ITU Green App Challenge - Meet the developers! (#2) - Interview with Mr. Stephan Reiter and Ms. Simone Ferlin
Green ICT Application Challenge, supported by Blackberry and Telefonica, sought to uncover innovative concept papers for
climate change related ICT applications. ITU announced the
Challenge’s winner and papers deserving special mention at the
Green Standards Week held in Rome, 5-9 September 2011.
One of the challenge’s finalist entries comes from Stephan
Reiter and Simone Ferlin, both from Germany, who developed a
concept for an application entitled “Make Me Green – Delivering
Context-Specific Suggestions for a Green Lifestyle.” The goal of
the application is to raise awareness of the impacts made by
different lifestyles on the environment and climate change.
Through the implementation of a tracking system, the application
provides questions and suggestions about the lifestyle of the
user, generating a greenness rating that can be used to
establish a comparison with other users.
We approached Stephan and Simone to discuss the inspiration for
their concept and their experiences with the challenge. Here is
what they had to say.
[Question] Tell us a little about yourselves and
what you do.
Simone: I am originally from Brazil, but came to Germany in 2004
to study information technology in Erlangen. I was always very
enthusiastic about communications and took part in a few
competitions during university. Before coming to Germany, I had
thought my German was good enough. I realized quite quickly
however that my greatest challenges were not with engineering,
but with language, as dealing with the different regional
dialects proved problematic.
Stephan, with whom I share an office at LMU, where we are both
working on our Ph.D., talks even more peculiarly as he’s from
Austria. Besides jokes about vocabulary and grammar, we enjoy
working and spending time together. Stephan: Simone has
already spilled the beans: I am from Austria. I studied computer
science in Linz, then came to Munich in 2009 to work as a
graphic software engineer. I however quickly decided to go back
to university, to have more time for my personal interests, and
to experience the academic environment from a researcher’s
perspective. I also wanted to change my focus from graphics to
communication networks. Simone and I are working on our Ph.D. at
LMU, and also find time to participate in challenges like this
one. Simone is a veteran when it comes to competitions, and she
was kind enough to let me join her in this one.
[Q] How did you find out about the ITU Green ICT
Simone, Stephan: We often receive information through our
research group about the activities of other research
communities. We both received an invitation to participate in
the ITU Green ICT Application Challenge, and immediately saw
that the topic was well suited to an idea we had discussed
[Q] Why did you decide to take part in the
Stephan: We had discussed this idea of an environmental
awareness application before we actually knew about this
challenge. So, when Simone saw the challenge announced and told
me about it, we just knew that we had to present our idea. Not
only because it gave us an opportunity to present our idea and
make a lasting contribution to the environment, but also because
competitions are always fun and challenges like these appeal to
our not-so-serious-researcher hearts.
Simone: At our university, I have volunteered in many projects
related to the environment and environmental awareness. Through
these projects, it became clear to me that people do not have
enough information on environmental awareness, and typically
don’t know where to find such information. Stephan and I figured
out an idea to solve this problem. And yes, I have always been
motivated to participate in competitions: It is always very
interesting, and gives one the freedom to explore new ideas.
[Q] Have you developed an app before, or was this
experience new to you?
Simone: Not professionally, but we had something similar to this
during my time at university.
Stephan: I developed a few applications for smartphones during
my time at university, but never professionally and usually just
[Q] Was the application that you presented something
you’ve been working on for a long time or did you develop the
app for this challenge?
Simone: I had an idea that we had taken through many drafts in
our discussions. It was however only when we heard about the ITU
Application Challenge that we decided to present it.
[Q] How did the development of the concept for the
app take place? What was your biggest challenge when designing
Simone: We did it partly during our working hours. Then, as soon
as we had committed to submitting the paper, we went to the
basement and used the white board to synchronize our ideas. With
regards to the design, we wanted to “keep it simple, stupid!”
(KISS approach). We knew it was something to be implemented in
the near future, and we thus had to make a few compromises to
ensure we met the deadline. We also found it challenging to
accommodate environmental literature and state of the art
technology in the type of application required by the Challenge.
Stephan: From my point of view, the biggest challenge was to
narrow our many ideas down to an acceptable and, very
importantly, realistic set of features for such an application.
The first draft of our application was massive and had a host of
cool ideas we planned to include. We then realized how difficult
this would have been to implement, and so paused to determine
exactly which of these ideas we needed to focus on. The result
was an app that could be easily implemented, while still
remaining a high-quality, useful tool in combating climate
[Q] What was your motivation behind developing an
app to combat climate change/promote sustainability?
Simone: I had a few ideas about how IT could relate to the
environment and, since mobile technologies are becoming
increasingly widespread, a mobile application seemed a good
testing ground for these ideas.
Stephan: Our approach was also a very pragmatic one: On our way
home from work each day, we see people playing with their mobile
phones. It's no secret that people take their mobiles wherever
they go, and that they use them for entertainment as much they
do for communication. The idea that mobiles could educate their
users on environmental issues was very appealing to us.
[Q] Where did your inspiration for this application
Simone: I was confronted with these issues while volunteering on
environmental projects, where we found that information on
environmental awareness rarely reached the people needing it
most. We were having to repeat much of our work, as people did
not know how and where to find information on
[Q] What other activities are you involved in to
help fight climate change and promote environmental
Simone: At the moment, I am very busy with university-related
work, and have almost no time to volunteer. I simply try to
consciously accommodate the environment in my everyday life,
taking the environmentally-friendly option whenever it is
available (e.g. riding a bicycle to work, or properly recycling
Stephan: I was raised as a “good citizen” who separates garbage
for recycling purposes, uses public transportation and
consciously considers the environment when making choices in the
supermarket. However, unlike Simone, who has been active in the
Bund Naturschutz in Germany, I have never been a member of an
[Q] What do you expect from this application in the
future? Are you planning to develop it further?
Simone: From our point of view, it is a very promising concept.
We are however very involved in work related to our PhDs, and I
think our concept might have to wait in the drawer for some
Stephan: The idea is now visible and, as we do not have the
time, we sincerely hope someone else will develop it further. It
would be very cool to discover a commercially successful
application based on our idea. I would definitely use it, and
Simone and I would probably have several ideas to improve it.
[Q] What is your advice to developers wishing to
create apps to help combat climate change/promote
Simone: Just do it! But before you set out, ensure that your
concept is realistic, and that you know exactly what your
Stephan: Apps can be anything from small programs to full-blown
services. Even if you don't have a lot of time to invest, you
can still create popular apps that provide real value to the
people who use them.
[Q] Any last thoughts?
Simone and Stephan: Where is the cake ?!
To find out more about Ms. Ferlin and Mr. Reiter and their
activities, contact them via ITU by sending an email to email@example.com. Meet the
rest of the winners and relive the ITU Green Application
Challenge by accessing
For more information about the ITU’s activities on climate