Examples of application features

Below are examples of application features from apps that were developed to explore both the potential of mobile apps as a way to deliver transformative change, and as tools in their respective areas (smart office solutions, promote low carbon entrepreneurs, etc.). For those already launched, or just about to be launched, all key features are described together with screenshots. For the apps under development some ideas are presented and feedback of any kind is most welcome.

Much of the information below comes from the report Saving the planet with WEB 2.0: Using web- and mobile tools to generate, support and implement transformative low-carbon solutions.

The first app to be developed of those presented below was the “21st Century Office”. This is an app that helps users save time, money and the planet for example through e-reading, teleworking and teleconferencing. It was a thought leadership project that HP supported through WWF. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the overview of this app.

The second app was “Transformative solutions” that explored the potential to gather transformative solutions in a UN Global Compact project, “Low Carbon Leaders for transformative solutions”.

The 2.0 version of the “21st Century Office” app, to be launched in April/May, can be counted as a third app as it is totally different compared with the earlier version. This app was developed as a way to demonstrate how user generated content can be the core content of a multifunctional app to support a new way of working in the 21st century.

In progress is an app with the working name “transformative transparency” that will explore the possibilities with augmented reality. The app will link to different databases and explore how groups can collaborate using real-time data and transparency related to the activities of companies (how products have been produced, transported and the environmental and social impacts of the activities, the investments that you will contribute to when you buy the products, the lobbying of the company in different areas, etc).

Transformative Transparency (summer 2012)

Short Description

This app will explore possibilities with augmented reality and real-time access to data about companies by using the camera on the smart phone to scan logos and products.

Key features

> Possibility to see what's behind brands/products

>> Webpage

>> Go to website

Screenshots of key features

  • Stay tuned for updates as the app is developed.

21st Century Office 2.0 (lite)

Short Description

The 21st Century Office 2.0 is a further development of the 1.0 phase of the app during which its content was collected.

The app builds on the opportunity to create an app together with the users (the 1.0 version of the app) and then allow the users, as well as new users, to chose how they want to move towards a 21st Century Office.

Focus is on how users can choose to be nudged in a tailor made way that can create a critical mass for transformative change. By allowing a network of 100 000 change makers (and hopefully more) to start moving in the same direction, but on different paths, systemic changes can hopefully be supported.

Key features

> Nudging of ideas for solutions that help the user, and the office where the user works, to move towards a 21st Century office.

> Tailor made nudging where both the frequency/timing of the nudges as well as the kind of solutions are chosen by the user.

> Tracking the implementation of nudges around the world on a map.

> A code for those that go through all the nudges that will allow two of the first hundred users to collect a prize (the criteria is that they must have who implement more than 40% of the nudges so it is no good just clicking through all the nudges). If things take off we will hand out prizes to every 1000 person.

>> The app is only available for iPhone

>> Go to website

Screenshots of key features

  • SCREENSHOT 1: Intro page
    Based on the input of ideas from users of the 1.0-1.2 version of the 21st Century Office application, a 2.0 version was created to allow for easy use of the ideas. The old version still exists; and the 2.0 version is a layer on top of the first version. The ideas will be turned into suggestions and integrated into the 2.0 guide toward a 21st Century Office.

    The introduction explains that the 2.0 version is created by the users and the ideas behind the “nudge approach” (inspired by the work of Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein). Have a look at this blog to follow the discussion.

    The idea for a 2.0 version emerged due to the significant interest in the more advanced thought-leadership version. If almost 50,000 people used the 1.0 version and provided almost 1000 ideas, a 2.0 version that turns these contributions into a tool for easy implementation was a natural development.

    The idea for a 2.0 version emerged due to the significant interest in the more advanced thought-leadership version. Almost 50,000 people made use of the 1.0 version and provided almost 1000 ideas. This has provided an excellent base and opportunity for the 2.0 version that turns these contributions into a tool for easy implementation.

    This is probably the first crowd-sourced application for transformative change developed by the users and for the users. If the 50,000 users become 250,000, and 10 percent of these were to use the guide, a significant change will take place among the world’s offices. 25,000 people starting to push in a transformative direction could create the momentum that triggers some significant changes, especially given that it is likely that the users are (technology) leaders and early adopters at their offices.

    Repeat visits: A key feature to get more users of the 2.0 version is to encourage repeat traffic. The 1.0 version application mostly consists of single-use, even if feedback indicates that many users show their results to other people. But once you’ve used it, it is easy to forget about it and go on with your busy life.

    A push mechanism to get regular updates about ratings of your ideas, other users in my areas, etc., would create a community experience and have a more transformative effect. The 2.0 version is built around nudging and therefore encourages regular use.

