By Shripal Shah
Last week I had some fascinating conversations with folks at the Green Software Unconference held at Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. This event, which brought various folks from both inside and outside the software industry, showcased a growing interest in creating new software solutions that have an ecologically minded purpose.
Right now, Green Software is loosely defined as any sort of software application that can help lessen our impact on the environment. These include monitoring systems that achieve operational efficiency within an organization, more complex information management, or data integration and business intelligence applications that assist businesses in becoming more sustainable.
As businesses make a conscious effort to cut energy costs, improve resource efficiency and incorporate environmental sustainability in to their existing operations, they are faced with numerous challenges. For instance, IT companies are trying to reduce GHG emissions that result from Data Centers, which often account for more than 20% of their overall carbon footprint. In California, companies are attempting to reduce their daily water usage throughout their facilities. Green Building practices have raised awareness and helped with the so-called low hanging fruit measures for both energy consumption and water usage.
However, deeper level of savings/reductions must come from concentrated efforts that directly address point-of-use issues. That is where the next generation of Green Software Solutions comes in to play. By providing the ability to a) collect data at point of use level, b) transmit information to decision making level, and c) integrate new information within existing management systems, these new solutions can assist companies in taking sustainable actions.
At the Unconference, one particular conversation centered on water conservation and efficiency measures currently underway in various parts of the country. This conversation ended with a general idea of the unmet needs for each stakeholder, which revealed an interesting opportunity for a new green software solution. In California, water utilities are under pressure from legislative authorities to reduce the amount of water used by their customers. Given that nearly ¾ of water is used for farming and agricultural practices, the opportunity is largest in that particular sector. However, residential and commercial building owners can also play a role in achieving the desired reductions in a shorter time frame. One area where water utilities are lacking is the ability to provide point-of-use information to both the individual (raising awareness), and the building owner (managing resources).
The answer to both problems can be a solution such as a Smart Meter that captures real-time data per user, aggregates data at the local level and then provides continuous information to the water utility. The utility can then make better decisions regarding their water management practices by providing up-to-date information to the customers (demand side management) as well as improving the ability to manage their own resources and the resources of their water providers (supply side management).
Thus, the benefits of a water management software solution are realized both upstream and downstream. In California, close to 20% of the state’s electricity is used to move water to its final point-of-use. Hence, water efficiency and conservation measures help reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint for all water providers. At the same time, end-point water reduction can reduce water related costs for a residential or commercial property owner.
Shripal Shah is a Sustainability Strategist, GHG Management Consultant and a Clean Tech Entrepreneur. You can find more information about Shripal on his LinkedIn profile.