1. A Rock for Stocks
For Father's Day, retailer Brookstone is pushing glowing orbs and beacons from Ambient Devices in Massachusetts. The gadgets change color with the weather or the Dow (e.g., red = your stocks are up; blue = find a ledge). Ambient's David Rose hopes that soon, "people will have a dozen in their house, just like clocks." Maybe, but at $149 to $179, these mood ring updates are pricey.
2. Another Kind of Print Monitor
Gateway is now offering a biometric fingerprint sensor on its popular 450+ notebook computer. The scanner, embedded in the PC's palm-rest, can remember fingerprints for multiple users -- and can cross-reference them with various passwords, so you can instantly log on to secure websites such as your bank's. Gateway positions the innovation not just as a security measure, but also as a cost savings. A recent Gartner study, the company notes, found that 40% of all help desk calls stem from locked-out users. The notebook starts at $1,800.
3. Before You Buy a Dairy Queen
Choosing among the 2,000+ franchise opportunities in the U.S. is a daunting task, which is the reason for Jeff Johnson's FranSurvey.com. The firm polls all the franchisees within a system (with the blessing of the franchisor), on issues ranging from return on investment to the helpfulness of field reps. After surveying at least 75% of the franchisees, Johnson compiles the data into a $75 report, which judges if a concept is "profitable, proven, and tested," he says.
4. If You Leave Your Harp in San Francisco
A musical instrument elicits "an odd, emotional attachment," says Todd French, no matter if it's a Stradivarius or a ten-buck ukulele. Which is why the L.A. Opera cellist created ISIS, a company that embeds microchips carrying owner information in instruments. The lifetime registration fee: $30.
5. Better Airline Fare (As in Food)
For people who pretend to be kosher just to get a decent meal on a plane: A company called Alpha D'Lish has partnered with Virgin Express to offer in-flight gourmet fare such as sushi and sesame noodle salad. Customers may place orders online up to 48 hours before departure at alphadlish.com. Meals, ranging from $7 to $18, are delivered to your seat in-flight, the box unfolds into a tray, and kids meals come with games. Alpha D'Lish is considering expanding to other airlines, perhaps through franchising.
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