  • SCREENSHOT 2: Ideas
    The basic feature for the 2.0 version are the ideas from the 1.0 version that are turned into suggestions that the user can choose to display in different ways. The objective is to inspire and support, not direct, users. Users are creative people who need tailor-made solutions, not simple top-ten lists.

    Beside a tailor-made list users can also list the solutions based on, most discussed, most used, and highest rated. It will also include a Wordle of all the suggestions.

    How unsorted data can be presented using graphic interfaces is interesting, and it is important not to allow the graphic possibilities to overshadow the main purpose of the information, to help people make wise decisions. The opportunity to inspire should not be underestimated. The new generation of maps where income and/or pollution reflect the size of the countries on a map, see, for instance, Worldmapper, have probably helped inform the equity and solidarity conversation.

  • SCREENSHOT 3: Nudging for transformation
    The key feature to be explored in the 2.0 version is the “nudge function,” where users choose what days and how often they want to be nudged. This feature explores the possibility to use push notification in order to inspire users on the path toward a 21st Century Office.

    The balance between inspiration and structure can be approached in new ways when it is possible to create tailor-made tools that allow people to be as effective as possible in their work as change agents.

    The fact that people can choose how and when they want to engage in transformative work provides totally new opportunities. Linking this to broader trends where the issues that are nudged can be linked to how trends are being discussed in society, using tools like Google Trends, provides unique opportunities to ensure the right pressure at the right time to reach critical mass in order to ensure a tipping point.

  • SCREENSHOT 4: Tailor-made solutions
    The opportunity for tailor-made solutions is one of the most interesting features with Web 2.0 and mobile applications. Instead of general suggestions the user can choose what kind of support they want. The application will use a few features in order to explore tailor-made guides.

    In order to create a tailor-made list the 2.0 version allow users to chose how interested they are in different areas, what kind of role they like to have in change processes and the speed of change they like. Based on these choices the tailor-made guide is generated.

    In order to ensure that the application is not centrally controlled users can see what other ideas those who liked one idea also liked. This is similar to the feature on Amazon.com "customers who bought this item also bought...".

    How far this tailor-made nudging should go and how openly the database should be presented is a key question for the future. For serious projects it will not be much of a problem as they are likely to be transparent and provide both options. For much of the commercial Web it is likely to be determined based on what sells the most products. To tag the parts of the Web that are not for profit and/or clarify the products/services/interest groups behind different pages/apps will be a key feature in the future media landscape.

    To be inspired by other ideas and to see what tracks that are popular and what tracks remain to be explored is something that can be visualized by linking data related to locations to the kinds of solutions people chose. Chromaroma is an interesting idea that in its current shape can be used both to encourage more use of public transport as well as be developed further to an interface that could illustrate the “track of ideas” that different users follow as they explore transformative solutions, as well as where in the physical world people are who have explored one solution and are on the verge of selecting another.

Transformative Solutions

Short Description

This app was created to help push transformative solutions up the agenda at COP16 and beyond at Rio+20. This was/is the message in the app:

“Make sure your transformative solution is part of the global climate agenda

Incremental improvements in existing systems are insufficient measures in the battle against climate change.

Many initiatives are well-intended, often in response to government policies, but these small changes will seldom contribute to the creation of a zero carbon society at the speed and scale that is necessary.

There is even a risk that such incremental improvements might further lock society into a high-carbon infrastructure, making necessary reductions difficult or even impossible to achieve.

Fortunately a growing number of companies with transformative solutions now view the creation of a low-carbon economy as a business opportunity rather than as a threat. These solutions deserve attention.

This app is a tool to identify such solutions. At least 300 solutions will be gathered and presented on the occasion of a special Caring for Climate event scheduled to take place on 4-5 October 2010 in Mexico City and later also at the COP16 meeting in Cancun.”

Key features

> Using a service approach to categorize the solutions.

> Cover flow/visual tool for browsing of ideas.

> Feedback regarding the total amount of reductions that the submitted solutions already helped to achieve as well as the potential for 2020.

> Possibility to sort solutions based on rank, CO2 reduction today and 2020 potential as well as the most supported solutions.

> Possibility to comment on the solutions.

> Possibility to upload solutions from any computer or smart phone.

> Possibility in web-version for comparisons between CO2 savings from solutions in relation to countries’ emissions.

