Solving Important Problems Through Smartphones

Smartphones and applicationsAbout a billion new smartphones will be sold in 2014, the majority in developing countries. This expanding network offers profound opportunities to solve global problems in entirely new ways.

Here are a few examples of innovative uses of smartphones — which admittedly just scratch the surface of what is possible:

1) Use Smartphones to Track Mosquitoes

Public officials in Lahore use photos and GPS information from smartphones to better target anti-mosquito programs. Dengue Fever has dropped significantly. http://econ.st/178vcmf

2) Track, Report Noise Pollution via Mobile Phone

NoiseTube and NoiseMap are two projects that allow crowdsourced collection and reporting of noise pollution data. On MobileActive.org http://bit.ly/cMx5RC

3) Inexpensive Eye Exams via Smartphone

MIT researchers have developed a small device that when combined with a smartphone can offer eye exams in developing countries. Fast Company http://bit.ly/9bWBXJ

4) Map Transit Routes Using Cell Phones

Students at the University of Nairoibi and MIT have mapped Nairobi’s informal transit network through studying cell phone data. Atlantic http://bit.ly/1k593ev

5) Data-driven Biodiversity

Crowdsourcing, a smartphone app, satellite images and data analysis combine to tell farmers which fields to flood and when to help migratory birds. NY Times http://nyti.ms/1kYcIbt

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

 

Five Good Ideas for Saving Gas

milesMany families spend thousands of dollars per year on fuel for their cars. Here are five good ideas for saving money — and helping the environment while you are at it:

Inflate Your Tires

Most automobile tires are 80% inflated or less, wasting over 100 gallons of gas per year per car. It’s bad for the pocketbook, it’s bad for safety, and it’s bad for the environment. http://abt.cm/1a28SuZ

Save Gas By Driving Less Aggressively

Edmunds.com tests show that driving less aggressively is the best way to save fuel – better than driving slower, inflating tires, reducing idling, and other strategies. http://bit.ly/8Ygyoo

Roll Down Your Window Instead of AC

Rolling down your window to cool the car on a hot day uses less energy than the AC – except when driving on the highway (where wind resistance matters more). Slate http://bit.ly/d65p04

Use “Road Trains” to Save Gas

Wirelessly linking automobiles into “road trains” can save 20% of fuel. http://bit.ly/7oP5ED

Buy a Tesla Instead of a Minivan

Total cost of ownership over eight years for a Honda Odyssey is higher than for a Tesla Model S. ExtremeTech http://bit.ly/1t5FEDS

Feel free to vote or comment on any of these ideas on Good Ideas (you can click on the idea titles above to go straight to the ideas).

Novel Uses of Color

colorsWe often think of problems being addressed through creative strategies or innovative design. But what about the novel use of color?

Here are five good ideas that apply the use of color in inventive ways:

1) Measure Pulse by Webcam

Scientists at MIT are able to measure someone’s pulse by watch for minor variations in their facial color by webcam. The presages many other types of remote medical monitoring. NY Times best idea 2010 http://nyti.ms/ijrCJF 

2) Food Wrapping Which Detects Pathogens

Canadian meat wrapping materials turn color in presence of certain pathogens. A NYTimes “best idea 2007″ winner. http://bit.ly/4TLzlM

3) Make Roads White

Black roads can increase the temperature in cities by tens of degrees – requiring more air conditioning. http://bit.ly/17bf1mi

4) Chameleon Camo

ColorPhase Camouflage has ink which changes color in different seasons, improving effectiveness. Popular Science Innovation 2013 http://bit.ly/1iqSrNJ

5) Change Exit Signs to Green from Red

American Exit signs are red and say “exit”. Signs in most other parts of the world are green and show a man running. The international signs don’t require English, are universally recognized, and are safer during an emergency. Slate http://bit.ly/axO6Ei

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Ranking Good Ideas at the United Nations

Copenhagen Consensus CenterThe United Nations (UN) in 2000 established eight Millennium Development Goals to help guide and focus global efforts to reduce poverty through 2015. With the final date approaching, the UN is now in the process of establishing a set of Sustainable Development Goals to guide global development efforts through 2030.

The Open Working Group at the UN has received hundreds of suggested priorities to include within the Sustainable Development Goals. How should the Open Working Group decide which to prioritize?

Analysis and suggestions are being offered by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, an international organization that evaluates the effectiveness of global development ideas. The Center has issued a preliminary benefit-cost analysis, ranking 212 potential targets as “phenomenal”, “good”, “fair”, “poor”, or “uncertain”.

Which ideas come out on top? You can read the full report (PDF) here.

Five Important Ideas for Helping the Environment

One active category to date on Good Ideas has been the environment section. There are innovative and important ideas there that everyone concerned about the environment should be familiar with. Here are five that strike me as both surprising and consequential:

Don’t Reduce Traffic Jams

Traffic jams are actually good for the environment, mostly because they encourage short commutes and mass transit. Wall Street Journal http://bit.ly/cDS0lE

For Fuel Efficiency, Drop “MPG” For “Gallons Per 10000 Miles”

It’s true: “MPG” ratings don’t say much about environment impact (because big cars use a lot more gas, so a small change has big impact). We really should change how mileage is reported. NYTimes “best of 2008″ idea. http://bit.ly/7Mz1wD

