WiFi and BT interface board for OEM with Smartphone App. Many traditional manufacturers lack the skills, and probably the desire, to implement WiFi and BT features into their products. Make a small PCB board with simple electrical I/O, a serial and SPI connections, and a smartphone app to interact with it. The board can be integrated into existing products, like coffee makers, fans, etc. The smartphone app would load a simple config file for the product that would create on the fly a simple interface to use the product. This could effortlessly allow OEMs to add timers, remote control, and "smart" features to their existing lineup of products. Example: an existing ceiling fan manufacturer purchases a BT interface board and installs it into an existing fan model. The board is wired up to the fan relay and can turn the fan on, off, and control direction and speed. This requires very few changes to existing fan electricals, since the board can simulate button activations, and has on board electrical IO. The manufacturer also creates a simple config file that lays out buttons to turn the fan on/off, and control direction and speed, and uploads it to the server. After installation, the new owner of the fan can download a generic "controller" app, start it, and pick the BT connection to the fan from the list. The app would automatically figure out what kind of device this is, download the right interface config file, and show the user an interface to their new "smart" fan. First Steps: check if this exists, make a prototype, pitch it to some OEMs.
Serial to web Interface. Similar to the above idea, only for more complex industrial devices that still work well, but could be updated with remote control smart features. This could be perfect for industrial controllers that are usually programmed via a serial connection, such as pool pumps, solar controllers, automatic light controller, air con units, etc. Make a small single board computer that has a serial interface and an onboard linux server with implementation of Node JS with simple to use APIs for standard UI features. OEMs can buy these units to update their existing equipment. First Steps: check if this exists, and if so, why it's not used more. If not, make a simple prototype and pitch it.
Universal settings app for CLI. Continuing with today's theme of updating old stuff with new features, this is a CLI app that reads in a config file and displays a settings UI based on the file. The idea is to have a special markup language that can be used to define options in the comments of the config file, so the config file defines the settings, and also the interface and all of the possible options of those settings. Out of the box it should support JSON and Config File formats. First Steps: this is unlikely to happen since I have no pull in the OSS community, and this would only work if it hit wide adoption, but it couldn't hurt to pitch it.
Local podcast mirror script. This is an idea for a rather unique customer base, people with intermittent or teared internet. We used to have a tiered internet where it was free at night, but would be expensive during the day. A simple linux script that would create an exact mirror of all your favorite podcasts. I have done this before for NPR Morning Edition, but now it's time to make one for all types of podcasts. First Steps: just write the thing in python when I have time.
Combat radical Islam via a flood of AI communications. So this is an idea that I have been rolling around in my head for a while. Radical Islam and radicalisation on the internet (not just Islamic, but other groups as well) is a problem that many governments are trying to address. One possible solution would be to use AI that can come close to passing the Turing test in chat communication, and build a bunch of "target rich" profiles on social media. The profiles would be similar to the kind of people that groups like Islamic State would like to recruit. Basically it's a fishing expedition. When they contact one of these profiles, the AI answers. The answers will be designed to prolong the communication as long as possible. Over time the AI can learn to keep the person on the other side interested longer and longer. Basically, the idea is to flood them with fake targets so they have to waste their resources, trying to figure out who is real and who is not. First Steps: write this up in a white paper, but honestly, I have no clue who to pitch this to.
Solar power meter accessory for older systems. Getting back to the theme of updating old stuff. Many older solar systems with charge controllers are working perfectly fine, but provide no statistics as to the power generated everyday, power used, etc. Mostly this comes down to simply measuring power flow in both direction, to and from the battery or inverter unit. Make a simple power flow meter with a wifi web interface capable of handling up to 300A (not hard, simple shunt would work). First Steps: make a prototype, test market it, make it if people other than me need it.
Business that rents food trucks to restaurants and individuals. This may or may not exist already, but it should. A business that makes a nice quality mobile kitchen truck, and rents it out on monthly or yearly basis to businesses or individuals who what to try entering the mobile food service industry. Have rent to own options. First Steps: see if this already exists, if not, maybe buy a few trucks with a partner and rent them out.
Idea for Apple (or other OEM): instead of getting rid of the Apple logo, like they did on the most recent rMBPs, insert an e-ink screen in the logo and program it to show things such as battery status, new emails, or other data. That way a user can glance at the closed laptop and see if they have emails waiting, if the battery is charged, etc. First Steps: find someone who works for Apple, make them introduce you to more people, befriend someone higher up, pitch this to them, convince them you are a genius, get them to hire you, make a proper rMPB. :)
Terminal command line in the rMBP touch bar. I don't have the new rMBP because the keyboard just doesn't work for my style of typing. But for those that do, a cool use of the touchbar would be to have an app that allows you to type a quick terminal command in the touch bar. Not sure how useful it is, just would be cool. First Steps: this must already exist, I am sure I am not alone, but if not, check if Apple APIs allow for this, and write it. Of course, first step would be to buy a new laptop ;)
Disclaimer: Terrible idea! But probably super profitable. Buy one of those mix on the fly soda machines that can mix 96 different flavors, upgrade it to take coins and dollars, install in high traffic areas so people can buy Coke by the gallon, rake in the profits! First Steps: When I loose all my morals, and really need the money, do it :)