In the current consumer landscape, sustainability is faced with myriad challenges. In order to engage the public in the race to net-zero emissions—renewable energy adoption, green transportation, and so on—industries must arm themselves with methods of influencing drivers, homeowners, and businesses. However, this need not be so challenging, particularly in the digital environment where new functionality awaits on every rotation of the innovation sphere.
Iterations of digital solutions bring with them greater, more convenient methods of managing energy consumption and travel smarter, more sustainably, and even at lower costs—these are the three major impacts to the consumer: time, money, and effort.
Moreover, the challenges develop in different ways depending on global positioning. For example, a solution that can support those in the US will not be the same in India. The requirements vary depending on geographical location and other factors like the adoption of digital energy infrastructure, the uptake of electric cars, and overall the access to data in order to share insights.
Take Google’s product as an example. For almost two decades now, Google Maps has served the majority, adopting more insights year-on-year and is now one of the staple services for commuters and travellers worldwide. The sheer amount of data leveraged by the company for this particular application is mind-blowing and is enabling greater accessibility than many can even comprehend. Paper maps are pretty much redundant as digitally savvy generations turn to Google Maps to get to their destination, albeit in the car or on foot in their local town or city.
The influence of Google Maps on energy-efficient transport
Nowadays, consumers expect more insight from the app. Google has set the bar for navigation, so now the platform is able to play its own unique role in driving down emissions bit by bit. We also heard from the company’s Sustainability Lead Adam Elman at Sustainability LIVE London about how Google is delivering functions to keep customers moving while enabling the most fuel-efficient and energy-efficient routes. The company recognises the growing trend in electric vehicles (EVs) and is leveraging data from various digitally enabled vehicles to paint a picture of the cost and emissions involved in travel anywhere in the world.
More information is gained as we read the latest insights from Kate Brandt, Google’s Chief Sustainability Officer, who says: “To help people find other sustainable modes of transportation, like rail, new train route suggestions will soon appear on Search when you look for flights. And in the near future, in France, when people look up driving directions, Maps will show public transit or walking suggestions next to driving routes if travel times are comparable and practical.”
Of course, allowing greater insight into already established public transport is crucial, and there are many ways in which this can reduce emissions—influencing more people to use public systems by making them more convenient, but a much more challenging beast is that of automotive electrification. EVs are arriving thicker and faster, spurred on by the growing emphasis on climate change and the pandemic’s showcase of atmospheric healing thanks to limited driving.
Google must integrate data from various sources to track and analyse the entire EV landscape, including charging hubs, new cars, and complex energy requirements in cities. Not only is this having an influence on the renewable energy transition, but also allowing customers to understand the credentials of EVs on the market, making everyone much more knowledgeable of how to live with electrified transport.
“EVs are another area of transportation where we’re seeing growing interest. In fact, global EV-related searches have nearly doubled over the past two years. For people shopping for an EV, it’s now even easier to understand the costs associated with buying a new vehicle thanks to new insights in Search,” says Brandt.
“In the US, when people search for terms like ‘best electric cars’, they can quickly compare prices, battery range and discover models. They can also find federal government incentives for qualifying vehicles in the US, with German and French national incentives coming soon.”
Supporting city planners to adopt renewable energy
Looking at a much more industrial side of things, Google Earth is now capable of doing much more than simply allowing internet users to scan the globe for the latest birdseye view images of their childhood back garden.
This tool can support city planners with greater insights into the potential applications of renewable energy infrastructure, such as solar, as well as cost and energy efficiency information to get the most out of disruptive projects.
Ultimately, the sooner these functions can be leveraged the smoother the transition will be and allow developers to be more proactive in their approach to building more efficient housing in the future.
“This capability will make it easier for planners to determine the best building designs and solar options for urban areas. It’s especially helpful when optimising designs for places with ample space, like parking lots,” says Brandt. “As we continue working toward a carbon-free world, making solar technology more accessible for cities and organisations will be key to reducing global emissions.”
Energy efficiency is supported in various ways by the Google products that have evolved over time to share more insight than previously anticipated. These great strides of its digital products will serve economies in the race to decarbonise cities, electrified transportation, and create more opportunities for the public to take energy consumption into their own hands.