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Fostering Sustainability on Campus: Design of an IoT-Enabled Smartbottle for Plastic Reduction in the Academic Environment

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Public higher education institutions have a particular moral responsibility in increasing the awareness, knowledge, skills and values required to create a fair and sustainable future. Through sustainable design, the Project Refill_H20 aims to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles in the 6 schools of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo (IPVC), respective bars, canteens and halls of residence A survey of the academic community will identify the set of physical, aesthetic and functional features to create the product specifications for the Smartbottle and Water Refill Station. ICT and IoT technologies will encourage autonomy, pedagogically helping users to acknowledge, identify and reduce their environmental footprint. Applying the principles of circular economy, this academic project promotes the reduction of plastic consumption, production and waste. Contributing towards a paradigm shift, sustainable design canvasses conditions to reduce plastic in the oceans, improving the environment and the quality of life on Earth.
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Fostering Sustainability on Campus: Design
of an IoT-Enabled Smartbottle for Plastic
Reduction in the Academic Environment
João Mendes1,AnaCurralo
1,2(B),AntónioCurado
3,andSérgioI.Lopes
1,4
1ADiT – Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, 4900-347 Viana do Castelo, Portugal
jmiguelmendes@ipvc.pt, {anacurralo,sil}@estg.ipvc.pt
2ID+ – Instituto de Investigação em Design, Media e Cultura, Aveiro, Portugal
3Prometheus – Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, 4900-347 Viana do Castelo, Portugal
acurado@estg.ipvc.pt
4IT – Instituto de Telecomunica¸oes, Campus Universitário de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro,
Portugal
Abstract. Public higher education institutions have a particular moral responsi-
bility in increasing the awareness, knowledge, skills and values required to create
afairandsustainablefuture.Throughsustainabledesign,theProjectRell_H20
aims to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles in the 6 schools of the Poly-
technic Institute of Viana do Castelo (IPVC), respective bars, canteens and halls
of residence A survey of the academic community will identify the set of phys-
ical, aesthetic and functional features to create the product specifications for the
Smartbottle and Water Refill Station. ICT and IoT technologies will encourage
autonomy, pedagogically helping users to acknowledge, identify and reduce their
environmental footprint. Applying the principles of circular economy, this aca-
demic project promotes the reduction of plastic consumption, production and
waste. Contributing towards a paradigm shift, sustainable design canvasses con-
ditions to reduce plastic in the oceans, improving the environment and the quality
of life on Earth.
Keywords: Sustainable design ·Smartbottle ·IoT ·RFID ·Sustainability ·
Campus
1 Introduction
Sustainable development allows meeting the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This principle combines sustainable
design and technological innovation to promote new models of behaviour while pro-
ducing ecological awareness, action, and economic results. In the intersection between
design, technology and sustainability, the tangible target of the “Refill_H20” project is
to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles on the IPVC Campus (Polytechnic Institute
of Viana do Castelo), a higher education institution aiming to play a leading role in
sustainable development.
©TheAuthor(s),underexclusivelicensetoSpringerNatureSwitzerlandAG2021
D. Raposo et al. (Eds.): AHFE 2021, LNNS 277, pp. 18–25, 2021.
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-80415-2_3
Fostering Sustainability on Campus 19
The IPVC is a higher education institution that in addition to investing in innovation,
research and knowledge, assumes a proactive role in the sustainable development of the
Alto Minho region in the north of Portugal. Although often overlooked, higher education
institutions play a key role towards sustainability as a whole and specifically in the
reduction of plastic waste. Reducing the consumption of plastic water bottles would
constitute a change in the consumption habits of the IPVC academy: students; teachers
and employees, favouring the reduction of disposable waste, subsequently reducing the
energy consumption and greenhouse gases emission from the recycling process.
