Climate change and the IoT

By Jeremy Green

With the Paris Agreement on climate change on track for full ratification, there is at last a chance that the ‘biggest risk to the global economy’ might finally get some of the attention it deserves.

That almost certainly means that there will be renewed pressures on enterprises to cut their own carbon emissions; the exact proportion varies, but in developed countries businesses account for about a fifth of all emissions.

Of course, there are many reasons why businesses might want to reduce their CO2 output: apart from the obvious regulatory requirements, and the associated impact of either carbon tax or cap-and-trade regimes, there are implications for finance and capital markets (where a “cleaner” profile can make it easier to raise capital), and customer and brand perception.

Moreover, some companies – such as insurers – are directly exposed to the negative impact of climate change; others can expect that the consequences of climate change will have negative impact on the demand for their products or on the conditions in which they conduct their business. So action to reduce carbon emissions makes basic business sense. From a more cynical perspective, the ability to comply with complex regulations is a strategic advantage and a potential barrier to entry, which gives some enterprises additional incentive to support a demanding regulatory environment.

As our new report points out, the IoT has strong potential to help enterprises to reduce their emissions. Although ICT accounts for an appreciable proportion of the world’s emissions (around 2.3% in 2020) this is in long term decline, and the contribution of technology in reducing emissions has the potential to outweigh the emissions it generates. Our work with The Carbon Trust has established that 70% of this benefit comes from the IoT.

The sector which benefits most in terms of emissions reduction is ‘connected buildings’, which accounts for 29% of the carbon abatement. This is closely followed by ‘connected transportation’, which accounts for 28%. These two are then followed by ‘connected living’ (consumer carbon reductions through lifestyle changes, of which the most important are travel reduction and shift towards lower-carbon travel modes) at 14% and ‘connected energy’ (primarily the use of IoT in the electricity generation and distribution industries) at 13%. No other area of economic activity comes close to these first four.

Across different verticals the benefits in terms of carbon reduction are highly concentrated within specific IoT applications. Two applications, field force automation and fleet vehicle driver behaviour improvement, account for more than 80% of the carbon reductions enabled by the IoT, with the first of these alone providing 61% of the savings. The third and fourth most important applications, ‘smart logistics efficient routing and fleet management’, and ‘supply main management’, are closely related, and account for 6% and 4% respectively, and ‘smart logistics loading optimisation’ accounts for a further 3% (see below Figure 1 ).

IoT-enabled carbon emission reductions by application. Source Machina Research:
graph_carbonemission

There may be further upside to the impact of IoT on emissions, in that we have assumed a deployment of the IoT based on a relatively gradual transformation from a fragmented set of ‘subnets of things’ towards a more integrated full Internet of Things. A more orderly and rapid transformation towards integration would provide greater benefits to enterprises, and to public sector use cases such as smart cities.

Elsewhere we have argued that adopting a more standards-based approach to IoT deployment would lead to a 27% increase in the number of connected devices within smart cities, and could improve the speed and extent of adoption of smart city applications. The same scenario would also increase the impact of IoT in reducing carbon emissions, both directly through wider and faster deployment, and indirectly through reduced costs.

Configuring the organisation to manage and reduce its carbon emissions poses challenges for company culture and organisation structure. The process whereby emissions are generated do not respect organisational siloes. Enterprises that are serious about using the IoT to reduce their carbon emissions must either assign this responsibility to a senior manager with line of business management authority or create a new role and ensure that its occupant does have the authority needed to get the job done.

Establish baselines is critical to understanding and reducing the enterprise’s carbon emissions. Any organisation seeking to manage its emissions needs to be ready to capture, manage and store, and analyse data from operations. Data needs to be collected across a wide range of metrics. The need to collect and analyse data is particularly important if the organisation wants to establish the efficacy of specific carbon-reducing measures such as miles driven, fuel used, etc.

We have created a simple model to help enterprise begin their conversation, and thus their journey, towards reducing carbon emissions through IoT-based solutions. This takes a number of simple business-friendly inputs that should be relatively easy to obtain, such as the number of the company’s vehicles, the area of office space, factory space and/or warehouse space, or the number of employees in different environments. The model uses calculations based on savings factors for the impact of IoT solutions on specific sources of carbon emissions.

The model output is in terms of carbon emissions saved, in KgCO2, for each carbon-reducing IoT application that is deployed. Users can further vary the inputs by flexing a ‘potential’ factor that represents the extent to which carbon-reducing solutions have already been deployed, and an ‘intensity’ factor that allows for special circumstances for a particular enterprise – the size of its trucks, perhaps, or the geographical location of its warehouses. We have provided several reference cases to illustrate the functioning of the model for different types of companies.

What our model shows is that enterprises need to focus their efforts on those IoT applications that make a real difference, and that this varies both by vertical and by country. At the same time, policy makers should emphasise and encourage measures that make the most difference.  Regulation should reward the right steps and penalise non-adoption. The most obvious areas for encouragement are in workforce mobility (field force management), transportation and logistics.

But business cases and references are clearly not enough. The adoption of workforce mobility solutions has been pushed by the mobile industry and its systems integrator distribution partners for years. We need to understand why businesses – especially SMEs – have largely been impervious to these messages. The future of the planet might just depend on it.

RECENT ARTICLES

Neosensory launches new hearing loss solution, outperforming hearing aids

Posted on: August 10, 2022

San Mateo, United States. 09 August, 2022 – Neosensory, a technology company designing solutions for hearing health, is thrilled to announce the launch of its latest solution: a wristband for people with hearing loss to experience speech without hearing aids or invasive surgery. Clarify is a ground-breaking wristband and the first alternative to hearing aids and sound amplifiers

Read more

Smart metering: Load balancing leads to annual savings of almost £5,000 for a large UK bakery

Posted on: August 10, 2022

Energy management is becoming an increasingly important component of business strategy for today’s FMCG companies, aimed largely at reducing energy costs, improving sustainability, and achieving ESG goals. According to the 2020 Deloitte Resources Study, half of industrial companies report incorporating energy management at the corporate strategy level, says Matthew Margetts, director of sales and marketing

Read more
FEATURED IoT STORIES

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, home automation using iot is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

Posted on: June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

Read more

What is IoT?

Posted on: July 7, 2019

What is IoT Data as a new oil IoT connectivity What is IoT video So what’s IoT? The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is officially everywhere. It constantly shows up in my Google news feed, the weekend tech supplements are waxing lyrical about it and the volume of marketing emails I receive advertising ‘smart, connected

Read more
IoT Newsletter

Join the IoT Now online community for FREE, to receive: Exclusive offers for entry to all the IoT events that matter, round the world

Free access to a huge selection of the latest IoT analyst reports and industry whitepapers

The latest IoT news, as it breaks, to your inbox