Technology can tackle many environmental issues we face, including air pollution and water contamination. Some concepts involve crowdsourcing, that is, linking idle personal computers to work on nanotechnology solutions to find cures for tropical diseases. Now three organizations have begun an open competition, which seeks proposals to address the results of housing, transport, and food production—the scale of which often create the most strain on the planet.
Sony, the World Wildlife Fund, and the global design consultancy IDEO announced their search for “Inspirations” that can heal the planet through smarter uses of Sony’s technology. Titled Open Planet Ideas, the competition has so far attracted 146 proposals that will narrow down to the winning final idea in January 2011. Through the end of this month, users can submit ideas as detailed or abstract as they choose, and may express their thoughts through photos, videos, words, or sketches. Others who do not have ideas but sure are good at vetting the thoughts of others can comment on these inspirations and the applaud the ones that reflect their support of a particular issue.
Some ideas are whimsical; others have you scramble to find those old science textbooks or hunt for explanations on Wikipedia, with questions of what on earth they are talking about. Other inspirations are huge, while some are tiny, as in nano-sized.
Let’s begin with the very specific suggestions. One idea relives Heineken’s 1960s idea of forming glass bottles into building blocks in order to provide more affordable and sustainable building materials. Another addresses safe drinking water, and offers nanotube paper strips that can detect harmful bacteria and chemicals as an alternative to more costly methods.
Then you have the global problems which would probably require many collaborations. Vincent Lassalle suggests the Pacific Garbage Patch be addressed by the formation of a localized plastic recycling facility. Another competitor wishes to eliminating all harsh chemicals and toxins from clothing—full stop, end of sentence.
Starting next month, a panel of nine experts from various fields will discuss the conceptualization of all the ideas. After a week, they will synthesize a final challenge brief that will be posted on the Open Planet Ideas site. Participants will then have seven weeks to disclose how Sony technologies could address various environmental problems, and the 30 of the best ideas will go under an assessment in early December. The winning idea’s products will be published in a White Paper, and Sony promises that it will release the intellectual property into the public domain, and promises it would not profit at all from the project.
As the saying goes, some of the largest accomplishments ever achieved were from just doing, rather than over-thinking. If you have had an idea that can help solve one of our planet’s problems, and it has been simmering for a while in your noggin for a while, submit it! You still have over two weeks!