Sunday, May 04, 2008

PASS: Product Attribute Sharing for Sustainability

Here's a few words on the Product Attribute Sharing for Sustainability (PASS) project that went back to oblivion last summer. In my opinion, it's a great project that will eventually see the light in one form or another (and I most probably won't be involved in its coming to life). I discussed the concept over 10 years ago with friends (I sure don't claim to be the first to think about it) and in spring 2007, an enthusiastic friend called me and told me he wanted to work on the project. Along with a small core group of about 5 people, we met a few times, brainstormed, gathered and shared information, discussed and wrote some documentation. At the end of the summer, when the main conceptual aspects of the project were pretty mature, we decided to halt the process. Why? Weren't we working on another Great Idea (tm)? Time. We all have (generally exciting) full-time jobs and, as much as we'd like, we could not figure out a way to keep the project alive while keeping ourselves alive. Here's a very short summary, we have a 6-pages document to share with anyone interested (in French though).

Okay, so what it is? The name "Product Attribute Sharing for Sustainability" provides a few hints. This acronym is a working title. In a few words, it's a small-size portable digital device, to be used in groceries and various stores, aimed at advising users and consumers about sold products, specifically about their quality, their origin, their health and ecological impacts, and so on. The device may have the ability to read product barcodes but it is not required. Products data and metadata would be validated, potentially using existing reliable sources and a moderated wiki system. The portable device may sync itself over the Internet (and the software will upload only relevant information to the user, based on the products he has access to and his preferences). The information provided to consumers would be tailored to his preferences (example: someone may favor local products or small producers, another one may favor healthy, vegan or nuts-free products, etc). There's much more to it, but you get the idea.

As I said, I strongly believe this project will eventually come to life. Why? Because it will be a success (if well implemented, of course ;-). One of the group even scooped that taoit are working on it, but in my opinion it's vaporware until anything tangible is released. Similar existing projects includes Barcodepedia and Skin Deep.
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