All Articles
All Articles
TECH

Sourcemap

TECH

Sourcemap

Track products from their origins with a publicly-populated mapping system

by Greg Stefano
on 24 January 2011
sourcemap1.jpg

Whole Foods signage lists veggie origins so why shouldn't you know where your computer comes from? Like most commonplace products, despite the public's growing desire to know sources, tracing supply chains isn't easy to do. Enter the user-driven site Sourcemap, an open-source, interactive database for tracking the origins and impacts of anything from a Macbook to a menu.

The upshot of a class taught by founder Leo Bonanni at MIT's Media Lab, Sourcemap lets users create, edit and browse maps detailing the supply chain and carbon footprint of a variety of products. Anyone can create a map for just about anything imaginable and, as a socially-driven site, other users can edit and add to that map, connecting the dots of where materials come from and their carbon cost. To help get the info out there, Sourcemap lets any user print out a QR code that leads back to its map, so you can easily share the information in both digital and physical worlds.

sourcemap3.jpg

Visualizing the paths of global commerce makes for a surprisingly profound and educational experience. Features like the ability to draw lines on the map between points of material origin connects the cultures, stories and people involved. But with heaps of geopolitical information, doing something like browsing for a standard laptop really illustrates the interconnected nature of modern global culture.

In a talk at the Greener Gadgets 2010 conference, Bonanni points out that every laptop contains 23 grams of Lithium, and 98% of the world's Lithium comes from Bolivia. What does it mean for the computer industry if Bolivia decides to hold back?

sourcemap4-wholefoods.jpg

Sourcemap examples beyond the tech industry and other massive industrial processes also make good case studies to show the idea's potential. A caterer who sells locally-sourced food created a map tracking the local farms he uses. He posts these food maps online and prints them on the menu at catered events, displaying his business' commitment to buying locally while giving the client a greater understanding of the food's literal origin. One Scottish brewery saw their English bottling facility was inefficient and moved that operation closer to home to reduce costs and their carbon footprint.

Save actually traveling to the farm, Sourcemap's solution to supply-chain issues—from legitimizing product origin to enlightening consumers on how their money is spent thorough—might just be the comprehensive educational tool that the complex problem needs.

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot
Loading More...