96. Running Hot and Cold
Temperature control is picking up steam, both for things that should be cold and things that should be hot. DuPont's Cool2Go technology provides a cushiony wrapper in containers that keeps your soda cold an hour into the ball game. Startups Sonoco and OnTech are working on self-heating plastic containers, expected by the end of this year, that let you warm up your liquid lunch or caffeine fix just by holding it in your hand. But maybe we don't even need the containers; the foods themselves will do all the work. International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., the folks behind many of the tastes and smells in everything from shampoos to candles to fast food, has developed CoolTek, which stimulates the cooling receptors in the tongue, and a "warming effect" that would create an "out of the oven feeling" for packaged cakes and cookies. Suddenly, our microwave is roaming the countertop like a dinosaur.
97. The Concept of the Concept
Automakers have built 'em for decades: flashy, futuristic "concept" cars that may never see daylight outside of a show. But they get the hard-core impressed with the company's innovation and design sensibility. The idea spreads to watchmaker Tag Heuer, which has designed a watch that runs on 13 drive belts, four angled pistons, and two constant velocity joints, much like an automotive engine. The company claims it's more accurate and durable than a quartz movement. The watch should debut in a year or so for around $10,000. Belt-driven watches aren't likely to become the new standard, but in any industry, the concept of the concept to introduce and trumpet new technology will.
98. The Rise of the Machines
Vending machines: We visit ours every day — the honey-wheat pretzels are outstanding. But it never occurred to us to expect more from a simple selling machine than Cokes or stamps. But more advanced machines, popular in Europe and Asia, are getting intermittent play stateside. A number of companies are experimenting with DVD vending machines, including McDonald's, which is also tinkering with a coin-operated french-fry maker. Target tried selling personal care items and gewgaws but is pulling back. There's a huge hurdle for people in terms of quality and trust in these machines (think of that dangling Snickers bar that recently tormented you), but we admire the attempt to turn everything into a convenience product.
99. The Master of the Master Idea
Joey Reiman, CEO of Atlanta-based consultancy BrightHouse, works with companies to come up with the "Master Idea," an inspirational central theme around which a company operates. He's also a neuromarketing pioneer, teaming with an Emory University neuroscientist to gain consumer insights. BrightHouse just expanded into Denmark, and Reiman's new book, Business at the Speed of Molasses (Crown Business), which encourages better incubation of business ideas, is due in April.
100. Special Effects Meets Product Placement
Although the percentage of U.S. households with digital video recorders is a meager 2%, a projected 20%, or 25 million homes, will discover the joys of getting around TV ads by 2008. This impending reality is already spurring advertisers to work their messages into shows in ways that can't be skipped. For example, product placement. Right now, a can of Coke appears in CSI and it's there forever. But digital wizardry may change that: The Coke can may become a Pepsi for the syndicated or DVD version of the show. Or for Chinese audiences, it could become a Chinese cola. Once advertisers embrace these digital product placements and discover the wealth of opportunities for embedded, targeted ads, they'll be thanking TiVo, not cursing it.
101. You Tell Us!
Our 101st item is up to you. What did we miss? Which person, company, idea, or product do you think will have the most impact in 2005? Go to fastcompany.com and nominate your ideas. In the January issue, we'll print the best ones in our Feedback section.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine.