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Newsletter - Volume 5 Issue 2 - April 2017

Monthly bulletin of the IEEE Computer Society Special Technical Community on Sustainable Computing

Providing quick access to timely information on sustainable computing.

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Message from the editor

Cristina Rottondi, Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence

The April issue of the STC newsletter highlights the research efforts of two European Projects focused on ICT solutions for energy and water savings: SmartH2O and enCOMPASS. The first, supported by EU under the 7th Funding Program, reached its end in March: the project leader Prof. Andrea Rizzoli discusses the addressed challenges and the main achievements. The second, funded by the H2020 Funding Program, started in November 2016 and applies the lessons learned from the SmartH2O experience to the field of energy consumption. The project leader, prof. Piero Fraternali, describes the targets and objectives of enCOMPASS and overviews the gamified framework that will be implemented to trigger behavioral changes in energy users.

Finally, our Officer Dr. Samee Khan interviews Prof. Partha Pratim Pande, Boeing Centennial Chair in Computer Engineering at Washington State University.

As usual, the newsletter closes with the list of upcoming conferences in the field of sustainable computing.


Dear Readers,

the SmartH2O project is finally coming to an end. It has been three intense years with ups and downs as it usually happens in such collaborative projects.

The question you surely have for us at the end of the project is: does it work? Or better: can we stimulate users to change their water consumption behaviour by means of an increased awareness on the environmental and economic consequences, supported by a gamification approach? Our results are generally positive, in some cases more substantial than those observed in other studies: we have observed a difference in consumption between the intervention and the control group of more than 21%. Yet, we think that these results are preliminary, as we have tested this platform in only two pilots, with a little over 550 involved users.
Furthermore, we can conclude that the social awareness mechanism and the gamification approach proposed by SmartH2O have been effective in increasing the engagement of households with water consumption-related information. Yet, more work is needed to find out how users can be motivated to sign up for such apps. A possible answer could come from intelligent user profiling algorithms that act as smart consultants detecting anomalies and excessive consumption patterns, helping the users in reducing their water use. While this is surely a challenging topic, the implications regarding data protection and privacy are definitely not negligible.

Andrea Rizzoli,

SmartH2O Project Director

Launch of the SmartH2O web portal in Valencia

The portal version of SmartH2O was successfully launched for Emivasa customers in April 2016. The portal, that was made available to more than 420,000 householders in Valencia until March 31st 2017, delivers an innovative approach to water consumption and conservation. It introduced gamification elements such as points, badges, leaderboard and rewards. The launch of the portal was followed by a promotional campaign that included emails to those Emivasa customers registered on the Virtual Ofiice (more than 50,000), banners in local online newspapers and in the water bill, social network ads, etc. As a result, more than 550 users are participating in SmartH2O. These users are striving to save water and to interact with the portal to learn about water conservation in order to become sustainable consumers.

In parallel, to the launch of the portal, Emivasa, in collaboration with the local consumer’s association AVACU, started another promotional campaign in schools. Different workshops were organized where more than 500 scholars were taught about the water cycle and the importance of saving water. During the workshops, children learned how to play Drop!TheBoardGame, and were given a copy of the game.

The SmartH2O portal promoted competition among users, as one of the gamification strategies followed to improve customer engagement. The competition had a two-fold approach, with rewards given to winners of weekly and general classification. One the one hand, winners of the weekly competition has won two tickets to the Oceanografic musem in Valencia, the largest aquarium in Europe, every week. On the other hand, the general competition took place in two stages. First round ended 31st December 2016, while the second ended 31st March 2017. Top 3 users in each competition won an iPad that will be handed out during the SmartH2O gala that  took  place on May 3th 2017. Moreover, all those users reaching 2500 points won a copy of Drop!TheBoardGame.
The launch of the portal was followed in 2017 by the release of the mobile version of SmartH2O, available for Android devices on Google Play. This app was intended to improve the accessibility of the users to the portal and foster participation

SmartH2O helped water consumers in saving water 

Approaching the end of the project, we can finally announce the outcomes of the SmartH2O behavioural change program. For both water consumers of SES utility in Tegna (Switzerland) and EMIVASA utility in Valencia (ES), we monitored water consumption at the household level for almost two years (June 2015 – Feb 2017), and can now assesses whether any behavioural change occurred after users obtained access to detailed water consumption data, peer-pressure mechanisms, efficient water consumption tips, and gamification through the SmartH2O web portal and mobile app.

Results from data analytics on EMIVSA users show that SmartH2O users reduced their consumption by an average of 3.8% after gaining access to the SmartH2O platform (Jun 2016), in comparison to their consumption during the baseline. Savings are equal to about 14 liters per user per day. This result acquires even more importance if we keep into account that, for the same period, a control group of water consumers without access to the SmartH2O users increased their consumption of over 17% and that Summer 2016 in Spain has been recorder as the driest and the 3rd hottest since 1994. Also water consumers from SES benefitted from the use of SmartH2O stimuli since the beginning of 2016, with SmartH2O users recording a 10% average consumption reduction. Conversely, users not engaged with SmartH2O only reduced by around 6%. SmartH2O outcomes appear very promising in terms of behavioural change and water conservation, it will be interesting to see if users keep on saving in the long period!

Smart metering support for dynamic pricing

One of the SmartH2O goal was the exploration of ways in which smart metering could offer opportunities for water utilities to revolutionise their business model. One of them is dynamic pricing: smart metering makes it possible to measure consumption at a fine resolution. Therefore, volumetric tariffs that change over time can be implemented, and users can be given feedback on their consumption and their water bill in real time through technologies like the SmartH2O platform that the project has built.
Water utilities are legitimately worried about the distrust that trialling dynamic tariffs could sow in their customer base, and make users reluctant to engage with other possibilities brought about by smart metering. This did not prevent SmartH2O researchers from exploring the potential benefits of dynamic pricing as a tool to manage residential water demand.
On one hand, an innovative online experiment was carried out to test the potential for dynamic price increases to help reduce water demand in time of drought. It uses online platforms to quickly find large quantities of respondents, and found the effects of dynamic pricing where greatest when a visual message communicating about drought was inserted in the questionnaire. Beyond dynamic pricing, this way of reaching out to customers is worthy of exploration for utilities interested in potential user response to any demand management scheme.

On the other hand, a dynamic scarcity water pricing for urban water supply, accounting for the marginal value of water in the basin, has been designed for the city of Valencia (Spain). The dynamic increasing block rate (IBR) would send the users a signal of the economic value of the resource when water is scarce, therefore promoting a more efficient water use. Two approaches were compared: (A) considering a scarcity price at the basin scale and (B) designing prices for predefined water saving scenarios. Different water tariffs were designed considering the marginal value of water linked to the storage volumes, where the charge of the first block remains constant, whilst the charge of the second block is higher when the total storage at the reservoirs is lower.

enCOMPASS - an Integrative Approach to Behavioral Change for Energy Savin

Prof. Piero Fraternali Dept. of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering, Politecnico di Milano, Italy

The European energy strategy for 2030 targets a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to 1990 levels and a 27% energy saving respect to the business-as-usual scenario [1]. Achieving such goals requires major efforts from citizens, companies, and policy makers alike. It has been recognized that structural policy measures (e.g. subsidising energy efficient building renovation) and technological progress alone (e.g. smart meters, smart home technology), even though important, do not suffice. Without effective solutions to manage energy demand by stimulating energy savings through behavioural change of consumers, the above mentioned targets cannot be reached. The combination of persuasive technologies and IoT technologies (e.g. smart metering, home automation, sensing and mobile devices) are a powerful enabler to facilitate this behavioural change. Existing experiences with persuasive technologies suggest that effective designs should incorporate different types of feedback and analysis options (e.g. offering possibility to analyze historical series of consumption data or to make social comparisons), accompanied by suitable motivational techniques (e.g. individual, social and economical rewards) and energy saving suggestions [2].

But to be effective, such feedback, motivational triggers and suggestions for energy saving actions must consider the specific characteristics of different consumer types and different individual needs (e.g comfort levels), and must be presented in a timely manner and at the right moment to attract attention. They need to be adapted to a specific situation in order toprovide actionable suggestions tailored to a given user and her current activity context [3].

While single aspects are being researched, such integrated, context-aware, adaptive and user-tailored solutions are still missing. Individual solutions to collect energy consumption data from smart meters and smart home devices exist, but making energy consumption data available to consumers in easy-to-use, easy-to-understand ways, so that they can stimulatebehaviour change, is still a challenge. Existing tools provide partial data from individual sources not linked to each other and the provided energy saving tips tend to be general, in a “one size fits all” manner [4]. Metering services, smart home sensors and existing consumer tools are not integrated with each other, due to often different, non-cooperative providers.

Moreover, typical solutions do not address the full cycle of behavioural change and thus cannot harness the full potential of demand management. To induce behavioural change and sustain it in the long term, overcoming barriers such as future discounting or rebound effects (e.g. by providing small but immediate rewards rather than large ones later on, activating social norms by propagating socially-desirable actions), socio-technical systems are actually required that incorporate insights from behavioural sciences and environmental psychology.

For effective and sustained behavioural change, all of these individual enablers, mechanisms and techniques need to be integrated in a holistic socio-technical system, capable of aligning technological enablers with state-of-the-art models of behavioural change processes. Such integrated socio-technical systems for energy saving and behavioural change have been theorized in research, but are not yet available in practice nor have been validated in real-world pilots.

The enCOMPASS research project, funded by the Horizon 2020 European funding program, targets the  following main objectives:

  • Stimulate behavioural change for energy saving with a holistic approach integrating innovative digital toolswith smart home automation and a full-cycle model of sustained behavioural change.
  • Visualize energy consumption data for consumers in a user-friendly, easy-to-understand way that translates the abstract, numeric consumption data into a semantically understandable format for the users.
  •  Demonstrate that individual comfort levels can be maintained while achieving energy savings. Recommending targeted energy saving actions to users, based on their comfort profile, current context, activity, and best-fitting energy control profiles, will allow users to save energy while retaining personal comfort levels.
  • Validate and compare the effectiveness of the different types of behavioural change interventions (visualisation, adaptive gamified incentives, context-based recommendations and control) in three different types of buildings and settings (residential, schools, public buildings) for different user types (households, school classes, office employees, visitors), in three different cultural and climatic conditions (Germany, Greece and Switzerland).

In architectural terms, as depicted in Figure 1, the enCOMPASS system is conceived as an open, extensible, process-based, cloud-enabled platform, which combines:

  •  energy usage information from in-home sensors (smart meters and communication-enabled smart home appliances for heat and electricity), 
  • user-generated information (automatic and manual activity tracking), adaptive gamified energy visualisation,
  • intelligent controls and automation to achieve sustainable changes in user energy consumption patterns and without compromising the users comfort level.

This architecture will be deployed in a cloud infrastructure to allow for easy application development by designated third-parties, following the platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models. To maximize impact in real-world scenarios, the enCOMPASS system will be easily deployable, easily configurable and customizable to different settings and business scenarios (e.g. different utilities working with different technology providers). It will provide open interfaces to energy data and business services, stimulating market uptake and business development through open innovation and new kinds of white-label solution, thus initiating the creation of a business ecosystem for the development and provision of value-added services for smart energy demand management.

