses and he later receives the shopping at home or at the address he indicates to the system when making the purchase. Later means that if users make a purchase before one in the afternoon, they will receive it the same day, therefore, they are likely to arrive home and have it already there or that the order is about to arrive.

The advantages of this initiative have a direct and positive impact on buyers, as in the case of metro passengers who can use their waiting time to do the shopping on their mobile phone. We are therefore facing a new shopping experience that combines retail shopping and e-commerce, while increasing the service we give to our clients.

This initiative launched in Korea is just one example of how important it is, both for buyers and for sellers, to have a shop virtually anywhere. The aim is to create a shopping experience where we can merge the best of both worlds, that is, the trust we have on the local store and the efficiency of e-commerce.

We are bound to see experiences like this in many other countries really soon.

The video linked below shows how this purchase system works.