This article presents a case study on the development of sustainable products through
aprojectapproachorientedtowardsthesearchforinnovation.Thestudyaddressesa
multidisciplinary methodological approach based on the intersection of complementary
tools. Based on the concept of Participatory Design, the bottle as interactive artifact stems
from a previously defined methodology [1], including user participation in the design
process. The cooperation between sustainable design and technological innovation in
the context of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and the Internet
of Things (IoT) allows developing an interactive Smartbottle that ‘communicates’ with
awaterrellstation.Thisisintendedtofostermoreeco-friendlyattitudesfromusers,
students, teachers and employees, contributing to a paradigm shift in plastic consumption
and waste. The new habits will favour waste reduction, particularly plastic water bottles,
on campus and beyond.
The Smartbottle is equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, inte-
grated with the refill station management system, enabling an automatic filling pro-
cess with no physical contact with the equipment, an estimated average amount of
water consumption through a mobile application, an estimated amount of averted plastic
waste, energy saving from overall waste reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions and information on users’ environmental footprint.
The search for innovation through sustainable design and new technologies may
be profitable and promote systemic changes in the behaviour of individuals. Also, the
mitigation of environmental imbalances on campus will have off-campus impact. Design
thus offers answers to protect the environment and improve the quality of life.
2 Sustainable Design and Academic Environment
Etymologically, the term sustainable derives from the Latin sustinere (hold up, hold
upright; furnish with means of support; bear, undergo, endure). Sustainability is the
ability of consumers or companies to remain in a given environment without violent
damage to that environment. It requires strategies so that resources may be available in
the future.
Human activities do not require disrupting the natural recovery cycles of the planet.
Also, they don’t require weakening the natural heritage of future generations [2]. Sustain-
ability should reach all levels and areas of knowledge, for global unabridged application
in contemporary society [3]. Human well-being is a social construct that takes shape over
time, considering different factors. The notion has evolved since the industrial revolu-
tion, with successive changes following the evolution of society. Although it constitutes
adynamicandarticulatesetofperspectives,expectationsandevaluationcriteria,there
20 J. Mendes et al.
is a persistent characteristic: to combine the perception of well-being with an increas-
ing availability of products and services [4]. Therefore, identifying the unsustainable
nature of many of the current practices will allow building a more conscious society,
economically viable, socially just and ecologically correct, based on deep and complex
sustainable approaches [5].
In fact, the principles of several universes, including the academic world, are delayed
regarding what happens in the “real” world. This delay subsequently hinders the devel-
opment of a lifestyle that is consistent with current issues, considering education an inter-
active process in which the environment changes the student, and the student changes
the environment. As such, it is imperative to foster new relationships outside the comfort
zone, learning new ways to participate and guide projects, improving citizens’ ability to
engage in meaningful dialogues about the environment, promoting new rapports between
makers and users.
3 The Smartbottle Ecosystem
The Smartbottle Ecosystem was designed to achieve the main goal of the Refill_H2O,
an EEA Grants Portugal environmental project [6], that aims to eliminate the use of
plastic water bottles on the IPVC Campus, through the design and development of an
interactive Smartbottle that ‘communicates’ with a Smart Water Refill Station to foster
more eco-friendly attitudes among local users such as students, teachers and employees,
thus contributing to the reduction of plastic consumption in bars, canteens and halls
of residence in the IPVC campus. Figure 1depicts the overall Smartbottle ecosystem,
presenting two examples of use of the Smart Water Refill Station.
RFID
User
User
SmartBottle
Student Card
User
LocalDB
SQLite
Station B
LocalDB
SQLite
Station A
Bottle
IPVC Authentication Server
Internet
IPVC
WAN
AppDB
FIWARE
App Server
Front End
Web App
Fig. 1. Smartbottle ecosystem with two smart water refill stations, and core blocks of the ICT
infrastructure.
The proposed ecosystem includes five main components: 1) the Smartbottle (inter-
active artifact); 2) the deployed IoT Edge Devices (Smart Water Refill Station) that
communicates with the Smartbottle using RFID technology and the Student ID Card
Fostering Sustainability on Campus 21
for user authentication; 3) the IPVC Wide Area Network, i.e. the ICT infrastructure that
will perform backhaul communications; 4) the IPVC Authentication Server (that can be
accessed in a “as-a-service” approach); 5) the FIWARE Application Server handles all
communication between the IoT edge devices, data storage, and the client app through
acontextbroker[7], whose architecture is described in detail in [8].
