2014-11-13

Track Where Your Stuff Comes From, Down To The Tiniest Part

Your phone came from China, but that’s just the broad strokes. Pieces of it came from all over the world. With this new mapping tool, you can see the supply chain for all of your things.

If you have an iPhone, you probably know by this point a little bit about the factories where it was made. But what about everything else you own? Supply chains aren’t exactly easy for the average consumer to track. Sourcemap, a spinoff from the MIT Media Lab, wants to make it a little easier.

The site, which launched last year, wants to be an open directory of corporate environmental footprints and supply chains—a place where consumers can learn more about the products they use every day, and companies can upload information in the name of transparency. So far, it seems, the site is a hit. There are over a thousand supply chains already posted.

This one is from Chicken of the Sea’s Light Meat Tuna. As you can see, there are multiple paths that the tuna takes—one goes from a commercial fishing center in Gabon to a tuna fishing port in Savannah, Georgia, on to a processing plant in Lyons, Georgia, and finally to market.

Here’s one for a laptop computer (uploaded by Sourcemap’s founder), which has a supply chain spanning the planet.

The Sourcemap idea is already an excellent resource, but it suffers from a problem that many open platforms have to deal with: false information. There’s no way to confirm that any of the data entered on Sourcemap is real, and some of it is just irrelevant (here’s someone who mapped out all the places they lived, and someone else who uploaded a map mysteriously called "American"). If Sourcemap implemented a feature that allowed companies and individuals to confirm their identities, a la Twitter—so we know that the Chicken of the Sea map is legitimate—it would make a big difference.

For now, sift through the supply chains of your stuff here.

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4 Comments

  • Lauren Lunstrum

    Very cool! I agree that the maps created should be verified. I just looked at the maps on the front page and many of them seemed irrelevant and questionable.

  • Kanak agrawal

    The concept and imagination deserves a Hats-off. Certainly the genuineness of the data is questionable but over-time if people from different industry collaborate rather than one company/person collecting data from all industry, the model can be built up.