In the past few years, we have witnessed many signs of rapid climate change. Droughts, extreme heat and cold, hurricanes, and wildfires are happening more frequently. Also, in November 2022, the global population surpassed eight billion people.
In this post, we explore new possibilities to unlock the value of “green data” to help people adopt green lifestyles, make cities more sustainable, and facilitate the proliferation of green innovation ecosystems.
We are optimistic that Prifina’s user-held data model could pave the way for data-driven solutions and improve the general well-being of individuals as well as local and global communities.
New Businesses and Data Models to Tackle Climate Change
Some of the biggest Silicon Valley companies, led by Stripe, have launched a 1 billion US Dollar fund that aims to provide advance funding for companies working on carbon capture technologies to help build the market for carbon capture. The idea here is to provide enough capital for startups that develop solutions to remove carbon from the air and safely store it underground for a thousand years. These technologies already exist, so visionary climate tech investors are trying to help scale the development of such technologies.
From the data technologies perspective, we can see how fast cloud computing, machine learning, and edge computing models are advancing: devices have more sensors and data processing capabilities are becoming more powerful.
Based on our consumer research, the Prifina team knows that:
Prifina has built a data platform for individuals where the user's data is private by default. With Prifina, an individual consumer can collect data from various personal data sources in real time (e.g., personal wearable devices, sensors from IoT gadgets at home, and online accounts). In Prifina’s environment, individuals do not have to give away data to every service provider they interact with; third-party applications come to the user and run on top of user-held data.
A user-held data model opens new opportunities with personal data: developers can easily build applications without solving complex data (backend) problems. From a legal point of view, Prifina’s user-centric, user-held data architecture goes beyond privacy-by-design principles: in Prifina’s model, the user’s data is private by default (not shared with anyone).
Empowering Individuals with "Green" Data
If people are conscious about their carbon footprint, is there any way to empower them to make better daily choices and facilitate more “green lifestyles”?
The user-held data model combined with insights from behavioral science about nudges and disclosures could help spur innovation in this domain. For example, we are all accustomed to seeing food labels that disclose various information about the products we are buying, how much sugar, fat, carbs, and calories they contain. It is up to every consumer to decide if they want to read the label. But making the information available is a big step forward in helping people make informed choices about the food they buy.
Two years ago, Apple introduced “privacy labels” - similar types of disclosures about how applications use our data (what categories of data apps collect, and how this data is used). Many of us may not check this information before downloading apps, but it helps app users to check if they are “happy” with how their data is accessed, collected and used.
Similar examples of disclosures could be found in mobility services. For instance, some airlines are giving options to purchase more expensive tickets and subsidize the use of less polluting diesel during the flight.
If we think about personal IoT data, what kinds of applications could be created to provide insights based on personal sensors? One of the major benefits of the user-held data model is that it allows the building of new types of applications that can correlate data from various data sources of an individual user.
With Prifina, developers can build a “My Carbon Footprint” app that correlates data from user’s location data from Google Maps and Apple Maps, how often the user uses public transport (bus, train, taxi), how often a user is cycling and driving his own car, and how often he travels by plane.
A “My Carbon Footprint” app of this kind could simply show correlations between different data points, and help people better understand their daily/monthly carbon footprint. Such an app can also include additional personalized insights that make end-users more aware and responsible for their environmentally affecting actions.
Similar applications could be built on user-held data about using energy at home (e.g., how much energy is consumed in total, what percentage of energy is coming from renewable sources, and offer recommendations on whether certain heating/cooling IoT devices could be more energy-efficient). Additional insights could be created by app developers who correlate data from different categories of data sources (e.g., how outdoor exercise activities decrease/increase energy consumption at home).
Making Cities Smart and Green
Current smart city solutions are based on one premise: the need to collect lots of data in various public settings (streets, highways, parking lots, etc.) utilizing various sensors (e.g., parking meters) and surveillance tools (e.g., video cameras and facial recognition technologies). To collect such data, authorities engage with many private vendors who are entrusted with complex tasks to manage networks, infrastructure, and big data.
Data is at the heart of many smart-city interactions: optimizing traffic and public transport, distributing energy consumption, power and water supply, waste management, crime control, healthcare, and community services. All these directly impact the environment: improving air quality, waste of food and energy, noise pollution and designing responses to climate disasters.
At the same time, holding sensitive data is becoming a privacy liability for both public and private organizations. As a result, many public and private entities are simply unable to leverage significant personal data centrally and decide whether they want to limit data collection or find another way utilizing data.
Prifina’s user-held data model could be beneficial in developing more citizen or human-centric solutions. For example, user-generated mobility data from smart wearables could be combined with public data (e.g., weather and air quality data) to offer individuals healthier walking routes. Similarly, public and user-generated energy consumption data could be utilized to better manage energy distribution during peak hours.
In a post-Covid environment, many applications can be created to increase the utility of idle resources (e.g., unused office spaces, empty parking lots) or use-privacy preserving data access frameworks to build more resilient cities (e.g., manage access to buildings and office spaces without exposing sensitive employee data). Taken as a whole, the combined use of private and public green data could generate more value for society.
Green Apps Powered by Private Personal Data
To unlock the value of “green data” and empower individuals to adopt green lifestyles, new data access and governance rules should be established.
The European Union is taking the lead in this regard: In February 2020, the EU Commission published a European Strategy for Data, laying out its ambition to make the EU the leading role in the global data economy. One of the key EU instruments is the proposed European Data Act which aims to unlock the data currently collected by and harnessed by the manufacturers of IoT devices. After the Data Act comes into effect, individual consumers and business entities using sensorized devices will have the right to access the data which is generated through the use of the device.
At Prifina, we support initiatives that promote access to data, transparency and equality in the market. As we look into the future, we believe that the human-centric approach to data discussed above helps to find new ways to activate “green data” and create “green value” by utilizing user-generated data.