Radish – Eco Friendly Google Calendar


[Aaron] a google employee came up with an idea that would be good for the environment, as well as fun. The Radish is a solar powered display, updated from a google calendar, with extremely low power consumption. They are building this to be an indicator of the conference room schedule. When we first read this, we wondered just how much greener it could possibly be than printing a few sheets of paper. Then we read that they were going through six reams per day. wow. The Radish gets its power through a solar panel, and preserves it through some creative power saving modes and the fact that it has an LCD that only requires power to update. Would this be a good place for some E paper? Data is transferred using IEEE 802.15.4, which is slow, but also more efficient in terms of power than normal WiFi. The system is so efficient, it can run for 3-4 days in low light conditions after a charge . Another cool fact is that [Aaron] got to design and build this on company time. Google allows people to spend 20% of their time on innovative new projects of their choice.

correction: the LCD goes into an extremely low power “sleep mode” when not being updated, and retains the last image loaded.

26 thoughts on “Radish – Eco Friendly Google Calendar

  1. LCDs are extremely low power if there is no backlight. Unfortunately they also tend to be very hard to read without a backlight too. It’s made worse by the shiny plastic protector they placed over it.

    eInk screens would be ideal for this, once the cost comes down.

  2. goldscott: yes, but that requires a lot more human effort. And some consumables are still involved.

    His method is better as it is constantly getting data from Google Calendar, which means it should always be the latest info.

  3. I’m with you GoldScott !!!
    A white board is all you really need.

    The technology is certanly cool.

    But, these guys are perfect examples of a self-rightious / self-appointed Environmentalists.

    They like to pat themselves on the back and pretend that they are some-how ‘Saving the Planet’.

    In reality, this ‘Green Thing’ is nothing more than a lame sales pitch.

    Suprisingly – it works !!!
    But, that’s only because there are many Liberal Retards who fall for it.

    Truth be known – building a device like that actually harms the planet much more than it will ever help. Mining precious minerals needed to build the damn thing is far more toxic that the few trees that it may ever save.

    I’m not knocking the technology behind the device.
    I’m just laughing at their sales pitch.

    Only a Liberal / Obamanite would fall for such non-sense.

  4. Gyricon, an LLC formed by Xerox made something like this a few years ago before Xerox shut them down. It was an e-Ink display that could be updated via ethernet or Wifi and if I recall correctly was powered via PoE, AC, or C-cell batteries. My employer purchased a few demo units before they stopped selling them and they were awesome. Not as good as what could be done today,but they could be tied to exchange for meeting updates, etc. and they had a lot of potential.

    Best page I found with a quick google: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=3770

  5. While I tend to agree that many “green” products are simply greenwashed, I think this may be different.

    Yes a whiteboard may be a greener option in this specific situation, but what they are doing is creating methods in which future technology will be made. Electronics will continue to be put in every part of our lives for a while, these people are doing the work to find out how to make that a slightly less destructive path.

  6. Why is it that hack-a-day readers can complain about anything?

    If you don’t like what you see go get off your ass and build something yourself.

    What are you doing in front of a computer?

  7. The DIYhacker replications have potential for steampunkish objet d’art flair. Envision doing one of these with stepper motors and an Etch-a Sketch like some prior art has already proved.

    OhDamn. Under the rules of CCCKC:


    Which has a “you said it you so it’s on you to make it so” flavored meme called the “Volunteer Rule” That way we feel obligated to make what we say become realities. Even if it’s not overnight, the beginning of intent shown as any progress in whacking together some alpha proof counts:>

    Now, on to get some steppers etc and an assist on vector graphics codings.Exporting from the formats used by Radish etc may be non-trivial. After that gets solved?

    The next hard parts will be either plotting for the unbroken line effect-or making a pen lifter. the invert/shake to erase before update mechanics seem trivial by comparison. But? IIRc there were a few times Spider Robinson mentioned we make the erase function long before perfecting a write operation. And it’d look so neat in the cavespace.

  8. Neat project, but….

    Just because you slap a solar cell onto piece of electronics doesn’t make it “eco friendly.”

    The amount of energy it takes to manufacture a solar cell often exceeds the amount of energy that cell will produce over its entire lifetime. Thus, it is probably more “green” simply to use mains power.

    The other thing I wonder about is this: if one accounts for the energy, mining, processing, toxic materials, and waste disposal impact of the electronics, and then balances that against the production and disposal of paper used in the same application, which solution is *really* less damaging to planet?

    True, paper production involves some nasty chemicals too, but the source material is renewable and the waste material is recyclable. Even burning waste paper releases potentially useful energy and the process is carbon-neutral because you put no more carbon into the atmosphere than was absorbed when the tree from which the paper was made was grown.

    My point is this: This is a nice little project. If you want to tout a gizmo like this as “better” than paper because of its enhanced capabilities, communications, and automation, fine. I’ll buy that. But please, give the “environmentally responsible” stuff a rest.

