In a single generation, accelerated leaps in technology have enabled hitherto unimaginable advances in global industry. But as environmental sustainability becomes central to safeguarding growth, enterprises and governments alike are turning to IoT solutions to reduce emissions and upgrade outdated, unviable operations. Alongside cloud computing, machine-learning algorithms, and breakthroughs in data processing and analytics, the Internet of Things is allowing communication between sensors to optimize systems, processes, and resources.
The market value of the IoT is estimated to hit $14 trillion by 2030. As enabling technologies converge, components of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will deliver faster gains. From supply and transportation to manufacturing — across every business and vertical — its technologies are being deployed in creative ways to improve efficiency, conserve funds, and build a more sustainable society.
Effective Solutions in Minimal Time
According to research by the World Economic Forum, the IoT will play a significant role in meeting sustainability targets over the next decade. These goals, as listed by the United Nations, include improving efficiencies in energy consumption and water usage, mitigating climate change, and increasing digitization — covering approximately 75% of IoT projects. The WEF’s study of over 600 applications worldwide suggests that development gains can be maximized without jeopardizing commercial growth, a sentiment shared by Ecolibrium’s in-house domain experts and data analysts.
With front pages around the world monopolized by climate-related disasters, the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governmental) practices of businesses are more likely to come under a microscope. Companies look to boost their standing among investors, workers and stakeholders by cutting emissions, reducing consumption of both electricity and hydrocarbon fuel.
A recent report by Transforma Insights examines how digital transformation solutions can affect twelve key areas of sustainability (‘The Clean Dozen’) and outlines the impact on business and net-zero goals. A particular focus falls on fuel and electricity consumption, as one element links directly to the other — generating electricity often relies on the burning of hydrocarbon fuel. More pertinently, over time, carbon emissions levels will reflect the increasing shift in motor vehicles towards electric models, substituting fuel with energy. Whether the electricity is produced by nuclear power plants, wind turbines, or coal-fired power plants will determine the magnitude of that change.
Weaning Off Dirty Energy
In the case of businesses that rely on transportation, the IoT can increase driver efficiency while improving the operation and maintenance of a fleet of vehicles. Utilizing fleet telematics can reduce fuel consumption by 15%, which cuts overall costs by 6%. Meanwhile, indirect opportunities include the monitoring of tire pressure, eliminating the 8% fuel loss that can occur due to under-inflation. At the very least, soaring fuel costs will no doubt propel fleet managers towards these systems, if more for economic reasons than environmental ones. Municipal services such as public transport can also benefit from such innovations, with a predicted 10–15% decrease in fuel use and CO2 emissions. SmartSense, Ecolibrium’s IoT platform, provides these actionable insights that help organizations attain operational efficiency, which lead to savings and eventual profitability.
A further source of indirect savings is supply chain management, with deploys a range of IoT solutions to enhance the functionality of transportation, logistics and distribution networks. Outside of direct factors like container tracking, which can reduce fuel costs by 2–3%, inventory management systems can help the typical business save 20% on space, which translates to savings on electricity.
The move to IoT tech in urban infrastructure can provide radical benefits in the form of smart streetlights, parking space monitoring and road traffic control systems. It is central to Ecolibrium’s DNA to help clients achieve carbon net zero and tracking the following scopes of sustainability could make that possible on a city-wide scale:
- Scope 1 is direct emissions from site equipment and processes — that is, all fuels that produce greenhouse gases. The installation of smart lighting can decrease a city’s electricity costs by 20% and reduce CO2 emissions by 17 to 34 kg per streetlight annually. Similarly, parking space management cuts down the time spent idling and searching for open spots, lowering fuel consumption by up to 40%, while traffic surveillance saves an average of 2% of fuel for each trip across the city.
- Scope 2 is indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy — the use of electricity, heat, gas etc. One major infrastructural factor that affects energy savings is grid operations and efficiency. IoT solutions include smart metering, which cuts usage for urban consumers by 3–5% and for businesses by 10–12%. Smart management of transmission and distribution networks optimizes energy grid operations, reducing electricity losses by 7–8%.
- Scope 3 relates to any and all remaining indirect emissions, such as the footprint of materials and products, employee commutes, packaging et al. In the context of a city, the idea of ‘smart buildings’ could contribute significantly to meeting CNZ. The system involves the tracking and control of building systems like HVAC, lighting, and insulation, based on varying levels of occupancy within the structure. As buildings account for 55% of energy use worldwide, improvements in this sector can have a global impact of as much as 10%, saving 35–40% on lighting and 20–25% on HVAC.
These findings all correspond with Ecolibrium’s core message: creating environmentally sound practices and maintaining productivity are not mutually exclusive. At the heart of sustainable prosperity lies the balance between people, planet and profit.