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Thoughts From The PIER Q&A – A Nokia Environmental Initiative

Last week I was invited to a Q&A about PEIR, Nokia’s latest environmental initiative. PEIR, the Personal Environmental Impact Report, is a new kind of online tool that allows you to use your mobile phone to explore and share how you impact the environment and how the environment impacts you. Currently in its trial phase, PEIR was born out of a research collaboration project by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Nokia Research Center (NRC) Palo Alto.

Thoughts From The PIER Q&A - An Environmental Initiative

The unique thing about PIER is that it takes a step beyond being a ‘footprint calculator’ that relies only on your demographics, PEIR uses location data that is regularly and securely uploaded from your mobile phone to create a dynamic and personalized report about your environmental impact and exposure.

BACKGROUND

I and a few other bloggers were joined by the team behind PEIR, Martin Gutierrez from the Go Green Foundation, John Shen from Nokia Labs, Jeff Burke and Mark Hansen from UCLA in a Q&A hosted by WOM World‘s Robbie D.

The Go Green Foundation has already launched a pilot program in San Francisco, CA using PEIR as a tool to demonstrate how mobile phones and applications can provide actionable data to motivate teens to make choices that leave a smaller carbon footprint. The foundation works in collaboration with Climate Counts, a non-profit organisation that provide an environmental scorecards on various industry sectors, companies, and brands and ranks companies on how ‘green’ they are, you can check Nokia’s impressive score here.

Sadly, PIER’s geographic coverage is currently limited it to Southern California, where you can get particulate matter impact and exposure, and fast food exposure. In certain other regions you will get transportation-related carbon impact feedback. However, the team is working to add more regions and greater compatibility across devices.

IDEA

At the moment, PIER draws mainly on user-contributed GPS data, this data is then fed to modeling services. The models applied are commonly used for planning purposes to estimate a person’s impacts and exposures.

Right now the tool serves what might be called a self-analytic practice, that is people examine their own choices. participants can also compare themselves to other members of their social network, with the hope that they consider relative differences and possible reasons why one person might have a higher number than another. Eventually the idea is to see people post challenges on the network and thus reduce impacts by say 10%. From there move on to possibly engage service providers as well.

DISCUSSION

The discussion started with a bit of background and what Nokia and PIER were doing to make a difference and moved onto how PIER can spread and what else can be done. The PIER application currently runs independently and is compatible with S60 3rd Edition devices, no 5th Edition support ‘yet’.

    THE PIER APPLICATION THE PIER APPLICATION

  • To my mind the best way to promote PIER and the cause of the environment without people thinking of it as an additional effort was integration with the already successful Sports Tracker application. Fortunately, the other bloggers and importantly the people behind the project we also receptive to the idea. Infact, they already have someone looking into the prospect.
  • This way PIER wouldn’t need a separate application, all they would need to do is analyze the data Sports Tracker already collects. For the user it will mean no extra application eating into the battery.
  • To make the saving the environment even more exciting, we could perhaps see some rating system introduced for users based on their environment score and even have challenges.

I also got to know that Nokia has partnered with Lonely Planet to showcase the impact of projects like PEIR on users. The project with Lonely Planet will feature 6 or more such projects and sometime around September, a joint site will be made live with videos and information about these projects. They have just finished filming the first two projects, PEIR and the Mobile Millennium project (enhanced community traffic using phones as sensors).

WHAT YOU CAN DO

PIER is currently in closed beta, however if you are keen on doing your bit for the environment then you can request access by sending an email to peir-info [at] cens.ucla.edu sighting this post. Otherwise, you can head over to the PIER website and have a look at the demo using demo as the username and password.

Nokia has been turning environment conscious since the last few years and this is another initiative that holds a lot of potential unlike the ‘we-offset’ program that they launched an year ago. The idea and the reasoning behind it is solid and the thing I like is that it is motivational rather than something that is thrust on you.

That being said, there is still a long way to go and I am interested in seeing the outcome. Meanwhile you can shape the outcome with your ideas, so feel free to comment.

Lastly, I’d like to thank WOM World Nokia for the invite.