China, despite often put down as lacking innovation, actually boasts a lot of small but refreshing concepts. If you ever come up with a great idea, there’s a good chance that it has already been done in China. Take for instance dual SIM phones. A great idea that should really be standard: for people that travel a lot, live near borders or in small countries, or for those looking for the best calling rates. Back in the West, you’ll only find them on very specific models which are expensive and not just because you’re getting a cool smartphone. In China, almost every locally-produced phone comes with a secondary SIM slot.

Other great ideas include pens with magnets for whiteboards, cars that speak (why would you have a beeping noise if you can tell everyone that you’re reversing), or battery chargers with a built-in LED. They make a lot of sense because there’s a good chance that when you aren’t near a power outlet, there is also no light.

Innovative idea: brake pads that light up as you brake
Tiny lights switch on when you apply enough pressure.

Unfortunately, many of these concepts are poorly implemented. My newest discovery are brake pads with built-in brake lights. Failing to find normal brake pads, Lieuwe from bought this fancy pair in Baoshan, Yunnan. When enough pressure is applied, its tiny LEDs flash on, vying for visibility with a million other light sources on the busy streets of China. Or at least as long as the battery lasts.

Having brake lights on a bicycle, especially in a country where no one uses a bike light, is a good idea, but the implementation is sad. Maybe here’s a good idea for better engineers: a brake pad that converts the braking force to power a much brighter LED.