Forward Thinking

By Karen J. Bannan, David Downs, Bobbie Hartman, Christopher Null, and Kate Pavao, May 2010

Cloud-Powered Radio
Executives at the Berkeley, California, music technology company MOG think the time is right for cloud music: a near-infinite jukebox on the internet that can be accessed by subscribers via smartphones, laptops, and even televisions.

For US$5 a month, MOG subscribers can listen to custom radio just like Pandora internet radio, but they can also listen to a mix of just one artist, or create their own mixes from a catalog of 8.5 million songs that’s updated weekly and sits at every subscriber’s fingertips.

The company started in 2006, giving away music blogging tools and drawing up to 10 million unique users a month. “We eventually realized that we had everything about music except what people really want, which is to listen to the music,” says MOG CEO David Hyman.

Next, MOG executives plan to offer the catalog through internet service providers such as Comcast and cell phone carriers such as Verizon. For more information, visit mog.com.

 

Climbing the Corporate . . . Office Building?
Scrambling up walls or leaping from ledge to ledge on an office building probably doesn’t sound like your standard corporate offsite. And yet for a number of businesses, these feats of agility are just the thing to help build employees’ trust in each other and get them working together more effectively.

 

Parkour, which started in the streets of France, is a practice of urban gymnastics. The idea is simple: figure out how to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. The more creatively you overcome the barrier, the better, explains Marcus Gustafsson, co-owner of Air Wipp, a Swedish company that provides professional parkour demonstrations as well as workshops across Europe.

“The thing with parkour is that anyone can do it. If you can do something at ground level, you can do it 20 meters up in the air. There are no boundaries. It’s just an exercise of being able to visualize mentally the things you need to overcome and how you’re going to do it,” says Gustafsson.

“The essence of parkour,” he says, “is the commitment to overcoming obstacles in a creative way—to be willing to think outside the box.”

 

Suds and Scrubs: Get the Power
A hospital and a brewery may seem unlikely partners, but in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the Gundersen Lutheran Health System and City Brewery have teamed up on an innovative project that produces renewable energy for the community. In October 2009, the two organizations flipped the switch on an engine that uses the waste biogas discharged from City Brewery’s waste treatment process and turns it into electricity.

 

This system is the first of its kind, explains Corey Zarecki, efficiency improvement leader at Gundersen Lutheran. “You’d never think of our two companies working together on something like this,” he says.

Here’s how it works: The brewing process creates waste that must be pretreated before it goes to the municipal waste water treatment facility. Biogas is created during that process. Previously, City Brewery burned the gas to dispose of it. Now, the gas is being captured and sent through an engine that generates electricity that is then transferred to the power grid, captured, and recycled back to City Brewery’s waste treatment process to make it more efficient.

The combined heat and power project is expected to generate 3 million kilowatt-hours per year—enough to offset about 8 percent of the electricity used on Gundersen Lutheran’s La Crosse and Onalaska campuses.

Gundersen Lutheran’s goal is to become 100 percent energy independent by 2014. Learn more at gundluth.org/green.

 

Giving 2.0
It started almost instantly. When the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, concerned citizens from around the globe immediately turned to a range of social networking tools, from mobile phones to Twitter accounts, to share news, offer aid, find loved ones, and send messages of support.

 

By the next afternoon, 4 of the top 10 topics on Twitter were about Haiti or relief efforts, and in just over 24 hours, more than US$2 million had been donated to the American Red Cross through mobile giving. A month after the devastating earthquake, the American Red Cross reported mobile donations exceeded US$32 million; more than 3 million people had donated US$10 to the organization by texting HAITI to 90999.

“In the second and third world, the mobile phone is the computer, and it is the thing that everyone relies on for transactions and everything else,” says Julien Smith, coauthor of the book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust (Wiley, 2008). Americans have typically had a mistrust of mobile transactions, he says, but this is changing with the maturing of a new generation that grew up using cell phones and texting votes to American Idol. Mobiles may make donating easier for another reason, too, says Smith: “The credit card and the mobile phone are great for the same reason, which is to say you’re not actually handing over five dollars.”

Of course, even with tremendous aid efforts—the Chronicle of Philanthropy estimated US$774 million had been raised by American charities in the 40 days following the quake alone—there is still enormous need for money. Visit Mobile Giving at mobilegiving.org for a list of organizations accepting donations for Haiti through text messaging—then track your dollars at work through the recently launched social networking site Relief Oversight (reliefoversight.org), which collects reports submitted by volunteers on the ground.

Hybrid Bicycles: Make Molehills Out of Mountains
There’s no shame in admitting we can’t all be Lance Armstrong. It’s great to get out and exercise by riding a bicycle—but steep inclines can be particularly grueling.

 

Solution: A hybrid electric bicycle to help you when you need a boost.

The draw of the electric bike: Hills are easier, you have far more power from a dead stop, and you can carry more cargo if you want to. On straightaways, you can hit prolevel speeds with minimal effort.

The drawback: You’ll pay more; your bike won’t be fully weatherproof; you’ll be more prone to theft; and if your battery runs dry, you’re left dragging about 18 extra pounds of dead weight around town without assistance.

Is a hybrid worth it? We tested three new electric bikes to see how they stack up.

Bike Giant Twist Express Trek FX+ EcoBike Elegance
Pros Mountain bike style gives you lots of on- and off-road flexibility. Most easily understandable and usable controls of the bunch. Best battery access, alongside rear wheel. Road design keeps bike light and maneuverable. Designed for high-end riders, with intricate controls and classic styling. Regenerative brakes offer about 10% additional battery life. Elegant, retro/European touring-bike styling; a real conversation piece. Features no-pedal mode; turn handlebar for instant juice (about 11 miles of range). Sturdy build. Smooth ride.
Cons Power goes to front wheel, not rear, so the pedaled wheel is not actually assisted. Lowest total power. Battery popped out during test ride. Very bumpy ride. Easy to accidentally turn off motor during power-level changes. Braking creates strange grating noise. Have to remove seat first to remove battery. No power level settings, just on and off. A tad jumpy: wants to take off before you even sit down.
Motor Power 250 watts 350 watts 360 watts
Retail Price US$1,650 US$2,550 US$1,780
URL giant-bicycles.com trekbikes.com  

 
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