5 Ways The IoT Is Supporting Sustainability

The Internet of Things is fuelling CleanTech through connectivity

This January, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Internet of Things Guidelines for Sustainability. After exploring 643 applications of IoT technology, the WEF found that 84 per cent were addressing, or could potentially address, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. You might not initially think of the Internet of Things as CleanTech, but bringing greater connectivity to the environments we live and work in will save resources and drive down unnecessary costs. How will the IoT contribute to CleanTech, and what does the expansion of connected things mean for sustainable development?

1) Smart grids

Smart grids track energy supply and demand, collecting usage data and applying it to energy networks. US smart metering company Sensus offers a suite of smart grid solutions for utilities including the data driven FlexNet communication network and Stratus, a smart meter. Understanding when and where energy is needed brings efficiency to the grid, allowing providers to preserve energy when demand is low and make sure they deliver when it is high. Given that clean energy alternatives have been criticised as unreliable, smart grid solutions are instrumental in enabling the adoption of renewable power.

2) Smart street lights

Smart lighting recognises when natural light has reached the point at which artificial light is needed. So, instead of coming on at a certain time in the evening, smart street lights come on when they are needed. When applied to city infrastructures, smart lighting could save unnecessary power use and therefore money. According to Romanian company Flashnet, 40 per cent of the public budget’s energy bill is spent on street lights. Flashnet has developed a smart street lighting system called inteliLIGHT, which autonomously controls light provision and gathers diagnostics at the same time. This eliminates unnecessary resource use while ensuring that cities are safe, with adequate visibility.

3) Water monitoring

As well as addressing the challenge of feeding a booming global population, organisations also need to provide enough clean water. Water is fundamental to functioning societies, but water resources are under pressure. Huawei‘s smart water solution adopts a grid based water meter system, monitoring pipelines and detecting faults. This reduces water leakage, safeguarding the resource and making sure it reaches its intended destination. Monitoring water quality is also important. WaterBot, for example, connects water to the internet using a retrofit WiFi device.

4) Air quality trackers

The IoT is helping organisations to learn when and where pollution is at its worst, and what it is caused by. Tracking air quality can aid in identifying pollution sources and forming a strategy to address them. Earlier this year, the Royal Borough of Greenwich, London, teamed up with the Global Systems for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) to better understand roadside air quality. The project used sensors mounted on an electric vehicle to measure air quality. A similar project is currently underway in South Korea to gather information about dust, organic compounds, noise levels and humidity. This may also help to predict the likelihood of natural disasters or extreme weather conditions, leading to better knowledge about where and how to build structures – or whether to build them at all.

5) Connected transport

The transportation industry is already experiencing the effects of IoT connectivity. The collection of real time data has delivered streamlined services, an improved customer experience and greater personalisation. Global urban travel app Citymapper released its Smart Ride service in London at the start of 2018 with a view to doing exactly that. Connectivity has also enabled automation, which will ease congestion and help to lower pollution levels. From a maintenance perspective, sensors will be able to track the health of vehicles and various other transportation options, contributing to a seamless travel infrastructure.

The more that can be known about how a product, system or service functions, the more it can be tailored to meet specific demands at specific points. By preserving energy, light and water, monitoring demand levels, and flagging up potential environmental issues, organisations can maximise the value of resources. So, from a profit perspective, the IoT has obvious benefits. Fortunately, a highly connected world is a more sustainable world too.

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