What Was It About?
On 18th of March, Seeed Studio hosted a Tech4Good webinar for the UN’s 13th World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum 2022. WSIS Forum is the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICTs for development’ multi-stakeholder communities, which is spearheaded by the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and co-organized by UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD. In simple terms, the Forum is a well-recognized platform to learn the world’s latest technological trends, exchange information and networks, share the best practices, and build trans-sectoral partnerships towards accelerating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (WSIS Forum, 2022). (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Seeed’s Tech4Good Webinar for WSIS Forum 2022
On this backdrop, Seeed Studio’s Tech4Good webinar has been moderated by our Sustainability and CSR Manager, Ye Seong Shin, and we focused on real-life application cases of AIoT open source hardware and software solutions for the most pressing SDG challenges of our time: Carbon Neutrality, Climate Change, Wildlife Conservation, and Sustainable Communities. By joining hands and forces with innovators of our open tech communities, 6 speakers have been invited to share their: a) technological knowledge and expertise; b) solutions, cases, and projects; as well as c) insights and reflections. (Figure 2). Click this link to view the webinar recording: https://www.itu.int/net4/wsis/forum/2022/Agenda/Session/148.
Figure 2. Tech4Good Webinar Speakers on Live for WSIS Forum 2022 (WSIS Forum, 2022)
What Are the Main Takeaways?
By now, you might be curious to find out the most exhilarating lessons from our webinar. That’s why, we’ve made a concise and to-the-point summary of the 6 speakers’ scintillating talk outcomes. Are you ready to explore? Let’s start the exposition then! 🙂
💚 Eric Pan
Figure 3. Eric Pan’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Eric Pan
On the topic of “AIoT Open Source Solutions Towards Sustainable World ∞” (Figure 3), Eric talked about the importance of facilitating 500,000+ developers all over the world to become SDG innovators, so that they can contribute to bringing sustainable and positive impacts to the society we’re living in today. He quotes,
“Makers acquired the ‘how’, and sustainability is attracting the ‘why’.”
By shedding light on maker-level and corporate-level projects revolving around Smart Agriculture and Sustainable Communities (Microsoft FarmBeats & FarmBeats for Students), he highlighted that the prototypes are only the first step to solving the concurrent challenges – far from industrial and real-life applications. He continued the discourse of technological deployment being too complex for non-technical multi-stakeholders, which is why the open tech community should be able to make the solutions simple and easy-to-use for massive scaling up scenarios. Moreover, Eric emphasized the significant role of local people who are the potential end-users of the AIoT solutions:
“We should rely more on local people. They resolve their problems much better in the long run, so we hope to bring more bottom-up and open innovations.”
At the end of his presentation, he announced the upcoming new product launch for ‘IoT into the Wild’ solutions, which are designed to meet the needs of conservationists and environmentalists for wildlife conservation and environmental monitoring purposes. To participate in the product launch, stay tuned for 9:00A.M. (Pacific Daylight Time) on 25th of March here: https://2022.seeed.cc.
Figure 4. Cesar Jung-Harada’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Cesar Jung-Harada
In Cesar’s presentation on “The Next Industrial Revolution We Need” (Figure 4), he shared that our tech community needs to reflect upon how we’re using the technology for what purpose and for whom. In the same vein, he points out that we should work together with trans-sectoral partners to use the emerging technologies like AIoT, to heal nature, as well as to reunite the world by enriching ourselves with shared knowledge and technologies. From his perspective, the next industrial revolution we need is the embodiment of open biomanufacturing powered by shared intellectual property, that goes beyond the realm of AIoT. On this backdrop, Cesar alerts us of the critical status quo of ocean health and marine biodiversity:
“My main interest is the ocean. If you look from the space, we live in the blue planet. 70% of its surface area is ocean. 75% of the oxygen producers are coming from the ocean. 90% of the world trade by shipping is from the ocean. The sun’s heat is mostly captured by the ocean, … that controls the climate and 100% of life. As we know, the entire universe comes from the ocean. If you kill the ocean, there’s no future at all.”
“Coral reef covers less than 1% of the ocean floor, but it hosts 25% of its marine life. We are [projecting] at the current rate, that 90% of it will be dead by 2050, and 99% by the end of the century. We cannot afford that to happen.”
