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A solar-powered water purifier, an energy consumption tracker, and an innovative flood-warning system are just a few of the fascinating concepts unearthed by an exciting new online collaboration.

The initiative is backed by Sony and WWF and the aim of the Open Planet Ideas project is to use online crowd-sourcing – an RandD approach that brings multiple sources of expertise together – to repurpose Sony technology to develop solutions to key environmental challenges.

The project’s website is an open collaborative platform that invites people with a wide range of skills, ideas and perspectives on technology to bring them to bear on sustainability and the environment.

In the first stage of the project, more than 300 ‘inspirations’ – in the form of comment, videos and images – were shared by the public.

The hundreds of suggestions were honed down into six themes that form the basis of the challenge being used for the ‘concepting’ stage.

So far, more than 200 concepts have been submitted, most of which embody the way in which technology can be brought to bear on many of the world’s most pressing problems.

For instance, one concept has proposed the development of a portable solar power unit that could be used in conjunction with a water purification system.

The system would be based on dye sensitised solar cells adapted from other areas of Sony’s business and would be well suited for use in the developing world, where access to electricity and clean water is limited.

Another concept geared towards energy, but this time aimed at the developed world, is Daily Footprints.

This idea proposes the development of an app for either a smart phone or the PS2 (PlayStation 2) that would calculate a user’s daily energy consumption and help them reduce their footprint.

The idea is that as the user consumes energy both in outside the home, the device will track this usage and aggregate the data into an easy-to-read format.

As an added incentive, lower consumption could lead to a series a discounts on goods purchased from a related website.

Other submitted ideas address more specific issues.

For instance, one concept proposes an alert system that would use peer-to-peer software to help disseminate flood and other environmental warnings more effectively than is currently the case.

According to those behind the idea, vulnerable places (for instance, those with a history of flooding) would set up a ‘P2P early-warning programme’ so that warnings could be instantly sent from an agency to a resident’s home computer, laptop, or smartphone.

The project has already generated a high level of interest and as the concepting stage runs until 12 December there’s still time to get involved.

After this, submissions will be voted on by the Open Planet Ideas community and examined by an expert panel.

The most promising concepts will be subjected to a detailed evaluation and the final idea will be announced in January 2011.

Sony’s RandD team will then work with those that have contributed to the final idea to progress it to the proof-of-concept stage in order to demonstrate its feasibility.

Grayling PR (Lexington Office)

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