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How Connected Devices Can Help Save Our Climate

This article is by Carsten Rhod Gregersen, CEO and Founder of Nabto, a P2P IoT connectivity provider that enables remote control of devices with secure end-to-end encryption. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about more than optimizing our creature comforts with smarter wearables and Connected Devices that are enhancing our homes with more responsive technology.

Energy-efficient by nature, IoT helps save electricity, cut operational costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the wake of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, connected devices are shaping up to play a key role in reducing humanity’s environmental impact and fighting climate change. From precision farming to smart energy, let’s explore how connected devices and their correct deployment can play an integral role in helping to save our climate.

Fighting the Climate Crisis

Mankind needs change and fast. The best-case scenarios that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes require aggressive mitigation of global carbon emissions, calling for them to fall to levels from 40 to 70% lower than their 2010 levels. 

As a result, there is currently a mindset shift in how companies and cities approach sustainability. As the climate crisis intensifies and global investment preferences green sources, one should expect to see a much stronger link between digitalization and sustainability efforts in the coming years. In this context, IoT solutions promise to take an active role in achieving efficiencies by improving the flow of people, energy, goods, and information. 

IoT is essentially about collecting data and remotely controlling “things”, which makes it a catalyst for smarter decisions and innovative business models. Ultimately, the technology can be applied to extract more value from fewer resources and reduce environmental impact.

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Smart Applications, Real-World Impact

Cutting emissions and curbing climate change are certainly lofty ambitions, so let’s take a look at some real-world use cases of the technology.

One application is smart electrical grids. This steadily developing IoT-enabled energy supply network, which can detect and adjust for local changes in energy use, provides numerous green benefits. For example, one small component of the smart grid, the smart electricity meter, enables real-time two-way communication between consumer and utility, making it easier for the latter to meet energy demand with less waste by coordinating energy conservation as well as energy generation. Ericsson Research projects that the smart grid could alone cut greenhouse gas emissions by 3.9% by 2030. There’s also an inherent benefit for consumers too as utilities might start rewarding consumers for using less energy during high-demand hours.

Another application is found in precision farming. Agriculture is among the largest contributors to climate change, accounting for 24% of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it the world’s second-largest emitter after the energy sector. Here, too, smart devices can help to remove inefficiencies and cut waste. 

Precision farming uses sensors to test soil and water levels and enable site-specific field management. This is vital since soil fertility and yields differ dramatically, up to 400%, across a single field. Therefore, this technology helps identify which areas have a fertilizer or moisture deficiency and give different amounts of care to different parts of the field. The World Economic Forum estimates that if 15-25% of farms adopted precision agriculture, global yield could be increased by 10-15% by 2030, while greenhouse gas emissions and water use could be reduced by 10% and 20%.

The Sky is the Limit

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that IoT can be applied across industries. Smart grids and precision farming are but two ways that connected devices can help to fight climate change, and yet this incredibly flexible technology can be used in many more applications. Couple this with the additional insight that can be offered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning and the sky is the limit.

Beyond newfound efficiencies, connected devices can also work to enforce government regulations. For example, IoT sensors will be increasingly important in the effort to expand carbon monitoring and taxation. As the UN Climate Action Sustainable Innovation Forum has reported, only 15% of carbon emissions are priced and taxed today, and the group hopes for aggressive expansion.

IoT has great potential to play a key role in helping fight climate change by helping us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and live more sustainably. A key to success will be to leverage managed connectivity solutions and work with an ecosystem of partners with proven capabilities in their domain to create IoT solutions that can be deployed globally and scale quickly. As global temperatures are rising, the time to act is now if we are to prevent irreversible damage to our planet.

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