Now, let’s take a look at Cesar’s first example on how an open source innovation works, that starts with the coral reefs. Because humanity’s current way of measuring coral reefs is very slow and dangerous for divers, he worked with children and young people to prototype a better solution. By using design thinking, problem-solving, and hands-on learning principles, they came up with laser and optical quadrats – a square, basically – to measure the coral reefs remotely. This project has been documented on an open source hardware platform ‘Instructables’, which caught the interest of a group of Master’s degree students, who went on upgrading the prototype by replacing divers with a drone with 5 cameras. Inspired with this project, one of the students started a company called ‘Clearbot.dev’ with an improved version of the project device, that uses AI to identify and collect plastic trash in the ocean. Currently, the company received a significant investment to re-advance the product to become industrial and scalable for ocean-cleaning regions.
Sounds quite interesting, right? So, here’s the second example on how open source innovation is transforming the ocean conservation landscapes. Cesar shared that another really important marine ecosystem is oysters – among which, 85% is projected to become extinct by the end of this year, 2022. Thereby, with university students, ‘Floating Marine Laboratory’ project (aka, a floating oyster hatchery) was born to produce oysters, oxygen, hydrogen, solar power, and wind power. This project was documented on ‘Github’. Based on this project, Cesar went on continuing the R&D, and with the help of local craftsmen, they built ‘Ocean Imagineer’, which combined the idea of the floating oyster hatchery with arts and science installations. This is an ongoing project, which Cesar hopes to scale up in various parts of the world’s ocean surfaces with great partners from academia, foundations, open tech companies, and others.
Figure 5. Adam Benzion’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Adam Benzion
Adam’s talk was focused on “ElephantEdge” (Figure 5), which is all about preventing the elephants being killed every 15 minutes (this is the velocity of poaching and killing of elephants in the wild) by deploying the world’s most advanced, 100% open-sourced wildlife tracker, powered by Machine Learning technology. How did this project kick off? To answer this question, we have to get onboard the time machine and go back in time to January 2020 – right before the COVID-19 landed in the Netherlands. There, Adam met Tim Van Dam (Co-Founder of ‘Smart Parks’), who built embedded animal trackers for rhinos’ horns and elephants’ necks. After hearing Tim’s needs for wanting to make the trackers to be intelligent enough to understand the wildlife better through simple telemetry or GPS signals, Adam joined in with open tech communities, and within a few months, they launched the ElephantEdge. As Adam notes in an excited manner,
“… we didn’t just launch it, not only are we going to build this tracker, but we also want to tap the [open tech] community … to ask them what can you guys build to help us get this further. And they came up with all sorts of very amazing ideas around poaching risk monitoring, human conflict monitoring, elephant communication monitoring, … GPS solutions, as well as Machine Learning models. They can do all sorts of things that these kinds of trackers could never have done before.”
So, between January and March 2022, 10 built units of ElephantEdge were shipped to Africa, and Tim delivered the first ElephantEdge trackers in Mozambique. Most recently, Adam and Edge Impulse are on their way to making a new tracker called “RangerEdge”, for which he warmly welcomes and encourages the open tech community to contribute to this end:
“If you’re interested, reach out to me, because we could use your help. … the idea was to make sure all of this is open source. Let’s open this. Anybody can actually replicate this idea, and copy it, and do it themselves as well.”
Figure 6. Tomas Diez Ladera’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Tomas Diez Ladera
Tomas initiated an insightful and reflective subject matter titled as “Meaningful Technologies for a Complex World” (Figure 6). According to him, aggregation of various developmental challenges in the world creates “aggregated complexity”, which may result in negative externalities:
“… It’s more and more difficult to say ‘ok, this is the product, there is the solution’, right? [Because] each solution can create other multiple problems, and when you’re thinking that you’re actually making some goals, you are affecting systems and other scales.”
Thereby, he opines,
“We need to start to think about what kind of roles we want technology to play in our near future. … This is not a new question. The one that we’re living today is very similar to other moments of history, … there were moments of convergence – convergence of crisis and convergence of technological advancement, … as it happened with the birth of industrial revolution. ”
From Tomas’ viewpoint, we need to be able to decide which design principles we are going to use for solving the complex real-world issues that are affected by multiple dimensions. Towards which, he shed light on the exponential growth and potential of open innovation labs – fab labs and maker spaces – in possibly transitioning from linear to open, circular economy.
“I’ve seen how important it is – the access to tools. … Fab lab uses different tools: these are fabrication tools that can help people to make almost anything. Basically, people can exchange designs, files, and open source repository. … They have the means to turn this information into actual physical objects [with which] they can address very complex local needs. And basically, bring in anyone into the design of technology, not only reproducing the world as it is, but actually creating the world that we want, through the new access of new knowledge and new technologies.”