>> The app on iTunes/appstore

>> The app on Android market

>> Download the app from Blackberry appworld (only with a Windows computer)

>> Download the Blackberry app directly

>> Go to website

Screenshots of key features

  • SCREENSHOT 1: Solution category page
    One of the most challenging parts with the whole project was to move from a problem perspective to a solutions perspective. Instead of a focus on incremental improvements in existing systems this initiative wanted to highlight transformative solutions with the potential to provide the services/functions we need in totally new (and sustainable) ways.

    In order to capture our most important needs and the areas that today generate the most CO2 four categories were chosen. “Living/buildings”, moving/communicating”, food/eating” and “consuming/experiencing”. An additional feature was chosen to capture other solutions, and solutions that could provide solutions to more than one of the categories.

  • SCREENSHOT 2: Coverflow with solutions
    Transformative solutions are often ignored by “experts” and analysts as they seldom fit current categories and the dominating stakeholders that pay for the studies often ask for focus on the areas they feel comfortable with. At the same time the transformative solutions are often very straightforward and easy to understand for anyone with basic understanding of the challenges we have in front of us. In order to encourage users to explore the different solutions in categories they might not be used to a visual interface was created.

    Interestingly it worked well on the web, but the visual interface did not really look to good on the mobile apps.

  • SCREENSHOT 3: Feedback on aggregated savings (total savings)
    For an app with the purpose of promoting transformative low-carbon solutions and that focus on already implemented solutions that need support to ensure accelerated uptake the actual result is key. The most important screen might be this one where the current savings and the potential savings for 2020 are presented.

  • SCREENSHOT 4: Feedback on aggregated savings (compared with countries)
    On the web we managed to put the CO2 reduction contributions from the solutions in perspective by comparing them to how much different countries are emitting. In that way the savings became less abstract and from the feedback we got this was a very popular and used feature.

    The fact that the saving potential of the solutions that the app collected is of the same magnitude as the biggest countries on the planet is something that make people take notice.

  • SCREENSHOT 5: Rating page
    The possibility to rate/rank different solutions is interesting and here more work could be done to improve the user interface. Once the data is in place there are many ways to sort them and hopefully the limit to four-five categories (due to the screen size) will soon be over. The only thing needed is a scroll function.

    For this app we selected ratings, CO2 savings today, the 2020 potential and how many that supported the solution.

  • SCREENSHOT 5: Sharing of transformative solutions
    One area that is a struggle on mobile devices is input of more complex information. We included the possibility to upload solutions, but almost all submissions took place from computers. Interfaces to insert complex information (long texts as well as pictures) will need to be further developed before mobile devices will be used on any scale.

    It is not only a matter of inserting the actual data. When inserting complex data people often browse between documents to cut&paste information. The possibilities to multitask and keep an overview of multiple pages/applications will require very different interfaces compared with those we have today. With little resources going into solutions to make the world a better place military research and gaming are probably the two areas that could deliver such an interface in the short-term.

21st Century Office 1.0

Short Description

This is the description from the app:

“It is time to move beyond incremental improvements and tap into the potential that a new generation of technologies provides. The idea with this app is to encourage an accelerated low carbon development. By using this app you, your company and society can save time, money and the planet.

> Test how you work today, are you working in the 20th or 21st century? See if you can improve yourself and challenge friends and colleagues with mails and tweets.

> Use the global network to contribute, rate, use, improve and spread innovative low carbon ideas on how to make change happen. Help create a wiki-database with transformative solutions.

> Understand the significant savings from smart IT solutions thanks to the use of an underlying low carbon infrastructure (compared with old solutions dependent on a high carbon 20th century office infrastructure).

Welcome to the world's first app for a low carbon 21st century office.”

Key features

Key features
> Visualizes the change needed in an interactive manner where the user gets feedback on the habits in four dimensions (how “21st century” the habits are, money saved, time saved and CO2 saved).

> Calculates the CO2 savings from transformative solutions and enables users to see the full savings of their actions, including the consequences for the underlying infrastructure.

>Draws upon crowd-sourcing/wiki-tools to collect, rate and improve, as well as implement best practice ideas.

> Contributes to significant carbon reductions in a way that is inspiring and drives innovation.

> Creates tailor-made solutions that allow for individuals and companies to implement transformative changes based on their unique situation. Instead of general guidelines and "top-ten lists" it is now possible to simulate and design customized paths towards a sustainable future.

> Visualizes the spread of user generated ideas across the globe.

> Provides the possibility to upload solutions from a computer as well as smart phone (iPhone or Android).

>> The app on iTunes/appstore

>> The app on Android market (or visit website for QR code)

>> Go to website

Screenshots of key features

  • SCREENSHOT 1: Movie
    One key feature of the app is a short movie (on youtube here). We chose to make a “long” (six minutes) short movie in order to tell the new story about the underlying infrastructure and the need to measure it. This short movie is an elaboration of a flash animation developed through a WWF-Ericsson project comparing various ways of providing a service.