The Smartbottle is equipped with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip, that
integrates with the Smart Water Refill Station, enabling the following features:
automatic filling process (no physical contact with the equipment);
estimated average amount of water consumption through a mobile application (number
of refills per time period);
estimated amount of averted plastic waste (considering different metrics: temporal,
cumulative, individual or referring to colleges, classes, etc.);
energy saving from overall waste reduction and reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions;
information on users’ environmental footprint.
To use the refill station, the user must provide valid authentication by placing the
Smartbottle [1] in the refill station or by placing an ID Card with native RFID technology
and placing a conventional water bottle in the refill station.
The client application is based on responsive web technologies with visual analytics
tools and dashboard-based technologies such as Grafana, towards a powerful interface to
display useful information in a clear, user friendly way. The user interface includes three
main functional areas: i) a dashboard that will display relevant metrics (number of refills
per time period, estimated average amount of water consumption, estimated amount
of averted plastic waste, energy saving from overall waste reduction and reduction of
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions); ii) specific key performance indicators (KPI’s) and
information on users’ environmental footprint; An Authentication Area enables user
authentication, allowing the application to change accordingly to the user; and iii) a
user and system administration area to support backoffice operations regarding user
management and system administration tasks.
This will allow the use of the refill station without a Smartbottle. When using a
Smartbottle, the refill station dispenses water until the maximum capacity of the bottle
or until the ID Card disconnects from the RFID reader. After disconnection, the station
will trigger an event that will store data on a local self-contained transactional light-
weight database engine, serverless and featuring zero-configuration, with no setup or
administration requirements.
The Smart Water Refill Station features an application for user interface, for real-
time display of different metrics and indicators concerning the contribution towards
waste reduction, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other relevant infor-
mation. Gamification is used to promote user motivation and engagement [9], applying
game features to a non-game context. This will allow open competition, selecting who
contributes more towards the reduction of the GHG, or who shows healthier behaviours
concerning water drinking, and the subsequent advantage is to promote a cleaner and
more sustainable campus.
22 J. Mendes et al.
4 Prototype Candidates Design
From a methodological point of view, the Refill_H2O project involved an exhaustive
survey at the scale of the IPVC (schools, bars, canteens and halls of residence), to
identify the consumption habits of the resident population (students, teachers and staff)
concerning plastic water bottles. This early survey is a determining factor in the entire
follow-up of the project as it assesses and provides answers for the research questions
that arise during the design process, informing and enriching the research conclusion.
In the survey, the resident population was invited to identify a set of physical, aesthetic
and functional requirements to allow the identification of design specifications for a new
environment-friendly water bottle. The appropriate materials, automatic opening and
closing, easy to fill, adequate volume, durability and aesthetic appearance. Subdivided
in three stages, the Consumer, the Bottle and the Service, the survey collected data to be
used as input for the Smartbottle design and the quality of the future service.
In the first stage, the questions focused directly on the daily water intake of the
IPVC population, the preferred locations for regular water collection and the number
of bottles purchased weekly at the institution. Subsequently, the survey inquired on the
opinion about the bottle, to define essential characteristics for the development of the
future product. The questions assessed the bottle volume, factors to take into account
in the development of the sustainable bottle, the material and relevant characteristics of
the product. Service-oriented questions focused on understanding if the technological
factor associated to the bottle and the refill station was appealing to the user, if it should
be interconnected with an application and what data to present the user, the price the
user would be willing to pay, the payment methods, the type of water, if the product
was regarded as useful to reduce plastic in the planet, and if the user would actually be
willing to use it.
Through the participation of 536 consumers, it was possible to identify the gender,
age group, education level and occupation, predominantly (80%) students. Although a
similar percentage of respondents drink water frequently, more than 90% agree it is useful
to monitor the daily water intake. Concerning reusable bottles only 412 users declare to
have one, corresponding to 10% of the total users. This project targets 5000 consumers.
