YOLO: Throw Away Your Phone

We only have one life so use it wisely. It feels like a lot of pressure, but maybe we should focus on the small wins like using out mobile phones less. If you’re one of those people with new year’s resolutions than you may want to consider reducing your phone usage to help you achieve your goals. Go ahead and try whatever technique you want to reduce your phone usage as one of them is going to work, of course, it’s worth noting that the act of using your phone isn’t the problem it’s what you are using it for.

The consequences, from a global level, are shocking. As Harris writes: “Never before have a handful of tech designers had such control over the way billions of us think, act and live our lives.”

What’s more, we’ve become so conditioned, thanks to dopamine, to believe that checking our phones is a behavior worth repeating that when we can’t check our phones, we often feel anxious, and start to experience Fomo, the “fear of missing out”. Anxiety is, of course, unpleasant, and so what do we do to alleviate it? We check our phones. And when we do, we encounter a dopamine trigger, which reinforces the idea that checking phones is a behavior worth repeating. And the cycle continues.

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What’s That? Use Your Phone to Identify Plants

Pl@ntNet is an app that can identify plants using the camera on your mobile. Presently, it’s limited primarily to Western Europe (since it was in France),Indian Ocean, and parts of South America. The technology behind it can be used to extend it elsewhere and let’s hope it gets more global support.

“What makes the project unique and innovative is that it is based on data collected through a large and dynamic social network that regularly collects field data, that shares this data, meaning that this knowledge is constantly updated which also allows the use of a certain number of visual patterns expressed by plants”.

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Using Fashion to Charge Electronics

Battery life on mobiles is never very good and this causes a drain on the electrical system. What if we were able to power our mobiles by just wearing clothes? Well, that’s a new field that is gaining more and more attention. The Guardian looked at a few ways we can use fashion to power our wares.

Kinetic energy
Professor Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman is a designer and author of Designing With Smart Textiles, due to be published in 2015. She says, “If you think about what traditional fashion is, it’s such a small part of the real world, but then when you look at performance fashion, clothing that has to do something, you see a much larger part of the population using them.”

Pailes-Friedman focuses her research on light and movement in smart textiles. “Really good design is when you don’t notice it. We have always lived and worked in clothing so we know how it functions, 98% of how we wear it is no mystery to us so technology being incorporated needs to be part of and as intuitive as our clothing.” An example of this seamless design might be kinetic energy, where movement generates energy.

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Fairphone – A Phone Built With Social Values

Fairphone is a new phone built in an ethical way using (mostly) ethically sound sources. It’s a reaction to the ongoing problems with electronics manufactures who get minerals from conflict regions (think blood diamonds) and places with no labour protection. Until Fairphone, there was no way to get a phone that didn’t support repressive and violent organizations.

Let’s hope Fairphone catches on! They are already sold out of their first run.

Fairphone, founded by designer Bas van Abel in 2010, is seeking incremental gains. So far the startup has managed to ethically source only tin and tantalum by partnering with NGOs that track supply chains. As for the other 28 minerals, Bleekemolen says, “We don’t have a clue where they come from.” She also notes that the tin and tantalum are only conflict-free, meaning rebel groups don’t have access to profits, but they aren’t necessarily produced with fair labor practices in mind. The goal is to improve sourcing with each new iteration of Fairphone.

Funded almost entirely through crowdsourcing, Fairphone has already received 15,000 orders for its phone, which retails for $440 and will become available in December. The handset looks similar to a Samsung (005930) Galaxy or Apple (AAPL), is unlocked, works with all mobile carriers, and runs on a custom version of Google (GOOG)‘s Android operating system.

Read more at Bloomberg.

Thanks to Dave!

Use Buycott to Support Companies Which do Good

Most people are familiar with the concept of a boycott to punish companies who do negative things by not buying their goods or services. The opposite of that is a new app called Buycott which helps you buy from companies who you ideologically support.

I’ve been using the app for a couple days now and it’s rather interesting to see what some companies support. I’m already adjusting my purchases to stop buying from companies that do harm and instead start buying from companies that support positive things.

At the Buycott site they have this example usage of the mobile app:

Example: During the SOPA/PIPA debate in 2012, a number of companies pushed to pass legislation that reduced online freedom of expression, while other companies fought hard to oppose the legislation. With Buycott, a campaign can be quickly created around a cause, with the goal of targeting companies with a boycott unless they change their position, or buycotting a company to show your support.

The app is getting a lot of media coverage too!

Currently, the government doesn’t require that any GMO information be passed on to the consumer. Big food corporations want it to stay that way. Monsanto, for example, spends millions of dollars to keep GMO information off of packaging. How much? Buycott will tell you.

Importantly, and promisingly, users can join campaigns (both for and against) issues that they care about. The app keeps track of user input, making it easy to shop for products that don’t conflict with your beliefs. And this is what it is all about: knowing where your food comes from and where the dollars that buy it go.

Read more here.

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