Aside from the Internet, no single invention might be as important to globalization as the shipping container. No joke.
Before that advent of standardized containers in the 1950's, trans-oceanic shipping was hugely labor intensive and slow, because every ship and air shipment presented a brand new challenge. By contrast, standard shipping containers they allow cargo to be moved in massive quantities, quickly with huge cranes and a small staff; 90% of all international shipping traffic uses them. Two hundred million shipments each year use them. So if you love cheap goods from China, you have shipping containers to thank.
Which makes the Cargoshell, a collapsible shipping container, perhaps one of the biggest innovations since sliced bread. Think about the benefits of efficient packaging design and flat-pack, writ on a massive scale.
As Gizmag reports, the innovations are many. By collapsing by 75%, they radically reduce the volume of empty containers being shipped. At 25% less weight, they cut down on fuel costs. And with a roll-up front, rather than doors that swing out, they can be packed in more tightly, since they don't require as much open space to unload.
The only catch is money: At a cost of three times a standard shipping container, the payback window for all those fuel savings is very, very long.
But you've gotta think that this is really a feature of scale: The project is currently a pipe-dream being flogged by a tiny Dutch company. If manufacturing could ramp up and drop the price, these might just be appearing everywhere one day.