With an opening question asking "What if our devices kept talking back to us after we disposed of them?" MIT's Senseable City Labs continues to expand on their Trash|Track project that focuses on what happens to our devices and their materials once they are set aside for the next new thing.
"Our cities, buildings and objects are getting ‘smarter’ and embedded with an increasing amount of electronic devices. Yet, new devices make old ones obsolete, and carry ever more batteries, rare metals, and other hazardous materials themselves. What happens to this digital refuse at the end of its life? What happens when we give it away, dispose of it properly, or just leave it on the curb? Does it get reused, or does it end up in a global e-waste dump?"
The project focused on two common scenarios:
1) e-waste disposal in urban centers
Each year, the U.S produces about 3 million tons of electronic waste and they wanted to know exactly where all of this eWaste ended up.
See Trash|Track project for more details about the technology and mapping of the waste
2) Reuse of functioning devices in developing countries
Using software from the open-source Prey project. Every twenty minutes, the laptops send out location information (using Google’s geolocation API) and a picture from their web camera.
"We turned used laptops and other electronic devices into independent reporters that document their ‘second life’, sending us images and GPS coordinates from remote places. The information they report back offers first-hand perspectives - glimpses into e-waste recycling villages, local thrift stores, public schools and libraries - that prompt a reflection on our society’s relationship with our electronic devices."
More details about the project can be found at: http://senseable.mit.edu/backtalk/
Image Credit: senseable city lab
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