Vision Voices: Ingenious inventions of our time

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We asked people from a variety of industries and organisations to share their favourite inventions and explain how it has changed their lives.

Louise McGregor

Head of Circular Economy, Zero Waste Scotland

When you’re working with innovative businesses on a daily basis, picking just one invention is difficult. So I have chosen something I use a lot in my leisure time – the digital camera.

I have enjoyed photography ever since I got my first Kodak Instamatic, aged 10. Looking back at those early pictures makes me smile, but it also makes me realise how much technology has transformed photography for all of us.

With the digital camera came a whole new business model for photography. Out went film, developing and having to wait to see your photos and in came an unlimited amount of images, which you can share around the world.

A digital camera is adaptable through software and hardware upgrades. It has also significantly reduced the use of harmful chemicals and they also generate less waste. Knowing that gives me an extra bit of inspiration when I’m out in the Scottish countryside snapping a mountain range or a sunset over a loch.

Paul Walton

Co-founder of Boundary

“After some time spent thinking, I would say that integrated circuits – also known as silicon chips – are my favourite invention.

“The first device integrating multiple circuits into one package was an audio amplifier that used five transistors, invented in 1949 by German physicist and engineer, Werner Jacobi. Several years later, an American named Jack Kilby invented a silicon chip more like the ones we know today. In fact, it will be the 60th anniversary of its creation on 12 September 2018.

“Silicon chips are found in most devices that we use daily including computers, microwaves and smart home security alarms. All of these devices would not be possible if it weren’t for the invention of the silicon chip. 

“But unlike the first ‘chip’ created by Jacobi with 5 transistors, a typical processor today will contain around 2.6 billion of them.”

Gordon Merrylees

Head of Entrepreneurship for the Royal Bank of Scotland

“I’m privileged to see some amazing innovations every day through the bank’s Entrepreneur Accelerator network.

I celebrated my 50th birthday this summer, and as a huge Rock ‘n’ Roll fan, the invention of portable music has had a terrific impact on my life.

Throughout my teen years, I was able to listen to Thin Lizzy and AC/DC anywhere I went following the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1980.

This was followed by the Discman in 1984. While it was nearly 15 years before the introduction of digital audio players and MP3s, the pace of innovation since has been incredible.

First, it was the iPod in 2001, then the iPhone six years later to where we are today. I can download hundreds of songs from Spotify to my mobile phone before taking a flight, and then when I get home, I can simply tell Alexa to play The Boys Are Back in Town.”

Michael Kemp

Paraplanner at Acumen Financial Planning

Convenience, a word synonymous with the greatest invention of the 21st century, the app.

From keeping up to date with current affairs, checking my morning cycle route, to managing my finances, all from my office desk, thanks to the app.

I am now able to plan my life through the apps on my phone, a journal of my everyday activities. Now this certainly does not translate to laziness, as I track my vital statistics while competing with people from across the globe who all have the same propulsion this fitness app has given me, and whilst doing this, I’m listening to a podcast on the thing I love which I used to get from sitting at home.

I can also share this accomplishment through an app and have all the people that matter know. So apps are able to improve and connect and educate and simplify the world.

Judith O’Leary

Managing director at Represent

“Without doubt my favourite invention has been our Customer Relation Management (CRM) technology that enables us to effectively and efficiently manage client projects within the agency.

Client plans are tasked out to team members at the beginning of each month with defined outputs and timescales. This works well as often we have a number of colleagues working on one campaign across digital and PR.

The CRM is not only good for managers who can keep an eye on workloads and project timeframes, more importantly it enables team members to manage their own time across a number of clients. At Represent, we offer flexible working which we couldn’t do without our CRM.

The system also benefits clients as it reduces account management time as everything is automated – this reduces client costs and frees up additional budget to undertake more marketing activity – the ROI on campaigns has increased significantly since we invested in this software.

Without doubt implementing a CRM system has transformed our agency making us more collaborative, efficient and effective.”

Gareth Edwards

Principal, Deloitte Digital Scotland

My favourite invention is the bicycle.

Its true inventor remains disputed but its growing impact on society cannot be underestimated. With more than a billion bikes in use, transporting humans five times more efficiently than walking – is there any invention that has a bigger positive impact on our daily lives?

Personally, my bike has helped me get fit, lose weight and get involved in sport again. It has taken me to parts of our country that I might never have seen and given me opportunities to combine my work with my passion for cycling.

More practically, through my work I am witnessing a growth in the significance of cycling. It’s helping reduce emissions and traffic from our crowded streets and delivering the wider health and financial benefits of a more active nation.

Deloitte (through Ride Across Britain) is clearly a fan too.

Doug More

CEO, AssureAPM

“My favourite invention of recent times is the Smartwatch.

“It allows me to stay in touch with business, make calls and texts and at the same time I can monitor my health and activity. I can also track my stress levels created during the working day, which provides me with the opportunity to be aware and manage these high stress situations more carefully.

“Not only is it good for my health and my business, it also helps me to keep in touch with my family and personal life. It does all of this seamlessly and it’s right there on my wrist!

“So in light of all this I would like to say thank you to Steve Mann, the inventor of wearable computing.”

Steve Mitchell

Partner, Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP

The development of cloud accounting software has made a huge impact on me and is truly my favourite invention as it has transformed how we undertake traditional bookkeeping services, how we interact with our clients and we see first-hand how it benefits them.

Features including automated purchase ledger recording and automated bank feeds save clients huge amounts of processing time. They are given peace of mind of knowing that we have access to their accounting information in real time so we can provide guidance and assistance with their record keeping, review VAT Return information before it is submitted to HMRC and can provide advisory services to help them make better business decisions, ultimately enabling them to make money.

Finally, the software is scalable so it can support most sizes of business no matter what stage of their lifecycle, meaning we can support them both now and in the future.

This article featured in the Autumn 2018 edition of Vision Scotland. A digital edition can be found here.