The ForeFront Mission

ForeFront CSL is dedicated to helping communities and individuals work, play, and live in a more sustainable way, by sharing new technologies and initiatives, and developing innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials we use on a daily basis; championing renewable energy resources, waste management and local production as methods for living in a more sustainable manner.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting Connected for Sustainable Development

My recent participation in the USRio+2.O Conference, Bridging Connection Technologies and Sustainable Development, opened my eyes to the power and potential of social networking tools and IT in the realization of sustainable development agendas. While I had realized that software and internet platforms are often critical parts of technologies for the monitoring and management of energy, water and waste systems, I hadn’t fully realized how crowd sourcing and the collective brain of the internet make valuable contributions to conservation, data collection and remote monitoring efforts.

New software programs and handheld technologies are expanding common users’ access to data networks and forums for participating in sustainable development efforts. Wide spread G3 connection access in even remote parts of developing nations means that individuals with little or no special training can participate in:
  • Interactive educational, training and awareness programs that increase transparency and encourage participation in sustainable development efforts at an incremental level
  • Crowd sourcing of information that can be processed by management, conservation and research groups (e.g. collection of data on local flora and fauna with GPS tags to monitor and protect natural resources; real-time reporting of traffic, weather and seismic phenomena; photographic records of behavioral phenomena and/or complex visual data)
  • Real-time reporting of toxic offenders and/or events that may threaten local environmental resources and/or human safety (e.g. illegal use of pesticides, discovery of illegal dumping sites, chemical spills, natural disasters, habitat destruction)
  • Active and passive real-time monitoring of behavioral data and resource use (e.g. trip distance and energy consumption monitoring, carbon footprint calculations)
  • Game-based platforms that encourage good deeds, data collection and monitoring with the use of social media-based recognition and/or rewards (e.g. coupon awards for identification of eco-friendly businesses, on-line public recognition for virtuous behavior)  
  • Networking, payment and monitoring software that facilitates the wider use of ride-share and vehicle-share programs, contributing to the reduction of overall vehicle trips; minimizing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution.
At a local scale, new software and sensor technology are giving us the tools to perform real-time building monitoring (e.g. energy audits) so we can understand and adjust user behavior before ever investing in costly facilities retrofits. Automated energy, water and HVAC systems are creating “smart buildings” that reduce resource use during peak hours by taking advantage of off-peak pricing and resource availability; saving money and balancing resource allocation at a regional and/or community level.

Social media networks, and the platforms and software that support them, are not just trite tools for learning that your cousin Louise just had a really delicious gelato, or letting the world know that you “like” the latest viral chimpanzee video on the internet. These IT tools are part of an expanding network of instruments that allow us to employ the collective brain of the internet in order to make significant strides forward in the development and implementation of technology and awareness programs that can reduce the use of non-renewable resources, monitor waste management, encourage and reward virtuous behavior, and expose those who choose to engage in activities that are illegal and/or damaging to the environment.