Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
May, 27th 2015

Since well before the start of the space program, dehydrated food has been in use.  And microwaves, once thought to be ‘science fiction’ are in just about every home and restaurant in the developed world.

Here’s the latest addition to food prep that could excite your inner “Trekkie” (that’s a person partial to the television series and subsequent films on Star Trek for any of you not familiar with the term…).  The once futuristic concept was that a human could walk over to a device, place their food order verbally, and – presto – a fully cooked meal would appear almost instantaneously.

An Israeli company is introducing a new miniature cooker, called the Genie – it’s able to turn pods of freeze-dried ingredients into full meals in as little as half a minute.  Ayelet Carasso and Doron Marco are the Israeli entrepreneurs behind the device.

Real-life Star Trek ‘replicator’

prepares meal in 30 seconds




The price-tag may be hefty to start, but the inventors have a lot of confidence in this new kitchen gadget.  They are hoping to have a major impact on reducing world hunger (read the full article about the product by clicking the link below)

The Genie’s creators say it could also help solve global hunger. “In our world, we are getting fat and we are throwing away a lot of food, in their world, they don’t have any food,” Marco told Reuters. “So if you use Genie, you can distribute the food better, you can have the shelf life much longer without the preservatives, give the people better food for them.” (source: The Times of Israel)

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May, 26th 2015

And I don’t mean from dinner last night :-)  One of the largest hazelnut manufacturing companies, Nutella, has found a way to keep tons of its byproduct waste out of landfills. The Italian company is the world’s biggest buyer of hazelnuts, using 25% of the world’s supply and making 180m kg of its Nutella spread each year, according to the Italian Trade Agency. As a result, it has plenty of hazelnut shells to play with.

blog hazelnut shells

Nutella is using the discarded shells to construct the packaging!  They are still experimenting on the ideal mixture of nutshell fibers in the pulp, but so far it works well for stiffness and bulk. The hazelnut fibers are used in the board’s middle layer and have been tested for allergy aspects without any problems.

What chocoholic doesn’t like to hear of breakthroughs that will enable a favorite production company to reduce waste?

Another great use of shell waste is being employed at Suncoast Gold Macadamias cogeneration facility in Gympie, Queensland, Australia. It is the world’s first ever plant to produce electricity from waste macadamia nut shells. The plant is located adjacent to Suncoast’s macadamia nut processing facility in Gympie.

The plant generates 9.5GWh annually, which is enough to power 1,200 households. Suncoast consumes 20% of the electricity generated and the remaining is exported to the grid. The plant helps in reducing 9,500t of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is equivalent to keeping 2,000 cars off the roads.

Australia is one of the largest macadamia nut producers in the world, with a 45% market share.

There are more than 13 million macadamia nut trees in Australia and the number is steadily growing.






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Creativity is helping drive new solutions that help  conserve water and ensure safe, clean supplies. Read about three ideas  awash in innovation.

billboard filled with water

Finding New Signs of Water

In Peru, some researchers are creating advertisements that can make your mouth water. Scientists at the Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia in Barranco and a local ad agency worked together to build a modified billboard that harvests and purifies the area’s humid air and wrings it out to produce safe drinking water. All that happens thanks to a reverse-osmosis system that circulates the air through air filters, a vapor condenser, a carbon filter and a cold tank. The resulting clean water is collected in a tank with a spigot, where locals can fill up. The billboard is capable of purifying 100,000 cubic meters of urban air a day, according to the university.

black couch that collects water

A Conservation Idea That Sits Well With Citizens

Residents of Mumbai, India, can relax a bit more about water conservation. That’s because Dutch-Chinese architectural firm MARS, in collaboration with the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Mumbai, has created an outdoor “sofa” for parks that doubles as a rainwater collector during the wet season. Designed to resemble a Chesterfield sofa, the Water Bench is made out of recycled plastic whose seams and grooves divert rainwater to “buttons” that act as water inlets. From there the water flows to a tank inside the sofa. The water then can be used in the dry season to irrigate surrounding parks and grounds where the bench is located, reducing consumption of local supplies.

A Fairy-Tale Story Ending That Holds Water

This clean-water solution is one for the books. WATERisLIFE, a nonprofit group that provides drinking water and sanitation to schools and villages in developing regions, has created the Drinkable Book. While the book’s pages are printed with food-grade ink that offer tips on safe water habits, they also can be used to filter and purify water. The new technology, developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, uses coffee-filter-like paper that’s coated with silver nanoparticles, which kills diseases such as E. coli, cholera and typhoid on the spot when water is poured through it. Each book costs only pennies to produce and can provide clean water for as many as four years.

For more inspiration on how smart innovations in water are improving citizens’ lives, read the post When a Smart Tool Helps East Africans Tap Into Safe Water.

Do you know of other water innovations that are making a difference in communities? Sign up here, tell us about it and help change the world for the better.


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In case you missed this feature in April on IBM’s People for a Smarter Planet Facebook page…there’s news in the Smarter Toys world!   Educational play is still a hot topic, and the stakes are being raised with the help of some innovative uses of today’s Cognitive tech…

Check out the coverage in Forbes -

Meet The Talking Dinosaur

That’s Changing How Kids Play And Learn


Talking dinosaur toy


And IBM’s own announcements -


Facebook post April 10, 2015:

Kinda’ makes me regret being ‘all grown up’, but gives me some great ideas for birthday gifts for my little relatives…


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Say the word ‘robot’ and it conjures up a variety of images – some of them are scary, some noisy, some fantastical, some mundane.  Your individual experience influences how your mental image of any given object forms itself.  We’ve been making some incredible leaps in the use of robots or ‘robotics’ over the last decade or so.

Now – imagine your life if your reliance on robots was the only way forward for you…   Henry Evans is the inspiration and instigator of R4H (Robots for Humanity). Henry suffered a tragic stroke when he was 40 years old, rendering him speechless (mute) and quadriplegic. Through robotic technology, Henry continues to find ways to explore and interact with the world.

I, myself, am an avid museum-goer (I minored in Art History during the course of my education).  Hence, I was fascinated by this WONDERFUL usage of robots to give that opportunity to someone who can not be onsite physically.  The robots even give the ‘home-bound’ visitor the chance to interact with people who ARE at the museum.  It certainly is far superior to a still photograph or poster on the wall depicting a particular artwork or sculpture…

 Robots Give Virtual Tours of the de Young Museum


Robot allows those who can’t visit to take

virtual tour of Seattle Art Museum


Here’s an interview with Henry Evans from 2013 (credit San Jose Mercury News):  Q&A with Henry Evans, mute quadriplegic and robotics pioneer

While physically limited, Henry’s bright mind has lifted him far beyond his bed.  What other activities might robots give us a chance at which have been out of reach until now??  Your move!

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