To protect our climate and our environment, we must minimize global warming. Reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions plays an important role in this. In cities, CO2 is mainly generated by car traffic. This is exactly where the “climate token” of the city of Vienna, realized with blockchain technology, comes in.
Reducing CO2 – and garnishing tokens for it
The climate token of the city of Vienna rewards the environmentally friendly locomotion of citizens. Who instead of driving a car
- on foot
- by bicycle
- by public transport
receives a credit in the amount of the CO2 saved. The comparative value is the amount of CO2 that would be produced by the use of an average car for the distance traveled. Only routes that users cover in a climate-friendly manner within the Vienna urban area are valid and can be counted. Project manager Christina Hubin explained the basic idea behind the climate or “culture token” to the media: “We thought about how to combine all of this: Climate goals, CO2 reduction, art and culture. We took a gamefication incentive approach to get the city’s citizens to reduce CO2.”
Launched with a test phase
All residents of Vienna should ultimately be able to use the culture token. A large number. That’s why the Viennese authorities decided on a test operation. This started at the end of February 2020. Viennese citizens were able to register for the pilot project by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those responsible then selected 1,000 people from the approximately 4,000 applicants, who received a link to download the newly developed app.
How token collection works
To collect the culture tokens, participants need a smartphone and the app. This works as follows:
- The app automatically detects participants’ movements via motion tracking.
- The program not only records the distance traveled, but also the type of movement.
- If this is done in a climate-friendly way using public transport, by bike or on foot, the software automatically generates a credit in the form of a token. The app performs the corresponding calculations completely automatically.
The calculation is based on data from the Austrian Ministry of the Environment.
How much movement is required for a token?
Each culture token grants users a free ticket to a cultural event. To receive a token, it is currently necessary to save 20 kilograms of CO2. This is achieved on average if employees make their daily commute climate-friendly for two weeks. After the pilot phase, it will be possible to adjust the savings and thus the cost of a Vienna Culture Token. Participants could collect a total of up to five tokens each during the test phase and use them for cultural events. This limit should also be eliminated later in real operations.
How do I redeem a culture token?
If users have saved a sufficient amount of CO2, they are credited with a culture token. They can now exchange the collected tokens as follows:
- Those who want to use the token for free culture can exchange it for a ticket at participating cultural institutions using the app.
- Once redeemed, users receive the ticket digitally as a QR code on their smartphone.
- They then only have to show it at the respective institution or cultural event. The code is scanned and the ticket validated in the ticket office.
Innovation in digitization
The Vienna Token Project is not just about environmental protection, however. The objective is more universal: “It’s about how digital can be used for the good of people,” Veronika Kaup-Hasler, Vienna’s city councilor for culture, emphasized to the media. Peter Hanke, Vienna’s city councilor for digitization, sees the Austrian capital as an innovator in this project even in a global context, stating, “A digitization project that is simultaneously a cultural and environmental project and involves citizens is unique in the world.”
The following cultural organizations are involved
The city of Vienna is known for a particularly large number of cultural highlights. Nevertheless, the list of institutions participating in the project is relatively limited. Included are:
- Vienna Concert Hall
- Kunsthalle Vienna
- Volkstheater Vienna
Even though these are some of the most popular cultural institutions in Vienna, the seemingly small offering is somewhat disappointing. However, only at first glance. Because after the end of the test phase, significantly more cultural institutions are to be added, thus making the token more attractive.
Art and science on board
The artistic aspect of the token is not limited to free admission to cultural events. The creators have also collaborated with renowned artists on the design. Vienna-based graffiti artist Ms. Isa was responsible for the visualization of the token. She designed the culture token as a colorful crystal. In addition, the institution KÖR (Kunst im öffentlichen Raum) was involved in the app. The Austrian Blockchain Center and the Institute for Cryptoeconomics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business were also involved in the technical realization of the culture token. The scientists also want to use the results of the test phase to find further fields of application for the blockchain.
What role does the blockchain play in the culture token?
Blockchain is playing an increasingly important role in environmental protection. This is demonstrated by blockchain projects for animal welfare in Africa. Or tokens for nature conservation. You can even invest in tree tokens. The blockchain is also of great importance for the Vienna Culture Token. The creators primarily use its ability to create data in a forgery-proof way with the help of cryptographic technologies, to chain them and to store them permanently. On this basis, digital tickets can then be created for the desired cultural institution, visualized as a QR code and later checked by scanning.
Data protection is guaranteed
To ensure widespread acceptance of the culture token, the data protection aspect is important. After all, testers had to provide their name and e-mail address during the pilot phase. The danger: with these details and movement data, it could be possible to create movement profiles. However, the creators emphasize that such information is only necessary in the test phase. In addition, all movement data is anonymized and not linked to the blockchain.
Start of the culture token delayed
Actually, the city of Vienna had planned to release the climate token for a broader user base in the fall of 2020 after a six-month test phase. This was also supposed to be accompanied by an expanded offering. However, the Covid pandemic has scuttled this planning. This is because the pandemic is known to limit not only the range of cultural offerings, but also mobility behavior. For these reasons, the test phase of the culture token is currently suspended. However, a resumption of the project at a later date is firmly planned. After all, the establishment of the culture token is also stipulated in the 2020 government agreement.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
In the case of the culture token, the blockchain plays a key role in several respects. On the one hand, it ensures the creation of forgery-proof tickets to the desired cultural event. On the other hand, the blockchain also makes it possible to check the validity of the digital tickets.
No. The test phase is not yet over. However, registration is no longer possible. Those responsible for the Vienna Culture Token have distributed the test accesses to 1000 people.
The app records the distances traveled. To do this, it determines the speed at which a user is moving. To do this, the app evaluates the GPS and positioning interfaces of the respective mobile devices and their navigation software. On Apple iPhones, the connection to the “Health App” is used for this purpose. On Android devices, the “Google Fit App” synchronizes the required data. Fitness trackers or fitness watches (Garmin, Fitbit and Misfit) can also be connected to the “Culture Token” app.