A Drinkable Book

drinkable book

 

Water Filters in a Book

Dr Teri Dankovich, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh USA has developed and tested a book whose pages can be torn out and used to filter drinking water. Trails are impressive, with the process bringing the water up to US drinking water standards.

The book’s pages contain nanoparticles of silver or copper, which kill bacteria in the water as it passes through. Some of the particles do remain in the water however, but they remain within the legal limits.

Nanomaterials

Now here I have to add my own input to the debate. As readers might know I have written several posts about nanomaterials and it is one of the fields that I work in, and I would question how legal limits are defined.

Nanoparticles are treated like any other particles, and their scale is not taken in account, but this seems to raise some questions. The fact that they are so small means that they can pass easily into the blood stream, so their effects may not be the same as larger particles of the same materials.

So I have to leave an open question mark over the legal issue, but the fact that the water is drinkable is a great advantage. And this leads me to ponder the fact that innovation, and its level of responsibility and ethical justification, must be local. An invention or innovation that brings drinkable water to millions, is portable and cheap and could save many lives, must be seen within its context. Nanoparticles in the water in this situation, may not be same an nano particles found in water because of factory pollution or deliberate addition when other processes might be readily available.

An article on the BBC explains that “All you need to do is tear out a paper, put it in a simple filter holder and pour water into it from rivers, streams, wells etc and out comes clean water – and dead bacteria as well”. And one page can clean up to 100 litres of water. A book could filter one person’s water supply for four years.

The project is looking for funding, so if you are interested and have some money to spare click on the link at the start of the post and pass them over your pocket money.

As a final thought, nanotechnology has come in for criticism from the academic community for its lack of regulation, and rightly so. But it also brings a world of possibilities, many of which like the story above that could transform people’s lives. This is the fine line that interests me in my work, how to make the most of scientific developments at the least environmental and social costs, and for the highest number of people.

Fairphone, A Case of Responsible Innovation?

fairphone

Fairphone, Responsible Innovation?

This week I want to carry on my investigation into Responsible innovation with an example. I think it might express the idea easily, which has been one of its problems. So meet the Fairphone.

I have seen Fairphone described as a responsible innovation, so let’s take a look at its credentials. Anyone who has ever looked into manufacturing practices of our favourite modern technology will know that there is a dark side to its use, from illegal mining, child labour, poor safety records, it is all there. And this seems to be what Fairphone are trying to counteract.

I take the following from the website:

Mining

We want to integrate materials in our supply chain that support local economies, not armed militias. We’re starting with conflict-free minerals from the DRC to stimulate alternative solutions.

Sounds like it might address some of the problems noted above.

Design

We’re using design to change the relationship between people and their phones. We’re focusing on longevity and repairability to extend the phone’s usable life and give buyers more control over their products.

With all due respect to a certain company that makes phones that you cannot even change the battery on, I can feel someone turning in his grave!

Manufacturing

Factory workers deserve safe conditions, fair wages and worker representation. We work closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing.

Sounds more than reasonable given the bad press that many manufacturers have had in recent years.

Life Cycle

We’re addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. We believe that our responsibility doesn’t end with sales.

Given how many are in circulation this must be a priority, and the problem of e-waste is well known.

Here is the publicity blurb:

A smartphone with social values

This quality smartphone lets us open up processes and start a conversation about what is truly fair. From conflict-free minerals to fair factory wages, we’re making improvements one step at a time. Your purchase supports better ways of doing business that aim to inspire the entire industry.

And for those of you who also care about other things:

Introducing the Fairphone 2

5-inch Full HD display with Gorilla® Glass 3

Android​​™​ 5.1 (​Lollipop)

32 GB internal storage​

Expandable storage via MicroSD slot​

Dual SIM

4G LTE/3G/2G

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 platform,​ 2GB RAM​

It looks like a serious piece of kit to me, and if all of the above is true, how could you say no?

The roadmap on the website goes into greater detail, I can certainly recommend a look. You can get a cost breakdown, as well as a financial statement (the project is financially independent). Now I should note that am not paid for this post, neither have I approached the manufacturer, I have never asked for anything from them and am fully independent myself, but I must say that it certainly looks like a fine project to me. They are now taking orders for Fairphone 2, and I am sorely tempted, I would be a hypocrite not to be!

