Wireless • Last Updated 1/11/2024

IoT for Sustainability — How IoT is changing the world

IoT is emerging as a viable technology for confronting environmental sustainability issues.

Kelsie Anderson

By Kelsie Anderson

SIM card serves as a flower pot

Internet of Things, or IoT, is a broad term that refers to any system of interrelated computing devices, machines or objects connected to one another through a wireless network.

IoT devices can collect and share data, and act on this data to automate smart decisions.

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There are endless applications for leveraging IoT, which can range from a home automation system with an interconnected doorbell, thermostat and security system, to a whole smart city with hundreds of different interconnected objects.

IoT devices can range from simple sensors that gather data on temperature or humidity, to more complex devices like smart grids or self-driving cars. They can be used in a wide range of applications, such as home automation, smart cities, healthcare, industrial automation and transportation. These devices are often IoT-enabled through configuration with an IoT SIM card, which is built with capabilities like robust network connectivity, remote and bulk management and stringent security.

IoT technologies can provide real-time data and automation for decision-making processes. The speed of information delivery and the ability to automate various processes can enable more efficient use of resources in any sector. Sustainability is one area where better use of resources is critical.

With devices monitoring emissions or automatically collecting large amounts of data and analyzing it to find patterns, IoT technology can help create less waste and reduce environmental impact.

Keep reading to learn more about different sustainable IoT use cases and how different businesses have leveraged IoT to create a greener world for all of us.

IoT to reduce vehicle emissions

You might be familiar with one of the most talked-about uses of IoT in transportation: autonomous vehicles. In theory, IoT-powered vehicles can reduce emissions by removing the human element from driving. With suggestions for optimized performance and decisions based on large-scale data analysis, autonomous vehicles can promote more efficient driving.

However, self-driving cars aren’t the only use for IoT in the automotive space. IoT-powered sensors can track many metrics to optimize vehicle performance or analyze data to suggest smarter, more environmentally-friendly ways to operate different vehicles.

On a large scale, IoT-enabled traffic management systems can reduce congestion on roads, which will reduce emissions from idling vehicles. At the consumer level, IoT sensors can monitor the condition of a vehicle and predict when maintenance is needed, which can reduce emissions by ensuring that the vehicle is running at peak efficiency. And in industry, IoT sensors can track and optimize the performance of a fleet of vehicles, promoting more efficient driving and reducing emissions.

Organizations using IoT for cleaner vehicles

Infinitum Electric uses IoT to power more efficient motors. The company uses fewer materials to produce their motors, and IoT-enabled sensors provide performance insights and allow for predictive and prescriptive maintenance.

Reborn Electric turns diesel-engine buses into electric-powered ones. Once buses have been retrofitted, Reborn Electric uses IoT sensors to monitor the vehicle and provide preventive maintenance, continually optimizing performance.

Samsara helps organizations improve the efficiency and sustainability of their equipment and fleets. They use IoT sensors to improve fuel efficiency, identify vehicles that could be converted to electric, and alert organizations to preventive maintenance opportunities.

ERA Championship aims to improve the sustainability of racing as a whole by creating an all-electric fleet. The cars themselves are IoT devices and can collect and analyze data to operate more sustainably.

IoT for smarter, cleaner energy

The United Nations projects the world’s population to reach nearly 8.5 billion people by 2030. By then, the International Organization for Migration’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) predicts that nearly 60% of those people will live in cities. This population density raises challenges in providing energy to billions across the globe, with especially high demand in urban areas.

Renewable energy is one solution that can supply sustainable energy to billions of people. However, we have to distribute that energy intelligently to prevent outages, automatically adjust outputs based on usage data and allow for recovery during emergencies or blackouts. Using IoT, smart grids allow for two-way communication between an energy provider and its customers, as well as sensing along transmission lines. This flow of information enables smart grids to respond more quickly to real-time changes in electricity demand or power disturbances, which results in a more efficient distribution of energy.

Organizations using IoT for improved energy

IBM uses a combination of IoT, edge computing and 5G networks to help utilities build a smarter grid. Aided by IoT sensors, utilities can provide energy to customers more efficiently by understanding demand in real time and better conducting proactive and predictive maintenance.

New Sun Road develops data-driven IoT technology solutions for solar-based power systems. Its products allow owners and operators of sustainable solar power equipment to monitor and optimize distributed power systems in real-time.

IoT to reduce food waste

Food waste is a major contributor to climate change, with a carbon footprint greater than that of the airline industry. Globally, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that more than a third of food gets thrown away. In the U.S., that amounts to 4 trillion tons of wasted water. And that’s not even considering the energy it takes to harvest, transport and package it. By eliminating food waste, we could reduce total greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans by up to 8%.

Inadequate temperature is the primary contributor to food spoilage and waste. When produce sits out in a field or in a crate after harvest in non-optimal temperatures, it loses its freshness. The more time produce spends at temperatures that are too high or too low, the more its shelf life is reduced. IoT sensors can monitor harvested produce remotely to track and adjust temperatures accordingly. The World Economic Forum estimates that this tracking can reduce food waste by 40%.

Organizations using IoT to decrease the amount of wasted food

Zest Labs ensures fresh food makes its way to temperature-controlled areas post-harvest. By pairing IoT sensors embedded in pallets of freshly-harvested food with cloud-based analytics, organizations can collect data and trigger real-time alerts that notify them when pallets need to be cooled. They can also analyze data from the entire supply chain journey to identify inefficiencies that contribute to premature spoilage and prevent them in the future.

V-Soft Digital helps food and beverage companies optimize their production cycles “from field to fork.” Using IoT sensors, organizations can track their produce from the time it’s harvested, as it ships to different locations and as it’s distributed to different vendors. Tracking the entire process ensures food stays fresh until it reaches its final destination.

