Home Insights & Advice The internet of things: How connected devices can drive sustainability

The internet of things: How connected devices can drive sustainability

by John Saunders
20th Jul 21 3:30 pm

The current strains on the environment are untenable: As a society, unless we focus on sustainability within every aspect of our lives, we will reach a tipping point. A point of no return. When thinking of sustainability many of us will think about recycling, reducing our carbon footprint, even turning to veganism. But connected technology can make achieving sustainability in our homes and businesses much more straightforward than you might think. Here’s how connected devices can drive sustainability, and how you can harness this power in your own business or with your own connected product development:

Understanding the internet of things

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an umbrella term for the network of physical objects that are embedded with technology (such as software or sensors) to enable them to connect to the internet, and to connect and exchange data with other devices, or other ‘things’. Items such as your smart speaker, mobile phone, smart fridge or doorbell, a connected manufacturing system, or any other item that you use which is able to connect to another item or to the internet would be considered part of the Internet of Things. Whilst we often talk about how we can harness the IoT for our personal and business convenience, consumers are becoming increasingly aware that it can also be harnessed to drive sustainability.

The possibilities for harnessing your connected devices for the collective environmental good are near-endless; from an individual or consumer point of view, using a smart thermostat to only heat your home when you’re in it (or when the temperature drops below a certain level) is an easy way to save energy. Similarly, a smart fridge will only order food when your supplies drop below a certain level, helping you to mitigate food waste. There are many other ways in which connected homes can help to improve global sustainability, including using smart bulbs to control your lighting, and this is the most well-known use of the Internet or Things. But the potential uses are so much greater than this.

Because smart connected devices can be upgraded, using firmware upgrades, after they have been launched, they are also more sustainable because their lifespan can be extended. This is a huge advantage for both consumers and product developers alike, because products can be improved and finely tuned even after they have been launched, and the capabilities of a product will only become more enhanced.

The growth of smart cities

Smart cities are using the data that they gather from various smart devices to operate in a more energy efficient and sustainable way, on a larger scale. One excellent example of this is when Vodaphone trialed smart bins in various European cities which were fitted with a sensor, meaning that the local councils only had to empty the bins when they were alerted that they were full. As a result, a refuse fleet in one city included on the trial cut transport emissions by 18%. This is a small example of what could be a revolutionary concept, and both smart cities and smart manufacturing practices are where we really have the potential to harness sustainability to turn the tide on our global environmental issues.

By 2025 there will be 75 billion connected devices installed worldwide. If these devices can not only help drive independent responsibility to be more sustainable, but also be powered by sustainable energy themselves then we will see technology help to make a leap in the right direction towards an environmentally sound world.

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