Millennium Products are the epitome of a world made more efficient by technology; a world that is transforming at such a rapid rate that the only thing we can be sure of is change itself. Almost every aspect of society is being redefined. Global economies that, for almost two centuries were industry-based, have shifted, and are now information-based.
Pat Pillai reports:
"The London Design Council recently decided to select products it thought best represented life in the new millennium." These Millennium Products were chosen based on being pioneering in their field, forward thinking, challenging and innovative.
Martin Baker Mark 16 Ejection Seat
One example is the new Martin Baker Mark 16 Ejection Seat. It is a new high performance escape system that dramatically increases the pilot's chances of survival should his plane malfunction. Even at low altitude, such as a rocket sled test-run, the seat boosts the pilot to a height where the parachute can be safely deployed.
Biogel 'Reveal' Surgical Gloves
In this age of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the Biogel Reveal gloves by Regent Medical enable medical workers to see, at a glance, if a new pair of surgical gloves has any punctures. Simply immerse the gloves in water, and any punctures are immediately revealed, drastically reducing the chance of contamination.
Marin Ark Life Raft
The Marin Ark Life Raft, by RFD Limited, is an inflatable life raft and evacuation system that keeps evacuees enclosed with direct access from ship to raft. If only they had had this on the Titanic!
Smart Water, by Smartwater Europe, is no ordinary water. Used as part of a security system, smart water sprayed on intruders remains on the body months later, even after repeated washing. It has unique markers in the water that enable verification of presence at the crime scene, and reflects ultraviolet light.
How about playing music by light beam? A system by OptiMusic allows musicians to play by waving their hands over beams of light.
This aeroplane comes in a box - it's the Europa XS, a do-it-yourself light plane by Europa Aircraft. It can be towed on a trailer to the nearest airfield, and can be topped up at the garage on the way, using standard petrol. However, the Europa XS still manages to offer an awful lot for its size - including speed, economy, and performance. This little plane lends new meaning to the phrase "weekend getaway". It could open a whole new range of destinations for the do-it-yourself aviator.
South African innovations
A little closer to home, Pat explains:
"The concept of Millennium Products can be applied to developing countries as much as to Europe. In fact, developing countries can often adopt these newer technologies more easily, because they do not have the cost of older, legacy systems, which are too expensive to mothball."
'In Touch' spoke to Geoff Garrett, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR):
"Many people are surprised to know that at the International Inventors Fair last year, we came second out of 32 nations in a competition for the best inventors."
Geoff believes that innovation is really about taking those inventions and ideas into the marketplace: "When you look around us in South Africa, you have to say, wow, there are so many exciting things happening".
Technology workers in developing countries are less restricted by regulations than their colleagues in the north. For this reason, they are freer to innovate - which they tend to do very successfully. In Touch discovered some of South Africa's exciting inventions.
Intelligent Perimeter Security System
The CSIR has developed what it believes to be the first intelligent perimeter security system. They system comprises several innocuous looking pillars that emit parallel infrared beams. Each pillar connects the beams in an invisible, but highly effective, barrier around the entire perimeter. What makes the beams different is their ability to identify the nature of the intruder. Using neural network programming, which makes computers think more like humans do, the system controlling the beams is able to work out if the intruder is human, no matter what form he takes. It can distinguish between harmless intrusions - like an animal - and signal the controller without setting off the alarm.
The system can also be programmed to recognise vehicles. And no matter how much a human tries to pretend he is an animal, the system has never yet failed to make a correct ID!
New Drugs sourced from African herbs
Africa's own unique herbs have also been responsible for a number of international drug patents. Herbalists have used many African plants for centuries, and by working together with South African scientists, local communities that grow these herbs are now benefiting.
The CSIR's Dr Marthinus Horak has been involved with these developments:
"The first product we developed is an appetite suppressant, to cure obesity, which is derived from an indigenous plant. We identified the active ingredient, patented it, and a few months ago, it was licensed to one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies. The second product is a good example of the power of combining the knowledge of traditional healers and scientists: with the aid of traditional healers, we discovered and patented a novel mosquito repellent at the CSIR. This took just a few weeks, where normally such a programme would take require millions of dollars and many years of development."
Virtual Mining Training System
Mining is a dangerous job, and ignorance of the hazards in a mining environment can prove fatal. Many rural miners are illiterate or semi-literate, and a more visual means of training had to be created.
Dr Andrew Squelch of CSIR Mining explains their solution:
"The programme is designed to represent the underground environment, and to train people who work in that environment how to recognise hazards. The programme teaches how to deal with those hazards correctly, and what accidents could result from ignoring the hazards. By interacting with a mine in virtual space, miners quickly learn how to avoid danger in the real world."
When Gutenberg invented the printing press almost 500 years ago, he had no idea that it would create a new level of literacy in Europe. Eventually, this would eventually pull Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the Reformation and Renaissance. Who knows, maybe some of the Millennium Products we have seen here might have the same effect on human achievement, over the next 500 years, or even, the next millennium.
Geoff Garrett , Chief Executive Officer
Tele: + 27 12 841 - 2672
Fax: + 27 12 841 - 3549
Marthinus Horak , Program Manager
Tele: +27 12 841 - 2670
Fax: +27 12 841 - 4790
Dr Andrew Squelch, Specialist in Rock Engineering
Tele: + 27 11 358 - 0184
Fax: + 27 11 726 - 5405
London Design Council Millennium Products website:
Specific locations of products featured in this insert:
Martin Baker Mark 16 Ejection Seat:
Biogel Reveal Gloves by Regent Medical
The Marin Ark Life Raft by RFD Limited:
Smart Water by Smartwater Europe
The Opti Music system
The Europa XS aircraft
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