How Connected Technology is Driving Sustainability

Avatar for Craig SchlagbaumBy Craig Schlagbaum|Jul 24, 2023|10:47 am CDT

Sustainability as a board-level imperative

The issue of sustainability—and how it can be better achieved through smart technology—has found firm footing in the executive boardrooms of the world’s largest organizations. Aside from the ethical concerns—that the pursuit of sustainability is the right thing to do for the health and future of the planet—there are compelling business reasons to accelerate sustainable practices.

Emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and edge computing are unlocking new opportunities to not only foster sustainability, but also create new paths to profitability, efficiency, and better customer experiences.

Some of the key reasons sustainability has ticked up the priority list of organizations of all stripes include:

  • Customers demand it: According to McKinsey and NielsenIQ, 78% of US consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. What’s more, 60% of consumers will pay more for products that are packaged sustainably.
  • It boosts profitability: Brands that tout sustainability are shown to achieve more dramatic growth. McKinsey and NielsenIQ report that products making claims related to environmental, social, and corporate governance practices grew at an average of 28% over five years, compared to 20% for products making no such claims.
  • It keeps business ahead of regulators: In cities and states across the country, local and state regulators are taking up green building and operations policy proposals at an accelerated clip. By aggressively pursuing sustainable practices now, organizations can stay ahead of the curve, implement change at a self-determined pace, and avoid being caught flat-footed on new regulations.

Smart technology’s role in the sustainable business

One of the critical enablers of sustainability and efficiency is the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) and automation technologies. IoT refers to the network of interconnected devices that collect and exchange data, facilitating informed decision-making and streamlined operations. On the other hand, automation systems enable processes to be performed automatically, reducing manual labor and enhancing productivity. These technologies pose immense promise for sustainability, particularly in avoiding waste in the form of energy, water, resources, or labor. The combined use of IoT and automation presents a range of possibilities for achieving sustainability goals.

Although there are myriad ways in which businesses can use IoT and automation to foster sustainable practices, let’s take a look at a few specific use cases here:

  • Energy management: Using IoT sensors and smart thermostats, businesses can reduce energy waste significantly. These devices can monitor room occupancy and adjust heating, air conditioning, and lighting accordingly, leading to substantial energy savings.
  • Water management: IoT sensors can also monitor water usage, detecting leaks and overuse in real-time. Automated irrigation systems can use weather data to water gardens, crops, or landscaping only when necessary, reducing water waste.
  • Food waste mitigation: IoT can help reduce food waste in sectors like hospitality, grocery, QSR, and more. Sensors in refrigerators can monitor expiration dates, alert staff to use food before it spoils, and automatically flag when refrigerators are malfunctioning, avoiding spoilage.
  • Building automation systems (BAS): These systems use IoT sensors to collect data about building operations, such as energy usage, HVAC system performance, and lighting conditions. Operations teams can then use this data to identify inefficient areas and implement measures to mitigate waste, like improving insulation or replacing inefficient appliances.
  • Customer involvement: IoT technology can also help to involve customers in sustainability efforts. For example, guests can track their own energy and water usage through displays or apps, encouraging them to reduce their environmental impact.

A strong connectivity foundation: The prerequisite for tech-enabled sustainability

Automation and IoT for sustainability tools are only as successful as the network they sit upon and the control IT teams have over them. In order to optimize operations and sustainability with smart technologies, tech leaders need to ensure a strong connectivity foundation consisting of a few key elements:

  • Wireless technology: WiFi and LoRaWAN (low-power, wide-area networking) are critical to connecting distributed IoT devices. LoRaWAN, with its low power and long-range features, is ideal for IoT applications that do not require high bandwidth but operate on a long-lasting battery, such as sensors for temperature or energy usage. WiFi, meanwhile, can be used to effectively transmit device data to the cloud and is critical in unifying interoperable systems to monitor usage and progress toward sustainability goals.
  • SD-WAN: Software-defined networking can help improve network efficiency, giving greater control over devices at the edge, and can enhance the analysis of IoT device performance through network management and traffic prioritization. This can ensure IoT devices function optimally, enhancing their effectiveness in achieving sustainability goals.
  • Managed services: Businesses can leverage a trusted third-party provider with deep expertise in networking, advanced wireless, and security to help ensure fast, reliable connectivity is available to support a bevy of connected devices.

 

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