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Smartphones, Apps & Sustainability

We live in the age of the smartphone – a fact that frequently comes to mind every time I swerve on the sidewalk to avoid someone coming in the opposite direction, head buried in phone, totally oblivious to the world around them! For most of us, our smartphones are now an intrinsic part of life, devices we ask ourselves what on earth we’d do without.

But one question that seldom gets posed is ‘how sustainable are our smartphones?’ A brilliant new interactive report created for the UK’s Guardian seeks to do just that, with fascinating results.

Split into two sections, the viewer can choose between ‘negative calling’ which takes you to a breakdown of elements that make up the average smartphone and ‘positive calling’ which takes you on a journey of all the industries positively impacted by the rise of the smartphone.

Did you know, for instance, that there are at least 40 elements to each phone?  Or that the Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt, one of the elements used in the batteries? This information brought to mind a study published late last year by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies which found that many of the metals needed to produce our high-tech gadgets – including smartphones – cannot be replaced or even viably substituted. Therefore in 20 or 30 years’ time, the report suggests, there may be a huge shortage of these vital elements and consequently significant market impact.

The sobering environmental and human cost to sourcing these elements is also reviewed, touching on similar ground to Apple’s heavily reported labor issues with China.

More heartening, of course, are the insights from the ‘positive calling’ section, starting with the marquee headline that each smartphone ‘has more computing power than NASA used to send a man to the moon’ – a fact which can’t fail to amaze even the most blasé of digital natives!

Equally captivating are the revelations of how smartphone apps may actually be making us smarter – or at least more informed. For example, back in October 2012, over 450,000 smartphone users downloaded apps designed to track Hurricane Sandy. I’ve written before on the growing trend in consumer healthcare technology and the numbers here bear that out. According to this report, there are currently around 97,000 mobile health apps available across 62 app stores, with global revenue from healthcare apps predicted to reach an incredible $26 billion by 2017.

In a world where Candy Crush and Angry Birds apps seem to make so much noise in the news, it’s highly refreshing to be reminded of the smartphone apps that are materially impacting our lives and those in the world around us, for the better.

If you’d like to discuss ideas on how ARTÉMIA can help your company harness the power of mobile, please feel free to get in touch.


 

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