Inventions

Aside from the awesome things I do at work, I have lots of other ideas for things, some of which I pursue in my free time. This is a selection, some are serious, some less so.

Cue Chapters – software for lighting designers

I redesigned the tube map

I live near a busy roundabout and sometimes people honk their horns after 11pm (which is technically illegal except in emergencies). This is mildly annoying for me but it must be very difficult for young children (and their parents). Given that interrupted sleep makes it harder to learn – it must have an impact on their education. I will probably never do this but it shouldn’t be very hard to use an array of 3 or more microphones to listen for car horns. Machine learning could be used to recognise that it’s a car horn, with the distance in time between the 3 microphones, it’s fairly simple to tri/multilaterate the location of the car. Now that we know the location of the car, we can try and do something to tell them to stop. My ideas include filming them and forwarding the footage to the police (probably breaks some privacy law) or using highly directional speakers to tell them what I think of them.

Extracting knowledge from GOV.UK content (not technically an invention but requires some inventiveness)

I’ve also invented some things that later turned out to already exist. While disappointing, it’s at least confirmation that my idea was correct. Some of these are:

While listening to some amazing lectures about databases, I reasoned that GPUs would be ideally suited to processing many OLAP workloads and that GPU databases should be a thing. I was right, they already were.

I once talked to someone about how they campaign for a political party and thought that collecting and aggregating data about what people say on the doorstep could help influence manifestos and to ensure that people were only knocking on doors or visiting streets where the time is well spent. This already exists!

I cycle a fair bit around London. All the following are ideas that I had. Disappointingly, with every single one I found out that someone had already either patented or done it.

  • Rear bike lights that flash faster as a car approaches. As I sometimes get cars approaching my silently, which is very unnerving, it would also have haptic feedback in the bike handlebars to warn the cyclist that there’s about to be a whoosh.
  • Bike seat with built in lock to prevent stealing. Patented.
  • Bike pedalo (more of an amusing idea than a serious suggestion)