Imagine you come back to your car one afternoon only to discover a parking ticket in the windshield. After analysing the situation, you begrudgingly admit that the ticket was waranted and that you won’t bother fighting it. However, that still puts you in the hated situation of having to go to the city hall, or some police station, or even have to mail a check or any other archaic way that costs precious time and annoys you to no end. If only there was some way to pay the thing without going through all this hassle. Well, thanks to an American software development company called Terrible Labs, now there is just such a way. Introducing… TicketZen!
Although it started out as a response to a tweet by Kayak co-founder Paul English(“I want an iPhone app to take a photo of any parking ticket and pay for it from a credit card on file.”), TicketZen is now an app developed for both iOS and Android that allows you to scan the code of the parking ticket and then pay for it online via credit card. It’s just as easy as scanning any QR code right now, and it saves you precious time and energy. No more waiting in line alongside other disgruntled drivers, now you can just scan the code, select the city in which you got fined, select your payment method, and then with a single click of a button the payment is done.
Currently, TicketZen only works in eight cities across the United States, however, this year it is scheduled to be rolled out in over a hundred cities in North America, Europe and Australia. Continue reading TicketZen – a new way of paying your parking ticket(s) →
Curing deadly diseases by doing nothing – an alternative use of crowdsourcing
What if I told you that you could help scientists in their search for a cure to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer? The first reaction would probably be „I don’t have any medical background or experience, how could I possibly do that?”. Then you might think of donations to certain organizations or NGOs, but in order to really make a difference in terms of research, the amount of money needed is somewhere in the millions. So how then can an average person, with no experience whatsoever in the medical field and with a budget that could never hope to match the needs of this endeavour, help in finding a cure for these diseases?
The short answer is… by doing nothing. The longer answer is… by doing very little. Puzzled? Don’t worry! The people over at Stanford University’s Pande Laboratory, alongisde Sony, Nvidia and ATI have created a software called Folding@home, which runs in the background of your computer and simulates different possible folding patters of proteins. According to medical textbooks, this folding process is the physical process by which a polypeptide folds into its characteristic and functional three-dimensional structure from random coil. What this actually translates into for you and me is that when proteins in our body fold properly, they can even work as defense mechanisms against disease. When they don’t, they can actually cause the abovementioned diseases. Clearly, if scientists manage to unlock the secrets of this process, it would be a great thing for us all.
Unfortunately, the process is not that simple. Continue reading Curing diseases by doing nothing →
What if the next time you went to the local supermarket in order to do your groceries you would receive a discount on your favorite brand of cereals or beer? How about if you received a discount for chicken meat, but you’re a vegetarian? Two supermarket chains from the United States, Safeway and Kroger have come up with a way of tailoring discount coupons to each customer according to their shopping history. As soon as you swipe your loyalty card when paying, the system records your shopping list and a complex algorithm uses it, along with all the previous ones, in order to generate product offers that would interest you.
As such, the next time you go shopping for pasta, you might get a discount for the specific type of pasta that you like, or a discount for another type, but produced by the same company, if the system detects that you have a strong loyalty to the brand. At the same time, the algorithm ensures that you are never given discounts for products or brands that your shopping history indicates that you have a low chance of choosing.
Continue reading A New Approach to Product Discounts →