It was also identified that 96.1% of the respondents prefer a reusable bottle instead of
adisposableplasticbottle.Concerningsize,thepreferredcapacitywasbetween0.50cl
and 0.75 cl.
Aspects such as Functionality, Materials and Cost were considered the most signifi-
cant for the sustainable bottle. Among a variety of environmentally friendly materials, the
preferred were Stainless Steel, Recyclable Plastic, Bamboo and Glass. Other selected
aspects were easy washing, absence of smell or taste in the water, easy to carry and
thermal insulation.
With regard to service, that is, the relationship between the Smartbottle and the filling
station, it was possible to understand (Table 1) that users are interested in a system with
communication between the machine, the bottle and an application (app), displaying
information such as volume of water intake, contribution to overall ecological footprint,
and cost comparison.
More than 97% of the respondents consider the refill station & the reusable bottle are
an adequate strategy to prevent plastic use in the IPVC community. However, according
Fostering Sustainability on Campus 23
Table 1. Important information to be provided by the application ( Source: Authors).
1 Amount of water intake 436 (81,3%)
2Contribution for ecological footprint 335 (62,5%)
3Comparison of average weekly expense 261 (48,7%)
4Number of daily refills 258 (48,1%)
to Table 2below, approximately 85% of the respondents declared they would prefer
the new system instead of purchasing disposable bottles provided the school provided
a refill source at a low cost. About 90% of the respondents declared they would use the
local filling station provided a good drinking water quality.
Table 2. Answers concerning the use of the refill station ( Source: Authors).
Questions: Answers: Percentage:
If there was a low-cost refill source at
school, would you prefer it to
purchasing new disposable bottles?
Yes 84.70%
No 15.30%
Would you use the refill station? Yes, but only with the guarantee of
high-quality water
46.80%
Yes, however, I wan t h i gh qua l i ty
water at a low cost
47.60%
No. Tap water or bottled water is
good enough for me
5.6%
The participation of target users in the process of developing a product that aims to
reduce plastic in the oceans allows the designer to understand and assimilate what target
consumers think. This is useful to align the constituting features and create a product
that will fulfil its function and purpose.
5 Results - Prototypes
The following stage was bottle drawing. To innovate and create an attractive bottle that
would simultaneously raise awareness towards endangered marine species, a specific
shape of a marine mammal was considered. Although all marine life is in decline due
to ocean pollution, in the next 30 to 50 years the Orca may lose more than half of
its population due to hazardous substances on seawater. Toxic chemicals weaken the
Orca’s immune system, affecting its reproductive capacity. Parents may also eventu-
ally transmit the pollutants during birth or during the breastfeeding period, causing the
species to gradually reduce. Hence, the shape of the bottle was based on the physical
and morphological traits of the Orca.
24 J. Mendes et al.
Fig. 2. Prototype A, B and C ( Source: Authors).
The cylindrical, aerodynamic body of prototypes A, B and C, inspired by the shape
of an Orca, as portrayed in Fig. 2,presentcurvesthatconstituteanergonomichandle,
facilitating bottle use and transportation. Different raw materials were proposed to meet
the survey results. The material for prototype A was recyclable plastic, highlighting the
contrasting colours of the Orcas. The stopper of prototype B is made of recyclable plastic
and the body of the bottle is in aluminium, and prototype C is entirely in aluminium.
The reliefs in prototypes B and C add friction to the bottle curves. The first relief
was inspired by the white spots of the Orca, the second is based on the new brand image
of the IPVC campus. The projection at the base is intended to add stability to the bottle
when placed on a surface. That will be the place of the technological chip that will
communicate with the filling station. All prototypes were designed to include an RFID
tag in the bottom for easy interface with the Smart Water Refill Station.
6 Conclusion
The Smartbottle is intended to improve the environmental status of marine waters and
coastal areas, by helping to reduce the use of plastics and plastic waste. The Smartbottle &
Refill Station system constitutes an awareness raising initiative targeting students, teach-
ers and workers of the IPVC campus. The system design is intended to raise awareness
of the negative impact of plastic production on life on the planet.
