According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fossil fuels and industrial processes are responsible for 65% of the global carbon footprint, while greenhouses gases are at the forefront of climate change. The recent COP26 (Conference of the Parties) summit held in Glasgow, Scotland, set goals to secure net-zero emissions by 2050. These goals include:
· Reducing the use of coal for energy generation
· Minimising deforestation
· Accelerating the transition to energy-efficient transportation
· Protecting the ecosystem by building climate-resistant infrastructure with warning systems
To achieve these targets and transition to a net-zero emissions future, Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging as a key underlying technology.
IoT for climate change: What is it?
In simple terms, IoT refers to a network of tangible objects embedded with software, sensors, and technology to help interrelate, connect, and exchange data over the internet. They range from everyday household items, such as kitchen appliances, baby monitors, and air conditioners to heavy industrial equipment.
IoT for climate change is quoted as the ‘digital skin of the planet.’ It helps assess the air and water quality; monitors pollution levels around cities, industries, and rivers; as well as human activity; and measures their impact on the environment. In addition, it can also calculate land erosion, track wind speed, measure flood levels, and monitor the effect of animals or insects on vegetation.
Six ways IoT helps in shrinking carbon footprint
IoT solutions help decelerate the calamitous course of climate change. A survey by the World Economic Forum concluded that 84% of existing IoT deployments could augment the intentions of UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). Here are some ways IoT can shrink carbon footprint and deal with climate change.
- Smart energy consumption and management: Excessive energy consumption is the leading source of global warming. IoT can monitor, manage, and save energy. For example, embedded sensors automatically detect occupancy in a room or a building and adjust the usage of lights and HVAC systems to save energy. They can also modify consumption as per pre-determined schedules or real-time weather conditions.
- Air pollution management: Energy and agriculture contribute 76% and 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, respectively. Automobile and aviation emissions are also significant contributors. IoT systems can monitor real-time air quality and raise timely alarms when the pollution limits are exceeded.
- Water conservation: About 40% of the global population lives in areas with water scarcity. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience water scarcity. Businesses that heavily rely on water can use IoT systems to manage their usage, detect leaks, track pressure, and minimise wastage. This ultimately also reduces the usage of large pumps that run on fossil fuels.
- Waste management: Global population is moving towards urban areas. A study predicts that solid waste in urban regions will increase by 70% compared with current levels. Current inefficient waste collection systems are not prepared to meet future demands. Municipal waste bins fill at different rates, and collection trucks often make trips to collect half-filled dumpsters. Garbage overflows are a health and safety concern. This causes wastage of time, added costs, and higher emissions.
IoT sensors can deliver real-time data with the current fill level of different dumpsters across the city. They can also monitor the temperature and humidity and detect growth of gases or microbes in the trash.
- Agriculture emissions management: Industrial-scale food production is resource intensive. Complex delivery supply chains and logistics further increase greenhouse gas emissions. IoT systems on agricultural equipment can monitor and manage their usage. Sensors on delivery trucks can advise how to deliver items in the most fuel-efficient sequence.
In addition, IoT sensors can monitor real-time soil conditions and send data to an analytics platform. This will help in demand-based and targeted execution of seeding, irrigation, and fumigation. It will also reduce the use of fertilizers and water.
- Cold chain monitoring: Inefficient temperature controls in cold food chains spoil over one-third of global production every year. This is almost 1.6 billion tonnes of food, which translates to $1.2 trillion in wastages. If we trace it backward, this also means unnecessary wastage of fuel used to cultivate and transport this produce.
Smart cold chains that use IoT sensors monitor temperature, humidity, air quality, light intensity, and other factors that could otherwise potentially spoil the food. They work 24 x 7 in all environmental conditions and raise alarms if any parameter exceeds the critical threshold.
IoT technology, along with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), connects processes. Carbon footprint analytics, KPI design, and reporting provide a complete view of emissions and costs across an organisation. You can drill into and compare the carbon emissions at facilities in different geographical locations and assess each step in the value chain.
IoT for sustainability will drive efficiency and make a real difference in humanity’s global carbon footprint. Businesses must leverage the power of analytics and develop efficient solutions to help reduce an enterprise’s carbon footprint across the value chain. Click here to know more.