Last week, we announced the winners of the Scalable System to Track Electronic Waste Challenge. This Challenge, run by EMC Corporation in partnership with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and InnoCentive, sought solutions for tracking shipments of used electronic components and subsystems and ensuring that they are disposed of responsibly. Sumit Bhardwaj was one of the three winners of this Challenge.
My day job is to handle digital marketing for a large telecommunications company in London, but my evenings, weekends and other free time (such as my tube journeys) are spent either writing papers for my Ph.D. or working on finding solutions to intriguing problems.
As someone who holds two postgraduate degrees in business administration and information technology and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of London, I am passionate about solving complex problems using technology. I strongly believe that everyday people can collaborate and create simple, easily implementable, cost effective, and scalable solutions.
I first heard about InnoCentive in 2010 from an entrepreneur friend at an alumni gathering. He described InnoCentive as “a global network to find solutions to the world’s problems.” It sounded intriguing enough so I signed up immediately and realized he was largely correct. In this day and age, where the extent of interaction on social networks is limited to liking some post or tweeting about it, there is InnoCentive, which connects people to real-world Challenges and gives them an opportunity to harness their critical thinking and contribute something meaningful.
I started participating actively as a Solver in 2011 and came across the “e-waste” Challenge which sought a scalable system to track electronic waste. Considering that there are about 500,000 tons of electronic waste in the U.S. alone, it’s clearly a huge problem. Moreover, sustainability is now considered a megatrend. The Challenge seemed both relevant and well timed, so I decided to participate and contribute what I could.
Having worked on RFID technology extensively as part of a previous research project some time back, I had a good idea of the technology’s capabilities. Hence, I decided to apply the same technology to find a solution for the problem at hand. I researched some of the most prevalent ways to destroy and track electronic waste, tried understanding the limitations of each method, and finally chose one that I believed had the most potential to be developed into a solution. I also studied some of the latest tracking technologies and evaluated the possibility of integrating them into my solution. The other factor I kept in mind was to ensure that the solution was economical so that it could be easy to implement and highly scalable. I submitted my solution and I am thrilled to be rewarded as one of the winning solutions.
Previously, I participated in The Economist-InnoCentive Transparency Challenge. For that Challenge, which sought ideas for achieving transparency in government, I suggested a Facebook app that would collect data directly from citizens, enabling government to collaborate directly with citizens and attain creative solutions to various civil problems. My solution made it to the final screening, but the Challenge was ultimately won by Ben Skowera. I read about his solution and really liked his way of approaching the problem.
Thank you very much for reading and I wish all the best to everyone who is participating in InnoCentive Challenges.
Sumit lives in Southfields, London with his wife and enjoys going on long countryside walks.