The Consumerization of Clean Energy

IMG_3399
IMG_3399

Have you noticed that really cool (and occasionally humorous) applications for renewable energy—designed with you, the consumer, in mind—are popping up all over?

This is great for the renewable energy industry, and my reasoning is simple.  The greater the number of cool or laugh-out-loud energy-related products being developed and marketed, the better the chance that “renewable energy” (or some other, consumer-friendly version of that catch phrase) will become a common household term. And you know as well as I do that once a concept enters the mainstream conscience, the better the potential for the concept to take off.  When that happens, many companies in the field of renewable energy, from solar to biogas, wind and more, should prosper. But let’s get back to the hip and funny stuff.  You may have already seen these inventions, but I thought all of them were pretty cool:

  • A company called Green Revolution has built a stationary bike that converts the energy produced during spin class into electricity. The bikes are hooked up to generators that are ultimately connected to an electrical panel. Green Revolution estimates a rider can produce 70 to 130 watts of renewable energy during a typical class. Now the only question is when can I buy that bike for my own use?
  • I recently discovered Nate Garvis’ blog, Naked Civics. (No, it’s not that kind of naked. Read on.) Garvis recently wrote about what could be the perfect marriage of fashion and science: Clothes that reduce the gasses in the air that contribute to climate change. Yes, that’s right—this line of clothing is “catalysed, or coated with particles that purify the air,” Garvis writes. And while you might not wear this dress to work anytime soon, you’ve got to admit the style is pretty cool.
  • Garvis also blogged about Power Felt, a cool (or should I say hot?) concept designed by students at Wake Forest University’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials. Power Felt turns the heat generated by human touch into electricity. “…imagine an electric car that is powered by your derrière and Power Felt. Now that puts a whole new meaning to being in the hot seat, doesn’t it?” Garvis writes.
  • Cruising around Coolest Gadgets, I discovered two gems—one with very real life-changing application and one that is kind of trivial, but both pretty interesting in their own ways. The We Care Solar Suitcase, produced by We Care Solar, is a solar-based, portable power unit that delivers lighting and power for cell phones, computers or medical devices to health workers in locations without reliable electricity.  Think remote areas of the world—and here’s an innovation that can help people stay healthy (and probably save lives). It might seem silly to mention innovative medical equipment in the same breath as the Jubilee Solar Queen, but this purple lady demonstrates that solar panels can also power campy dashboard ornaments. The miniature solar panels that power the Queen’s waving hand are tucked, out of sight, in her handbag. I love it!

As I stated earlier, I think the “cool” (or funny) factor can play a role in bringing renewable energy, in whatever form it takes, to the forefront of people’s minds. From there the logic is simple: The more familiar the technology, the sooner it’ll become second nature. The sooner it becomes second nature, the more the renewable energy industry will grow—and take off. What cool gadgets and applications have you seen lately?

Barbara Call is Director of Content for Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1

With Innovation, There’s Always a Catch

Even in the absence of its legendary leader, Steve Jobs, Apple has yet again taken the market by storm with the introduction of its iPad 3, released earlier this month. With improved graphics, camera and video capabilities, greater text readability and a dictation function, many will argue that the iPad3 is the best tablet yet.  A recentComputerworld article written by Ryan Faas argues that improved graphics, video and gaming capabilities make the iPad3 a winner. Now, companies in the mobile ecosystem, from mobile gaming companies such as Zynga and Glu to mobile marketing/advertising companies such as Jumptap, can display stunning, interactive graphics, and users will have a field day with the device.

iPad 3
iPad 3

The Computerworld article goes on to suggest that while the iPad3’s consumer appeal is unquestionable, it is also very well suited for businesses. The healthcare industry, for example, can take advantage of the device’s new graphic capabilities as an alternative to medical imaging workstations. Media, design and other creative firms can also take advantage of the retina display and improved graphic performance. And the list goes on. Furthermore, because of its consumer appeal and because every business user is also a consumer, the new iPad will ride the building “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) wave. In other words, the device will inevitably become a widely-used business tool.

