Sony has this week launched the second phase of its Open Planet Ideas initiative, announcing that it has selected six environmental challenges for entrants to address, all of which are related to the concept of making better use of scarce resources.
The project, which is backed by green campaign group WWF and design consultancy IDEO, will now invite designers, students and technology fans to submit proposals on how existing Sony technologies could be re-purposed or " mashed-up" to address the chosen environmental challenges. Interested parties have until 29 November to submit their proposals.
The judging panel received proposals for 335 environmental challenges, prompting them to ditch the original plan of selecting one overarching environmental problem in favour of six 'themes'.
The selected challenges include proposals for technologies that can help use resources more efficiently, better inform people of their environmental impacts, reuse waste materials, deliver less resource-intensive products, bolster recycling rates, and promote more sustainable choices and behaviours.
Morgan David, divisional director for R&D at Sony Europe and a member of the Open Planet Ideas judging panel, said that rather than seeking proposals for entirely new technologies, the panel was looking for ideas on how existing Sony products could be reused, combined or "mashed-up".
"This approach gives us an opportunity to quickly get learning results by using technologies that we can take off the shelf," he explained, citing the example of Sony's Forest Guard project, which built on an idea proposed by a group of school children and combined video, solar and networking technology to develop an online system for spotting forest fires.
"What we built with Fire Guard was not something that we would consider deploying in a forest," he said. "But it allowed us to quickly learn a lot of useful information that could inform how we develop this type of system. We found out a lot more than if we had done the prototype on paper."
He added that using "mash-up" prototype devices would also help to build wider support for the winning environmental technology amongst business decision makers and potential investors.
"In the corporate world, PowerPoint is king, but we have banned PowerPoint because if you can't show a device to people it won't get funding," he explained. "It is far too easy to create an alternative reality in PowerPoint."
In some cases, repurposing existing technologies can go beyond providing a prototype and deliver an entirely new solution, he argued.
It is not an environmental technology, but David explained how Sony had recently completed a project with Arsenal Football Club that repurposes the company's PSP devices and integrates them with an integrated TV station service at the Emirates Stadium that allows spectators to immediately watch replays from the game using a handheld device.
He added that he was hopeful a similarly integrated solution could be developed for one of the environmental challenges put forward by participants in the Open Planet Ideas initiative.
The winning idea will be announced in January next year and the winner will be invited to work with Sony designers and engineers to develop a protoype device.
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