Ahybridmethodologyallowsdesignerstoprioritizethedevelopmentstages,focus-
ing on the needs of target users. The inclusion of ICT and IoT technologies enables the
creation of an interactive Smartbottle that ‘communicates’ with a Smart Water Refill
Station. A survey of the academic community identified a set of physical, aesthetic and
functional features to create the product specifications. Innovation through sustainable
design and new technologies may be profitable and promote systemic changes in the
behaviour of individuals and their communities. Hence, the mitigation of environmental
imbalances on campus is expected to produce off-campus results.
The prototypes will be subject to a usability test performed near the target users,
to identify and solve problems, improving product usability. This test will assess the
different tasks involved in the Smartbottle use, such as grabbing, drinking, carrying and
refilling. Through prototyping and usability testing it is possible to understand the users’
performance and relationship with the Smartbottle and Refill Station.
Design projects are able to change the way of life of consumers. As key transformer
of society, design is able to develop new social propositions and influence attitudes.
Fostering Sustainability on Campus 25
Allied with the axiom that human needs do not include environment degradation, the
power to increase social awareness allows designers to improve the world.
Acknowledgments. The authors wish to thank the Program Environment, Climate Change and
Low Carbon Economy, created following the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding
between Portugal and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, under the EEA and Norway Grants
2014–2021, for the program areas of Environment and Ecosystems (PA11), and Climate Change
Mitigation and Adaptation (PA13), for financing the project 10_SGS#1_REFILL_H20. The project
was selected in the scope of the notice of funding opportunity Small Grant Scheme # 1, concerning
projects for the prevention and awareness-raising for the reduction of marine litter. This Project
contributes to the execution of Objective no. 1 of the Environment Program, which is to increase
the application of the principles of Circular Economy in specific sectors, and the Output 1.3 of
the Program, through the promotion of Circular Economy through the Reduction of plastic in
the Oceans, originated from terrestrial activities, following the Annex I of the Program Protocol
signed May 27, 2019.
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... To use the refill station, the user must provide valid authentication by placing the smartbottle [51] (p. 21) in the station or inserting an ID card with native RFID technology and placing a conventional water bottle in the station of recharge. ...
... The test evaluated different tasks involved in the smartbottle use, such as picking up, drinking, carrying, and refilling. Prototyping and testing results allowed an understanding of user performance and relationship with the smartbottle and refill station [51]. ...
... HEIs play a decisive role not only in the training of future generations of decision-makers and professionals, providing them with the specific knowledge necessary to understand the interactions between human beings and the environment [6][7][8][9][10][11] but also by promoting a smarter and more sustainable campus designed to favoring wellbeing, health and safety, waste reduction, moderating water and energy consumption, promoting local and regional community participation, and developing new curricular environmental activities. All these actions are part of HEIs' effort toward sustainable development [9,11,51]. Here it is important to clarify that the so-called sustainable design has been a tool applied to reinforce HEIs' sustainability by providing new solutions to solve old problems, similar to this particular case, the over-use of plastic in bars, canteens, and halls of residence [3,7,8]. ...
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... The survey invited the population to identify a set of physical, aesthetic and functional requirements to allow the creation of specifications to develop a sustainable and intelligent water bottle (Mendes, 2021a). The collected data concerned material, volume, automatic opening and closing, easy refill, durability, aesthetical appearance, and communication with a platform to allow managing water consumption (Mendes, 2021b). ...
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Design para a inovação social e sustentabilidade
  • E Manzini
Manzini, E.: Design para a inovação social e sustentabilidade. Comunidades criativas, organizações colaborativas e novas redes projetuais. In: Cadernos do Grupo de Altos Estudos, vol. 1, Programa de Engenharia de Produção da Coppe. UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro (2008)
Sustentabilidade no design: a transversalidade das teorias filosóficas e suas articulações na contemporaneidade complexa
  • J Rodrigues
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