Sony design challenge reveals shared efficiency ethos

Entries to Sony’s Open Planet Ideas initiative have revealed the huge potential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing resource efficiency through the greater shared use of products and services, according to one of the experts on the scheme’s judging panel.

Dax Lovegrove, head of business relations at WWF, said the design initiative had prompted a large number of proposals focused on how social networking tools can help cut environmental impacts by enabling the sharing of resources by individuals and businesses.

“There is an awareness in several of the entries that we will all be competing for resources that are already declining and sharing has to be one of the ways of tackling that problem,” he said. “The idea of sharing cars, lawnmowers, even intellectual property, is a simple way of cutting environmental impacts.”

Lovegrove cited the example of proposal for a GPS-based system that enables a form of sophisticated hitchhiking by alerting people to car journeys that are taken in their area where they could share a ride. “You can flag up if you are willing to car share and then the system will track those people who are doing similar journeys,” Lovegrove explained.

He also highlighted a similar proposal for an online service that would allow people to inform neighbours if they are willing to share products they do not use very often, such as power tools or lawn mowers. “No one uses a lawnmower every day, and sharing is a great way to start dematerialising some products,” he said.

The potential for Facebook-style social networking sites to reduce environmental impacts is also emerging as a theme amongst the entries put forward for the Open Planet Initiative, which is open until 29 November and seeking proposals from designers that can repurpose existing technology to enhance resource efficiency.

“Social networking gives the enabling infrastructure that allows people to share resources and connect locally,” said Lovegrove, observing how proposals for online tools that help people locate green services and recycling points similarly have the potential to deliver significant cuts in environmental impacts.

The Open Planet Ideas initiative has now received more than 130 proposals and the judging panel is scheduled to reach a decision on the winning idea early next year. The successful applicant will then work with Sony designers to build a prototype for the proposed system that could ultimately be rolled out more widely.

This article was produced in association with Sony Open Planet Ideas

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