Sunday, 26 September 2010

Ubicomp 2010 Workshop: Ubiquitous Computing for Sustainable Energy (UCSE2010)

Together with Adrian I organized a workshop at Ubicomp2010 in Copenhagen on Ubiquitous Computing for Sustainable Energy. The motivation for this were for me the question (1) if ubicomp can help to make energy provision more sustainable and (2) what are the central areas where ubicomp technologies can help. Over the last years we have seen a lot of example of motivational technologies - which I am not convinced of. For me the example of standby power is symptomatic. There was a lot of discussion how to reduce the standby consumption motivating people to actively do it and providing more awareness about energy consumption. This lead to a number of academically interesting investigations and prototype making people more aware of their consumption (e.g. the power aware cord)- however to me they do not make a real difference yet. A "simple law" (as we have recently seen in Europe, COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1275/2008 following Directive 2005/32/EC) saying that you do not get the CE-certification for your device if it exceeds a certain power in standby did the job - at least in Europe. Within a few month all TVs that I have seen being advertised were below 1W standby consumption.

If you are more interested in the topic please have a look at the workshop web page. There are also the online proceedings available as well as some results of the discussion. During the workshop we got some feedback on facebook, a colleague stated: "if we didn't have ubiquitous computing, our energy situation would be more sustainable ... every time, for instance, a customer upgrades their mobile - iphone 5, anyone, the energy waste is huge". I think that is a really important and valid comment, and I made the following reply "it is more complicated than that, e.g. how does this change if you use public transport instead of your Hummer (=personal lorry) because of your iPhone 5 ;-) or as you do your email on the iPhone and hence do not have a PC at home anymore ... to be more serious one of the questions we posed the questions if sustainability is a CS topic and in what sense (or if this is rather a political questions)". Adrian added a further response: "consumerism clearly has a lot to answer for. If we didn't have conference travel, or didn't submit the papers in the first place? ... :-) I'm sure you know: Elaine M. Huang, Khai N. Truong's CHI 2008 paper: Breaking the Disposable Technology Paradigm..." [1]. We continued this discussion over dinner and I think the ultimate answer is to go towards a live style of reduced consumption - but I expected this would crash our current economic system…

Coming out of the restaurant we saw an impressive firework and it seemed people (including me) liked it and we did not really think about wasting resources and polluting the environment for a short display…

[1] Huang, E. M. and Truong, K. N. 2008. Breaking the disposable technology paradigm: opportunities for sustainable interaction design for mobile phones. In Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Florence, Italy, April 05 - 10, 2008). CHI '08. ACM, New York, NY, 323-332. DOI=

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