Measuring Your Carbon Footprint



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Industry News
Measuring Your Carbon Footprint

by Susan Smith

Do you know which of your activities contribute most to your carbon footprint? Could it be the type of house, materials and heating, or perhaps your car or the use of train or air travel? What can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

In June 2007, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) developed the “Act on CO2 calculator,” a web-based system that allows the general public to input information about their type of house and heating, energy use, including through appliances, and their travel. It provides users with an action plan personalized to their own situation, with suggestions on how to reduce their carbon footprint. This application has recently been incorporated into a Google Maps interface, which allows users to view other important environmental information such as average waste recycling amounts and locations of waste recycling centers and solar energy suppliers. The application also allows users to indicate their location on a map of the United Kingdom, along with their current carbon footprint and a list of commitments they are willing to make to reduce their impact.

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]
Various agencies supply data and their updates in multiple formats and frequencies to Infoterra Ltd. Dr. Giles D'Souza, consultant at Infoterra, said that the data comes from third party information providers such as AEA Energy & Environment for carbon emission data, the Hadley Centre for climate change analysis, and UK local authorities for data on rates of waste recycling per head of population. The data are supplied in formats ranging from database extracts, shapefiles, tables and spreadsheets, and Infoterra cleans and rationalizes these to some extent so that they conform geographically and thematically, before converting them into KML for Google to ingest into their map servers.

Infoterra works on several other projects with Defra and other UK Government departments and collects data from all those agencies that Defra requires for its policy formulation and monitoring.

Defra’s overall objectives include providing a safer, more sustainable environment, and tackling climate change is one of its highest priorities. To support its strategic outcomes, Defra has been running the Shared Spatial Information Service (SPIRE) project. This has been instrumental in driving forward the corporate use of geospatial information within Defra, enabling the more effective delivery of strategic outcomes by supporting evidence-based policy making and delivery. Currently, SPIRE brokers over 350 datasets from several different local, national and international organizations. This data comes from over 35 different organizations and agencies. Regular and robust data management, along with provision of metadata and discovery/download services, is an important part of the SPIRE Project. Infoterra (UK) Limited is one of Defra’s key partners in SPIRE, along with IBM UK Ltd.

All environmental issues are cross-cutting in nature, and demand data from several different sources. Infoterra has helped on other major projects for Defra, for example, establishing a national-scale environmental noise map. Noise can be a health issue that can lead to stress, illness and loss of productivity. It comes from several sources, such as trains, airplanes and road traffic, as well as industrial factories. In order to generate a “noise map,” data from a large number of sources have to be collected, analyzed and processed in a regular way, including data from traffic, road surfaces and slopes, buildings and ground surfaces, and these have to be related to population maps to identify the people most impacted . Similarly, assessing water quality at a catchment level can demand the collection and processing of several different datasets from several different organizations at several different scales and timeframes. For example, land cover, land use, slope and topography, rainfall, geology and soils to name just a few.

For the UK Carbon Footprint Project, data will continue to be managed by the providing agencies and in general, most of the data will be updated at least annually, some every three months. Infoterra will continue to provide the brokering service to collect the data at a national level, manage and maintain it, and update it for consumption in Google and other output avenues.

The UK Carbon Footprint Project involves a process whereby people can use a “carbon calculator” to lower their carbon footprint. It poses different questions and tallies up results based upon the user’s answers.

“By going through the different questions, it’s pretty obvious where your footprint is largest, so for example, if you use your car and drive a lot of miles, a sensible carbon footprint reduction commitment will be to use your car less and use public transport more. Similarly replacing lightbulbs with energy-efficient ones, or increasing the amount of insulation on your house, will show you relatively how that can reduce your carbon footprint,” said D’Souza. “The calculator will show you what your footprint is relative to the things you’re doing. Using the Google Maps interface allows you to see what other people’s carbon footprints look like, and what they are doing to reduce it.”

Although there are no current plans to have a Carbon Footprint Project in other countries (some of the current questions are very UK-specific), Giles said that it should be possible to do, and he is sure that Defra and its partners would probably like to make it more available and universally applicable.

Currently, Giles said Infoterra is helping Google make the links to the new data, and working with them on arranging how frequently they get their information back so they can begin analysis of it. To measure your carbon footprint go to www.google.co.uk/carbonfootprint

Top News of the Week

Skyhook Wireless, provider of the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), announced Apple is using its technology for the new Wi-Fi location positioning feature in its Maps application on both iPhone and iPod touch. Using WPS, iPhone and iPod touch users can now locate themselves in the popular Maps application with the tap of one button.

"Apple sells the most innovative mobile products on the market today, and now iPhone and iPod touch include Skyhook's Wi-Fi positioning capabilities," said Ted Morgan, CEO of Skyhook Wireless. "We are very excited to be a part of these great Apple products."

By mapping known Wi-Fi signals throughout entire metropolitan areas, Skyhook has built a database of over 23 million Wi-Fi access points with their locations. The patented technology behind WPS leverages that database to provide location information. Skyhook's software-only system offers high accuracy indoors and the ability to make location more precise for users.

Ac quisitions/Agreements/Alliances

Active Imaging Systems LLC ( AIS) is pleased to announce that it has entered into an exclusive agreement with Science Applications International Corporation ( SAIC) for the right to sell the commercial version of SAIC’s Urban Reality System (URY).

URY is a turn-key, end-to-end, 3D street-level imaging and mapping system. Phil Arsenault, the company's CTO stated "URY’s real strength lies in the immersive information and knowledge extraction software workflow and includes state of the art sensors including multiple LiDAR scanners, multiple high-speed digital frame cameras, and a centimeter-level inertial navigation system."

AIS and SAIC are the first to market with commercially available ground mobile imaging and mapping systems. The relationship announced here supports driving the rapidly emerging dynamic-scanning market forward. AIS's President, Bill Gutelius adds that "We are very fortunate to have cemented our relationship with SAIC. This agreement enables us to combine AIS's responsiveness to our customers’ needs with SAIC's tremendous depth of technology innovation."

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