    To illustrate the different impacts due to use of services depending on different underlying infrastructures, the movie shows the history behind reading a newspaper, flying, and driving a car. With BP’s oil spill in the Gulf, the underlying infrastructure of the oil industry (of which oil platforms are just a small part), will hopefully not be forgotten. The ongoing pollution from the underlying infrastructure is so much more destructive than a single accident, but the media coverage and blog/tweetosphere was filled with BP discussions for a short while and in comparison there is very little focus on the structural problems related to the underlying high-carbon infrastructure.

    The potential of new low-carbon ICT infrastructure to deliver many of the services we need in ways that are magnitudes more resource efficient should be discussed more often. Many policy makers/journalists/etc. almost exclusively focus on incremental changes and a short-term perspective dominates policy making, journalism and business thinking.

    By visualizing some of the new opportunities, the short movie can hopefully contribute to more transformative thinking. Obviously the ICT infrastructure must also make sure to focus on energy efficiency. But even more importantly, this infrastructure needs “low-carbon content” that promotes a shift from high- to low-carbon solutions; if not it will only act as catalyst, accelerating the current unsustainable trends with more efficient marketing and sales.

  • SCREENSHOT 2: Measure (Calculations where simplicity and complexity merge)
    The calculations feature was one of the most challenging to develop. First, the data regarding climate impacts from the underlying infrastructure are not well researched or understood.

    Second, the questions are difficult to formulate so as to make them relevant to people working in a wide range of very different ways.

    Third, a balance must always be struck between, on the one hand, enough questions to ensure a reasonably robust result and, on the other, so many questions that most people will not complete the questionnaire.

    The challenge to include the underlying infrastructure was addressed via a collaboration with leading academic experts, building on the work done by Mikhail Chester and others at University of California, Berkeley, where they have included the underlying infrastructure in their assessments of the climate impact of different modes of transport. For the assumptions and formulas used in the application, please see Appendix A: “Methodology framework for the 21st Century Office.”

    Most calculators and assessments regarding savings only use a “tail-pipe” perspective (i.e., only the emissions from the cars, airplanes, etc., that the new solution allows you to avoid). For incremental changes, a tail-pipe approach is enough, but this application, with a focus on transformative solutions, must include the underlying infrastructure. For a zero-carbon future, it is important to understand how services can be provided without relying on a high-carbon infrastructure. The calculations in the 21st Century Office application help users get a better estimate of the actual savings over the whole lifecycle when using transformative solutions.

    The challenge to find the right questions was addressed in a two-step approach. First, by assessing the areas with the largest and most strategic impact. Here, commuting, business meetings, and reading were selected. Commuting is not only a matter of emissions from the vehicles that people use, or don’t use; it also, for instance, affects how much office space is used. Many are still unaware of the fact that often the largest savings from teleworking are due to the reduced office space. Air travel is the largest part of many service companies carbon footprint; estimates of savings due to virtual meetings often only include the emissions from the airplane itself. Reading and paper: how offices address paper use is an indicator of the level of dematerialization.

    Second, the questions were tried on a small group of office workers of different kinds, including current teleworkers and non-teleworkers, those in high-tech sectors and those in traditional sectors, those in small offices and those in large, those in OECD cities and those in emerging economy cities, etc., in order to ensure that the questions were relevant to as many office workers as possible, so that responses were possible and the questions were relatively easy to understand.

    In order to create a baseline for users to compare themselves to, the averages for an “Urban Knowledge Worker” (UKW) were introduced. In this category, everyone is a knowledge worker in a city, regardless of they what country or continent they work. The number of questions was discussed a lot. Many simple calculators already exist with only a few questions. Our project was a thought-leadership project, so we selected a larger number of questions, in order to get a better understanding of the current situation. As the target group was thought-leaders and early adopters of smart phone applications, the idea was not to get a general answer for office working, but rather for those who are setting the trend in using new solutions.

    The high rate of use indicates that the mobile platforms can be used for more sophisticated work and that users are willing to focus on one thing for a longer time period. The fact that smart phones can be used as a platform for concentrated reading and thinking has been used by a few other applications as well, such as Instapaper.

  • SCREENSHOT 3: Inform (Getting basic data presented)
    Providing feedback that informs users about their actions is a key priority for the 21st Century Office application. Once the user have filled in data under “measure,” the screen with the 20th-21th century gauge opens up and the indicator will show how “21st Century” the user is. This measure is based on how many 21st century solutions the user uses compared to the number of 20th century solutions.

