Leveraging the internet of things (IoT) to enhance sustainable development has emerged as one the most efficient solutions to consume natural resources, manage waste, and reap financial benefits.
The concept of ‘sustainable development’ was first introduced in the report, ‘Common Future,’ (also known as the Brundtland Report) published by the UN in the year 1987. The Brundtland report defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." While sustainability can be described in many ways, its ultimate aim is to tackle the limitations in accomplishing environmental justice, social inclusion, and economic growth. As a step towards achieving this goal, the UN approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the year 2015. Several countries have already embarked upon their journey by enforcing several policies to enhance sustainable development. They are trying to identify effective ways of solving challenges that the human race faces today. And in this endeavour of theirs, incredible technologies like IoT, big data analytics, AI, also play a significant role. We have some amazing use cases outlining how IoT supports sustainability.
Importance of Sustainable Development
It’s no secret that the population explosion is on the rise. Did you know, the global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100? Now just imagine the volume of natural resources that will be required by future generations on a daily basis. Also, countries have to fulfil the population needs without compromising on the standard of their people's lifestyle. So, can the currently depleting natural resources meet future needs? Surely not. Hence, it is crucial to take this concern into consideration. It is important that the government, social agents, and citizens collaborate to conserve the environment and promote sustainability. And this can be done by building an infrastructure that sustains for a longer time. However, sustainable development is not always about the environment. It is also equally important to achieve social and economic sustainability. To create healthy, resilient, and liveable communities, it is vital that citizens support and promote sustainable activities carried out. To ensure social inclusiveness, countries should create interest in citizens and increase their engagement. Sustainable development goals cover this aspect as well. Countries strive to achieve financial growth and opportunity, no doubt. But to obtain the economic benefit, countries should not make extravagant use of resources and cut down on unnecessary spending. Economic sustainability should, therefore, be essentially taken into account.
IoT to Enhance Sustainable Development
Realizing the importance of sustainable development, countries across the globe are carrying out several measures like enforcing policies, promoting environmental awareness, and encouraging the 3-R approach (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle). But, along with these practices, they are also making smart use of IoT. Let’s run through the use cases of connected technology to enhance sustainable development.
With the use of digital technologies, buildings of today not only provide convenience to residents but also the ability to alter and improve energy consumption as per needs. Structures, nowadays, use cameras, sensors, and actuators to collect and share information in real-time. With this information, a building manager can gain powerful insights into the working of a building’s power control systems. This intelligence then helps managers to prepare effective energy-efficient strategies, which also will help them to drive cost-savings.
IoT-enabled Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, automatic lighting controls, surveillance security cameras in buildings will ensure optimised asset utilisation, decreased carbon emissions, and reduced energy costs. Besides, during emergencies, smart buildings will send alert messages to authorities, which will help them to take prompt decisions and quick responsive action. This way, buildings, powered with IoT, can not only provide improved energy efficiency but also enhanced comfort to the occupants with added economic benefit. Now that’s what sustainable development is all about!
In big cities, finding a vacant parking lot is a big hassle. And to find an empty parking space, especially in high-traffic, downtown areas of congested cities is a real challenge for drivers. Along with the inconvenience, fuel wastage is also a concern. To solve that problem, enter smart parking. A smart parking management system uses IoT to collect data from satellites, CCTV cameras, and parking lots. The collected data helps the system to find the available parking spaces and allows drivers to book a parking spot. With this, along with reduced fuel consumption, IoT will enable drivers to have a stress-free parking experience.
Smart Waste Management
Though a tedious job, managing waste is an important part of any city’s management operations. To meet environmental sustainability, countries are expected to effectively collect, recycle, and dispose of the mountains of waste generated on a daily basis. However, it is a known truth that monitoring trash levels of each garbage bin manually is nearly impossible. But this scenario can be easily changed with IoT.
Sensor-enabled dumpsters collect information on the bin’s fill level, temperature, and whether it contains dry or wet waste. Information like this will help the sanitation officials to glean insights on whether the bins are filled to maximum capacity, which dumpster needs an urgent clean-up, and how waste is being segregated. They can then take immediate measures, which will not only help in effective waste management but also will cut down unnecessary costs. Besides, IoT can also lend its helping hand towards reducing waste. Using IoT technology, officials can track waste generation patterns. Knowing the actual causes of waste generation, they can then take the required steps to alter the waste production patterns wherever possible.
Smart Street Lights
Street lighting is one of the major causes of energy consumption today. It is also a huge reason why municipal bodies have to deal with tremendous energy costs. But did you know that worldwide adoption of smart street lighting solutions could save up to 15 billion dollars by 2023? By sensing the movement of people, these street lights can brighten or dim. Also, the street lights will be replaced with LEDs, which will contribute to environmental sustainability. Smart lighting infrastructure will positively impact energy consumption while enabling countries to save money.
Smart Water Management
Conserving valuable resource, water, has now become a matter of concern on a global level. The ageing traditional water distribution infrastructure is not appropriate to solve this challenge. It is extremely challenging to monitor water uses, leakages, chemical residue, and temperature changes by manual methods. And everything matters when it comes to managing water resources effectively. But with IoT, the case is not the same. Sensors installed at various points in distribution networks will collect real-time information that will help officials to gain meaningful insights on water loss, back-flows, consumption, blockages, and so on. By leveraging IoT, the authorities can gauge the water wastage and consumption patterns, which helps in developing sustainable measures. In addition to this, utilities and buildings can install smart water meters. With smart meters, the water stakeholders can determine the amount of water consumed or wasted almost instantaneously. In the occupants exceed the water supply limit, the utilities and building authorities can take the required actions to prevent further wastage.
Along with benefitting several industries in a business sense, IoT is now also lending its helpful hand to enhance sustainable development. It is exciting to see how IoT will help the government, environment specialists, social entrepreneurs, and citizens to collaboratively work to achieve sustainable development goals and build a better future.