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Smartphones present a platform for implementing a shift in attitudes towards climate change by interfacing apps with existing technology.



Smartphones present an opportunity to make not only providing information to society about climate change, but also creating useful apps for monitoring ones carbon footprint, and pointing out ways one could reduce their footprint through inexpensive and easily accomplishable changes in one's behavior through voluntary means.

This will be accomplished by combining data collected from external sources or input by the user and the information collected by the smartphone to provide a real time environmental footprint for the user.

Category of the action

Urban adaptation

What actions do you propose?

Developing Apps

Apps are often effective means of spreading ideas and creating habits. While climate apps do exist, they often focus on specific areas, to be truly effective climate apps should address all of the following in an easy to view format:

  • transportation

  • energy consumption

  • water use

  • waste disposal

  • miscellaneous data input by the user

And then suggest ways to reduce the use of those four by analyzing the data collected to:

  • find alternate routes to common destinations

  • show when and how much water is being used

  • give an idea of a person's contribution to landfills

  • give specific times of day when energy consumption peaks

  • provide a cumulative analysis of the data collected to show the person's overall environmental impact

Suggestions to reduce environmental impact could include:

  • reminders to turn off appliances during the night

  • reminders to compost organic waste

  • reminders to recycle plastics/papers/cans etc.

  • reminders to take shorter routes

  • finding others who go to the same destination and arranging carpools

  • suggesting driving habits that increase fuel efficiency

  • suggesting shopping locations that have low environmental impact

  • reminders to take shorter showers

  • suggestions to reduce the amount of water used

The apps should have easily customizable interfaces that allow users to enable/disable features according to their preferences.

Collecting Data:

To take climate change apps to the next level, real time data should be collected so that the user can see an accurate representation of their impact on climate change, this can be achieved through technology and through cooperation with utility companies. Some options for data collection are:

  • devices that fit on faucets and shower heads that collect water usage data

  • devices that attach to a house's power meter to track usage over time

  • collecting data directly through cooperation with utility companies

  • devices that attach to cars or are built in by manufacturer

  • devices in trash cans that measure the amount of waste one sends to landfills

Some devices that accomplish these tasks exist already, they can be integrated or modified to work simultaneously to provide a “full spectrum” data report. Some examples are:

  • The MeterPlug allows a user to see live power usage from every device in their home –

  • The MyWater device is a device that can monitor water usage simply bu plugging into an outlet near the device

  • To track waste, a device that uses bluetooth and a load cell can be placed at the bottom of a trash can to measure the amount of garbage

  • GPS is already integrated in smartphones and can be used to monitor the driving habits of the user when they are in the car

  • For when the smartphone is not in the car external devices can be attached to the car, or integrated into the car by the manufacturer

Popularizing Use:

the apps and technology described can be made popular in several ways.

  • interfacing with social media like twitter and facebook, allowing the person to share their progress and view others' carbon footprints

  • connecting it with navigation apps like google maps to show, possibly in real time how much carbon is being used.

  • setting up a tax/energy incentive for reducing ones carbon footprint.

Summary: this proposal describes many ways a system can be formed to give one an easy way to view ones carbon footprint and ways to reduce it. the following is a simple example of an app that would accomplish the points of the proposal.

Notifications for carpools to common destinations:

An example homepage of the app, complete with environmental news, and menus to access the devices the app tracks, the data it collects, and the settings of the app

The devices menu will allow the user to control the various sensors that the app uses to collect data.

This is an example of a possible way that the data collected can be displayed, a chart with individual areas of use, then a total carbon footprint.

Who will take these actions?

The apps described can be developed by individuals, design companies, or startups. Then it can be integrated with social media, contacting Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Where will these actions be taken?

These actions will be most effective in countries where many people have smartphones. Because of the nature of apps, it can reach everybody with such a device through the app store, or Google play store, or third party app websites. As for the more in depth actions, such as collecting data from energy companies, it would likely be taken in Europe, and the Americas, where the local policies and laws permit it. 

What are other key benefits?

One of the main benefits of this proposal is the fact that it allows the individual to adapt to a changing climate, instead of a blanket approach which is not customizable. It is not designed to immediately change policies or regulations, but it will create a lasting effect that will have a significant effect for generations to come.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The main cost is the initial development of the app and the associated technology, much technology already exists, and simple climate apps too, so they can be improved on and integrated at a relatively low cost. Once the app gains popularity adds placed on it will help to attract revenue and pay for the initial investment in the apps development.

Time line

Short term (5-15 years): The app and technology are developed and made popular

Medium Term (15-50 years): The app gains more and more popularity and is integrated into mainstream use, many liike it appear and the technology becomes less and less expensive.

Long Term(50-100 years): The app may be obsolete by now but its effects can still be seen in the many softwares and technologies that have stemmed from it.

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