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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing is Helping Find Asteroids and Planes



Open innovation and crowdsourcinng are concepts that have taken the research and strategy gurus by storm. NASA and DigitalGlobe are using similar concepts to help solve problems such as finding a missing plane and developing better asteroid algorithms. Using and hedging knowledge to solve problems, improve services, reduce costs, and be more effective is the main goal. The organizations have put forward two different but interrelated programs.

NASA and Planetary Resources Inc. have teamed up to put more eyes on the sky. They are offering $35K in prizes to citizen scientists that can improve upon existing algorithms for asteroid hunting. Participants can sign up on Top Coder . The goal is to help NASA find, derail, or destroy asteroids that could threaten Earth. 

According to Tom Kalil, the deputy director for technology and innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology, "I applaud NASA for issuing this Grand Challenge because finding asteroid threats, and having a plan for dealing with them, needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort. (2)"  Citizen scientists have a lot of knowledge and helping them engage in important.

NASA hopes to find better patterns in the data. By analyzing information people naturally see different things based upon their problem solving schemas and personal abilities to connect information. Some will see patterns where others see only a bunch of numbers and data. Bringing in multiple perspectives helps raise the chance of finding something new. 

NASA is not the only one using open innovative concepts to solve problems. Colorado based DigitalGlobe (3) is using crowdsourcing to help find the missing Malaysian Flight (4). They are asking participants to scour 1,200 square miles of ocean to find objects on the water’s surface that may indicate the location of the missing plane. 

Each participant picks an area covered by satellite photos. They look through these pictures to find items that may indicate wreckage. If an area is scattered by floating debris they can alert authorities. Their process takes corporate citizenship to the next level. In previous projects, volunteers have highlighted up to 60,000 items.

There is a difference between open innovation and crowdsourcing. Open innovation is using stakeholders and other individuals an entity doesn’t normally engage with to encourage greater product development. Those who have knowledge to offer are generally invited. Crowdsourcing focuses more on using the power, skill, and knowledge of a crowd to improve upon a concept or problem. Crowdsourcing is generally open to anyone who desires to participate.

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