What is the Internet of Things? (IoT)
To put it briefly, IoT is the concept of connecting any device (so long as it has an on/off switch) to the Internet and to other connected devices. Devices and objects with built in sensors are connected to an Internet of Things platform, which integrates data from the different devices and applies analytics to share the most valuable information with applications built to address specific needs. As per McKinzie’s 2015 report titled “THE INTERNET OF THINGS: MAPPING THE VALUE BEYOND THE HYPE”, IoT is estimated to have a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.
What does this mean for Sustainability & Business?
It is important to note that the carbon footprint of the digital sector is far from insignificant: 4 % of greenhouses gases at the beginning of 2021 and twice that by 2025 according to the ADEME, the French agency for ecological transition. However, the use of smart technology is simultaneously posed as an important tool in addressing the sustainability challenge. The technology of sensors and precise data can be deployed in innovative ways – whether it is to create smart and adaptive irrigation and agriculture systems to track soil water content and nutrients, or smart home technology for energy efficiency with heating, cooling, and lighting – the potential for IoT to be applied for good is vast. In fact, a report released by the World Economic Forum & IoT research firm IoT Analytics, showed that 84% of existing IoT deployments can address the SDGs in a meaningful way. It is important to consider the challenges that may arise from widespread IoT adoption as well – to truly be sustainable, IoT devices should be created from sustainable materials, should be reusable and recyclable, and compliant with the EU directive on Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment, WEEE.
An interesting case is Itron, an American technology company that offers products and services related to smart grid, smart gas and smart water that measure and analyze electricity, gas and water consumption.
For example: their smart lighting systems help reduce energy usage and cut operational costs by 70 percent or more. Through the combination of Intelligent infrastructure with correlated data, operators gain real-time visibility and control of their lighting systems with features like instant outage alerts. By layering on advanced motion sensors, lights can dynamically dim or brighten based on the presence or absence of humans and real-time conditions—maximizing safety, energy efficiency and savings, and improving the satisfaction of all the stakeholders in a city.
After successfully executing programs in major cities like Chicago, Copenhagen & Glasgow, Itron has recently signed an agreement with the city of Paris to deploy a city-wide canopy network, connecting cabinet-based controllers for more than 200,000 street and traffic lights across the city. This is aimed towards a goal of cutting public lighting energy use by 30% over 10 years.
The Internet-of-Things has tremendous benefits for the environment and sustainability technology. When Sustainability is considered a key pillar of business and integrated into the mission & purpose of an organization, it is possible to leverage innovation and technology towards solving problems!