Creative thinkers wanted: Open Planet Ideas calls for your input on how technology can help preserve our planet's resources
Just imagine if today’s technology could be re-purposed in radical ways to help solve our planet’s environmental problems? Well, a new project called Open Planet Ideas has been designed to enable you to do just that.
The project is not looking for new ideas for building environmentally-friendly products. Instead, it’s about inviting people to collaborate in finding unusual or new ways to use existing technology to do some good.
This ‘mash-up’ approach to re-using current technologies was first demonstrated by Sony last year. Working with Sony, a group of school children came up with a solution to wild forest fires using security cameras and wireless networks – a problem which causes over a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere every year.
Now Sony, with WWF’s support, is calling on creative thinkers across the world to share their ideas on how today’s technology can be utilised to help us sustain the planet’s resources.
The project runs until January 2011 and following a process of collaboration and judging by an expert panel including representatives from Sony, WWF and IDEO, the winning idea will gain the chance to become a reality. Participants have until 29th November to submit their ideas.
So if you feel inspired, tune into our live webTV show, where Kate Bellingham, Dax Lovegrove from WWF and Ben Moore from Sony will be explaining what you need to do to take part, share their tips and set your creative juices flowing.
Kate Bellingham, Dax Lovegrove and Ben Moore join us live online to discuss the Sony Open Planet Ideas project.
For more information visit www.openplanetideas.com
H: Kate Bellingham, host
A: Ben Moore, Sony
B: Dax Lovegrove, WWF
H: Just imagine if today’s technologies could be re-purposed in radical ways to help solve the planet’s environmental challenges. Well keep watching because a new initiative called Open Planet Ideas is designed to enable you to do just that
H: Hello I’m Kate Bellingham and we’re here to talk about an exciting new project – Open Planet Ideas aims to inspire you to come up with new ideas to collaborate in finding unusual or different ways to use existing technology to help the environment. Now the project isn’t looking for new ideas for building environmentally-friendly products, instead it’s about inviting people to collaborate in finding new ways to use existing technology to tackle environmental challenges. This mash-up approach to use current technologies was first demonstrated by Sony last year. Now working with Sony, a group of school children came up with a way to reduce the impact of wild forest fires using security cameras and wireless networks. Now while forest fires are a problem which cause over a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere every year. Now Sony with WWF support is calling on creative thinkers across the world to share their ideas on how today’s technology can be used to help us sustain the planet’s resources. Now I’m joined by the people behind this innovative initiative, Dax Lovegrove from WWF and Ben Moore from Sony, welcome to you both. Now Ben what’s this project all about?
A: Well Open Planet Ideas is an online platform that Sony’s created to challenge and inspire hopefully anyone and everyone to think about how existing technologies can be re-purposed to help find solutions to environmental problems
H: Lots of outreach to all the different kinds of people who might have ideas that they want to share
A: Yes absolutely
H: Brilliant. Now Dax, WWF’s involved – what’s the connection there?
B: About a week ago globally we launched our latest living planet report, so that gives us a kind of status check on the natural world at the moment, and we’ve got this massive downward curve where over the last 30 or 40 years we’ve lost about a third of our natural world, so we’re losing forests, our freshwater systems are in decline, we’re losing soils, we’re losing – you know vital natural resources and that’s because of an upward curve which is our human footprint on the planet, the rate at which we pump out CO2, the rate at which we use up natural resources, and at the moment we’re using a years – we’re using – it takes the planet a year – sorry it takes the planet a year-and-a-half to produce the natural resources that we all consume in one year, so it’s a massive overshoot. So put that another way if everyone in the world were to consume natural resources and pump out CO2 at the rate that we do in the UK, much of Western Europe, we would need 3 planets to support us. So that’s quite a bleak, horrible, terrible picture and you know at the same time at WWF we’re quite solutions-oriented so we’re trying to work with governments and businesses and consumers to really turn that around, and try to get us back on track to restoring the natural world, to reduce our carbon emissions, and get to a future where we’re all thriving, we’re all flourishing, we’re enjoying life, but we’re all doing those things within the planet’s ecological limits if you like
H: Some people might associate WWF with wildlife, with animals. Where does that connection come?
B: Yes no good question, so yes our heritage is protecting endangered species, and we protect the giant panda, we’re trying to protect the tigers at the moment, the gorillas in Africa, and we are protecting all those species, but if you want to protect species you have to protect their habitats, so for the fresh water dolphin we’ve got to protect fresh water river basins, for fish stocks we’ve got to start protecting the marine environment a lot better than we are doing at the moment. If we’re going to protect the gorillas and the tigers and the pandas we’ve got to protect forests. So – and in order to do that we’ve got to address global threats like climate change which impacts forests, we’ve also got to tackle our own over-consumption of natural resources, the way we consume every day is having a massive impact on those natural resources. So that’s what the linkages are and that’s why we’re involved
H: Thank you very much. Well we are streaming live today, so if you want to get your questions to us please use the box on your screen, and if you’re on Twitter don’t forget to use the # tag Studiotalk and we’ll try to give a mention for you. In the whole of the Open planet ideas, really anyone can take a part – take part – anyone can make a difference. Is that right?
