Insights & Resources6 min read

IoT Technology in Sustainability Solutions

IoT is emerging as a viable technology approach to confronting environmental sustainability issues. Curious? Keep reading!

Risa Takenaka
Iot Sustainability

How do IoT devices work?

Internet of Things, or IoT, is a broad term that refers to any system of interrelated computing devices, machines, or objects that are connected to one another through a wireless network. IoT devices can collect and share data, and act on this data to automate smart decisions. 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.
Devices are often IoT enabled through configuration with an IoT SIM card. While regular SIM cards were created for mobile devices, IoT SIMs are built with capabilities like robust network connectivity, remote and bulk management, and stringent security. IoT SIM cards often handle smaller amounts of data to cater to the needs of IoT devices.

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.

Leveraging IoT for Sustainability Solutions

IoT is emerging as a viable technology approach to environmental sustainability issues because IoT solutions offer efficiency, accessibility, and scalability in connecting decentralized devices:
  • Efficiency: Many sustainability solutions provide value by collecting data, which triggers smart decisions to reduce the consumption of energy, water, or other resources. IoT systems help to streamline this workflow by collecting the data from disparate devices, sending it to a single location in the cloud, extracting usage patterns, and triggering actions to automate the reduction of waste. This process cuts down on costs, and removes the need for repetitive tasks like data collection. Furthermore, if you can automate the registration and software configuration of new devices, it can make implementation even easier.
  • Access and control: IoT sustainability solutions, especially smart home devices, are popular in the B2C space because they give consumers access and control over their consumption habits while leveraging existing devices such as a smartphone. For example, smart thermostats like the Google Nest allow individuals to see how much electricity they consume, and adjust temperature around their living space via an app. At-home IoT applications like these give more visibility into energy consumption as well as the impact that can be made by making small changes. This empowers individuals with the resources to help them make behavioral changes to do their part in living a more sustainable lifestyle.
  • Scalability: With the proper IoT infrastructure, you can easily add devices to an existing network, or increase the frequency of data collection from devices without requiring additional engineering resources. For example, say your business provides IoT sensors to control HVAC systems in corporate office spaces to help adjust heating and cooling to save energy. If the office space were to undergo an expansion, you could easily connect additional sensors to the system. For applications with a large geographical scale like IoT for optimizing solar farm operations, devices can easily be deployed across remote locations with cellular network coverage.

Innovative IoT Use Cases for Sustainability

Many businesses are realizing that they share the responsibility of creating positive environmental impact at a large scale. These impacts can come from carbon negative operation, urban renewal, and food waste reduction. Recent research and development in energy consumption in agriculture or manufacturing has opened up the potential for creative new advancements in previously overlooked spaces. Here are a few innovative use cases for IoT in sustainability:

IoT for Green Roof Maintenance

Urban greenery, aside from being aesthetically pleasing, has major environmental benefits that help to combat air pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, and soak up rainwater that could otherwise cause flooding. Many large cities have supported this trend, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has recently announced their plan to increase the amount of green surface area in London's Central Activities Zone by at least 5% by 2030.
Traditional irrigation methods have low efficiency and precision, which results in waste and poor management of water. The emergence of IoT smart irrigation systems has introduced a more effective solution for irrigation: IoT sensors connected to watering systems measure climatic parameters like humidity, temperature, and soil moisture. This data can then trigger automatic smart irrigation depending on these environmental factors.

IoT to reduce food waste

Food waste in the U.S. is a major contributor to climate change, with a carbon footprint greater than that of the airline industry. In fact, more than a third of food in the U.S. gets thrown away, which can be traced back to 4 trillion tons of wasted water, in addition to the energy it takes to harvest, transport, and package it. Cutting out food waste could reduce total greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans by 6-8%, and a few innovative IoT companies are working to make this lofty goal a reality.
  • IoT for Post-Harvest Analytics: The primary contributor to the spoilage and waste of fresh food is inadequate temperature management. In fact, each hour spent in the field post-harvest costs produce about one day of shelf-life. Zest Labs is tackling this issue from the ground up to ensure that fresh foods make their way to temperature controlled areas post-harvest. IoT sensors embedded in pallets of freshly-harvested food are paired with cloud-based analytics to collect data and trigger real-time alerts that notify when pallets need to be cooled. Data from the journey along the supply chain is analyzed to pinpoint inefficiencies in the process that contribute to this premature spoilage, so that they can be prevented in the future.
  • IoT Food Container Tags to Prevent Waste: Chicago-based startup Ovie is taking a more downstream approach to food waste prevention, with their IoT SmartTag food sensors. Their solution, aimed at consumers who want to minimize the amount of food that ends up going bad in their fridge, includes hardware—LED SmartTags and a Hub—which connects to the cloud, and sends notifications to users' smartphones and smart home speakers to notify when the food in their fridges needs to be consumed.

IoT Smart Grids for Energy Management

According to a report conducted by the UN in 2015, the world’s population is on track to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. As the world’s population continues to grow, more people are occupying cities and urban areas. This population density raises challenges in providing energy to billions across the globe, with especially high demand in urban areas.
The electric grid in the US consists of an interconnected system of more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, substations, and transformers that enable electricity to reach homes and businesses. The current grid systems, built in the 1890s, are inefficient, costly, and contribute to unnecessary energy consumption.
Smart Grids leverage IoT to allow for two-way communication between the 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.
Smart Grids help automate and manage energy distribution to match the complex needs of the 21st century. Here are a few scenarios where Smart Grids can provide efficiency and reduction of energy waste compared to conventional grid systems:
  • Automatically reroute during power disturbances, which minimizes damage for a quicker time to resolution
  • Contain large-scale blackouts by triggering mechanisms to isolate outages
  • Allow electricity recovery to happen strategically, for example by providing power to emergency services first
  • Adjust outputs automatically based on usage data across geographic regions
  • Reduce the peak load on distribution feeders

Start Building IoT Solutions with Telnyx

The green IoT space is rich in opportunities, both from a business point of view and the potential for making a positive environmental impact. When looking for an IoT SIM provider, four important things to consider are scalability, cost, security, and simplicity.
  • Scalability: Many sustainable IoT solutions will start small with a proof of concept, and gradually scale as traction is gained. It’s important to select the right provider that offers 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.
  • Cost: To set your business up for success, make sure you choose a provider with transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing. At Telnyx, we offer this and more; since we own our SIM production and have direct relations with carriers, which means we offer market leading prices for SIMs and data. Plus, we have cost saving mechanisms like usage based activation to make sure that you’re not letting inactive SIMs 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.
  • Security: Privacy and security are critical to IoT solutions, and it’s important that your IoT provider has things in place to protect the data traveling across your IoT system. Luckily, with Telnyx, you have access to private LTE networks, which connect your devices directly to your corporate network and bypass the public internet, where most vulnerabilities are located.
  • 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 fast without worrying about navigating carrier relationships. With automatic carrier switching, you don’t have to manage multiple carriers and your SIMs will always be connected to deliver your mission-critical solutions.
Are you ready to make a positive environmental impact while leveraging the power of IoT SIMs? Make sure to reach out to our sales team to learn how we can help you achieve this goal.
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