Park your car in Düsseldorf, pay with your mobile. Or not.

Get your parkschein here, or pay by SMS

Get your parkschein here, or pay by SMS

Every initiative that aims to reduce the need for me to carry coins around, scores points with me immediately. Especially if it’s about paying for a parking ticket in cities. When I lived in Amsterdam a few years ago (is it really more than five already?), I used Parkline, a service that allows you to pay for parking via SMS. When you are a registered user, you get a card to display behind your windscreen, which is linked to your mobile number and your license plate. If you park your car in an area where you have to pay, you simply send a text to switch paying on, and when you leave you send an SMS to switch it off. You pay per minute, for as long as you have parked. No more worries about being back in time, or finding a fine on your car because you are ten minutes late. Or: finding you only have a Euro coin with you, while all you need is to pay 50 cents, because you only have a short errand to run. Surely, the Parkline service costs a bit in membership (10 Euro registration, and 2,50 per month), but that’s a low fee, and easy to earn back.

Anyway, when I heard that Oberbürgemeister Elbers had launched a pilot for paying for parking via SMS in Düsseldorf last week, I was happy. This sounds like something great, and I had to see and test it for myself. The system is super simple to use: you find a spot to park your car, check at the pay-machine which number you have to use, and send an SMS with your license plate to that number. If you don’t add anything else to the message, you will be registered (and charged) for 1 hour. You can influence that by adding a dot and a number after your license plate. For example ‘.30’ for 30 minutes. You can pay in increments of 15 minutes, with a maximum of the limit of the allowed parking time. In Düsseldorf, as in many cities, you can only park for a limited amount of time in certain areas. The ease of use is almost phenomenal. On top of that, you can also download the app, which works nicely. The amounts get charged to your mobile phone subscription, so I reckon that tourists from other countries won’t be able to use the service.
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Making volunteering easier with Greenbook on OpenPlanetIdeas Dev-Day

Have you heard of OpenIDEO? If you have, you know it is a great platform for open innovation for social good.If you haven’t, here’s a short explanation: based on a challenge set by a sponsor, the OpenIDEO community is asked for ideas to tackle the challenge. Based on the design method of IDEO, the first stage consists of gathering inspirations. These are basically examples of how the challenge could be tackled. The next phase is about coming up with solution concepts. This is followed by an evaluation phase and the final step is the realisation phase. Currently, OpenIDEO has two active challenges: ‘How might we improve maternal health with mobile technologies for low-income counties?’ and ‘How might we increase the number of registered bone marrow donors to help save more lives?’ You should go and check them out.

One recently completed challenge was sponsored by Sony and WWF. It asked the question how today’s technology can address the environmental challenges we’re all facing and had a separate channel called Open Planet Ideas. It is completed in the sense that the inspiration, concepting and evaluation phases are all finished now, and that there is a winning concept that is now in the process of becoming real. The concept, called Greenbook, aims to lower the threshold for volunteering, so that people can more easily contribute to changing communities and the environment for the better. On the Open Planet Ideas website and Facebook page, the conversation continues. Everybody is invited to contribute to making this concept real. On top of that, some participants have been invited to join Development Day. I am one of them, and next Friday I will be in London for some intense brainstorm sessions to see how Greenbook can be further developed and refined. As should be with an open innovation platform, participation is not limited to the people in the room! Through the Open Planet Ideas website, Facebook page, and other social media, you can share your input as well.

As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to the Open Planet Ideas Development Day, and will definitely report back on it. In the mean time, the question is: how do you think Greenbook can convince you to do some volunteering, or raise the number of volunteered hours in your community/organisation? And: what issues in your community should be addressed?

Help me provide an alternative income for poachers

Open Planet Ideas is an open innovation platform initiated by Sony and WWF. The challenge is to find new ways of using today’s technology to tackle environmental challenges. To do so, Open Planet Ideas uses the methodology of OpenIDEO, which means that there are 4 phases to the challenge. The first phase is ‘Inspiration’ and aims to collect as many inspirational ideas as possible. The second phase is ‘Concepting’, in which people can contribute their concepts. We’re in that phase now, and I have also submitted a couple of concepts.

Now, almost at the end of the challenge, Open Planet Ideas is organizing ‘Build Hour‘. On 25 November at 16h00 GMT an hour of building on and improving concepts kicks off. One of my concepts is also up for input from others. It aims to find alternative income streams for poachers in order to relieve the pressure on endangered species.

So, if you think you can help out, have a look at the video above, check out my concept on the Open Planet Ideas website and give me a bit of your time on Thursday. Build hour takes place on twitter. To make it a bit easier for me please use @arjantupan or #OPI1 (or both) when you give feedback.

Some other great concepts that you can help build on are:

Another One of Google’s New Gadgets

Goole has a new thing: Chrome, a webbrowser that is said to start a new browser war. It is mainly targeting Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but will probably be more in competition with Firefox. Curious as I am, I downloaded Chrome and gave it a quick try.

At first sight, it looks just as plain and simple as other Google gadgets, like Gmail. It is downloaded fast and works perfectly. Obviously it has tabbed browsing and it seems to load pages very fast. My favourite webpages all seem to be displayed perfectly fine as is this website. There was only one small problem in posting this entry, but I will find a way around that. In short, it has the typical Google touch and feel and all the functionality that Firefox has and IE will have. Some benchmarktests show that it is many times faster than the other browsers available. But will it be enough to dig into Microsoft’s large browser market share. I think not.

In general there are two types of users: those who care, and those who don’t. The last group is by far the largest. They just want to be on the internet and take the browser that is pre-installed or most widely used. This group uses IE, mainly, and will not bother to change. The other group contains a part that is interested in new technology, or just plainly dislike Microsoft. They will care about Chrome and probably give it a try. But this is also the group that minimizes use of IE to the where it is necessary and for the rest use browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari. So Google seems to be getting into a fight over a small part of the market, that is now occupied by all others than IE. So what’s the point?

It seems that technically, Chrome is ready to be the user interface of what was once called network computing. Although I am not a technician, from what I understand it is ready for all sorts of applications, already available from Google and to be developed by others, that can replace the functionality of Windows. Apparently Chrome will be more of an attack on Vista than on IE. And maybe it will bring us widespread server-based computing. A sort of Back to the Future, with users using terminals and saving their data and files on a distant, cloud-computed, location. Like in those mainframe years.