human centered design

hcd3

Apparently it’s been around for a few months, but this is the first I’ve seen of IDEO’s Human Centered Design Toolkit. Intended to help NGO’s working with smallholder farmers apply human-centered thinking to their work, the HCD Toolkit breaks down the innovation process into 3 distinct phases: Hear, Create, and Deliver. Each of the three phases has a unique workbook, with separate sections for the Design Team and the Facilitator.

IDEO has done a few Design for Social Impact projects, but it seems as though they’ve recently chosen to move their Social Impact work towards education, rather than invention. It’s good to see them open up their process to the public, and I’m excited to see how it is received by the development community. So far only IDE has tested it, but some successful case-studies would surely make it more valuable…

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filamentality

2bulbsin1

Although their website needs some love, 3E Technologies has some pretty bright ideas about lighting.

Their Double Filament bulb is a new take on an old idea, doubling the life expectancy of traditional light-bulbs. Since the filament of an incandescent bulb usually breaks long before the housing, and since the filament represents only a small material and financial part of the whole bulb, 3E has created a double filament bulb so when one breaks, a flip of a switch will activate the second, doubling the lifespan.

And to address a similar problem with CFL’s, 3E came up with a similarly brilliant technology. Their Smart Lite is a mighty-efficient CFL, made all the greener by their reusable ballast. The glass part of a CFL lasts an average of 10,000 hours, while the ballast has an average lifespan closer to 50,000 hours. By allowing users to replace just the glass piece and reuse the ballast, 3E is saving materials, energy, money and frustration. 

Bright ideas, indeed.

c’mon, gimme some credit!

picture-1

Obama announced today, as he’s been alluding for several weeks now, that serious, immediate action is necessary if we’re to repair our economy. And with an interface that owes a bit to the Obama campaign, Uncrunch America is taking matters into their own hands, and trying to do just that.

Uncrunch allows visitors to “invest in america,” by investing in credit-worthy borrowers that have been turned down for loans because of the credit crunch. To be honest, there’s not enough information on the site to assure me of it’s legitimacy, but it’s an interesting idea nevertheless. Reminds me of Virgin Money , but with a timely recession theme.

the roof, the roof, the roof is all white!

white-roof

Old article, but interesting nevertheless. Apparently if the 100 largest cities in the country painted their roofs white and paved their roads with a lighter colored, more reflective substance, enough light would be reflected to save $1billion annualy. And, more importantly, it would reflect enough light to significantly counteract the effects of global warming. Every little bit helps…

via Treehugger

all the news that’s fit to wear

newspaper

In lieu of giving gifts to their clients this holiday season, Canadian ad agency Taxi came up with a pretty heartwarming (har har har) idea. They’ve invested the money that would’ve otherwise been spent on gifts in designing and distributing 3,000 jackets to the homeless in Toronto.

Charitable giving is no new concept, but what is unique about these jackets is their insulation. Rather than using down or some synthetic insulation, Taxi has designed the 15 Below jacket with several empty pockets intended to be stuffed with shredded newspapers. Saving cost, allowing easy modifications and using readily available materials, Taxi’s jacket is well suited to keep the homeless warm this year.

via NY Times

dean kamen’s water purifier making a splash

kamen-water

Well, actually, it hasn’t made a splash yet, and it’s got a long way to go before it may. Demonstrated last week on the Colbert Report, Kamen’s Slingshot is a vapor compression distillation water purifier, capable of filtering absolutely anything (according to Kamen) out of water without filters, charcoal, or other replaceable parts. Operating at 2% of the energy that similar technologies require, the Slinghot is targeted at providing clean water to the developing world.

And herein is the challenge. According to CNN, each unit will cost an expected $1000-$2000, which may prove to be out of the reach of the people who need it most. Unique business models, such as microfinance-assisted remote water kiosks may gain some traction, but it’s hard for me to believe that entrepreneurs will be able to gain returns on their investments fast enough. And, of course, even though there are no filters to replace, techy solutions like this prove to be challenging to maintain and repair, which makes it all the more challenging.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Kamen and his team are planning to market these, and I hope they bring as much innovation to the distribution and maintenance plans as they do to their engineering.

the bay area becoming an even better place

betterplace

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the pending bailout of Detroit automakers. Philosophically I’m opposed to it, as the bed-sharing and hand-holding of industry and government has done little good and plenty bad in the past. In practice it’s not that simple, as millions of jobs and entire city and state economies are at stake. Regardless of what happens with the bailout, though, it’s become clear that true innovation in the automotive industry, which is necessary and long overdue, will not be born in conference rooms in Detroit or on Capitol Hill in Washington. Rather, true innovation and progress will come from start-ups across the world focused on redesigning not only the car, but the entire transportation system.

I’ve written before about my love for Zipcar and other car sharing programs, but it’s going to take more than car sharing to make a dent in the way people think about cars. Tesla Motors is selling the most impressive electric car, but it retails for $109,000, and doesn’t solve the problem of recharging remotely. Zenn, Fisker, Venturi, Th!nk and others are all selling (or planning to sell) electric cars as well, but they all succumb to the same problem of remote recharging. What’s needed is not just a new car, as I said, but a new infrastructure.

As a proud San Francisco resident, I was happy to read this morning that the Bay Area has signed on with Better Place to do just that- create a vast network of recharging stations and battery exchange stations throughout the region. Better Place, based in Palo Alto, has developed a unique subscription model, similar to the model employed by most cell-phone companies. By subscribing to a certain mileage plan, buyers will get electric vehicles at a discounted price (even free in some markets!), making the barrier to entry much lower than other cars. And with 250,000 charging stations and 200 battery exchange stations throughout the region, buyers won’t have to worry about running out of juice on a trip to Ikea. Better Place has already signed similar deals in Australia, Israel and Denmark, and will hopefully continue to spread their networks throughout the world, saving money, emissions and our all-too-precious petroleum.

Take that, Detroit.

via Mercury News