Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Posts Tagged ‘Industry Project

Ecopup – Final Concept for Intel

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Our industry project for Intel resulted in a video scenario for a service concept we called Ecopup. Since our target user was a young, upwardly mobile professional living in a big Asian city, we decided to situate the scenario around the typical lifestyle of such a user.

The service was visualized as being something that would be accessible through any standard Corporate Benefits program. It would use a combination of online communications, personal messaging, social networking, and location-aware technologies to prompt shifts in the lifestyle of the user towards more sustainable practices and choices. If the individual made such choices, he or she would be offered incentives, all of which would feed back into a reward system. The points earned in this manner would be held by the individual as a kind of currency or capital, which could then be exchanged, traded or used for other sustainable activities.

This video makes a demonstration of how one scenario for Ecopup might work.

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Written by Ashwin Rajan

June 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

The Vertical Farm Project

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The first phase of working on the CIID-Intel industry project was exploring current and future thinking around sustainable energy management technologies and concepts.

One of the prototypal projects I have been very kicked about for some years now is the Vertical Farm Project. I guess my background interest in this comes from understanding something of the terrible consequences of large-scale commercial farming in India: where the benefits of farming necessarily need to first impact the immediate local, small-scale community, and sustain the local economy. The unconditional dependence of the small farmer on the big market (read urban consumption) distributors is a sad tale which I won’t go into here. The central need is ‘local’. Extending the idea that small farmers need to grow food in order to first feed and sustain their immediate community, a ‘urban farm’ located within close proximity or within a city neighborhood to supply the needs of the surrounding community sounds like a good one. And apparently the concept is being discussed quite actively; here is a description and some videos + links on this fascinating concept.

A description from verticalfarm.com: “An entirely new approach to indoor farming must be invented, employing cutting edge technologies. The Vertical Farm must be efficient (cheap to construct and safe to operate). Vertical farms, many stories high, will be situated in the heart of the world’s urban centers. If successfully implemented, they offer the promise of urban renewal, sustainable production of a safe and varied food supply (year-round crop production), and the eventual repair of ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal farming.”

Inside the vertical farm. From http://www.verticalfarm.com/designs.html.

Inside the vertical farm. From http://www.verticalfarm.com/designs.html.

This page with rich designs for the concept continues to grow!

A New York times article discussing viability and costs associated with the project.

A slideshow of pictures from the New York times.

Sources for this blog post:
http://www.verticalfarm.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/science/15farm.html

Written by Ashwin Rajan

May 16, 2009 at 8:05 am

Intel Project – The Social Collective as an Agent of Behavioral Change

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Working with Intel design researcher Jay Mellican (of Intel’s Digital Home group) and CIID faculty Vinay Venkatraman, we explored the role of the social collective in achieving sustainable behaviors towards the effective management of energy.  Here I will discuss the context of the project, and go into our process and solutions in future posts.

The focus for Intel was the emerging “smart grid” – the efforts promoted by many governments and utilities to modernize, from the bottom up, the integrated system by which energy is collected and distributed. In bringing the energy grids of yesteryear into the digital age, many of the technologies and standards that will make up the “smart grid” are yet to be defined, and the implications they will have on our patterns of daily living, as well as their likely success, will depend heavily on how they are defined.

The idea of the “smart grid” is a really interesting one. Here is a really nice video that covers the main aspects of the concept well:

Its hard to discuss the “smart grid” for long today without running into GE’s efforts in that space. As part of GE’s ecomagination campaign, the company has created this engaging augmented reality web object, as shown in the video below:

The virtual energy farm object can be accessed here. Nice website too.

Amongst others, Google has been working to bring visibility of energy use to the notice of individual customers; check out its Power Meter tool.

Given all that, in trying to envision scenarios and solutions for behavioral change for this emerging and very complex space, my team (classmate Mimi and I) quickly realized that the problem of visibility of use was a crucial one. According to the Environment Change Institute, for instance, “most householders have only a vague idea of how much energy they are using for different purposes, hence the importance of making energy flows more visible and controllable. There is a lot of interest in the potential for better feedback using improved (‘smart’) metering, more informative billing and direct display panels.”

As my team’s interest was in understanding the behaviors and influence of the “social collective” – networks of people connected by social technologies – in the context of smart energy use, we decided to explore the space beyond the use of individual control devices such as energy meters, and look at “visibility of use” aspects for groups of people. More on our contextual research and enquiry in posts to come.