529 Euros. Does that sound reasonable? It is out of my price range I am afraid, but more to the point does it explain what Responsible Innovation might be?

Responsible innovation, a call for your opinions

RI

Responsible Innovation

Some of my reader(s) might know that I work in the field of Responsible Innovation. This is a growing area within Science and Technology studies, but also plays a part in EU legislation and funding as well as working practices in general.

To be perfectly honest, one of the problems we have in the field is defining and explaining what we work on. I would say in general terms that we are interested in making innovation processes more democratic and transparent, while aiming scientific and technological development towards improvements for society. So possibly make the development of things that might be advantageous for society a priority, even if they might not be so profitable.

If you would like more information before I give you your homework for this week, check out this article in the Spectrum Engineering blog (I wrote it). Take a look at the MATTER website, or the Bassetti Foundation who I collaborate with in my work, or you could even download my $1.17 book from Amazon.

Or none of the above, just use a general sense of what it might look like in your own imagination.

So here we come to the homework part.

Your opinions and Ideas

As part of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe, Hilary Sutcliffe of the UK based think-tank MATTER (linked above) has launched the New Principles for Responsible Innovation document. Hilary is the plainest speaker of the community, and she wants to know what the general public think about developments. So her document is an open call for comments, with particular interest and questions about the following aspects of RI:

1. Purpose – is it realistic to think that such a voluntary initiative will have a useful role as we have envisaged it?  If yes or no, it would be helpful to know why. (My interpretation of this question, can we improve society through voluntary action within innovation?)

2. Content – Are there gaps or duplications or structures which you think are unhelpful?  Do you have suggestions on how that could be improved? (If so, how could we do it, which structures might be useful, and where are the obstacles?)

3.Effectiveness – How do you think this would be best implemented?  Do you agree with our concept of Radical Transparency being the tool for all stakeholders to access the information of their choice in place of armies of verifiers, or is this just unrealistic? (Could it all be done through transparency, and without rules from above?)

The main aims of the project are to generate positive momentum for transformative innovation for social good and create shared expectations to help build trustworthiness & confidence, and there are several ways in which any interested parties can contribute, with comments from yourselves at number 1.

The document is available here, and I would urge everyone to have their say by replying to Hilary in person through the email link contained within it.

Tell her Jonny sent you.

WAVE

wave_copertina

Wave in Milan

This month Milan is hosting WAVE, an event that promotes the idea of frugal innovation in all of its different facets. I must say before beginning that the Bassetti Foundation (who employ me) are co-sponsors of the event, so I am a little partisan. It is however from any point of view an interesting project and concept.

The event includes an exhibition open to visitors and free of charge from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Piazza San Fedele, Milan until 3 July, alongside a series of lectures and other events. The full program is here. There is a huge variety of stuff to see and hear, including debate about sustainability, smart city technology, citizen science and editing the human genome.

The WAVE Project

I take the following form the WAVE website. It gives a nice idea of what the project is all about:

At a time when the entire planet is facing tremendous economic, social and environmental challenges, a multitude of initiatives from around the world prove that solutions exist for doing more with less. The common ingredient in all this creative ferment? Collective ingenuity.
Being flexible, keeping it simple, seizing opportunities, thinking differently: in an unstable world, the ingenious innovator develops a state of mind that’s agile enough to turn obstacles into opportunities.
We live on a small planet where everything is interdependent. This is not a time for divisions, but for concerted action: citizens, associations, NGOs, local authorities, and companies both large and small are implementing new ideas for a better world. Driven by the digital revolution, most of these initiatives rely on social media. Some of them fall within the commercial sphere, others do not. But all of them demonstrate new ways of innovating together, differently.
A wave of collective ingenuity is sweeping across the world. Drawing on a wide range of concrete examples, the WAVE exhibition explores the major currents on every continent: co-creation, the sharing economy, the maker movement, the inclusive economy, and the circular economy. These examples feature people from all walks of life who share a positive vision of the world of tomorrow.

So as we see, WAVE as a concept is traveling the world. It started in France, now Milan before moving on to Senegal, USA and then India. It looks like an interesting series of events to me, and next week I am off to Milan to check it out in person.