Open Utility – changing the way we buy and sell energy

What is it?

Open Utility is a start up in the very early stages. From reading the, naturally, rather sketchy information available on their site, it seems that they are building a platform directly to connect buyers and sellers of electricity. ‘More peer to peer, less middlemen’. They say:

“The current energy system was built in the late 19th century when distributed renewable energy and the internet did not exist. We are making the electricity industry fit for the 21st century. We are building a service for buying and selling electricity which makes it easy and rewarding for everyone.”

More peer-to-peer. Less middlemen.
More peer-to-peer. Less middlemen: Open Utility

Sounds great. Not sure quite how they are going to break into the current market with all the regulation that surrounds it. However, the two guys involved do seem to have, between them, the right background to do it.

Who Are They?

James (CEO) has a PhD in Future Power Systems and used to run a sustainable design company. Over the last 4 years he has worked with utility companies and research organisations looking into the implementation of Smart Grids. James is leading the business development and is co-developing the P2P engine.

Andy (CTO) is a programming expert who has developed technical solutions for reducing energy use through behavioural change in the workplace. He has experience in handling real-time Big Data for social and energy monitoring applications. Andy is leading the user-experience design and is co-developing the P2P engine.

And another thing…

Someone seems to think that, eventually, they might just achieve their goal to ‘transform the centralised, polluting and expensive electricity grid into a low-cost, sustainable and resilient energy supply that benefits everyone’ because, as of June this year, they have received seed funding from the Bethnal Green Ventures group.

We wish them well and look forward to monitoring their progress.

sugru – hack things better

What is it?

sugru is an exciting new self-setting rubber that can be formed by hand. It moulds like play-dough, bonds to almost anything and turns into a strong, flexible silicone rubber overnight.

Developed by a team of product designers and material scientists, sugru’s patented technology is unique in its combination of hand-formability, self-adhesion and flexibility when cured. It feels like modelling clay, and it’s that easy to use too. Once cured, its durable properties mean it’s comfortable in extreme environments from the dishwasher to the ocean in Antarctica.

Stuff you can hack/fix/improve with it
Stuff you can hack/fix/improve with it. Collage by brit.co: www.brit.co/sugru/

How it happened

Jane says:

While studying for my MA in Product Design (read ‘playing and experimenting with materials’) at the RCA in London, I had a bit of an idea:

“I don’t want to buy new stuff all the time. I want to hack the stuff I already have so it works better for me.”

(I didn’t really say it out loud. I just thought it.) If I’m honest, the first version of sugru was pretty horrible — made from smelly silicone caulk and waste wood dust from the wood workshop. But it helped me hack my kitchen sink plug bigger, and make a knife more comfortable.

Ten years, much struggle and many iterations later, sugru is an award-winning product sold the world over.

Restart Project – don’t bin it fix it

Disillusion

Founders of the Restart Project, Janet and Ugo, met at the London ICT4D Meetup, an informal networking opportunity for people with an interest in the use of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). They had worked for 15 years between them in developing countries where people have a greater sense of control and ownership over technology and resilience in the face of problems than they seem to have in the majority of the western world. The attitude was ‘everything is hackable and fixable’.

In London they watched people discard devices because they ran “slow” and upgrade by simply buying a new phone every nine months and throwing the other one away. They asked themselves: have we become passive, flabby consumers of technology? Have we lost our “repair muscle mass”?

Let’s Party!

So, with no funding they began throwing “Restart Parties”, free community events that empower participants to extend the lifespan of the electronics they own, actively reducing e-waste. They realized that the only way to change things was simply to roll up their sleeves and get started, and to learn, evolve and grow alongside people who like what they do like the Transition Towns and Freecycle movements.

Laurence, Ben and the dvd player at a Restart Party
Laurence, Ben and the dvd player at a Restart Party

Success

Since then, the group has sponsored 27 of these free community events, popping up in libraries, community centres, markets, galleries and pubs in its focus areas of Brixton and greater Camden. Among the most common fixes have been laptops, printers, lamps and other small household electricals.

More than 500 people have brought broken items and learned from personalised repair advice, and approximately 393 kilograms of electronic waste have been prevented.

The Project has had requests from individuals and groups in 23 cities in the UK to replicate the “Restart Party” model, and from 11 countries around the world.