Figure 1 The EnCOMPASS general framework


The project started in November 2016. The described approach and architecture are currently being implemented in a user-centered process combining a “technology push” and “user pull”. The requirements analysis aligns the technological enablers and project objectives with end-user requirements and constraints in order to ensure user acceptance and produce a detailed system specification guiding the implementation. Participating households are being recruited, the first data sets with historical consumption data have been collected as a basis for calculating the baselines, and the detailed specifications of sensor configurations for the pilots have been produced. The smart metering infrastructure and the technical integration model allowing existing components and smart home apps of the utilities to be integrated with the enCOMPASS system are being completed. In the next steps the full user requirements and system specification will be produced and implemented, followed by a first release of the enCOMPASS platform that will be iteratively extended. Its validation in the pilots will be performed under real-world conditions over a period of eighteen months.


[1] “2030 energy strategy,” 2017, accessed: 25 February 2017. [Online].
Available: 2030-energy-strategy

[2] M. Nachreiner, B. Mack, E. Matthies, and K. Tampe-Mai, “An analysis of smart metering information systems: a psychological model of self-regulated behavioural change,” Energy research & social science, vol. 9,
pp. 85–97, 2015.

[3] I. Micheel, J. Novak, P. Fraternali, G. Baroffio, A. Castelletti, and A. Rizzoli, “Visualizing & gamifying water & energy consumption for
behavior change,” Proc. Fostering Smart Energy Appl. (FSEA), 2015.

[4] M. Z. Huber and L. M. Hilty, “Gamification and sustainable consumption: overcoming the limitations of persuasive technologies,” in ICT Innovations for Sustainability. Springer, 2015, pp. 367–385.

Community Highlights

In this feature we ask a prominent researcher in the field of sustainable computing to share their journey and lessons along the way with the broader community.

Name: Partha Pratim Pande

Current position: Professor and Boeing Centennial Chair in Computer Engineering, Washington State University

Alumni: University of British Columbia.

Currently working on: Wireless Network-on-Chip, Single Chip Heterogeneous Computer Architecture, Hardware Accelerators for Big Data.

Favorite memory as a student: Writing the assembly code using Intel 8085 microprocessor.

Could you share a research contribution from your research, and explain why this is something that you are particularly proud?
My group has proposed the design methodologies for wireless network-on-chip based manycore architectures for compute- and data-intensive applications. This new paradigm will pave the way for designing a datacentre-on-chip. It will make datacentre-scale computing available to general masses at very low cost in near future.

Explain one thing that makes your work exciting for you?

I enjoy working with students. It is a great pleasure to nurture young minds and share new ideas with them.

What do you think is the most important problem(s) to be solved in the next 10 years within sustainable computing?

Data centers and high performance computing clusters (HPCs) are necessary for solving compute- and data-intensive applications. However, the design of data centers and HPC clusters is dominated by power, thermal, and area constraints. Data centers occupy a huge amount of space and necessitate the use of sophisticated cooling mechanisms to sustain the required performance levels. Designing specialized platforms for big data computing at user-level, thereby democratizing the access to large scale computing and enabling personal or private cloud computing will be the most important problem to solve in the next 10 years.

 What courses and skills are most important for students wanting to work in this area?

Computer Architecture, Parallel Architecture and Algorithms, Low Power Circuits and Systems


Upcoming Events

The following venues are requesting submissions on subtopics related to sustainable computing or IT for sustainability.


Conference, Workshop & Symposium Call For Papers

Short Name

Main Topic



Paper Due


SGNC 2017

Green Networking & Computing

Split, Croatia,

September 21 – 23, 2017

May 20, 2017

July 1, 2017

IGSC 2017

Green Networking & Computing

Orlando, Florida

October 23-25, 2017

June 16, 2017

July 17, 2017

SDGT 2017

Sustainable Development and Green Technology 


November 24-26, 2017

July 15, 2017

August 5, 2017

EnergyCon 2018

electric power and energy systems

Limassol, Cyprus

3-7 Jun, 2018

15 Oct, 2017

15 Feb, 2018


Journal and Special Issue Call For Papers

Journal                                                                                                     Papers Due

Sustainable Computing                                                                             (Open)

IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Computing                                          (Open)

IEEE Transactions on Green Communications and Networking               (Open)