The Internet of Things is a widely discussed concept, but what does it really entail? For starters, the IoT is a network of connected technologies embedded into facets of everyday life ranging from refrigerators to sea barges to city water sensors. These “things” or technologies communicate with one another, enabling feedback loops. Communication drives efficiency resulting in greater output with less emphasis or effort on input. Yet, the IoT is extremely broad in scope and form, causing it to often be perplexing when looked at from afar.
What is the Internet of Things?
Smart, connected technologies make up the patchwork of the Internet of Things. Harvard Business Review groups these “things” can into four general purposes: monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomy. Connected products thereby enable real-time insights into conditions, control of functionalities, enhancement of performance and self-service diagnostics and coordination.
Let’s look at a more tangible example: Imagine you are in a grocery store shopping for some fresh summer corn, but you find that there isn’t any corn left. You can either try your luck elsewhere or purchase some canned corn if it’s available (and you’re willing). Now imagine that this a grocery store connected to the Internet of Things. You arrive at the store and there is a heaping pile of corn sorted in bins, the yellow kernels peeking out at you from behind tight green husks.
How would an IoT-connected store be better positioned to provide you with an experience that satisfies your demands? Corn isn’t an object rendered from the internet, right? It’s planted, grown and taken from fields.
Equipped with sensors, low levels of supplies send a communication out to the store’s supplier where another series of communications are sent to the farming and transportation systems, signaling them to choose the optimal amount of corn sent via the fastest, most efficient route possible – providing you (the happy consumer) with the right product.
There are two outcomes derived from the Internet of Things: 1.) Consumers are increasingly satisfied with the availability of service and product offerings, and 2.) energy and waste is lessened by fulfilling the appropriate supply levels in the most efficient manner. However, delivering the right quantities of goods is just one small part of the scale of the IoT.
Beyond increasing customer satisfaction, the IoT constructs a world in which its key tenet is sustainable initiatives. Here are 3 sustainable uses of the Internet of Things – some which you can apply directly into your lifestyle.
1. Agribusiness, Food and Beverage
The aforementioned example lends a little insight into how food production processes are improved under the IoT. But this is just a glimpse of the IoT’s potential. Deloitte University Press identifies the state of agriculture as undergoing a “second green revolution [that] will likely be catalyzed by the set of connected technologies collectively called the Internet of Things (IoT).” As such, the IoT gives farmers data to help them make better, more informed decisions. IoT technologies that can fundamentally change the agriculture industry include, but are not limited to:
- Temperature sensors to keep products fresh during transit
- Real-time data updates that adjust shipping routes for faster delivery
- Tagging and tracking of sustainably sourced fish stocks
- Climate, light and water adjustments to enhance food’s nutritional value
- Animal health monitors to pinpoint sick livestock
This is drastically different from the first green revolution which hinged on rapid post-World War II agronomic techniques. Instead, this second green revolution is constructed by data and connected technologies. As more consumers demand sustainable products farmers, fishers and other agribusinesses are driven to enlist IoT data into their workflows. The key to sustainability here is identifying which IoT technologies work for agriculture and production needs.
And yet the reach of the IoT isn’t limited to agribusiness and food and beverage companies. Scotts Miracle-Gro platform offers data on soil levels, water, temperature and pest control of your personal garden. Even those without the natural ability of green thumbs can benefit from this IoT tech by utilizing insights into the welfare of their plants.
2. Parking and Car Driving
The IoT takes aim at creating efficient transportation that curbs spending and energy depletion. Along with improving system-wide public transit, the future of driving will also be tackled. Of all forms of transportation, driving is the most environmentally damaging. For those who opt to drive, Yeti paints a startling picture of just how wasteful driving is in Los Angeles, California:
- 30 percent of downtown Los Angeles drivers are just looking for a parking spot
- Around the UCLA campus drivers searching for parking drove 950,000 miles, wasting 47,000 gallons of gas
- These same drivers created 730 tons of greenhouse gas emissions
These are stats solely inclusive of Los Angeles and UCLA’s campus. Now think of the surmounting waste and emissions contributed by circling drivers on congested roads in other major cities like New York and Shanghai. The IoT spearheads these issues to reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact cars carve out. Street sensors alert drivers to open parking spaces. This not only cuts down the amount of time that car engines are running but, is also a relief to frustrated drivers.
For non-drivers, clean transport initiatives–autonomous vehicles, smart ticketing, real-time updates, centralized management–open the doorway into fast, energy efficient mass transit — leading us to the third sustainable use of the IoT.
3. Smart Urban Management
Parking and car driving are integral components of smart urban management, but factors encompassing energy, environmental conditions, waste and water are managed by IoT data to control real-time, data driven cities. Smart cities intertwine quality of life into current and future urban management. Some notable examples of the use of IoT sustainability in smart cities include:
- City-wide sensor networks that anticipate and mitigate environmental conditions in Copenhagen, Denmark to lessen the impacts of cloud bursts
- Open source data sharing and security for Portland, Oregon’s transit systems that allow everyday citizens to track real-time emissions
- Shiashiya, Japan’s ambitious goal of becoming the first zero-energy town through connected home management systems
Embedded within smart urban communities are sensor-enable trash bins that measure waste levels in real time. Waste data is sent to collection authorities to establish smart pickup routes, buffering against trash overflow. Smart grids have been developed to conserve energy and to identify and supply areas of outages. These same initiatives can be applied to residential homes equipped with an assortment of intelligent devices, lighting and control systems. Most notably, Nest (temperature, lighting management) and Enevo (waste management) contribute to at-home resource efficiency.
Are you using any of these or any other connected devices in your home, community or workplace? Mimeo uses on-demand printing because it’s smarter printing. This has resulted traveling less, shipping intelligently and reducing waste. Reply with a comment and let us know how you contribute to becoming more sustainable!
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