We have a generational opportunity to use IoT solutions to curb the acceleration of human-caused climate change.
Investing in Our Planet.
Consider these key figures in the US: More than 60% of the primary energy used to generate electricity is wasted during conversion. Household water leaks waste about 900 billion gallons of water every year. Between 30% and 40% of food produced for consumers is wasted.
Meanwhile, we are witnessing gradual growth in global average temperatures, accelerating melting of the polar ice caps, and more frequent severe weather events.
Climate change is real. The impact is felt by most of humanity. With continued growth in the global population and developing countries such as India and China expected to grow GDP at more than double European and US levels, the drivers of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are increasing, not decreasing.
We need to invest in solutions that reduce global GHG production. However, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of these challenges and the level of action required to correct them.
Producing More From Less.
Isn’t the answer simple? If GHGs are a by-product of human economic activity, can’t we slow down growth or rely on newer “clean technologies” to solve the challenges?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. It is unrealistic to expect developing countries to voluntarily abandon economic growth plans than to assume that the adoption of new clean technologies such as renewable energy will be fast enough to reverse climate change alone.
This leaves a more difficult problem to solve. How can we enable sustainable global economic growth while increasing the efficiency of global manufacturing, distribution and consumption processes to reduce environmental impact? How do we “make more out of less?”
Can Clean Tech Save Us?
Clean technology plays an important role in tackling GHG emissions by enabling modern production processes that are less hazardous or carbon neutral. This technology can help build new ways to produce more products with less GHG emissions. However, when it comes to legacy industries — in particular, “hard to beat” industries such as mining and energy production — the cost of replacing outdated equipment and production processes with new, cleaner technologies is a significant barrier to adoption.
For this industry, we must return to the profit motive. The profit motive brought us here initially by encouraging increased global production, but the same search for economic returns may also be the best way to help us change course. Why? The key to driving more profit from existing processes is increasing efficiency. The same increase in efficiency also reduces emissions.
Despite the strong motivation, to date, companies lack the cost-effective, easy-to-use tools needed to identify where processes fail, where waste or pollution occurs, and where opportunities to drive greater efficiency exist.
Internet of Things (IoT) Is Key to Aligning Economic and Environmental Goals.
Filling this gap is the goal of IoT — enabling the system-level data analytics needed to support manufacturers in their pursuit of efficiency and profitability. This solution addresses the question of how to produce more from less by helping enterprise customers identify waste, develop process improvements, and monitor efficiency improvements.
By complementing legacy processes to enable improvements that drive economic and environmental returns, we can create a virtuous circle where investment in IoT solutions results in rapid ROI, which justifies further deployment.
Why haven’t IoT solutions been adopted more widely? Because IoT solutions used to be complex and expensive to implement. However, that has changed.
IoT For All.
IoT solutions rely on collecting operational data across processes or supply chains. The integration of that data with other enterprise data and analytics yields actionable insights. Historically, the cost and complexity of developing IoT solutions has slowed adoption, reducing their impact on climate change. The cost of developing a solution combined with the operational complexity of deploying non-wireless IoT sensors (requiring power and LAN connectivity) is the biggest challenge.
The good news is that the rapid growth in cloud IoT platforms such as AWS IoT, Azure IoT, and others has addressed an important part of this equation by providing an easy-to-use and cost-effective way to ingest and manage large IoT data sets, leaving the challenges of deploying and connecting. low-cost sensor network in the old environment to solve. Given the evolution of low-cost/low-power wireless that is now widely available for connecting cheaper battery-powered sensors using technologies such as LPWAN and mobile IoT, there are safe and cost-effective ways to collect IoT data and simplify retrofitting.
As a result, IoT solutions are now part of the roadmap of almost every company. Even applications like predictive maintenance, once a Tier 1 industrial province, are now available to many customers.
Together, cloud IoT platforms and IoT wireless technologies have “democratized” access to the potential of world-changing IoT solutions, enabling enterprise customers to leverage IoT to drive efficiency gains, savings, or increased margins — and to support ESG goals.
Start One Sensor at a Time.
While the task of tackling global climate challenges may remain formidable, we find ourselves armed with the clean technologies and IoT tools needed to tackle these challenges head-on. The industry already shows potential when we roll out solutions, one sensor at a time.
Whether you’re focusing on efficiency KPIs, balance sheets, or ESG strategies, if you haven’t already discussed IoT ROI and the positive fiscal, operational and environmental impacts that decarbonization initiatives can have, start now.
We are the catalyst.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of Semtech Corporation or its affiliates.