I love the story of Chris Halberg the founder of Smug Coffee. He was in class at Marquette University and invented the idea of adding an RFID chip to a coffee cup. This way the cup could be a stored value system, and even allow the store to know what the customer wanted by simply passing the cup over an RFID reader. According to The RFID Journal, the system has been deployed at four coffee shops in prototype mode, and Chris plans to release an internet compatible version -- allowing him to be compatible with many more point of sale systems. Right now he's in El Salvador helping the ministry of transportation install RFID-based prepaid transit cards, and developing nebulizers that can run without electricity. Nebulizers are machines that transform liquid medication into a mist for inhalation.
There are a number of cool things about this story to me. First, I love Chris's do-it-yourself spirit. Second, it is environmentally friendly, and efficient. I come from a long line of frugal people; whether it was my Scottish uncle who only painted the "seen side" of his garage door to save paint, or my Lituanian grandfather who used to keep candle wax drippings from used candles and reformed these scraps into new candles. I love its potential for thrift.
Most of all, I am enamored of the fact that this young man turned a dumb product into a smart one. When you think about it, any product could become "smart". Your bike; your clothes; your bags. People have talked about these notions for some time, but now, when a bright young college senior, can put this type of innovation together, literally "on his kitchen table" -- we will begin to see some smarts embedded in more products and everyday occurrences -- which should make things more fun, green, and easy.