Location technology: An underrated sustainability solution in Asia Pacific
Article written by Jason Jameson, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Asia Pacific at HERE Technologies
The Asia Pacific (APAC) region is home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and while some countries have made significant strides in sustainable development, many still face environmental and societal challenges that require urgent action through the integration of sustainability-focused technology.
2023 marks a critical halfway mark in the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 set by the United Nations (UN). Yet, according to a UN representative, the APAC region is not projected to meet any of its sustainability targets by the end of the decade, and progress in many areas has been impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed sustainability targets back by up to 40 years.
One of the technologies that is often overlooked but can play a significant role in driving sustainability progress is location technology. Location data provides valuable insights into environmental conditions, transportation patterns, and more that can inform more effective and sustainable development practices and help close the sustainability gap.
Making an impact in 3 sustainable development goals through sustainability-driven technology
The UN has acknowledged that ‘the spread of information and communications technology and global interconnectedness has great potential to accelerate human progress, to bridge the digital divide and to develop knowledge societies.’
Location technology specifically has the largest impact on the following three Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN:
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Location technology has the power to revolutionize the way infrastructure is developed and maintained. By providing real-time and historical data on everything from road conditions and usage to supply chain and logistics management, location data can help governments and businesses make informed decisions about where and how to invest in critical infrastructure projects such as road maintenance or upgrading network infrastructure. This can lead to improved access to essential services, increased economic growth, and more sustainable development.
For instance, India’s mobility platform Citility is integrating location technology into its mobile application to provide city authorities in Surat, Kolkata, and Bangalore with comprehensive, real-time location data across systems via a central dashboard. This dashboard will showcase deeper insights and real-time intelligent indexes on road safety, traffic efficiency, and air pollution within cities to encourage the efficient movement of goods and people – in the form of fleet management, smart city parking, and logistics.
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable
Geospatial analytics derived from location data can be used to develop and implement smart city solutions, such as intelligent transportation systems, that improve mobility and reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Urban city planners and policymakers can also gain insights into urban patterns and trends, which can inform decisions on land use, zoning, and public services. This will lead to more efficient and sustainable urban planning and development that meets the needs of residents while minimizing environmental impact.
In Japan, for example, location technology is being used to improve services for a private transit company known as Aizu Bus in Aizuwakamatsu City. As a part of the Samurai MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service) Project, Designium – a company specializing in the development of mobile and experiential applications – leveraged location-powered tools to deliver dynamic visibility of bus status at any given time, including delays or seasonal and temporary changes to the service.
In Singapore, the Singapore Land Authority has embarked on a new initiative with SG Enable and Gardens by the Bay to map barrier-free routes starting with pilots in Bukit Merah and Gardens by the Bay. As current mainstream routing services do not differentiate regular pedestrian routes and barrier-free routes, this initiative will enable the less physically-abled to move around and travel with better ease – creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and livable space that benefits everyone– creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and livable space that benefits everyone.
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Tapping on location technology in transport, buildings, manufacturing, smart services, and urbanization can effectively address the challenge of responding to climate change. We see this being applied in the creation of efficient transportation systems – from applying traffic and routing data to public transportation routes, ride-hailing services, and last-mile delivery services.
For instance, Swiss retailer Migros and HERE Technologies have developed an analytics tool called CO2 Insights that predicts carbon emissions per route and recommends the most appropriate vehicle for each route. By doing so, Migros is able to optimize navigation for its fleet of vehicles by assessing and reducing fleet carbon emissions. In fact, this innovative tool has accelerated Migros’ goal to reduce carbon emissions in road transportation by 70% by 2030.
Another example is with Electric vehicles (EVs), which are key to reducing carbon emission and achieving energy efficiency improvement targets while reducing dependence on fossil fuel. However, one of the major barriers to large-scale consumer adoption of EVs is EV range anxiety – the fear of running out of energy on a journey and not being able to find a charging point. To mitigate this issue, British automaker Lotus Cars and Chinese mobility-tech company ECARX are tapping on location-powered navigation software for their first pure electric hyper-SUV, the Lotus ELETRE. By doing so, the technology tailors to the Lotus ELETRE’s battery consumption model to deliver the optimal route while minimizing the number of charging stops. This way, drivers will have the freshest navigation experience, without worrying about range anxiety.
Speeding up Location Technology Adoption
By offering a more holistic understanding of the intricate interplay between human activities and the environment, location technology will continue to be an invaluable tool in supporting the UN’s sustainability goals and, more generally, for society to collectively build a sustainable future.
Unfortunately, location technology has been flying under the radar, and while there are growing use cases of location technology in APAC, its adoption could be faster. Governments, organizations, and businesses must understand and leverage this underrated technology to power their tools and systems. This may be the key for them to create a more resilient and sustainable world for future generations.
The views in the article are those of the author and may not reflect the views of this publication.
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