TED Conversations

Closing Statement from Tore Land, Director, GE Ecomagination Challenge

We at GE want to give our heartfelt thanks to the TED community for participating in this conversation. Your ideas and insights -- ranging from home automation and discussions about a two-way grid to apps and gaming methods that can drive behavior change -- have been fascinating to read and stimulating to respond to.

On a personal note, as the host of this conversation, I want to thank you for your participation and fresh thinking here. And on behalf of the whole ecomagination Challenge team, we look forward to working with you to help imagine and build technology that can meet these pressing environmental challenges.

GE believes widespread adoption of clean energy technology will start in the home. And we believe the second phase of the ecomagination Challenge will help drive that change. We invite you to continue to follow this project via our website:


We're currently reviewing the submissions to the challenge and, together with our partners, will evaluate the most innovative. We'll be announcing the winners next month -- stay tuned for the announcement!

Home energy is a critical global challenge, and we want the TED Community to know we are committed to building -- and scaling up -- innovative solutions.

Thank you for letting us pick your brains!

Tore Land
Director, GE ecomagination Challenge

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    Feb 13 2011: Agree with Arthur Zard's approach to home automation - but I want my smart app to be as invisible to me as possible!! I want to trust the provider that i purchased my energy supply from to have made the most ecologically sensible choices for me! For example - the IBM smart house project that is being showcased at IBM Zurich appears to be obsessed with giving users choices about the brilliant energy efficient algorithms that the house's software crunches to provide the most economic outcome for the user - the software pretty much phones the occupant up to ask them whether you they want the pre-loaded washing to start a cycle at off peak rates ...As a user I don't care about having to make the choices!! I want these domestic decisions to be invisible!! Yet - I totally get that energy choices are ultimately a political decision and that as a citizen I should be engaged with - so maybe give me a little bit of choice - like a DIY energy portfolio to choose from that I can wear as a logo on my smart phone like a designer label - but one that doesn't nag me about every single mundane decision that computers could be making ... I have STUFF to do!!
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      Feb 14 2011: Rachel, I love this perspective because it brings user-centered design to the forefront. Those of us who design products for the web live and breathe user-centered design, because we have to. A product that elegantly meets its users' unspoken needs will succeed; you'll see it in your metrics. But if you lose sight of your users' intent, or mis-judge their needs, you will immediately and viscerally feel the impact. Your analytic reports can likely show you the exact moment when they abandon your site.

      Other industries -- like home energy efficiency -- don't always have the measurement tools to identify the exact moment when they start losing users. So this kind of feedback into the design process is critical.
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        Feb 14 2011: June, I wonder if there are other lessons to be learned from the internet in this area. ??
        One of the things that fascinates me at the moment is the prospect of home energy being linked to domestic transport. For example, Copenhagen is considering a scheme combining electric cars, wind power and home energy supply - the energy analytics of this is being carried out by IBM. The idea is that car batteries serve as a distributed capacitor for home electricity and ideally cars do not just provide transport but are also able to dump charge into the grid when there is an excess. So from a consumer perspective the de-centralisation of the provision of home energy is going to be something that we'll see a lot more of in the near future. What fraction of the energy market this will be is not at all clear but most likely small in the initial stages - especially as it's going to be costly to set up effective distributed infrastructures. However, the success of these innovations - distributed patterns of use and home purchase of alt.energy generators - is likely to be influenced by social media, online activities and equally distributed virtual systems etc. that will play a key role in shaping our energy choices, or our perception of them and building energy conscious communities with purchasing power ...
        What intrigues me is whether engagement into these pioneering ventures will be dovetailed with something like - distributed gaming (where you can earn points that are cashed in for energy credits - or something) as a way of incentivising new patterns of usage and finding new ways of engaging with these complex, important and challenging scenarios. I'm not sure how successful these more playful approaches to engaging the public are with these kinds of issues ... and what kind of impact they've had ... In any case ... I'd be keen to find out!!
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          Feb 15 2011: Rachel, you bring up more than a few good ideas here worth thinking more about. There might be alternatives to granular decision making, such as creating a preference profile that allows your energy company to make decisions for you. As for distributed gaming, we are seeing submissions in the ecomagination Challenge that follow a similar line of thought. For example, have you looked at the Welectricity submission (http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home/Welectricity-Energy-Efficiency-meet-Soci)? What do you think of this, and other ideas? I encourage you to leave feedback for the Challenge participants as well.
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        Feb 14 2011: Mark, you are what we refer to online as a "Super User" :-) And yes, agree that providing this level of detail for those who want it can be hugely gratifying and motivating. The key, I think, is striking that balance ...

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