Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Could mass IoT deployment be the key to building a sustainable world?

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Tuesday 20 April 21

The report from Transforma Insights and 6GWorld, sponsored by InterDigital, suggests IoT deployment could save eight times the energy it consumes by 2030

When we think of the IoT — of thousands upon thousands of interconnected devices communicating with one another — sustainability is typically not the first thing that comes to mind. The energy demand from the devices alone could be enormous, not to mention the additional strain they will put on the networks that facilitate them.    But this is too simplistic an observation…

When we think of the IoT — of thousands upon thousands of interconnected devices communicating with one another — sustainability is typically not the first thing that comes to mind. The energy demand from the devices alone could be enormous, not to mention the additional strain they will put on the networks that facilitate them. 
 
But this is too simplistic an observation. A new study conducted on behalf of InterDigital has shown that, in fact, the efficiency benefits gained from the use of IoT solutions across a range of industries could outweigh their energy consumption.
 
The report, Sustainability in New and Emerging Technologies, suggests that the widespread deployment of the IoT could save eight times the amount of energy it consumes, resulting in net savings of 230 billion cubic metres of water an a gigaton of CO2 emissions by 2030.
 
“It is clear that developing and deploying new technologies has a sustainability footprint, but it’s important to note that many enterprise applications are deployed in order to increase efficiency, and the efficiencies generally outweigh the footprints of the solutions themselves,” explained Jim Morrish, Founding Partner of Transforma Insights. “For many new technologies the ‘energy cost’ side of the equation is in terms of increased electricity consumption, while savings include reduced use of hydrocarbon fuels: this in itself is beneficial, since electricity can be more readily provided by renewable sources.”
 
A major distinction here should be made between consumer and enterprise IoT solutions. Enterprise IoT solutions typically convey some form of efficiency benefit, reducing fuel, water, and electricity consumption, while the consumer devices that currently dominate the IoT market have no such benefits. Thus, in the short term the IoT is likely to drive up energy consumption globally, only resulting in a net reduction as once enterprises begin to embrace the IoT later in the decade. 
 
Nonetheless, there some solutions that will offer significant reductions in energy consumption regardless of where they are deployed. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and building automation are good examples of IoT applications that will reduce society’s carbon footprint whether deployed in our homes or in our businesses.
 
The solution currently forecasted to have the greatest environmental benefit are those involved with road fleet management, ultimately reducing the number of vehicles on the road and set to account for over a third of all fuel savings conveyed by the IoT in 2030.
 
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