3 Ways IoT can help reduce carbon emissions


Emily Newton, editor-in-chief of Revolutionized Magazine, writes on three use cases where the Internet of Things (IoT) is proving a useful instrument to help reduce carbon emissions.

The growing IoT devices market could be a silver bullet for climate change. Consumers, businesses, and government organisations can use IoT monitoring systems to improve the energy efficiency of everything from individual homes to entire cities – potentially helping to slash carbon emissions.

These are three ways in which people currently use IoT to reduce carbon emissions.

1. Smart home technology helps consumers go green

Over the past few years, a wide range of smart home devices has arrived on the market. These devices enable consumers to connect a variety of home appliances and systems to the internet, including their HVAC system, power system, lighting, dishwashers, coffee makers and refrigerators.

The primary advertised benefit of these devices is often convenience. A homeowner can control their IoT or smart lights, for example, from anywhere in the world with internet access. However, the right device can also help households significantly reduce their carbon emissions.

Smart HVAC systems, for example, can combine a variety of devices – including IoT thermostats, vents, and sensors – to optimise their energy consumption without reducing performance or household comfort.

Using information from sensors and vents that the system can automatically toggle open or closed, the smart HVAC system can dynamically adjust its performance throughout the day. A system may stop cooling while household members are at work, prioritise occupied rooms, or identify air leaks that may be making the system less efficient.

Lowering energy consumption means less carbon emissions – and because space heating and air conditioning account for around 50% of home energy consumption on average, even small efficiency improvements may make a significant difference.

Other home systems can provide similar carbon-cutting benefits. A smart home lighting system can use motion trackers and pre-programmed schedules to shut off lights when they’re not needed or when natural lighting is available. Smart appliances can adapt how they function to suit an owner’s schedule or personal preferences, potentially enabling performance improvements that will reduce their energy consumption.

Because the home IoT market has grown so fast over the past few years, homeowners can potentially automate almost every appliance and system in their home, allowing them to secure significant energy and carbon savings.

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2. Industrial IoT for streamlining facility operations

New industrial IoT technology can help the owners of industrial facilities streamline operations, monitor environmental conditions, keep better track of key resources and potentially slash carbon emissions.

A warehouse may use IoT to automate the management of its HVAC system and lighting, for example, to help make these systems more energy-efficient.

A foundry could use IoT environmental monitors to track carbon dioxide emissions produced by foundry processes, allowing management to more effectively deploy carbon capture or emission control systems that prevent these emissions from escaping into the environment.

Businesses of all kinds with large vehicle fleets can use IoT telematics to track driver behaviour, optimise routes and improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. The same technology may also enable more effective preventive maintenance schemes. Because vehicle maintenance can have a major impact on fuel efficiency, improving maintenance can help businesses save money on repairs and reduce downtime while slashing carbon emissions.

While industrial IoT devices are still somewhat novel, many businesses already believe they may be key to improving sustainability and fighting climate change. According to one recent survey, 94% of companies agreed the Industrial IoT (IIoT) “enables better decisions, improving overall sustainability” and 57% said that IIoT has had a “significant positive effect” on operational decision-making.

It’s possible that, with such positive opinions of IoT devices across industries, businesses will ramp up investment in IIoT technology over the next few years. In the near future, the adoption of IIoT solutions could help make industry as a whole much more sustainable.

3. Smart city technology for cutting cities’ carbon emissions

Networked smart city technologies can help urban planners, developers and city officials create more sustainable urban environments. Often working in tandem with other technologies like AI, big-data analytics and robots, smart city IoT devices can help streamline the performance of a variety of city systems.

Smart traffic signals and traffic monitors, for example, are already used by a number of cities to facilitate the smoother flow of traffic.

An IoT-enabled traffic system can dynamically adjust the timing of traffic signals, change toll values, or even close off streets in response to fluctuating traffic flow, accidents, and road maintenance.

In practice, these dynamic traffic management systems can help reduce congestion and improve the average fuel efficiency of both commuter and commercial vehicles within city limits.

Traffic monitors and sensing devices can also collect valuable data on how motorists are using their vehicles and city roads. Information from an IoT traffic system may help urban planners develop better transit systems, expand roadways, or plan future development in a way that will encourage the use of sustainable transit options or minimise private fuel consumption.

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Smart street lights can be used to capture information on traffic flow and improve city light management. Using motion sensors, traffic data and pre-programmed schedules, smart lights can dynamically turn themselves on or off as needed to conserve energy without reducing pedestrian visibility or safety. A smart street light can also connect residents to emergency services or provide information through dynamic displays.

Smart grid technology can help planners and city officials tap directly into city energy use. Devices like smart meters, for example, allow a city’s grid operators to collect information on how consumers are using electricity and dynamically adjust electricity prices in response to changing demand.

With better information on how they use electricity, consumers can more effectively change their habits and lifestyle to reduce energy consumption.

Grid operators and city planners can also use smart meter data for long-term planning – helping them identify where grid infrastructure may need to be expanded, for example, or where city design could be leading to inefficient energy use by city residents.

Much of America is in desperate need of grid infrastructure upgrades. Smart technology could play a valuable role in helping grid operators modernise their equipment.

How consumers, businesses and cities use IoT to slash carbon emissions

Internet of things devices can help a wide variety of people and organisations become more energy-efficient. Smart home HVAC systems, environmental monitors and smart traffic systems are all examples of how IoT technology is helping to cut carbon emissions. These systems can also capture information that may help their owners change how they live and work to reduce their carbon footprint.


Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the editor-in-chief of Revolutionized Magazine.

She enjoys writing articles about the energy industry as well as other industrial sectors.

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