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Will your ideas work?

CNN puts your ideas to inventor Trevor Baylis


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Clockwork radio inventor Trevor Baylis comments on reader ideas.
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(CNN) -- CNN put 10 of the most interesting ideas from Explorers users to Trevor Baylis, one of Britain's leading inventors and the founder of Trevor Baylis Brands, which helps inventors bring their products to market. Here's what he thought.

Talking stove

Jean F. Vienneau from New Brunswick, Canada, suggested a voice-activated talking stove for the visually impaired. It would be able to signal when it had reached the right temperature, whether an element was on but had nothing on it and whether something was overflowing or burning.

Baylis: This is a jolly good idea -- this type of device could be used in many circumstances. Full marks for this invention. Fortunately, we have whistling kettles, and most microwaves go 'ding.' What about a talking medical thermometer? Anything to make the life of the blind or visually impaired easier gets full marks from me.

Going up?

Fabrizio Guiraud Hubie from Curitiba, Brazil, believed the fastest and safest way of exiting the atmosphere was to build an enormous elevator, capable of carrying 600 square feet of equipment. It would act as a space dock, complete with hotels and working areas, and would save millions on fuel costs, he said.

Baylis: This idea is somewhat "out in space!" Commendable and imaginative, but, alas, unlikely.

Charged

Prasad and Saagar Enjeti from Texas came up with an idea for a built-in cell phone charger. "By incorporating a magnet and an electrical coil within a cell phone, one could charge the phone battery by merely shaking the phone several times," they said, suggesting that it would work especially well if the cell phone was worn on the waist, because of movement created by the body.

Baylis: There are already several inventions patented which cover this area of technology. Indeed, I created an Electric Shoe many years ago, which recharged my mobile phone from foot power. Oscillating magnets have been used for torches for some time now.

Confidential faxes

Lanny Fisher from Canada wanted to see a fax machine that could dispense private documents in a sealed envelope with the name of the intended recipient on the front. "That way anyone in a busy office could receive sensitive information by fax without risk of others reading it."

Baylis: I don't think it is a good idea to send private documents by fax or by computer. However, sending a private fax in the manner described would be difficult to achieve with no great advantage to most of us. If you wish to send confidential faxes, why not encrypt them. Watch Out Bletchley Park!

Electric idea

Andreas Bauer of The Netherlands wrote: "What do high voltage power cables which are held up by towers and wind-generated electric turbines (also held up by towers) have in common? Electricity and towers." He said electricity lost its charge over miles of cable, due to the resistance of conductivity through the cable, which meant power stations were needed to boost electricity to go further. "If high voltage cable towers were combined with wind-generated electric turbines it could reduce the number of these booster stations. If enough windmills were added to the system it could become a self-sufficient power production and distribution system, reducing the need for the burning of fossil fuel and nuclear power stations," he said.

Baylis: Very logical, but the system is dependent on having sufficient wind to make up for the energy drop. I understand the logic, but I believe the practical problems would be difficult to overcome. However, I could be wrong.

Road map for peace of mind

Chris Punke of Delaware came up with an idea for an RFID (radio frequency identification) system for cars, whereby a reader attached to vehicles could "read" RFID tags embedded in street signs, street reflectors or even the line in the road and have them call out exactly where you are. "An onboard computer could update the time to arrival, alternate routes, etc," he said.

Baylis: I believe that satellite navigation has a long way to go. After all, you only have one or two orbital tags and they are many miles away from earth. If you are off the road, what do you do? And what about the cost of providing all the extra tags? Someone has to pay for them.

Parcel protection

Przemek Stasica of Poland wanted to put an end to broken parcels in the post by fitting fragile items with a digitalized shock sensor that could record the time and date of any impact that exceed a reasonable threshold. She said it would reveal who was to blame should any item be broken in the post.

Baylis: I don't think this idea is particularly good -- if the items you are sending are fragile or breakable they should be well packed and protected and able to take heavy impact. Unfortunately, people do drop parcels and they are thrown about or stacked on a runway or conveyer belt. How many times have you seen luggage or parcels crashing down on to trolleys?

It's a kind of magnet

Manuel Vazquez's idea was to harness the energy of all moving vehicles. "Put a wire grid on road surfaces and a small magnet under all motor vehicles, which would induce electricity into the road surface and be collected into the municipal electrical system," he wrote. He said it would always be available and turbines could be designed inside tunnels to catch the energy of moving vehicles.

Baylis: Both these ideas are OK -- but vehicles come in all shapes and sizes and the onus of specialized vehicles, i.e. with magnets. This idea has been around for sometime and I believe it was first utilized on aircraft runways. This invention would be beneficial only if it was universal. How many vehicles have to be modified to give a sensible return? And how many roads modified to take the grids? Indeed, we could harness the energy of all moving vehicles, but at what expense?

Safe as houses

Gloria Wu believed her idea would prevent house fires, which, she pointed out, were often caused by ovens that were accidentally left on. "My device would be situated next to house doors and would be connected to the oven in the house. It would light up when the appliance is on and you would be alerted to this fact by seeing the light on," she said.

Baylis: I think this is a good idea, especially for the elderly. A small light will tell you when the oven or cooker is left on, and it is especially beneficial to have this light by the door, so the occupier is aware the appliance has been left on before he/she goes out. But this should always be backed up by a smoke/fire alarm.

Dust Magnets

Tim Preston from South Korea said: "Why not create a motherboard with two pegs that sit on the board that generate its own electrical charge (without harming the computer's mainframe) that will magnetize all the dust to the pegs?" He said the dust that gathers on computer motherboards reduces computer efficiency and dust clings to anything electrical. He suggested the pegs could be the size of a pencil eraser. "Once every month, it would be really simple to open the case up, take a piece of cloth and wipe the dust off the pegs, so the dust won't harm the circuitry of the motherboard. It would be much more efficient than getting out the dust buster."

Baylis: Good idea -- as long as the device doesn't interfere with the running of the item it is attached to, providing it is safe and easily cleansed.

Got a good idea for an invention? Send it to explorers@cnn.com


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