Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cisco builds an EcoMap in San Francisco

Cisco announced today that it's building an interactive map of carbon emissions in San Francisco, similar to the solar map the city launched in 2007.

Residents can already log on and see the solar energy potential of their roof. The new Urban EcoMap, developed by the same contractor CH2M Hill, will use the Google maps interface to show the carbon footprint of any given zipcode, as well as carbon savings (or emissions) that result from the everyday choices residents make, from waste disposal to transportation to home energy use. The site will operate on an open platform to allow user-generated updates and integrate with social networking sites to allow collaboration and discussion.

The city of San Francisco is partnering with Cisco to provide data from waste management, public transportation and other agencies. A resident could log on and map out their route to work, for example, to see the carbon savings that would result if they choose to walk or bike instead of drive or bus it.

I've also heard that the map will use data from an infrared thermography fly-over of the city that determines heat loss from individual buildings to measure the potential for energy efficiency upgrades for any address.

The idea is to raise awareness of how individual choices affect a neighborhood's carbon emissions and to provide an easy way for citizens to take actions that lower their carbon footprint.

It's still unclear just how they're measuring carbon emissions and the carbon reductions that result from behavioral changes, however. There isn't really an adopted standard yet for measuring carbon emissions in the U.S., though the E.P.A. is working on rules for reporting greenhouse gas emissions and building a national greenhouse gas registry. It seems that any calculation from the EcoMap would provide a ballpark range of emissions with the potential to show just how small a dent you actually make with one individual action.

The map goes live to the public on May 21 when Cisco will unveil a similar map it's developing for Seoul, South Korea.

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