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This article was published on January 7, 2011

Open Planet Ideas crowdsources really smart green tech plans

Open Planet Ideas crowdsources really smart green tech plans

I recently took part in a debate at a conference about whether crowdsourcing was worthwhile or not. For the record, I was pro-crowdsourcing but if the shortlist here had have been announced at the time, I’d have been all over it as an example of how crowdsourcing can generate really good ideas and not just a bit of short-term hype.

Open Planet Ideas is a project being run by conservation charity WWF and Sony. The idea is to crowdsource ideas for an innovation that repurposed existing technology to help the environment. An open call was put out and now eight ideas have been shortlisted. You know what? They’re really quite exciting.

Among the ideas that caught my imagination is GreenpatH, a melding of GPS and peer-to-peer technologies that guides you to a destination not by the quickest, but the most environmentally friendly and healthy route. It’s more than that though, this idea would guide you to the greenest restaurants, environmentally friendly shopping facilities and more. It would even calculate the calories you’ll burn on your journey.

An open system, green service providers would be able to feed their information in so that it would show up when people searched. It might sound a bit like a “Garmin for hippies” to some, but as a mashup of existing technologies it’s pretty impressive.

A similar idea twists the same technologies into a carpooling service. People wanting to get a lift with another driver in their area would enter their journey details and the system would match them up with a driver going the right way at the right time. In-car navigation equipment would keep track of all the journeys being in the neighbourhood.

Another great idea shortlisted aims to promote train travel for journeys where it would be a more environmentally friendly option than flying. Building on the idea of in-flight information channels, the project would provide train travellers with an Internet-connected guide the the scenery around them as they travel, adapting the content based upon personal preferences, location and time.

It’s well worth browsing through all the ideas as they make interesting reading and are a great example of the gold that such crowdsourcing projects can turn up. The shortlist is open for voting and commenting upon on the project’s website and the winning idea will be developed into a product by Sony. UPDATE: Open Planet Ideas clarifies with us that Sony will actually be developing the winning idea as a concept. That said, who knows – if it works well, we could see one of these ideas become reality.