IoT: A Tool and a Strategy to Reduce Carbon Footprint

By February 27, 2017 No Comments

A world of interconnected devices is no longer an idea only found in sci-fi. Today, several devices are in constant communication with each other, without you ever having to step in. Welcome to the world of the Internet of Things, or simply IoT.

IoT is a system of devices—mechanical or digital—that have unique IDs and are connected through the internet, enabling them to send, receive, and transfer data. This is a unique system because it involves direct communication between the devices sans human intervention.

According to market figures from IDC and Woodside Capital Partners, there is steady growth in IoT-enabling technology, such that by 2030, 30% of the IT market will be made up of IoT, data, and devices. IoT, also referred to as machine-to-machine technology or M2M, is making inroads into our daily lives like never before. 200 billion devices are expected to be actively used by 2020, according to Intel. Reports say that some 1.3 billion devices are currently connected. Imagine the magnitude of information at work to make human life more convenient. But does this convenience come at a cost to the environment? Quite the contrary!

According to an IDC White Paper, “The Internet of Things and Digital Transformation: A Tale of Four Industries,” IoT will have a lasting impact on business processes in a variety of industries, with expected savings of anywhere between 15% and 30%.

Implementing IoT and Reducing Carbon Footprint

With countries across the world struggling to combat global warming and attempting to reduce carbon emissions, IoT could play a significant role in the coming years in addressing the issue.

A report by AT&T and the Carbon War Room has revealed that once fully operational (by about 2020), IoT can help reduce global carbon emissions by almost 20 percent (compared to 2011 emission levels).

It can do so in a variety of manners, such as through better asset management (as fixed assets form a large part of operating costs), by making remote maintenance possible, and via environmental scanning for better control over logistics, through accurate and timely prediction of weather and by enabling precise planning.

Community Activities and Carbon Footprints

Looking at transport alone, IoT allows for things such as journey pooling, analysis of optimal drives and fuel usage, and coordination of vehicles and rerouting to make for smoother traffic on the roads. Different modes of transport like trains, planes, cars and ships can get real-time updates about the weather, wind speed, and other such factors, which will make them more efficient. Inter-city, intra-city, domestic and international travel will all become quicker and smarter, and thus less expensive. This will, in turn, save precious fuel and reduce pollution and carbon footprints to the tune of 1.9 billion metric tons. Something as simple as implementing smart parking systems and traffic signals can help make a city a cleaner, greener place, all while greatly reducing an individual’s gas consumption and the city’s pollution.

The IoT isn’t just for urban citizens. It can simplify the planning of all processes in areas like agriculture, such as planting seeds, harvesting and adding fertilizers and water at the right time. This means a great reduction in carbon footprint by eliminating redundancies and unnecessary energy consumption. Armed with real-time alerts, farmers would be able to figure out the best time to irrigate their crops and the best fertilizers to use, for example. Many of these activities could also be set to automatic mode.

A Carbon War Room report estimates a reduction of 9.1 gigatons in global greenhouse gas emissions once the IoT becomes an integral part of the energy, agriculture, transportation, and built environment (or buildings) industries.

The Energy Sector: The Greatest Beneficiary

With the use of M2M technology, the energy sector has the potential to save more than 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. It can do so by automating the monitoring of machines, reducing the time spent accomplishing repetitive tasks such as maintenance and reducing the costs of providing any service. IoT machines can continually collect data on energy consumption and provide rigorous analysis, making for efficiency and precision in operation. “Smart grids” can optimize the output, distribution and consumption of electricity and gas. “Smart home” devices are a proven example. Thermostats, air conditioners and lighting systems can save precious energy by assessing presence and recognizing usage patterns. The reduction in individual carbon footprints is one of the greatest benefits, with reduced bills being a sweet bonus.

According to an A T Kearney paper, “IoT will shift an economy based on mass consumption
and ownership towards a more sustainable model of use and full utilization of all assets.”

With sharing of assets and better management of resources, the IoT could well be the answer to growing concerns about the environment and carbon footprints that the world is desperate for.

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