Measuring sustainability in real-time

January 06, 2013

Photo:  The SWEETSense PassiveLatrineUse Monitor collects data on when and how often latrines are used. (Source: SWEETLab)

How often is the door of a latrine in the field actually opened? Is the water offered through a new filtration technology really of better quality? How do we know if appropriate technologies are actually used and if they have real impact on people’s lives? Researchers from SWEETLab (Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies Laboratory) at Portland State University have developed a tool to answer this question: They have invented sensors for development infrastructure to investigate if and how people are using technologies in everyday life.

When presenting different appropriate technologies on this blog, such as efficient cookstoves, low-cost sewage systems and simple water filters, we emphasized their great advantages and potential. But often it takes inventors years until they have reliable data on the efficiency of their solution. SWEETLab’s remote-sensing technology helps to overcome this problem: Their sensors, placed on technologies such as water filters or latrines, inform researchers and aid organizations via mobile phone or WiFi signals about the frequency and behavior patterns of the technologies implemented at the moment they are used. These tiny sensors are powered by little batteries that only have to be replaced once a year.

Real-time monitoring and reliable evaluation is of utmost importance when trying to gain insight into the effectiveness of solutions and enabling inventors and aid organizations to meet the actual needs of the consumers. SWEETLab has shown how important it is to know what is happening in the field in several countries, including Indonesia, Haiti, India and Rwanda for example.

Caroline Weimann
Caroline Weimann

Caroline Weimann is member of the “empowering people. Award” team at the Siemens Stiftung (foundation). She studied International Law, Economics and Diplomacy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London as well as Languages and Literature at the University of Oxford. Before joining the Siemens Stiftung, she worked on health and development issues at the European Commission and at a consultancy firm for non-profit organizations.

 

Function:
Basic Needs & Social Entrepreneurship

Topics

  • Water & Waste Water
  • Energy
  • Information & Communication
  • Integral Solutions
  • Water & Waste Water
  • Energy
  • Information & Communication