On this background, Tomas made a reference to a citizen-centric and open source environmental monitoring project called “Smart Citizen”, that was launched with Seeed Studio. Likewise, “Master in Design for Distributed Innovation” at IAAC was also briefly mentioned to raise new-generational changemakers. More importantly, the news about “Fab Island: The 17th International Fab Lab Conference and Fab City Summit” in Indonesia has been shared, which happens in October this year. In fact, the Fab Island event is expected to gather 2000+ fab lab and fab city networks worldwide to create meaningful design experience by connecting with local knowledge, know-hows, and resources.
Figure 7. Tristan Copley Smith’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Tristan Copley Smith
Tristan began his speech by making a philosophical analogy of open source innovations as “Open Like a Mushroom” (Figure 7). Why mushrooms? Check out what Tristan has to say:
“Mushrooms are becoming a very topical subject recently. Mycelium – this organism that lives in the earth beneath us, and absorbs minerals from the soil, and using those minerals, it fruits into mushrooms, and in this way, knowledge is like the mycelium. It is the base layer upon which many things have grown in the world, both as companies and open source projects. Mushrooms, in this case, are open source projects in my philosophical metaphor. … The mycelium knowledge that we have been generating together can mushroom into the diverse range of climate solutions that are really necessary to meet the crisis we face.”
What a fascinating connection, right? That being said, Tristan introduced some of his open source and non-open source projects: 1. “OSBeehives” are made with a CNC machine, and have IoT sensors to monitor the health of honey bees; 2. “AKER” is a distributive open source agriculture kit; 3. “Carbon Catchers” is a documentary film that analyzes a lot of the innovations happening in the carbon capture space, where people are creating new machines and tools that can draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in various elements and materials. At the end, he shared an interesting, open source direct carbon capture device prototype from OpenAir, which is still in the early stages of development:
“This isn’t maybe as advanced as Climeworks’ direct carbon capture system [which is not open source], but it’s getting there. It’s got to start somewhere. This is one of the major points of open source development: Once this is publicly available, and once the documentation is very thorough and accessible to people, you start opening up the innovations to everybody, not just a few well-funded companies.”
Figure 8. Sam Kelly’s Presentation Snapshots on WSIS Forum 2022
Ⓒ Sam Kelly
Sam’s presentation revolved around the potential of “Designing AIoT for Wildlife Conservation” (Figure 8), which began with initial considerations for the open tech community:
“Often, what happens in the space [of wildlife conservation] is that the technology doesn’t fit [their] needs. I think the first and most important thing is around ‘user accessibility’ … try to make sure our projects are accessible – in the sense that we recognize that the end users aren’t necessarily technologists, and so that takes a little bit of extra consideration.”
Then, he shared 2 of his projects that he has been working for some years now. On the one hand, for Faunalabs, Sam wanted to use and apply his technological skill sets for the good of the planet. Therefore, he started a project with a PhD student, and they developed a new technology to understand whales’ health, heart beats, behaviors, and abnormalities. On the other hand, Sam has been spearheading Conservation X Labs’ Sentinel AI project, which is allowing anyone to create algorithms on the wild field to answer the questions they’re specifically interested in, such as monitoring of protected animals from acute threats, full region monitoring, human-wildlife monitoring, behavioral monitoring, and detection of diseases for wildlife health.
What Are the Food for Thought?
After all the speakers’ heated sharing on various AIoT and open source projects, the moderator facilitated a brief panel discussion by asking this question: What multi-stakeholder resources are needed for glocal open tech communities to accelerate scalable solutions more rapidly for sustainable development? What are the obstacles to obtaining those resources? To summarize, there are 5 important lessons learned from the discussion:
- Making easy-to-use technological solutions for non-technical end users is very difficult and hard, but not impossible.
- Mapping out the financial aspects of a project is crucial to holistically implement and scale-up the project, as well as to pre-evaluate all the possible costs in advance.
- Investors are unwilling to invest in the massive scale-up of open source projects, because it’s expensive to design, test, and industrialize.
- There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we think about an innovation ecosystem in which we allow experimentation to happen, including the restrictive regulations. There is a need for multi-stakeholder partnership’s different approach in deploying such technologies to become holistic, bottom-up, and inclusive, that can be tackled by design principles.
- As time goes by, more multi-stakeholders are paying attention to more overlapping issues of concerns – be it engineering or sustainability aspects, which is why we should keep spreading the potential of open source innovations. This is just the beginning for #OpenTech4SDGs.
Notes at the End.
Hope you all enjoyed the read! By the way, did you know that Seeed Studio is running “#Tech4Good Bounty Program”? It’s an all-year-round open source hardware sponsorship for carbon neutrality, environmental conservation, sustainable communities, and other SDG projects. Check this out now to apply: