Implementing the internet of things (IoT) in the sustainability sector offers numerous benefits ranging from preserving finite resources to smart mobility.
For quite a while now, we have been witnessing a special interest around sustainable development. Besides, reports of increasing temperatures, ozone layer depletion, and melting polar ice sheets have been gaining more attention than ever. And why is it so? People today seek an increasingly convenient and luxurious lifestyle. And to maintain the elevated standard of living, they carelessly make use of finite resources, release greenhouse emissions, and cut down trees. And all these activities harm our planet adversely. Policy-makers are realizing the negative impact that the continued imprudent human behavior will have on the environment. Hence, the term ‘sustainable development’ is taking the limelight now.
While countries worldwide are enforcing new laws and procedures to reduce environmental damage, not much has been achieved yet on that front. Taking this into account, government and private organizations should move beyond just policies and procedures. One of the best ways to ensure socio-economic development while maintaining harmony with nature is by embracing the latest tech trends. With innovative technological solutions, countries across the globe can not only conserve resources but also minimize unnecessary costs. IoT is one such technology that can drive the innovative transition of the planet, making it cleaner, greener, and more sustainable. Let’s check out the applications of IoT in the sustainability sector:
Before exploring the specific use cases of how IoT supports sustainability, let’s understand the concept of sustainable development. The term was first coined in the report, ‘Common Future,’ which was published by the UN in 1987. The goal of sustainable development is to achieve economic profit while balancing social inclusion and ecological justice. It's about creating a place where peoples’ standard of living is balanced while keeping the ecological factor in mind.
It’s true that the government plays an integral role in achieving sustainable development goals. However, they shouldn’t be held solely responsible for it. Private organizations and citizens have to equally participate if countries wish to accomplish their sustainability targets successfully. However, not everyone understands sustainability, right? Therefore, the government has to first conduct awareness programs for citizens. Sustainability can only be accomplished with a collaborative approach. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that was published by the UN members in the year 2015 is one way to achieve sustainability using a global partnership. However, along with such laws, countries (both developed and developing ones) should embrace IoT to gain better results.
Bringing connectivity to all the physical devices in the environment, IoT can play a significant role in achieving sustainable development. How, you ask? Following are a few applications of IoT for sustainability:
Water shortage has become a global concern now. Millions lack access to safe drinking water. Prompt remedial actions should be, therefore, conducted mandatorily. Careless utilization of water should be stopped. Areas of extensive water usage should be taken into special consideration. One such area that makes considerable use of water is a farm. Did you know, farms and their wasteful irrigation systems are major contributors to water scarcity across the globe? Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s consumptive water is used for agricultural purpose in the US. The numbers boil down to the fact that policymakers should devise efficient water management strategies. And the strategy should include IoT adoption for smart irrigation facilities.
The traditional irrigation methods supply water to the crops based on a predetermined schedule. However, irrigation is not required when the moisture content in the soil is already high enough. Here’s where this approach becomes inefficient. On the other hand, a smart irrigation system will collect water requirement data, analyze, and then issue water if the need be. IoT sensors fitted everywhere in the farm gather important details on soil moisture content, weather, crop health, and so much more. Analysis of the collected data takes place with big data analytics, which is followed by AI processing. Information on whether to start operating or not will be sent to the smart irrigation system, which then acts accordingly. Experimental studies have indicated water savings anywhere from 30 to 50 percent from the smart irrigation method.
Lighting accounts upto 12 percent of national energy needs. The numbers indicate that the energy consumed in a residential and commercial set up accounts for the depletion of limited resources excessively. Therefore, there is a need for a transition from a conventional lighting system to smart, energy-efficient lighting. With the use of sensors, a smart lighting setup can analyze the surroundings and respond to situations suitably. For instance, the motion sensor will sense the presence of people and automatically light the bulbs on motion detection. This way, smart lighting will help in eliminating unnecessary lighting and energy consumption.
To fight against traffic congestion, pollution, health hazards, emissions, time and effort wastage, accidents, smart mobility is one of the best solutions. The innovative concept of smart mobility is to make the commute experience hassle-free and shorter while maintaining energy consumption. IoT and big data analytics play an incredible role here. Smart sensors and cameras will be implemented everywhere on the roads. As a result, data on the number of vehicles in each lane and also empty parking lots will be collected in real time. On-the-spot analysis and interpretation of this data will help commuters to know traffic details or vacant parking spaces. This will not only save a lot of time but also reduce accidents and energy consumption levels.
A smart garbage bin is one of the best solutions to combat issues that countries face due to unorganized waste collection and disposal. Dry and wet waste should be dumped in different garbage bins for effective waste management. However, monitoring this manually is not the best option officers could choose. This is a problem that IoT can solve. A smart garbage bin is basically an automated monitoring system that is embedded with multiple sensors for data collection. For example, instances when a dumpster is full, the fill sensor will get triggered and notify the concerned officials. Similarly, if a garbage bin that is intended to collect only dry waste is filled with wet waste, then the moisture sensor will get activated. The officials, on receiving an alert notification, can take the necessary actions at the earliest, thereby promoting sustainable development.
With IoT, governments and other stakeholders can promise citizens true comfort and convenience while conserving finite resources. Besides, optimized use of resources and smarter ways of handling things will result in reduced financial expenses. Isn’t that exactly what everyone wants? Isn’t that exactly what sustainability means? Well, IoT for sustainability holds valid. However, not only IoT but also other digital technologies like big data analytics and AI lend a helping hand to governments and stakeholders in creating sustainable, resilient, and healthy communities.
Naveen is the Founder and CEO of Allerin, a software solutions provider that delivers innovative and agile solutions that enable to automate, inspire and impress. He is a seasoned professional with more than 20 years of experience, with extensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment. He is currently working on Internet of Things solutions with Big Data Analytics. Naveen completed his programming qualifications in various Indian institutes.