Illumi-Charger

I admit, I’m guilty of it.  I leave my laptop, iPhone and other gadget chargers synced into the wall at ALL times.   I know I’m wasting energy, it’s just so darn convenient!  Well, hopefully we can say good by to those phantom electric charges with the clever new Illumi-Charger.  The charger uses solar power to provide you with off-grid power to fuel your gadgets.  An award recipient at this years Greener Gadgets competition, I hope to see this product on the shelves (and with a typical wall outlet option) soon!

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Greener Gadgets Design Competition

The Greener Gadgets Competition is at it again, now in its third year running.  Held in NYC, the competition is part of the Greener Gadgets Design Conference–a gathering of forward-thinking electronic companies, innovators, and inventors from around the globe.  Entrants to the event are put to the task of creatively and aesthetically solving energy consumption issues with an eco-responsible approach.

Some of the ideas are brilliant, some have obvious flaws, but all of them get you thinking about the possibilities that are out there!  Here are a few of my favourite concepts from the 2009 finalists/semi-finalists (from Core77 – a totally brilliant design website)…. check out the Greener Gadgets website for the 2010 schedule!

Power-Hog

“Power-Hog is a power consumption metering piggy bank designed to sensitize kids to energy cost associated with running electronics devices. Plug the tail into the outlet and the device into the snout; feed a coin to meter 30 minutes of use.”

( …click image for more details)

WattBlocks

“With a single tap of the foot, WattBlocks easily disconnects devices in the home that are notorious for consuming standby power.

Few consumers understand that many of today’s electronics consume power while not in use. These energy vampires can account for $100 of a home’s yearly power cost, wasting up to $10 billion annually in the United States. The WattBlocks kit is designed to reduce this wasted energy. It consists of several WattBlocks, which are plugged in between wall outlets and vampire devices, and a master step switch that plugs into an outlet near the entry/exit of the home. As the user exits, tapping the step switch sends a signal through the home’s power lines, telling all WattBlocks to block power to the vampires.”

Sun Stations

“Sun Stations are pieces of public furniture that provide free solar energy in open areas, allowing people to charge and use electronics in a greener way in a wider variety of places.

They are made of concrete, teak wood, and stainless steel. The energy (84W – enough for laptops, cell phones, etc.) is generated entirely by Mono crystalline solar cells located 3 meters above ground for less shading and higher efficiency. The solar cells are set on security glass allowing people to immediately recognize where their energy is coming from. The energy is stored either in a battery pack or in a grid-tied system under the seat.”

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver is determined to transform the way we feed our children!  Such a powerful and needed mission, Oliver was recently awarded the TED prize for his work and gave the above presentation of his ‘One Wish to Change the World.’ What is his wish exactly:

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”

Moving to West Virginia to tackle the problem first-hand, Oliver has generated the perfect case study for change.  In the above video he highlights his work to date.  The accounts are eye-opening though I particularly appreciate the steps he has taken towards solving the problem that seem realistic for any school to incorporate: 2- 1hour sessions in classes, demanding better foods in schools.

Oliver also praises a few ‘angels’ that are already pioneering change.  Though he doesn’t mention them all directly, we have been impressed by a few programs:

The Edible School Yard

Tulane City Center Hollygrove Growers Pavillion and Shade Units

Food Inc. partner Hungry for Change

You can learn more about Jamie Oliver’s wish here.

Delivered in Beta

This video provides a wonderful commentary on working collaboratively and releasing our ideas/concepts/and prototypes to the people who need them before they are perfect– because they never are.

Working in this way reminds me immediately of the innovative work produced by International Design Clinic.  Created by groups of students and professionals, projects executed by the IDC  are deployed in communities in need and are assumed to be version 1.0.  The succeeding 2.0, 3.0, etc. occur as communities take in our work, accept our designs, and then evolve them into something more efficient and personally meaningful.

So start sharing!  Be Creative!  And get Excited!

Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story

If you are ever stuck thinking that you don’t have the tools or resources to be innovative, think again!   At the age of 14, Malawian William Kamkwamba Malawan created a functioning wind turbine after merely seeing an image of one!  Inspired by the dream of providing his family with electricity and a water pump, William’s story is incredible, inspiring, and has almost brought me to tears this evening.  Enjoy the video, and when you realize you must know more of this fascinating story, buy the book here.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

The end of a year, almost the end of a decade.  Eliza and I have been somewhat M.I.A. the past month, due to burgeoning to-do lists and holiday mayhem,  but boy have we got grand plans for 2010!  We are looking to give our little blog a nice facelift sometime in the first part of the year, add more personalized content (including videos and interviews!), and continue to improve Innovate as the year progresses.  Thanks for being a part of our beginning, our first (half) year!

