Merry Christmas - care to swab your cheek?

It`s that time of year again, and the spirit of commercialism is alive and well. And amid the chaff, an e-commerce site offering the ultimate in customised novelty gifts.
Read time 3min 00sec

It`s that time of year again, and the spirit of commercialism is alive and well. Short of wearing a tinfoil helmet, there`s precious little one can do to avoid the barrage of advertising in aid of flogging all sorts of goodies in the name of Christmas, and it would seem that the choices are limitless.

What I`ve found, upon further inspection, is that there is very little differentiation between products on offer from site to site. It`s like there exists one shady producer of gifts, both novelty and practical, distributing these to sites such as

The secret ingredient is a tissue sample taken from the cheek of the intended 'givee`.

Basheera Khan, Editor,

The site, launched earlier this year, wanted nothing more than to entice computer users away from built-in personal information management software, and based its business model on the hope that users would flock to a Web-based reminder system.

Whether or not that worked, the site is now selling gifts - along with every other Christmas gift-shopping site that seems to have sprung up overnight.

Fortunately, there is an alternative for the seeker of that unique gift. Enter stage left, Complement Genomics, a Sunderland-based company producing "DesigNAgifts" - a gift in the form of jewellery, clothing, rugs and hangings, glassware, paintings and more, all totally unique to the recipient.

The secret ingredient is a tissue sample taken from the cheek of the intended 'givee`, which is then analysed at a large-scale level to provide the genetic information which identifies each of us as individuals.

This information is then used in the crafting of the gifts (all handmade, I should add). As the Complement Genomics site states, "Elegantly blending the modern with the traditional, DesigNAgifts reflect the very essence of you".

I think this is the ultimate in novelty gifts, but to my surprise, almost everyone I`ve told about this either recoils in disgust or dismisses the idea as ludicrous. On the other hand, even if they did think it was a good idea, I`m still not sure that would lead to sales for the company.

These unique gifts come at a price; the cheapest product on offer (a sterling silver necklace with three types of semi-precious stones arranged at intervals as a representation of the genetic profile of the sample donor) would set you back more than lb500.

I stand corrected

Thanks to reader Andrew McHenry, who responded to my column of 18 November, Thanks for the vote of confidence, with information relating to the DTI`s announcement that it is considering new support programmes for the ICT industry, among others.

Between these good intentions, and those expressed at the launch of the public-private partnership Savant, announced in May, SA should be on the road to even greater international recognition of its intellectual capital.

Then again, there are other roads paved with good intentions; a quick visit to the Savant site to check on the programme`s progress reveals that the site is still under construction. Regardless of how much good work is being done in the background, it makes no difference to the South African profile if no one knows about it.

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