Sunday, October 19, 2008

PASS – Google's 10 to the 100 submission

Amid working full time and taking care of our wonderful daughter, I took time to aggregate and repackage the PASS idea in a suitable format for Google's 10 to the 100 challenge. Maybe this is a vain attempt, but where is it written that our dreams must be small ones? Last time I wrote about PASS, I said I was convinced the project would come to life anyway in one form or another. This is still true. Then why spend time on it? Because I want the project to 'get it right', or at least go in the best direction possible, and be launched as soon as possible since the required technology is ripe. So many great ideas are badly implemented - that's what I'd like to avoid. Oh, and since my previous PASS entry, I stumbled onto these two links which provide related information. My only regret is I realized two days prior the submission's deadline that there were, well, only two days left, leaving little time to write a proper and nice submission. So here it is, my submission to Google's project 10 to the 100.

** 8. Your idea's name (maximum 50 characters):
PASS: Product Attribute Sharing for Sustainability

** 9. Please select a category that best describes your idea.
Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?

** 10. What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)
System providing valuable customized product information in a timely and convenient manner, enabling consumers to enhance their purchasing experience.

** 11. Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)
PASS is a portable decision support system providing customized pertinent and validated product information in a timely and convenient manner, enabling consumers to drastically enhance their purchasing experience. This system encourages transparency, sustainable development, accountability, quality and efficiency. PASS's main components are the database, client softwares, and PASS-enabled devices.

The PASS database host products and services information and metadata. It includes the product's characteristics such as its name, manufacturer and model, associated barcode, the product's origin, its healthiness, safeness, quality, its price. When available, an assessment of the product's and manufacturer's environmental friendliness and impacts are included. Product information comes from known trustworthy and validated sources. The database could include moderated user generated content and user statistics (such as satisfaction) regarding the products.

The PASS client softwares are applications installed on the user computer and PASS-enabled devices. They are the bridge between the database and the user in the buying process. The applications are customizable and interoperable. They allow consumers to tailor the database information to their values and preferences (example: someone may favor local products and small producers, another one may favor healthy, vegan or nuts-free products, etc). The applications must provide the best mix of user-friendliness, features, pertinence and performance.

Based on multiple criterion from the database and user preferences, a few simple indicators allowing users to quickly make a decision are presented to the user. The applications can provide the full product information at request. The applications can also share a user's information and product's comments with his network of selected users.

The PASS-enabled devices are the smartphones, a portable dedicated device or computer with PASS client software installed. The device supply the product's information based on manufacturer and model and may have the ability to read product barcodes (via camera) and sync itself over the Internet.

** 12. What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)
The PASS system opens new doors in regards to accessing valuable product information at the moment consumers need it most. PASS provides the following:
- Quick access to hard to obtain trustworthy information.
- Obtain information when you need it, while in the buying process.
- Overcome information overload by accessing summarized and customized key information.
- Configure the flexible client-side system to tie it to your values, preferences (e.g. organic food, price, local producers, manufacturer's ethics) or health constraints (e.g. allergies).
- Promptly compare products and services using criterion that matters to you.
- Easily share valuable product assessment with your entourage.

** 13. If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)
Anyone with a PASS-enabled smartphone or dedicated device (alternatively, anyone with access to a computer and preferably Internet access) ready to acquire products and services or gathering information about products and services.

Eventually, merchants and service providers, knowing clients can now easily learn about their product's quality and corporate ethics, will improve their offers and manufacturing processes to the benefit of everyone and the environment.

** 14. What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)
1 – Develop the server-side database and the client-side software. Optionally, develop a low-cost PASS dedicated devices as a cheaper alternative to owning a PASS-enabled smartphone.
2 – Build partnerships with existing trustworthy products information providers and transfer products information to the PASS database.
3 – Find a mean to cover costs of the project's implementation and maintenance.

The required technology to support the PASS project is ready and ripe. The organization managing the PASS project must unconditionally be neutral. Probably best is if it's a not-for-profit organization. I believe PASS software should be developed with open source code and be scalable. When appropriate, the colligated information should be available under a creative commons license and freely accessible.

** 15. Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)
In a matter of months, millions of people's consuming habits could be enhanced. The outcome would be better informed consuming habits for anyone using PASS. Overall, this decision support system encourages transparency, sustainable development, accountability, quality and efficiency. Ultimately, the system promotes fair and transparent competition at the worldwide scale.

This project's success can be directly measured by the number of registered members, their contributions to the system, the amount of accesses to the database and the frequency the PASS client softwares are downloaded and updated. The number of trustworthy content providers partners joining the project is also a measure of the project's success. Alternatively, the number of PASS dedicated devices built and distributed is an indirect indicator to the project's success.

UPDATE 20081020:
Missing from the submission are these elements: (1) PASS could also provide location-based suggestions, such as "a better similar product is available at a store 2 minutes from where you are." (2) The second missing element is how to make money out of this, and one obvious potential mean is advertising.

UPDATE 20090113:
Here's a /. discussion about the new Microsoft Tag system, with links to similar Nokia efforts and more.

UPDATE 20090426:
Here's a Google announcement on smarter shopping with smartphones, which is not PASS implemented at all, but a step in that direction.