Crave goes Diving with Dolphins: UK start-ups fly the flag for tech innovation

Crave headed for the UK's own Silicon Fen, meeting a selection of Cambridge start-ups showing off interactive printing, hassle-free online banking and a social network for you and your doctor

This week, Crave headed for the hothouse of technological experimentation, world-class innovation and ill-advised floppy hair that is Cambridge. We met with a selection of start-ups based in the Silicon Fen at showcase event Diving With Dolphins. We're not sure if we're the divers or the dolphins in this metaphor, but let's jump in anyway, with interactive paper, an unfortunately named phone charger, an online banking security system that actually works, plus many more -- and they're all British.

Novalia: Interactive ink

Novalia integrates conductive ink into existing printing processes, to create interactive printed materials. Books, menus, in-store displays and product packaging could have sensors built-in to give different outcomes every time they're used, with software allowing manufacturers to come up with more imaginative solutions than a speaker and a watch battery in one of those greetings cards with the really bad celebrity impressions.

In fact, Novalia showed off a birthday-card concept that included candles that light up when the card is picked up, and has a breath sensor that allows you to 'blow out' the candles, like in the picture above.

HeatLight: Let there be light!

Even the most hardened climate-change sceptic could probably do with cutting a few quid off their 'leccy bill, and HeatLight is designed to do just that. Currently at prototype stage, pictured below, the HeatLight converts warmth from your heating into light.


Set the unit on a radiator or cooker or even a campfire, and it powers a light or other electrical gadget. Lights are activated by a motion sensor so the light is only on when you're in the room.

HeatLight is currently on trial with the NHS. Although a £30 consumer version could be in shops and making us savings by next year, it's big institutions that could cut millions of tonnes of carbon emissions -- and save millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. Other possible applications include soft nightlights for kids, or phone charging in the developing world.

Patients Know Best: Doctor, doctor, I've sent you a friend request

We've seen some niche social networks in our time, but Patients Know Best outdoes them all for potential usefulness.

Patients Know Best uses the social-network model of creating your own profile page that can be accessed online. Your NHS records are available for you to view, along with test results and prescriptions. Crucially, you can also send and receive messages to your clinician. You can even upload home-monitoring results. Pulling your records together in one place and giving you ownership of them is good for your reference, as well as creating a more efficient audit trail for doctors, consultants and GPs.

All your information is kept secure as the system is the only one of its kind that's part of the NHS secure network. You collect a secure PIN in person before logging on, and can then use the portal to cut down on appointments and telephone consultations. To help you understand your condition, relevant links and stats that place your test results in context can appear on your page. In future, features such as requesting repeat prescriptions could be added.

Patients Know Best begins a trial this week at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

Magnifye: The Most Powerful Magnet In The World!

Staying on a health tip, the event included a presentation from Magnifye, a company of Cambridge University boffins who have developed -- wait for it -- The Most Powerful Magnet In The World! The world's strongest permanent magnet has the potential to create a new generation of portable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment. Those are the scanners that people who've hit their head and think they're Virginia Woolf get slid into in House. The magnets are made from supercooled yttrium barium copper oxide and are so powerful that a one-inch magnet could lift a lorry. Wowsers!

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