Here’s a final post for the magnificent, difficult, eventful, wondrous, and bittersweet year of 2009……… And a hopeful nod to the innovations of tomorrow.

~~

Cherry-picking from Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009, here are 5 supremely cool items from their list:

5. Vertical Farming.  “Real estate — the one thing we’re not making any more of. That might be good news for landlords but not for the world’s farmers, who have finite cropland to feed a growing global population. The answer: build up by farming vertically. Valcent, a company based in El Paso, Texas, is pioneering a hydroponic-farming system that grows plants in rotating rows, one on top of another. The rotation gives the plants the precise amount of light and nutrients they need, while the vertical stacking enables the use of far less water than conventional farming. But best of all, by growing upward instead of outward, vertical farming can expand food supplies without using more land.”

4. The Electric Eye.  “MIT researchers are developing a microchip that could help blind people regain partial eyesight. Though it won’t completely restore normal vision, it will enable a blind person to recognize faces and navigate a room without assistance. The chip, which is encased in titanium to prevent water damage, will be implanted onto a patient’s eyeball. The patient will then wear a pair of eyeglasses equipped with a tiny camera that transmits images directly to the chip, which in turn sends them to the brain. With any luck, human trials are only a few years away.”

3.  The Smart Thermostat.  “A couple of years ago, Seth Frader-Thompson was driving a Prius. Priuses have little screens on the dashboard that tell you what gas mileage you’re getting, in real time, as you drive. It crossed Frader-Thompson’s mind that houses should have something similar. So he built the EnergyHub Dashboard, a little device, with a screen, that can talk wirelessly to your furnace and your various appliances and let you know exactly how much electricity (or gas) each one is using and how much it’s costing you. It can also turn appliances on and off and raise or lower the temperature in your house so you can rein in the real power hogs. EnergyHub is currently partnering with utilities for trials and will be available direct to consumers in early 2010.”

2.  The School of One.  “This past summer, in a sixth-grade math class, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein piloted a small program in which individualized, technology-based learning takes the place of the old “let’s all proceed together” approach. Each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a “daily playlist” — tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games. It’s learning for the Xbox generation.”


1.  The Planetary Skin.  “What happens to Earth when a forest is razed or energy use soars? We don’t know because environmental data are collected by isolated sources, making it impossible to see the whole picture. With the theory that you can’t manage what you can’t measure, NASA and Cisco have teamed up to develop Planetary Skin, a global “nervous system” that will integrate land-, sea-, air- and space-based sensors, helping the public and private sectors make decisions to prevent and adapt to climate change. The pilot project — a prototype is due by 2010 — will track how much carbon is held by rain forests and where.”

*All images above, and text descriptions, via Time online.

And for those who want a little laugh, check out BuzzFeed’s list of 50 Best Protest Signs of 2009.  One of my faves…

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!

Ross Lovegrove

Ross Lovegrove is sui generis in the world of designers.  His idiosyncratic approach to product design is organically breathtaking– fluid in appearance, and revolutionary in composition.  He describes himself as “an evolutionary biologist, more than a designer.”  This quote coming from one of the few sources I could find information on this incredible innovator, in an interview with Design Boom.

The following video is his presentation for TED, (which we recently wrote about here at Innovate). It’s a fantastic talk, but don’t get too sidetracked by the fact that there is a lot of focus on chairs!  (It’s more about the design process and materials, rather than the object itself).

Two items conspicuously missing from his talk are his Alpine Capsule and Solar Trees:

The Alpine Capsule is an off-grid, sustainable, futuristic cabin, if you will. Created as “simply a way to place people in the extremes of nature and its wonders, whilst retaining the maximum of comfort…space technology not in space, but on earth.”¹ The Capsule is meant to be a sanctuary within nature,  transparent from the inside looking out, but reflective of its surroundings on the exterior.  Learn more about it here.

Street lamps are often a dull affair, and Lovegrove’s Solar Trees are a welcome aesthetic antidote to humdrum street appearance.  ” The Solar Trees communicate more than light… they communicate the trust of placing beautifully made, complex natural forms outside for the benefit of all of society”  Read further at hg.hu.

image via Lisa Town

image via hg.hu

¹from interview featured in Clear magazine, issue 33

*Alpine Capsule images from Dezeen.com (Design Magazine)