A: Yes hopefully. It doesn’t require you to be a great innovator or an engineer or a visionary going forward, actually I think the beauty of Open Planet Ideas is – is - it brings everyone from someone whose got a concern about you know something they observe in their local community but doesn’t know what to do about it, but can put that forward as an inspiration to some of the great innovative minds that there are in the world. Being able to think about technology and how it can solve that problem, so bring them together. And people coming online to elevate some of those and just vote for the ones they like, even just throw in a comment –
H: I love that – you can actually just go and applaud something and say I like that, you know. I’ve been looking through it and I think that one makes me smile, that one I think – that’s good and so you can contribute at any level that you feel comfortable with
A: Yes and the notion of Open Planet Ideas of course is that it is open source. I mean we feel that you know that as I said the power of collective thinking will elevate those issues and those ideas that you know naturally rise to the top, so the more we can do that the more we’ll find solutions, both big and small, to what’s going on in the world
H: And there’s something else to it that I found quite valuable when I looked – I picked up on things that I didn’t actually know about, so I personally, as well as putting something in, I personally took something away having had my session looking at it and thinking ooh who’s put in what and which shall I applaud, and which am I going to comment on? But as well as actually making my contribution – I felt immensely proud. I think the opportunity to make a contribution that could actually make a real difference to the world. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity – it’s going to go to an expert panel who are going to refine it down to something that then is going to be taken further. What’s this expert panel going to be looking for?
B: We’re going to look for the best ideas really. You know we’ve got big global threats, big problems – we can turn these things around and it does need the support of citizens and consumers out there. We need to think about greener choices, greener lifestyle, greener products and so on, and so we want ideas I guess that are tackling the real hotspots, you know? We know that water is a massive problem and we’re over-using water so a lot of water goes for agricultural purposes, so you know could irrigation be helped through technology? In this country domestic water use is a particular problem, we’re over-using water in our homes so again could technology help us in that respect? Carbon emissions are a massive hotspot that we need to tackle. In our homes you know a lot of the heating of water and the heating of home spaces is a massive drain on energy and how can we reduce our energy use with the help of technology? Food refrigeration, you know we – refrigeration and freezing is actually quite carbon intensive, but sometimes it helps with reducing food waste. Food waste is a massive problem, how could technology perhaps help stop us throwing away massive amounts of food because of all the inputs that go into food production. So there’s so many areas to go, you know massive. And maberty, you know video conferencing instead of the odd business flight is going to have a massive upside to reducing our carbon emissions, so you know the opportunities are endless and I think we just want great ideas that really tap all those big hotspots
H: Well coming up next we’re going to find out about some of the exciting ideas that have already been put forward
H: Ok so I think 50 concepts have already been put forward in the first week of this part of the initiative. Anything caught your eye?
A: Well it’s early days yet and I think what’s great is that we’re seeing lots of great issues being identified and people already starting to come up with ideas about how to solve some of those things. One of the ones that really struck me was that – Dax was just talking about the problems around energy consumption. There was a really good, early bit of thinking about how using motion sensors and GPS satellite systems can be used to take down lighting levels and increase lighting levels, whether that’s on the street or you know private environments, whatever it might be. Just you know very simple thoughts but actually you can have a – you know a major cumulative effect. So there was a great idea there about identifying when power is needed and when it’s not and how to try to tackle that
H: Dax, what about you?
B: There was a very neat device that sort of doubled up – on one hand it provided solar energy, but it also doubled up as a water purification device. It was quite clever, so you actually got solar power energy but also solar powered purification - water purification. Because water treatment, you know in this country by the big water companies, that’s actually quite energy intensive, that’s a big hotspot so again that’s really tackling a really big problem, you know some really good stuff like that
A: And some clever thinking about you know I mean we’ve heard already how actually we need to accelerate the sort of change that’s going on out there, so the heart of great ideas is the thought that there’s lots of existing technology. Let’s not necessarily go out and start with a blank sheet, there’s lots of quick wins that we can have, and the use of you know combining GPS with p to p, to recognise where there are people that are like-minded or sharing the same issues as you or trying to find the same sorts of solutions, or have identified the same problem so that you can then start to work collaboratively, brought together through this community. There are some really nice ideas
H: Yes these are all on the website, openplanetideas.com if people want to go and find out more about what’s there, and also ideas of the sort of technologies that could be useful to combine and use in different ways. Well in a moment we’re going to be hearing from some of the people who’ve sent in questions to find out what they’d like to ask the team here
H: Well if you have just joined us today, we’re talking about an exciting new project which gives you the chance to come up with ideas to re-purpose existing technology to find new ways to tackle environmental issues. So let’s see what sort of questions – ah we’ve got a question come in from Paul Jones who said “are you looking for global solutions or just countrycentric?” Is this a global initiative or a British initiative? What is it?
