Earth Day is this week so what better time to take stock of the ways that mobile products can help make a greener planet.
A 2009 national traffic survey concluded that Americans wasted 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of gas stuck in traffic jams. But some areas are starting to get a more efficient handle on traffic thanks to wireless. Take Los Angeles County, which has recently deployed a wireless monitoring system across more than 1,000 intersections.
The wireless system allows traffic managers to change traffic light timing instantly to reflect changing traffic conditions, including rush hour patterns and accidents. The result has been a reduction in commuting times by as much as 20 percent.
Speaking of saving gas, look at the environmental impact from the decision by Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona's largest electric utility, to install wireless utility transmitters on homes and offices. With more than 160,000 wireless smart meters already installed, APS has estimated that its savings include 150,000 fewer field visits. The utility has committed to deploying about 1 million wireless meters by the end of 2012.
Even beyond green benefits of fewer trucks on the road, the integration of wireless monitoring systems into a home or building electrical system pays almost immediate dividends. Let's say you left on a week's vacation and forgot to turn off the AC or water heater. No problem: There are smartphone apps for different mobile operating systems that let you turn off (or on) the heating, AC, water heater, or security cameras. For a few options, click here.)
Closer to home, wireless technologies are increasingly saving patients from having to drive to a doctor's office, not to mention providing better care. For the elderly and the infirm especially, these can be major benefits.
Also encouraging, wireless users are also seeing more evidence of the convergence of mobile phone chargers, so that you won't need to throw out a charger when you switch phones. All the major phone manufacturers have committed to this by 2012 and it looks like consumers may not even have to wait that long.
But for all the benefits of recycling, the best way to help the environment is by giving your old phone to someone who needs it. Cell Phones for Soldiers is a great organization that will take your old phone, wipe off any data and uses the sale proceeds to purchase at least an hour of calling time for soldiers abroad.
Finally, are you the type who leaves your phone charging all night and then leaves the charger plugged in even after removing the phone? Based on research into "standby" electricity consumption by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, if there are 50 million phone adapters in the U.S. left plugged in all year, that uses more than 100 million kilowatts of electricity - or enough for the average yearly electrical needs of 25,000 Americans.
Take an Earth Day resolution right now: Unplug your chargers!
Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served as an advisor to and spokesperson for Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration.
Mobile Future is a 501(c)(4) coalition comprised of and supported by technology businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals dedicated to advocating for an environment in which innovations in wireless technology and services are enabled and encouraged. For a full list of members and sponsors and to learn more about the coalition, go to www.mobilefuture.org.