We just wrapped up 2 days of jamming on decentralized power systems at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. We got a bunch of people together who are committed and passionate about disrupting current systems of power generation and distribution.
Ed and Amsterdam-based Sensemaker Casper moderated our work sessions. We kicked things off with a few presentations, including some talks from Dan, Estefanie, and I on our past research and what we worked on at the Science Hack Day. We drew a lot of inspiration from Jeremy Rifken’s work and plastered the walls with post its of ideas, quotes, and images of what we found noteable and inspiring. Attendee Tim van de Rijt talked a bit about the platform he’s currently developing: energysharing.com, which spurred an open discussion on what we envision the future of energy sharing to be and how those interactions would play out.
From there, we broke into teams to focus our ideas by doing user scenarios for three different personas. The daily activities and opportunities of energy creation and exchange were white-boarded for a housemom/dad, a freelancer, and a business person.
Our story is largely centered on the archaic foundation of centralized power systems. We, as a society, have progressed to be a mobile people. Much of what we do is based on tools of communication (phones, tablets, laptops, etc…) but those devices are limited by power, by our dependance on the electrical grid. To narrow our focus, we decided to work through visualizing a system that would take powering cell phones off the grid.
After a show and tell session of our findings, we switched gears and isolated 3 different domains that needed exploration to begin making our ideas more tangible and accessible to a greater audience:
sharing: what does a energy sharing mechanism look like? (physically and virtually)
product: what types of products will be involved in energy harvesting
story: what is the story we are trying to tell?
After another round of show and tell, we scrambled groups to iterate on the previous teams process. Our biggest hurdle was/is the sharing mechanism. We kept running into the issue of storage, battery transactions, and visualizing the decentralized, peer to peer energy sharing grid (now dubbed The Intergrid). The discussions of the ethics behind energy sharing were also discussed. Should people be selling their energy? Is purely freely available energy the right thinking (Wikipedia model where everyone benefits, but success is reliant upon the minority of hyper-users)? We talked about citizens in a community who enjoy gardening, and how although its not a cheap hobby, people happily and gladly give away things that they grow to those around them. Could energy possibly function in the same way?
It was a super productive day and after lots of great ideas, storyboarding, and open discussions, we broke for dinner and drinks and continue the jam session tomorrow!
The best/worst part of the design process is finding flaws in your system, and throwing out a previously crafted vision for one that, for lack of a better word, makes more sense.
Our redirection came primarily from the central issue, which is determining how independently created energy would be accessed and distributed.
In order to start a movement, you need momentum. For us, that means building a framework for a community to a) learn about energy producing technologies and b) sharing that information with each other and the public.
No, our current prototypes don’t create mass amounts of power, but our goal right now is to harness the everyday actions of people with tools that collect power. In order to achieve this, we decided that we must complete the following:
- people must have devices that harvest energy
- these devices must be quantifiable, in that the amount of power created needs to be uploaded and shared
- a web platform must exist, where independent energy producers are able to share their own data on the quantity of energy they are producing, where they are in the world, and how they are doing so.
We see these goals being fulfilled by way of Kickstarter, where we can deliver micro-energy harvesting devices to a large amount of people. From there we can monitor natural trends within the community, and what kinds of sharing tactics occur amongst users. Emerging behaviors with our target demographic seem more useful and feasible in designing the infrastructure for a larger sharing system instead of dictating how sharing energy should function.
Our next steps include iterating through our products a bit more so that they are easily understood and useable by the average person. We also need to continue to refine our concept and the story behind it to continue to gain momentum and excitement.
Third industrial revolution, here we come!