    Many users mistook this for a climate indicator and thought that if they bike to work everyday, or similar, they would get a high 21st century rating. As the idea was to challenge people to think about their current way of working this function filled its purpose. But it did so frustrating many people who used “old” environmental logic. That a person driving an electric car to work once every month and teleworking the rest of the time is much better from a climate perspective (due to less need for office space) than a person biking to work every day using a full office was difficult for some to understand. This clearly indicated that many who consider themselves environmental leaders run the risk of holding back their companies from more transformative solutions as they think in terms of incremental improvements. In hindsight, it should had been clearer that the indicator is not an indicator of how much CO2 the user emits. Maybe the results could also have been used to challenge “old truths” about low-carbon solutions for the office.

    Those using more 21st century solutions than 20th century solutions get the message “You are a 21st century leader!” and are asked to submit their best ideas, in order to encourage people to submit ideas. Those using more 20th century solutions than 21st century solutions get a message to check the ideas for inspiration. It is also possible to mail the results to colleagues and friends.

    In order to also provide some more numbers, even if they are merely indicative, users can also see how much CO2, time, and money they saved compared with an average knowledge worker and compared with the average user of the 21st Century Office application. It was important to have not only emissions but also time and money saved in the app, in order to clearly show that this is not only about saving the planet by reducing emissions, but also working in better ways that save time and money. The results indicated that the 70,000 app users commute and read alongside the average urban knowledge worker (UKW), but travel a lot more.

  • SCREENSHOT 4: Transformative windows (Inspire)
    In order to provide users with an “investment opportunity,” they are shown their savings of CO2, money, and time, compared with an average urban knowledge worker.

    This is a key part as the money and time saved all too often are reinvested in ways that result in increased emissions, reducing the CO2 savings and sometimes even generating a net negative CO2 result. It is important to turn the challenge of saved time and money into an opportunity. Triggering a discussion about what users will do with the saved time and money can inspire low-carbon rather than high-carbon feedback.

  • SCREENSHOT 5: Crowdsource (Share ideas)
    One of the corner pillars of the 21st Century Office application is the feature “share your ideas.” The user can choose to share ideas on how to support a 21st century office in four categories: Commuting, Business meeting, Reading, or Other. Between Earth Day, April 22, and World Environmental Day June 5, almost 1000 ideas were submitted by users.

    About 85 percent of the ideas were serious, and 10-20 percent were innovative.

    Still, it is clear than many focus on the more traditional measures, like using recycling bins or bringing a water bottle to work, and not on transformative solutions that result in significant savings. However, the result demonstrated that there is significant interest in 21st Century Office solutions.

  • SCREENSHOT 6: Crowd assessment (Rank and use)
    In order to be able to identify the best ideas the application allows users to rate the ideas and to indicate if they have used them. As a way to encourage more users to rate and use ideas it is also possible to share specific ideas via email and twitter.

    The rating system provides a rating when more than three users have rated an idea.

    One challenge is that the rating system tends to reward ideas with few ratings, as ideas with fewer than five ratings can easily get a higher average than those with a higher number of ratings.

    Another challenge with the rating and use system is that it tends to reward simple ideas that are easy to use by most people. Transformative ideas are often more complex and may require some specific skills. Allowing for more tailor-made rankings and listing of ideas is therefore important. Developing ways to identify transformative ideas in large data pools is very difficult. Most of the work so far focuses on identifying the most popular choices and is driven by commercial interests. The fact that the search engines on the Web are developed by companies that want users to click on ads and not stay for long to reflect on content is a challenge that should be discussed. Toby Segaran’s “Programming Collective Intelligence” provides an overview of how to find data; a discussion of the role of search engines and the lack of reflection can be found in Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains”.

  • SCREENSHOT 7: Interact
    An additional feature added later allows people to comment on the different ideas. This feature allows users to provide additional information about the idea and to suggest how to use the idea in different ways.

    The feature was introduced to allow users to interact directly with each other and to be inspired to develop new ideas based on discussions.

    In order to further support collaboration and interaction it is possible to list the ideas based on the number of comments. In this way users can easily identify the ideas that most users have commented on.

  • SCREENSHOT 8: Track clusters
    Urban knowledge workers are a global phenomenon. In order to identify clusters of idea providers and users, the application asks those providing ideas and those indicating that they have used an idea to geotag themselves. This allows the application to plot the ideas and the users on a map. It also allows users to see where their ideas have been implemented around the world. This feature could even be used to see where ideas are submitted: from the office, while commuting, during lunch at restaurants or at airports?

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