Digital systems are increasingly powerful: devices are proliferating; connectivity to the Internet is spreading; digital technologies are advancing, becoming faster, more effective at an increasing variety of applications; more people are spending more time interacting with their devices. The result is that digital systems have an increasing power to control machines and influence and organise people.
The Smart Axis classifies a smart green system by what makes it smart: whether it works by automating and controlling machines (the AUTOMATION column), or supporting and influencing human action ("the crowd"). Human action is further distinguishes between influencing people or organisations as individuals (the GUIDING column), or organising collective action through communication (the COORDINATION column). Guiding systems generally have a star-like topology, where a centralised digital system interacts with many disconnected individuals. Coordination systems, on the other hand, have a more distributed network topology.
Where the system sits on the smart axis shapes key commercial characteristics (as detailed in the next section) including choice of revenue models, development timeframes, costs, ability to scale and to defend market advantage.
The green axis classifies a digital system by the how directly it makes resource use more environmentally sustainable, shaping both the value proposition and sustainability impact (as detailed in the next section).
The systems in the top row apply digital technology directly to using energy and other resources more efficiently, with less environmental impact. These RESOURCE EFFICIENCY systems act as an alternative form of cleantech, whose resource impact can be compared with that of other cleantech such as solar, wind and hydro. Resource efficiency systems mainly work is by gathering data on the resources available and relevant constraints, and then using the data to control resource application, providing more benefit for less resource use (this is "optimization"). An example is the Nest thermostat, which gathers information on temperature and the habits of occupants in order to heat the home more efficiently. Alternatively, the digital system can be used as a replacement for a physical product that requires more resources (this is "substitution" or "dematerialisation"). An example would be using teleconferencing such as Skype instead of travelling to a physical meeting by aeroplane. For more on optimization and substitution see Hilty et al. 2011.
The other way that digital systems can make resource use more sustainable is by helping create, sell or maintain other clean technologies and green products. These CLEANTECH ENABLERS helps turn a physical technology into a fully marketable "solution". An example is the Sungevity Remote Solar Design (RSD) tool, which provides quotations and system design for domestic solar panel installations, without requiring a house visit. The clean technology or green product then generates or uses resources more sustainably, so the resource impact of cleantech enablers is less direct than that or resource efficiency systems.
The two categories can be distinguished by how their sustainability impact can be evaluated. Resource efficiency systems' impact is measured in amount of resources saved, such as energy, water or materials. The sustainability impact of cleantech enabler systems, on the other hand, is measured in quantity of clean technologies or green products created, sold or maintained, such as solar panels, bicycles or public transport. Some systems enable cleantech by enhancing resource efficiency, and these are classified by prioritising which is their most signficant sustainability impact: the amount of resources saved directly, or the amount of cleantech marketed.
This 20 minute introduction to the Smart Green Map was presented at the Cleanweb London event on Mapping the Cleanweb.
Please note that although the theory is same, some of the language has evolved:
"social network" is now COORDINATION.