This page is dedicated to present some ideas which come to my mind. This can be everything, even bad ideas…
Food related ideas
- Automatic food recipes translation, international website: When my wife searches for a recipe she looks at a French website, as this is her mother language. And a French website mostly has recipes which are common in French. I do not expect that someone can find a typical recipe from Thailand there. The wife of a friend is Thai, and she cooks very delicious Thai meals. The ingredients are similar to stuff we can find here, pork meat and spices and so on, but you have to search around to find such recipes on a German or French or whatever food recipes site. Maybe you are even unlucky and can not find a recipe in a language you understand. So my idea is simple. Instead of writing down the recipes as text on a website, an international website with the food recipes of the world could work with objects and procedures. If there is no object (ingredient), create one and the creator can provide the translation at least for those languages he knows the translation for (or only for his mother language). People which want to translate stuff should get a way to ask for untranslated objects in language X in the website interface. For the procedures it is also easy. If there is no procedure for what you want to do, create a new one and write the text in your language. Procedures can have multiple inputs and outputs. Ideally a procedure is broken down into the smallest components (“mix A and B, result C”, “use object D on C, result 5*E”). A procedure can be split into syntax (input type, number of items per input type, input unit, operation, result), and semantic (the words used to describe the procedure). An example would be “Take %%ITEM1_NUM1%%%ITEM1_UNIT%% %%ITEM1_TYPE%% and put them into %%ITEM2_NUM%%ITEM2_UNIT%% %%ITEM2_TYPE%%. This is now %%RESULT1_NUM%%%%RESULT1_UNIT%% %%RESULT1_TYPE%%.”. With 3 Eggs and 1 bowl as input this would be “Take 3 Eggs and put them into the bowl. This is now the bowl with eggs.” (the software is responsible to pick the correct translation of type depending on the number). Another procedure could be to scramble what is in “bowl with eggs”. Yes, in case of type “bowl with eggs” this can create a lot of translation effort needed because of the huge possibilities what is inside, but maybe a “bowl with ingredients (step X)” is userfriendly enough. Creating such a recipe is more work than just writing down in your mother language what needs to be done. The benefit is on the consumer side. People looking up a recipe could chose from a huge number of worldwide recipes (if this service would get enough content producers and translators), and the procedures could even have links of detailed descriptions how to do something, or links to videos/animations/pictures showing how to do a procedure. For cultures where are specific ingredient is not allowed for religious or whatever reasons, there could be an opt-in for such ingredients (detection based upon browser language and/or geographical region).
- No-name products tracking: Write an application for mobile phones (if possible even for simple ones which come only with Java, e.g. via internal DB lockup instead of online-lookup, not only for Android/iPhone) which scans the product barcode, the date (of last consumption or manufacturing date or whatever), and the number of the manufacturing company (at least mandatory in the EU for meat, fish, milk, eggs and similar) and return the name(s) of similar no-name or even branded products. With the number of the manufacturing company you can see which brand could be the producer of the product. While this does not mean it is the same (ingredients and/or quality), so does it give a hint what to buy or to avoid for whatever reasons. With the product barcode and the date you could get the product history (when the producer changes). With user supplied input to the main database the match can be improved (e.g. “tastes the same as the branded one”). It also allows to find cheaper alternatives to branded products, or to see if something similar is also available at another place. Additional user supplied input (or maybe even official input from companies) could be the (regional) price. This would allow to find the cheapest price for this kind of product.
Alternative energy related ideas
- Non-optimal weather optimized photovoltaic solar cells: Could the average power generation of a photovoltaic solar cell in non-full-sunlight conditions be improved by using a fresnel lens (the Wikipedia article suggests that it can be used there, but so far I have not seen any use of it on small (private household) installations)? What impact would this have on the peak power generation? The same questions for thermal solar cells. UPDATE 2010-03-16: I found a company which seems to be doing this. They use a heat-exchanger to move the additional heat as discussed in the comments here to a water pipe to generate hot water (a combination of a photovoltaic and a thermal solar cell). They use the lens and some mirrors to reduce the amount of solar cells (and thus the cost). Unfortunately they do not compare the output of the photovoltaic part with a normal solar cell (the same surface area but no lens), they only compare the combined output power of the photovoltaic and thermal parts with a normal photovoltaic panel (so they compare apples with oranges and show a huge difference in this unfair comparison).
- Lotus flower effect for solar (photovoltaic/thermal) cells: If the glass of a solar cell would be modified to show a cleaning effect of the lotus flower, would this reduce the amount of maintenance? If yes, is this significant? Would this effect cause a change in the efficiency of the cell? If yes, how much?
- Using compressed air to automatically remove snow from solar cells: Is there an energy efficient way to automatically clean e.g. snow with compressed air from solar panels when the time of the day suggests that there could be sun but a light sensor does not detect more light than during the night (this “the panels are covered by something” detection does not take into account that panels can be partially covered, and maybe this/it could be improved by taking the power output of the panels into account too)? The power consumption of the light sensor and the control electronics need to be taken into account. Is this a significant improvement (with a positive return of investment)?
- Generating electricity with heat: Thermal solar cells generate more heat power than similar sized photovoltaic cells produce electric power. How efficient would it be to use thermal solar cells to drive e.g. a stirling engine to generate electricity in a normal household (I have only found big installations, but no installation for a normal household)? To cool down the relevant part of this setup, the excessive heat could be used to heat the house or the water for domestic use.
Car related ideas
- Constant-power cruise control: Now with more and more electric cars being announced, this would allow to create a cruise control which can be switched from constant speed to constant power. The constant speed mode is like we all know how a cruise control operates (designed to better calculate the arrival time… in the best case), the constant power mode would have a varying speed, but would try to have a constant power output per distance-unit (designed to better calculate the travel distance the power source is able to handle).
- Personal GPS tracking: It would be nice if the GPS devices in cars would grow a tracking feature which records where I was, how was I drove, and at which time I was there, and at which day of the week (opt-in for each time, off course). With this it would be possible to see for example if it matters if I drive 20 speed units faster on a specific way at a specific time or not (not directly, you would have to drive often the same way to get some statistically significant answer). It would also allow to gain better insight into which way to take at which time of day to get from e.g. work to home.