To Combat Global Warming, Forget About CO2, Worry About Methane

What?! Don’t worry about CO2? The rationale for this important idea is that methane has 75% of the impact of CO2 on global warming, but has short lifespan and is easier to contain. WSJ: http://ow.ly/QJuy

Don’t Worry About Car Pollution, Worry About Ship Pollution

The fact that a small number of ships produce as much sulphur pollution as all of the cars in the world is shocking (and a bit troubling). Ships burn dirty fuel. Shouldn’t this change? Daily Mail http://bit.ly/cSoq7I

To Combat Global Warming, Focus on Long-Term Interventions

Bill Gates makes a very powerful argument: short-term interventions to help the environment (the current target is 30% reduction of emissions by 2025) are possible, but not very meaningful. We need 80% reductions by 2050, which requires a completely different approach. http://bit.ly/85pVOp

Feel free to vote or comment on any of these ideas on Good Ideas (you can click on the idea titles above to go straight to the ideas).

Light, Health, Cleanliness: The Remarkable Two Liter Bottle

pepsiMillions of two liter bottles are used in developing countries each year. Once the soft drink is consumed, there are still plenty of innovative uses for the sturdy container. Here are a few good ideas:

1) Light

A water-filled 2-liter bottle can replace a 50 watt light bulb. Used across Asia and South America. Awesome! http://bit.ly/bAPUpt

2) Water purification

A billion people drink highly polluted water. Treating water by putting it in 2 liter cola bottles and setting it in the sun on a black surface for 5 hours kills 99% of pathogens. One of the world’s truly great ideas. See http://www.sodis.ch

3) Water filtering

Biome Solutions describes how to make a functioning water filter out of a two liter bottle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXfVVAJJ1II

4) Hand-washing

A device fashioned from a two-liter bottle provides hand-washing for developing countries. A New York Times “best of 2008″ selection. http://bit.ly/5EYH7w

5) Transportation

The rRaft builds functioning boats from ~1000 recycled two liter bottles. http://rraft.blogspot.com/

Wow – and certainly just a subset of the possibilities!

Good Ideas for Happiness

happyIs there a recipe for happiness? Researchers increasingly have looked at factors which lead to happiness. Here are seven provocative ideas:

1) To Be Happy, Earn $60k Per Year

Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman points out the people earning less than $60k per year are progressively more unhappy the less they earn, but folks over $60k are all basically at the same level of happiness. My Money Blog http://bit.ly/aT0TGc

2) Move to Costa Rica

Costa Rica is chosen as “happiest country on earth” in 2009 Happy Planet Index. http://ow.ly/iP3b

3) Win a Bronze Medal

US researchers have concluded that olympic bronze medal winners are happier than silver medal winners. Silver = “almost gold”, while bronze = “almost nothing”. http://bit.ly/aaNWiY

4) Don’t Fight with your Spouse — Raise you Blood Sugar

Psychologists at Ohio State University show a correlation between spouse hostility and low blood sugar. http://econ.st/1m5NrQI

5) Add Lithium to the Water Supply

Studies in Japan show that lithium in the water supply helps avert suicides. http://www.nytimes.com/projects/magazine/ideas/2009/#l

6) Grow Older

Researchers show that happiness increases with time, with sharp increases after age 50. NY Times http://nyti.ms/9InmKM

7) Global Orgasm for Peace

Synchronized annual global orgasm on Winter Solstice in order to “effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible source of human energy, a Synchronized Global Orgasm”. Seen at http://www.globalorgasm.org

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Toilet Innovations

latrine2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to safe, affordable sanitation. For those that do have access, sanitation facilities are often bad for the environment. There is clearly a need to rethink sanitation — and to reinvent the toilet — for both developing and developed countries.

Here are five current Good Ideas relating to toilet innovation:

1) Reinvent the Toilet

Gates Foundation chooses three winning designs in their “reinvent the toilet” competition. Economist http://econ.st/QGO6s7

2) Electricity from Human Waste

The Humanure Project in India uses biogas generators to produce electricity from human waste. Dell Social Innovation Challenge 2nd place (of 4000) 2012. http://bit.ly/Af5vGu

3) Turn Waste into a Resource

Project SOIL in Haiti installs composting toilets which promote both health and agriculture. Forbes http://onforb.es/1aFJ7xf

4) Safer Pit Latrines for $1.50

A plastic $1.50 retrofit on pit latrines blocks bugs which spread disease. Popular Science Innovation 2013. http://bit.ly/1iqRjcR

5) Half-flush Toilets

Many new toilets have two handles or buttons for flush, one for a full flush and one for half a flush. This saves lots of water and helps the environment.

To comment or vote on these (or other) ideas – or add your own! – visit Good Ideas.

Are the World’s Best Ideas Hidden in PDFs?

The World Bank spends many millions of dollars on sophisticated policy analysis resulting in well-researched policy recommendations. Most of the information — data, analysis, recommendations — end up in PDF documents which are posted on the Bank’s site. Does anyone read the PDF documents? In a recent analytics review, the Bank found that nearly one-third of documents have zero downloads. Another 40% have been downloaded less than a paltry 100 times. Only 13% had more than a modest 250 downloads.

pdfs

Congratulations to the Bank for analyzing these data and publicly questioning the value of PDF documents. Bank blog and Twitter accounts likely get more attention — but even there, the attention is fleeting. The good ideas have a moment in the sun, and then disappear.

More information is available on the Washington Post Wonkblog.

We need a better way to capture, archive, categorize, tag, rank, and share good ideas!