Smartphones: Consumer Eco Apps Put Knowledge at Our Fingertips

There was a time when you could spot a greenie in the crowd. They were the Birkenstock-wearing, self-described environmentalists. These days, to rephrase an oft-used saying, “we’ve seen the future and it is us.”

No longer tethered to trees, people who care about the environment are no on-the-go, smartphone in hand. That’s why eco apps for smartphones are becoming the fun, on-demand way for consumers to find the facts about and options for a green lifestyle. Best of all, they are very low cost applications and often free!

It’s no surprise that Earth 17’s Bill Roth called these apps the “revolutionary gun” for consumer sustainability. Since consumers customize which apps they want on their smartphones, they, it can be said, co-create their own unique approach to saving the planet. They own it. Likely then, they will protect and nurture it.

In the supermarket, using apps from startups Goodguide and Barco, consumers can scan barcodes to connect the dots on which products have the fewest negative impacts on the environment – and making choices accordingly. With AUG Living Goods, products can be scanned to determine if they are local or shipped in, consuming energy and increasing the CO-2 level. Eventually, experts anticipate, there will be real-time links on those barcodes to third parties responding live to more detailed green questions. That takes sustainability even beyond iPhone’s innovative Siri. Research shows consumers are balking at all the meaningless-to-them information on packaging. They want to be able to zero in on the data important to them.

With app Green Outlet, consumers discover which appliances are draining the most energy as well as costing the most. With Solar PV Installer they can do those pre-smartphone calculations that were done on the back of an envelope about what it would cost to install solar and how much that would save in energy bills.

Green app developers have found a friend in Tokyo-based Fullcircle Innovations. The Japanese firm has created EcoAppsFree. Through that, users can download green apps and road-test them for 24 hours without cost. After the trial they can decide whether to keep them and pay a fee. The founder of iSleep Space reports that thanks to EcoAppsFree, within 24 hours, 15,000 in about 15 countries accepted the invitation to sample the app.

This is just the start. The statistics are eye-opening. According to Gartner, smartphones will become the highest selling consumer electronic device in the world. Around the world, predicts the IDC, that will total 982 million sold by 2015. That’s about one-seventh the world’s population, penetrating developing economies. That means government, the private sector, and activists can provide green education directly, one-on-one, in emerging economies for little or no cost. There need be no sustainability gap between richer nations and poorer nations.

Given the dog-fight of competition between the iPhone platform from Apple and the Android from Google, it’s in the commercial self-interest of both to develop as many eco apps as possible, fast. The competitive tension exists for Apple to outdo Android on the unexpected.

Already, in terms of just being green companies, all the smartphone producers are pitted against each other. According to Newsweek’s recent Green Rankings, Apple is number two in the green world ranking for smartphones, just behind Nokia and Samsung, which tie for first place. Apple, however, is number one in smartphone market share.

Of course, each individual on Planet Earth must do his or her part. With smartphone in hand, environmental information is available – literally – on-demand.These apps put the power into your employees hands – allowing them to get smart about sustainability, Now it’s time to focus on your company’s bottom line. And, as they say, there’s an app for that.

Building EKG,™ an energy and water saving application from Noveda Technologies of Branchburg, N.J., is the first in a series of mobile-based applications developed for business enterprises to better manage renewable energy production, energy consumption and water usage in real-time and will initially be available on Apple devices.

The Building EKG application is designed to help businesses access information anywhere and at any time, enabling key decision makers to make on-demand changes across multiple platforms and at multiple facilities, irrespective of location. This application combines the capabilities of Noveda’s suite of monitoring solutions (EnergyFlow Monitor, SunFlow Monitor®, and Carbon Footprint Monitor), giving an integrated view of all critical energy cost drivers, including electric, gas, steam, and oil, among others.

"With the launch of the Building EKG application, Noveda can deliver actionable intelligence on energy and water use not only instantaneously, but via multiple channels to our customers wherever they are located. This helps our customers to take immediate action to reduce their energy and water consumption and maximize renewable energy production,” said Joe Jacob, chief technology officer at Noveda.