A: We’re looking for both, you know I think the beauty of it as I said earlier is that you’ll get small and big issues and I’d like to think that there’s the potential to tackle both ends of that scale so neither one nor the other, hopefully we’ll get ideas that are small, local ones that ultimately through the power of the creativity that there is in there, get laddered up to find bigger, broader solutions as well
B: Can I say actually, exactly right. I mean we all know buildings across the globe contribute to about 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, so we need to get homes smart, we need to get appliances talking to each other so that they switch off, so that we’re using heating more efficiently, and so homes is a very local issue in every country and how on earth do we get countries to green up their homes and their housing stock, but that’s a very global issue because then if we get that right we’re reducing global carbon emissions
H: so surely addressing environmental issues is something that loads of people who are experts out there are already doing, so what kind of difference really can something like Open Planet Ideas make?
A: Well I think, I mean I firmly believe that we’re in a very creative age where we are developing new concepts and I think those often have to come out of really kind of personal insights, stuff that you know is really relevant at ground level, and I think that you know whilst there’s lots of great people working on big global solutions, you know to the big, wide problems, often the things that can make a difference in everyday life for people are the things that are really relevant to their day, so starting from a different place, starting at a much more kind of closer ground level I think, potentially these are the things that can more immediately play a part in people’s daily lives and change their behaviour right off the mark, rather than needing a crack through, a kind of big breakthrough innovation somewhere. So I just, I hope it has a different effect that it lands with people that much more quickly
B: I guess sometimes it feels like these huge global issues just cannot be tackled when it’s got climate change, the water crisis, de-forestation, it seems huge but actually ideas can really spread nationally but also globally really quickly and you know if we get some good, technological ideas coming through that we can start to push out there, you know those things just go miles don’t they and they really take off
A: And you know the ultimate end in this, whichever idea or ideas you know go through and we realise one final idea, the realisation of that final idea that comes out of the end of this, is the sort of proof of concept in a white paper, and that might be the thing that then goes on and becomes something that can take something on at a global level
H: And people who’ve contributed early on come up with the ideas and supported it, they could actually be involved in that realisation?
A: Yes the idea is that at the end of it, you know we don’t necessarily get the point when we’re building a prototype but we are using the right kind of, right technologists, the right innovators, the right contributors who have been a part in all of this process to get to the point where we have got a proof of concept, we can see that there’s a workable model that technology can be a part of
H: Ok I’ve got another question here for you, it’s from Clive and he says “I’ve always wondered why water and air conditioning units in offices doesn’t get used to flush the toilets. Is this the sort of idea you’re after?” Would that be a good thing to put in as a concept?
B: Absolutely, you know, fantastic idea. We talk about in the environmental room we talk about brown, green and grey water, so green water is the rainfall, blue water is the stuff we suck out of rivers which can be quite impactful on wildlife who rely on river basins, and then the grey water is the kind of waste water that we need to treat and re-use, and the more you can collect grey water that we’ve already used that can be used for flushing toilets or other things, absolutely right, it just stopped us using that critical blue water, that we can sometimes take out of aquifers and other things, so grey water use is brilliant
H: Oh I’ve got another one here; Jonathan Hart says “what does Dax think is the biggest single environmental issue which people could work towards tackling?” You’ve just given us a whole range of things, this one sounds a bit personal, which one’s top of the list, what could really make a difference?
B: It’s very hard to give a top of the list, so as a traditional environmentalist we’re always vague and complex on these things and I won’t fail to disappoint but you know, we have a massive set of problems. What – I suppose what I will say is that our Living Planet report concludes that one of the big areas of human footprint is carbon. Carbon is absolutely critical. We have got to cut emissions probably by 30-40% by 2020 around the world and then 80% by 2050. That is a massive challenge. We think it’s doable, the technologies are out there, the ideas are out there, we just need to get those going, so carbon is among the most kind of judged as the most pressing issues
H: You answered that really well, you let yourself be pinned down but in a bit of a vague way! So Ben who do you think should be getting involved in Open Planet ideas? Who do we want to engage with this?
A: I think anyone, I mean anyone who you know burns with a passion to solve some of the environment – you know it should be individuals, groups, schools, universities, I mean anyone who has any sort of desire to find some sort of solution, whether you know are someone who simply thinks they’re good at identifying problems and wants to tell the world about it, to someone who, who absolutely focused on being given a brief that can work with technology to be a part of that team who finds the solution, so whatever level you want to engage in. You know just jump in
H: So it’s all of you and it’s all of us, and the deadline for ideas is November the 29th so do go and look at the website openplanetideas.com. and before we go let’s just have a quick reminder about what the whole of this initiative is about
Tom Hulme, Design Director IDEO: “Open Planet Ideas is a platform engaging a community globally to solve a tough environmental challenge to make a positive impact on the world, leveraging existing Sony technology”
Magdalena Wasowska, Head of Techsoft Centre, Sony Europe: “This is really one of the first attempts of Sony to work with the crowd sourcing and open innovation on this scale”
Dax Lovegrove: “It’s important to crowd source because if we’re going to arrive at sustainable solutionswe need to take an inclusive approach, we need to involve communities, we need to involve consumers, we need to involve the public to get their buy-in but also their thinking on this”
Tom Hulme: “We’ve had people from over 100 countries; people are learning through the process and together coming up with a better solution than anyone would individually”