Check your techMay 18, 2009
Next up in our innovation blueprint (collaboration + sustainability + technology) for Economy 2.0 is technology.
This one seems to be a no-brainer. Compared with collaboration and sustainability, technology is the most widely accepted definition of innovation. To some extent, we tend to rely too much on technology itself to solve every problem in the world. When combined with collaboration and sustainability, technology is at its best. The balance is crucial. Without collaboration, technology doesn’t advance as quickly. Without sustainability, technology isn’t long term enough. But collaboration and sustainability without technology isn’t as scalable.
Using the sectors I mentioned in Economy 2.0 blog post, let’s check out examples of technology innovations coming out of Portland:
I don’t know much about Educadium, but from what I’ve seen from their website, it’s a great way to leverage the web to increase access to educational opportunities. Their mission is “to help individuals and organizations of all sizes create, manage, and profit from online teaching and training through easy-to-use and affordable learning management tools.“ One of the great hopes for technology and education is to level the playing field for those trying to teach, and to increase access for those wanting to learn. Of course, we need to address the digital divide, but that’s another blog post entirely!
BetterBricks is the commercial building initiative of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, which is supported by local electric utilities. BetterBricks’ goals are to support the marketplace’s capability to deliver efficient products and services, provide pragmatic and comprehensive information about energy efficiency and its benefits, and build awareness and demand for energy efficiency in buildings. The key question to me is how we scale efforts around clean tech, not just grow individual clean tech companies. BetterBricks is one way to address this.
If you live in Portland, then you’re no stranger to New Seasons Market. Besides being a model of sustainable operations, local options, organic foods, and a community commitment, they’ve also been innovating with technology. Theironline shopping service makes it easy for anyone (including those not near a store) to benefit from their products anytime during the week. And is this sustainable? You bet. New Seasons fuel their vans with a B20 biodiesel blend in a process that utilizes their own delis’ used cooking oil. And they can prevent up to 240 trips to the grocery store per day through grouping the online shopping purchases together, potentially saving over 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Now I’m hungry…
Intel is one of Oregon’s biggest employers, and their new personal telehealthproduct is an intriguing way to leverage technology to provide better healthcare. People can get monitored by the healthcare provider from home, which is more convenient for people in rural areas or for anyone who finds it difficult to travel to their healthcare provider’s office. And perhaps more regular monitoring can take place, which could head off problems before they get worse.
GreenRenter is a great online source for green rental properties. Their mission is to inspire renters and owners to go green through showcasing green properties and providing resources. Again, this is a great example of technology helping to scale the impact of collaboration and sustainability. Check out the site for both commercial and residential properties.
I’m a big proponent of more centralized resources for furthering the commercialization of innovative products. A great example of this is Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center. The FIC helps people commercialize their product ideas through research and technology. Portland has attracted and retained a lot of people with innovative ideas thanks to lifestyle and sustainability reasons. But that increases competition for existing jobs. What we need is more cross functional resources to commercialize and scale ideas people have. And these can come from higher education, government, nonprofits, or other businesses.
You have to love Clever Cycles. Their mission is to promote cycling as primary transportation for the everyday activity of households and businesses. Not just for commuting or fitness, but also family and cargo transport. This requires a whole set of unique tech solutions to bicycles, gear, and accessories. They’ve scoured the planet for products that fit their mission. And in the process, they’ve become a focal point for a growing community.
Do you have suggestions of other innovative models of technology in these sectors? Share them in the comments field below. In my next blog post, we’ll take a look at how we can all be a part of Economy 2.0…