Project Main Details
[Style for news report: BBC-ish; global perspective and internationally-accented newsreader (British, Indian, easy to understand Chinese-accented speaker)]
2010-08-25 16:00:09 GMT 2010-08-25 20:25:19 (GMT -05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada) Yes (click here to learn more about ) Closed - Note: This project was manually closed by the voice seeker before it reached its original deadline. 0 0 0 direct invitation(s) have been sent by the voice seeker resulting in 0 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far. Voice123 SmartCast is seeking 50 auditions and/or proposals for this project (approx.) Invitations sent by SmartCast have resulted in 0 audition(s) and/or proposal(s) so far.
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Throughout the country millions of residents are arming themselves. Their weapons? Tools of measurement, like mobile phone plug-in devices that sense air and water quality. Or discreet handheld scanners that detect toxic materials on toys, dishware, fruit, and right in the store.
People are sharing their readings online, populating maps with millions of data-points that often tell a far darker story than official figures. Until recently, this government version would have been final. But today, citizens themselves are reclaiming power.
Grassroots groups throughout China have shut down factories polluting near schools and forced large companies to make their manufacturing processes transparent—unheard of scenarios even a few years ago. The next battle may be the most important of all—soil contamination. Toxins in soil poison food and water supplies and the effects can last for decades.
Similar stories are occurring around the world— Brazil, Estonia, and Russia. In India, the recent deaths of hundreds of people have been traced back to a popular water filtration device, and now millions of people are testing water supplies at home and upstream. Common to all of these locations is a rapidly growing middle class. Their desire for a higher quality of life is outpacing many governments’ ability to provide.
But even in the United States, similar tensions are emerging. There, entire government agencies at all levels are tasked to monitor the quality of air and water, and the safety of food and consumer objects. But massive budget deficits in recent years have made these responsibilities largely impossible to fulfill. The industrial city of Detroit is becoming known for its extensive air quality monitoring network, made up primarily of fed-up residents and off-the-shelf tools.
Artists and do-it-yourself engineers are getting involved too. In Korea, public art is becoming a decorative display for a real-time neighborhood map of air quality. In the US, you’ll find giant balloons strung around schools and parks that light up to indicate air quality. These can be assembled by anyone using plans shared online.
Some are calling this era the Rise of the Citizen Scientist, or the birth of Data Democracy, and worldwide protests now include demands expressed in “parts per million”.
“I don’t have to tell you, we didn’t quite foresee this as Agilent’s first ‘direct to consumer’ play. But many of us feel it’s become one of the most important new directions for the company. “Measurement to the masses” actually started life as an internal catchphrase, as we slowly started to create more public versions of our measurement equipment. Then we began to see the direct impact that collecting environmental data was having on countries and people around the world. That’s when we decided to adopt it as the new official tagline of the company.”
“But Agilent had to change more than the price-points of our products, and we started right at the core. We always prided ourselves on delivering the most precise measurements technically possible through our equipment. But to make our new products accessible to more people around the world, precise had to give way to ‘precise enough’ in some cases. The data is still accurate, but within different tolerances than our professional markets. This wasn’t easy for some inside the company to accept.”
“Measurement to the masses” also means, sometimes, certifying other manufacturers’ devices as ‘precise enough’. We just couldn’t keep up with demand, and for some categories of testing the profits weren’t worth our time to ramp up production. But the “AGILENT-OK” label, known as “A-OK”, is really starting to raise the profile of the company even more than selling directly to consumers. We’re now getting interest in certifying everything from electricity meters to GPS sensors.
There’s even talk of making some of our commodity devices ‘open source’ to get them in more hands.”
“Let me tell you, this is new terrain for us—seeing our devices on the shelves of Home Depot, or in global news reports—but we’ve started to attract a lot of new hires to Agilent with a real interest in making a noticeable social impact. A lot of employees are even using spare project time to lend expertise to grassroots groups around the world. We don’t know where this will lead, but it’s an exciting journey to be on.”
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