    By the way, a typical web search generates about 7 grams of carbon dioxide. The Times of London reports that Google handles about 200 million searches daily. You do the math. If you’re really objective about it, by far the most “environmentally responsible” thing that google could do is to shut down google itself.

  9. I fail to see why there needs to be a list outside of every room of the reservations for the day!

    It’s already stored online, just look it up!!! If you didn’t schedule the room and have an immediate need for a room you can either chance it and not check online (and understand you can be kicked out by the person that had scheduled it, which takes all of a minute) or check the reservation on the computer.

    I could see the need for this years ago, but at any tech company these days most everyone has a laptop with wireless and takes them to the meetings anyways.

    I’ve been at my current employer for the last 8 years. Since I’ve been here we’ve always used Outlook Calendar for room reservations for the 20-25 conference rooms and I’ve never even seen a need for something like this.

    It’s a neat project nonetheless and well intentioned. But, IMHO, if you’re goal is to be “green”, eliminating a need for something altogether is always better than just using less. I understand in practice that’s not always possible, but this seems like one of those instances where there would be little to no impact on going without. The short-term people may not like, but over the long-term people won’t even miss it. Just my .02

  10. http://www.openecosource.org/renewable-energy/solar-panels-costbenefit-analysis

    “In their assessment of the three different PV panel types on the south-facing roof of a school in Ferrara, northern Italy, the team found that the energy produced by the panels over their lifetimes considerably overcomes the energy needed during manufacture. In fact, energy costs are recovered within two years in this medium sunshine climate. The team also showed that carbon dioxide emissions are significantly lower over the PV panel lifetime from cradle-to-grave compared with conventional electricity generation. Economic costs, the team found, would only be recouped if the panels remained fully functional for more than twenty years”

    Ok, sure solar cells for small electronics might not end up generating that much energy in return, but there, you’re talking about a different reason – portability. In google’s case it was more about not installing power and network jacks everywhere, which would also have been expensive and wasteful.

    (Also, recycling paper is more resource intensive than paper from farm trees)

  11. I have my doubts the solar cell indoor is more ecofriendly than a battery. The co2 footprint of an solar cell is much more than a battery and it looks like is possible to make it run more than a year on one battery. People should remember that solar energy is not per definition ecofriendly.

  12. @sp33der

    Agreed 100%. We have 9 conference rooms in three floors and I think a printed schedule on the door would not help us at all. Maybe there is a reason for having this, but in my case choosing between looking at the calendar on my computer and going down two floors to check it on the door is a no brainer.

  13. Ok- as kenneth said- replacing online data with a door screen device often is not a winner. There is an interesting set of situations where it it. Transient events where connectivity is either a security issue or just a hassle factor. Add to that folks jumping from event to event and having the serendipity factor of seeing an event that posted after closing their laptop etc. Same with last minute changes that ripple thru.

    The concept of remotely rewritable low impact displays will become a new categorical win. Kansas City MO has LED displays on it’s buses and bus stops. Displays that simply defy belief on how overdriven those LED’s must be for daylight visibility. Deploy these or some descendant of them and the solar Vs ac mains powering may pay for them in a short time.

  14. They are currently using about 1500 reams of paper per year. That’s approximately 88 trees every year. Almost any solution would be better. The mining and processing of metals does have a terrible environmental and health impact. Still over the lifetime of the device, it may save 1000 trees. Of course, a mobile app to allow people to check conference room status in real time from their phone or computer would probably be the most efficient.

  15. rdagger:

    there are 500 sheets of paper in a ream. if they are presently going through 1500 reams a year posting schedules on conference rooms, they could “update the schedule” once every minute, 24 hours a day, for up to 520 conference rooms, and still have a few sheets left over.

    seriously….if that is what is *really* transpiring over at google, then their rate of paper usage is the *least* of their problems.

    most assuredly, every google employee already has a computer on his/her desktop. maybe he/she should make more effective use of his/her time by checking the conference room schedule for changes *before* walking over to where the room is. This would eliminate the schedule paper, the need for any electronic gizmo, and would reduce the man-hours otherwise wasted walking to and from conference rooms that are occupied.

    The problem, then, is a procedural problem, not a technology issue.


    you are comparing apples to cinder blocks.

    I doubt that the device described in the article will be “mounted on the south-facing roof of a school in Ferrara, northern Italy.”

    the cells in the application will most certainly be mounted non-optimally and will be lit by crappy fluorescent lights in an office. They will *not* offset the energy used to manufacture them.

    I already conceded that there are legitimate reasons for using little solar cells on certain pieces of electronics. I also conceded that the device was a clever contraption.

    I merely proposed that we knock off the incessant green politics, and stop pretending we’re saving the planet with stuff like this.

    I have a scientific calculator that runs off of solar cells. It’s portable, it works well, and I like the fact that I will never have to replace the batteries. It eliminates the paper that I would otherwise use to scribble my calculations on.

    Should I be applauded for being so eco-friendly? I don’t think so. I have no delusions that my calculator somehow reduces my “carbon footprint,” saves trees, or that it might help save the planet.

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