IoT to reduce water waste

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult in a temperate climate needs to drink around 11–16 cups of water per day to stay healthy. As the global population grows, people will require more water just to meet their basic needs.

To avoid future water shortages, we need to be better about preserving water. Wasted water depletes already limited water resources, contributes to environmental degradation such as soil erosion and habitat destruction and results in increased energy consumption for water treatment and distribution.

IoT can tackle the issue of water waste in several ways: smart irrigation systems can monitor soil moisture and adjust watering schedules accordingly. Leak detection sensors provide alerts when a leak is detected in a water pipe. Smart water meters can track usage in real time and send alerts when usage patterns indicate a potential leak. Remote control of water valves can turn off the water supply in case of emergency or when not needed. And finally, predictive maintenance can detect potential failures in water infrastructure and prevent leaks before they occur.

Organizations using IoT to waste less water

Nobel Systems helps combat water waste by allowing governments or water utilities to access real-time water system data through their cloud-based IoT asset management system. The ability to see issues in real time can prevent leaks, reduce costs and increase operational efficiency.

WiseConn Engineering helps farmers produce better crops more efficiently through smart irrigation management. Using IoT sensors, farmers can capture data on soil quality, weather and historical data to improve irrigation performance. The sensors can also monitor equipment for leaks and alert farmers to potential maintenance issues to improve operational efficiency.

IoT for less light pollution

Light pollution interferes with the natural cycles of wildlife, disrupts ecosystems, and wastes energy. It can negatively impact human health by disrupting sleep patterns and hindering visibility of the night sky. In the U.S. alone, the International Dark-Sky Association estimates that 30% of outdoor lighting is wasted, which releases around 21 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.

IoT technology can help control and monitor lighting systems to reduce light pollution and its negative impacts on the environment and human health. Using IoT sensors, we can program smart lighting systems to only emit the required amount of light and switch off automatically when not needed. These sensors can also detect when natural light levels are sufficient, reducing the need for artificial lighting. In the public sphere, IoT devices can monitor and regulate brightness, ensuring it doesn’t exceed acceptable levels. Finally, we can analyze the data from IoT sensors to optimize lighting systems and reduce waste

Organizations using IoT to help us see the night sky

Schréder designs and maintains IoT-powered smart lighting to help cities and public spaces feel safe and aesthetically pleasing while still reducing light pollution. With their Owlet Nightshift system, cities can retrofit aging lighting infrastructure to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Emporia builds smart plugs, monitors and batteries with the goal of “revolutionizing home energy.” Their IoT-powered hardware allows energy consumers track and analyze their energy usage to lower both their energy bills and their carbon footprints.

The rise of green technology and sustainability solutions

Climate change has become one of the world’s most pressing issues, and the far-reaching impacts of this situation are already leading to the displacement of whole communities due to rising sea levels, extreme weather and the wipeout of entire ecosystems. In addition to the massive economic and political changes that must be implemented to slow this process, many businesses are leveraging IoT technology to enhance energy efficiency or reduce global emissions across agriculture, transportation and several other industries.

The urgent push to confront climate change and minimize our carbon emissions using technology is also reflected in the explosive growth of the Green Technology and Sustainability market, which is projected to grow from $11.2 billion in 2020 to $36.6 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.6% during the forecast period. Furthermore, technology products which benefit the environment often have strong alignment with business challenges such as increasing efficiency and cutting costs.

Start building your own sustainable IoT solutions

The green IoT space is rich in opportunities, both from a business point of view and the potential for making a positive environmental impact. With increasing innovation in the IoT space, more and more devices can be equipped with IoT technology to monitor environmental conditions. We can all benefit from the collection and analysis of that data to improve sustainability.

One simple way to create IoT-enabled devices is through SIM technology. By equipping devices with an IoT SIM, you can connect them to a powerful network that can store and process data locally or on cell networks. Operating on this network instead of on the cloud ensures that sensors can keep collecting and processing real-time data, even in the case of outages. However, not all SIMs are the same.

When looking for an IoT SIM provider, there are four important things to consider:

1. Scalability

Many sustainable IoT solutions start small with a proof of concept and gradually scale as they gain traction. The right provider will offer flexibility in the number of SIMs you purchase and the amount of data your SIMs will use.

Telnyx’s wireless solution offers a self-service Mission Control Portal and API that lets you purchase and provision a single SIM to get started and scale up based on your needs.

2. Cost

To set your business up for success, you should choose a provider with transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing.

Telnyx owns its SIM production and has direct relations with carriers, so we can offer market-leading prices for SIMs and data.We also have cost-saving mechanisms like usage-based activation to make sure inactive SIMs don’t contribute to your costs. If you ever want to activate, change or pause your SIMs, you can do it yourself in our self-service portal or API without having to wait around to trigger these changes.

3. Security

Privacy and security are critical to IoT solutions, and it’s important that your IoT provider can protect the data traveling across your IoT system.

Telnyx provides customers access to private LTE networks. That means you can connect your devices directly to your corporate network and bypass the public internet, where most vulnerabilities are located.

4. Simplicity

Spinning up an IoT solution can be complex, but it doesn’t have to be if you choose an IoT provider that makes your life easier.

Telnyx’s SIMs come with out-of-the-box global connectivity to empower you to move quickly without worrying about navigating carrier relationships. With automatic carrier switching, you can avoid managing multiple carriers. Your SIMs will always be connected to deliver mission-critical solutions.

Making the world more sustainable through innovative use of technology is a worthy cause. Our team of experts can help you leverage the power of IoT SIMs to make a positive environmental impact.

Contact us to learn how we can help you achieve your goals of improving sustainability with IoT.

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