Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chicago Fire: Lives that could have been saved...

Yesterday, two of Chicago's firefighters perished when the walls of an "abandoned" warehouse caved in on them while they were looking for possibility of any humans (homeless people) that could have taken shelter in the building. I wonder if human detection technology can be used by firefighters to detect human presence in a building without entering the building. Similar technology is already being used for following purposes:
 . Detecting humans (being smuggled) in shipping containers
 . Detecting trapped humans in collapsed buildings due to earthquake

For example, check..

Moreover, the building had a known history of building code violations. If firefighters can be given this information at the time of the emergency call or on their way to the building (using a on-vehicle computer as cops cars do), then the fire chief can make a call whether to send in the guys inside the building or on the roof.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Business Idea - Automate Sending Birthday Gifts

My wife and I don't have any kids so far but we go to (on average) one birthday party of our friends' kids every month. I am assuming for couples with kids this number would be at least 2 to 3. Now with every party, one needs to shop for a gift. You drive to a store, you try to find a gift suited for kid's age in the budget you set up.... moreover, we are not even sure which toys are "most popular" for kids of a particular age group. In all, I feel its the most tedious part of going to a party. I realize that for some people it may be a joy shopping for gifts but I suspect it will be a small percentage of gift shoppers. I verified the "tedious" nature of this task with a couples with kids. So here's a business idea...

How about you get a gift (nicely wrapped) "automatically selected and shipped" at your house a couple or so days before you have to go the birthday party? No driving to shops and hassle of finding something in your budget!

Here's one suggested way on how it could work:

1. Let's say an online toy vendor (amazon?) starts this "free" service in which you enroll.
2. You provide logistics information: shipping address, credit card, and a default budget for gifts.
3. Amazon also provides an online calendar. 
4. Anytime you are invited to a birthday party, you add an event on the calendar which includes date of event, sex and age of birthday kid. You may also optionally set a different budget for that kid (let's say he/she is the kid of your best friend etc.)
5. Amazon figures out the "most popular" toy for the kid in that age range and ships it to you a few days before the party. This is the step that saves you a lot of trouble!
6. Since the calendar is stored with Amazon, it already has the data populated for the next year. Voila!

I think this presents significant value proposition for both end customers and Amazon and here is how:

 . creates brand stickiness
 . allows them to capture a "new" market segment (parents who otherwise would have shopped at a local store for a gift)

End customers: 
  . makes their life easy AT NO ADDED COST! 
  . Considering amazon does not charge state tax (for california at least for now...though this could change in future) at least customers in California enjoy a cool ~10% discount.

Thoughts/comments welcome... I am most curious to know if birthday gift shopping is a hassle or not for you.