While the iPad3 offers new, innovative, functionality and potential business benefits, it also poses challenges to IT departments that must manage how this new device connects to corporate networks. IT administrators who have already been contemplating mobile device management (MDM) strategies to secure their corporate networks will now have an even greater challenge as different devices, equipped with new functionality and capabilities, come to the market.

It is essential that future MDM strategies be scalable, flexible and able to evolve with the mobile market. After all, by the time you’ve ordered your new iPad3 on Amazon.com, another better, faster, smarter tablet is likely already in development (or in the marketplace). Don’t believe it? Rivals to the iPad3 have already shown up. The Asus Transformer Prime, which offers a detachable keyboard, has recently drawn praise from CNET, proof that the mobile market is continuously evolving.

The iPad3 and other tablets can not only delight consumers, they can also positively transform industries, and we are already beginning to see this happen. With innovation, however, there is always a catch. The opportunity for the iPad and other tablets to revolutionize business is clear, but this window of opportunity may close slightly if companies do not invest strategically in MDM now. How companies strategically and intelligently use and manage evolving mobile technology will help dictate which businesses move forward fastest and which will fall behind.

Jessica Boardman a senior consultant at Greenough. She can be reached via email at jboardman@greenough.biz or follow her on twitter @J_Boardman.

Healthcare in Your Pocket: The Unstoppable Rise of mHealth

Photo: Juhan Sonin, Flickr
Photo: Juhan Sonin, Flickr

Much has been written in recent months about “consumerization of IT.” In fact, InfoWorld recently launched a channel dedicated to the topic. Overused phrase? Perhaps it is, but it’s also no buzzword du jour. Mobile devices have already liberated your “at home” persona, and now corporate IT is scrambling to protect itself as work personas and home personas converge within one or more preferred devices such as smartphones and tablets. But consumerization of IT doesn’t capture the true potential or massive scale of this disruption.  To fully grasp that, simply insert the world “healthcare” before IT.

The title of a recently published Panasonic/BizTechReports white paper (available here) concerns me. Diagnosis Danger: Governance & Security Issues Cause IT Concerns About iPad in Healthcare Setting perpetuates fear that undoubtedly exists within many healthcare enterprises. That said, the white paper is frankly a bit self-serving; its main point seems to be that iPads (unlike Panasonic devices, of course) may not be robust enough for the typical healthcare setting.  That’s a minor worry in my opinion, but a survey done with CIOs as part of the white paper clearly shows widespread angst.

Despite these worries from within, however, true disruption is underway, and patients, physicians and administrators are driving the mobile health, or “mHealth,” revolution, whether IT is ready or not. Christina Thielst, a hospital administrator who is active in social media through her blog Christina’s Considerations, champions this opportunity by putting a spotlight on ways mobile technology, even “consumery” applications such as FourSquare, are leading to deeper engagement. She doesn’t ignore the risks, but she does encourage her peers to push boundaries.

And push they are. A recent piece in Crain’s New York Business, Wired Docs, tells of physicians who are challenging their employers to “hook them up.” And we’re not talking about mere social media dialogue on Twitter or Facebook, we’re talking about doctors on rounds using apps such as Diagnosaurus on their iPhones to troubleshoot new symptoms.

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle; whether you call it consumerization of healthcare IT or mHealth, the movement is unstoppable. Consumers want it and understand how to use it. And so do many medical professionals.

But don’t take my word for it. Take the words of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the recent mHealth Summit. Read her words carefully, especially her closing line: “This future is not here yet, but it is within sight.” That future is mobile, and those of us who have a stake in mHealth, from developers of new applications to the creators of new content to support them, have an obligation to keep pushing (and innovating) alongside the intrepid physicians, nurses and administrators who have taken up this cause. Sure, healthcare CIOs should be careful in these uncharted waters, but here’s hoping they are committed to doing so with sufficient speed to realize the full promise of mHealth as soon as possible.

Scott Bauman is an executive vice president for Greenough. Send him an email at sbauman@greenough.biz or follow him on twitter: @sbauman