Holistic ideas wanted

An attempt to globally crowdsource ideas on using technology to tackle environmental issues is being launched by Sony UK and WWF today.

Open Planet Ideas (www.openplanetideas.com) will use an online platform to gather and discuss how Sony’s existing technologies, products and knowledge might be harnessed to meet a range of environmental challenges, with the most promising proposal being put into development by Sony.

The initiative builds on the current enthusiasm for crowdsourcing innovation ideas and extends Sony’s earlier exploration in this area through its Forest Guard project. It is also one of a number of crowdsourcing activities that WWF is currently undertaking, including a project with packaging company Tetrapak.

‘We have been working in the ICT sector to look at things like Green apps and how products can be made to deliver environmental benefits,’ says WWF head of business relations Dax Lovegrove. ‘We have also identified areas of big human impact – namely food, homes and mobility – where technology might be able to reduce carbon footprints. Sony had already joined our Climate Savers club and the Open Planet Ideas competition extended from that.’

Open Planet Ideas is delivered via the Open Ideo platform (www.openideo.com), an online crowdsourcing and idea-development system launched last month by global design consultancy Ideo, which is also a partner in the Open Planet scheme. The process moves through five stages, from initial ‘inspiration’ gathering, where participants suggest possible environmental issues and their potential technological solutions, through to concepting, testing, evaluation, selection of a final idea and culminating in the realisation of that idea.

To structure the process, participants select from – and can combine – technologies in nine ‘seed’ areas, chosen by Sony. These are: wireless microphones, GPS, presence-sensing, peer-to-peer software, sweep panorama, PSPgo (a portable gaming device), remote video monitoring, dye-sensitised solar cells and FeliCa, which is a contactless wireless technology similar to the Oyster card system used by Transport for London.

Sony and WWF are hoping the initiative will generate novel applications and ‘mash-up’ combinations of these seed technologies to tackle environmental issues in four themed areas: water, fish and agriculture, climate change, and habitats and species. However, the initiative is not seeking ideas for completely new products or suggestions on how to make Sony’s existing products Greener.

Anyone can participate via the Open Planet Ideas online platform, either by submitting proposals or discussing the feasibility of other suggestions. Group involvement from schools, colleges or companies is encouraged.

Up to 30 of the best concepts will be taken into an evaluation stage during December, but only one proposal will ultimately be selected for development. Selecting this idea may mean choosing a concept that has no downside and that could be applied with efficacy in different territories around the world.

‘We want the final concept to hit some of the big-impact areas and hotspots and we will be looking closely to make sure any idea does not have a downside to it – it must be as holistic as possible,’ says Lovegrove.

During the challenge WWF will provide scientific information and facts and figures about what needs to be tackled and explain the various impacts on habitats and species.

The winning idea will be chosen by a judging panel drawn from Sony, Ideo, WWF and the Open Planet Ideas community and announced on 11 January 2011. Realisation of the concept will take place during January and February next year.

For more information and a full breakdown of the challenge schedule visit www.openplanetideas.com.

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